Yeah, it’s been a while. I’m currently trying to figure out how to keep up with stuff like this while maintaining one of those crazy Japanese jobs that sometimes keep you at the office for 13 hours a day. That said, I’ve almost fallen into a decent groove, so hopefully I can churn out more posts before the year is up.
As some of you may be aware, I love the Japanese band Omokage Lucky Hole. This fact can be confirmed by taking a look at my last.fm account in which I have currently logged 25,776 playbacks of the band’s songs. Currently known as Only Love Hurts (in an attempt to invite more mainstream tie-ups) the band did two shows this year–one in February, and one in October.
WWW presents O.L.H./2014-2-1/WWW, Shibuya
Photograph shamelessly stolen from natalie.mu
Only Love Hurts’ first big show after changing their name was the band’s second consecutive show at Shibuya’s happening WWW live house. Up until this point I had been to a few O.L.H. shows, and they were all good, but they lacked some fire. As a proud owner of the band’s super-rare live DVD, and a nice collection of aCky’s MC routines, I can say that the fire I saw in those recordings was not quite there in the previous shows I’ve been to. But things were different this time around.
However, before I get to that, there was an opening act. This time instead of the soothing (read: bizarre) Showa-inspired tunes 0f Machi Akari that opened the band’s New Name Concert, us attendees were subject to the comical hip-hop stylings of stillichimiya. With a set that spanned a seamless fifteen songs, these boys from Yamanashi prefecture glowed on stage with rhymes so skillful I couldn’t even understand what they were going on about. Well, I guess there’s also that language barrier thing.
Stillichimiya is a humorous group, putting stupid lyrics on top of really hot beats. A lot of their songs seemed to hinge heavily on their top grade stage antics, so I don’t know how well they’d sound as just audio coming through my ears on a crowded Tokyo subway train. Among their shenanigans, they brought a local bottle of their home-prefecture’s sake, and passed it around the audience, encouraging everyone to take a swig. By the time it came back, it was unsurprisingly empty. Also, among the young men on stage, one older and quite bizarre gentleman stood out: Mr. Maro. He always broke up the group’s hip-hop flow with a masculine serenade, and his appearances would be marked by ever increasing amounts of intricate makeup. In the end they were a good time–I need to check out their mp3s to see if they have any re-playability in my daily life.
The main act of the night followed, and something was notability different right away. A lot of the distance I noticed between aCky and the crowd in previous shows had gone. He was having fun singing, and playing around with the songs, all backed by the band’s reliably solid performance with the instrumentals. “Good evening, we are Omoka–er, Only Love Hurts,” aCky said completely unintentionally in his first MC bit. There was a fire back in the band that I didn’t really see in previous shows. I suppose aCky was in his element at Friday, but in all the other shows I saw he was missing something, even though I was reluctant to admit it. I could tell aCky and the band were more into it when they broke out the on-stage routines I had seen in videos of past shows, like their call-and-response chants which involves coaxing the audience into saying dirty words, or aCky’s phone sex routine. While there was something to a lot of the bleaker, quieter, and darker MC bits that were common in shows up until this one, it was better to get something a bit more relaxed and fun. I think aCky’s more upbeat because the band is getting more work with their new name, between a movie and a musical.
Standouts in the set included Yubikiri, which I had never heard live, and is one of the band’s lesser known tracks that I really like. The title is a play on the fact that “yubikiri” means either “pinky promise” or “getting your pinky cut off ’cause you’re in the mob.” It has a bit of a country twang to it, but is also quite rich with horns that came through well live. Onna no Michishirube (The Woman’s Signpost) was also an unexpected treat. It’s one of the band’s older cuts and not one of their trademark tunes, so hearing them get at it on the stage was awesome. They also did Kore ga Kore na Mon De (She’s Knocked Up), which I simply hadn’t heard in a while, and was nice to hear, especially with all the enthusiastic gestures miming pregnant bellies when aCky sung the song’s “she’s knocked up” refrain. As always, they closed off with Tokyo (ja) Nightclub (wa), and disappeared for the night. This time I was unfortunately unable to run into aCky after the show, but there are only so many times you can meet your mid-40s, overweight, real-job-is-a-civil-servant heroes.
I met up with some friends afterwards who also went to the show (the guys I met in Yokohama at Friday), and we had a nice dinner with some drinks. And that was the night.
Oshiete O.L.H. Yoru no Chiebukuro (Tell Us O.L.H. — Late Night Life Advice)/2014-10-11/WWW, Shibuya
O.L.H.’s latest show (and likely their last for the year) was awesome.
The opening act was a guy called Fujii Youhei. While I liked what I heard, I was unfortunately a little late for the show, and wasn’t able to catch most of his performance. I managed to procure a glimpse of his last song, and it reeked of Okamura-chan, so I decided I had to check him out. Turns out he’s this guy who comes up with really smooth R&B tracks that have killer guitar portions (played by him) and matches them to hilariously childish lyrics that are primarily him repeating things like “I wanna suck on mama’s teats and live off papa’s money forever,” or “I wanna make your pussy mine.” He will then accent these clever lyrics with lines like, “I read some gag manga and laughed, read some porno manga and jerked off.” In short, his music is all about being the lamest dude you can possibly be, and putting it into the bluntest, most straightforward words possible. Of course, I LOVE IT. His first pro album, Banana Games, can be found on iTunes here.
After I caught a glimpse of Fujii Youhei’s genius, O.L.H. came on. Once again, there was lots of audience interaction, and every song was taken above and beyond its original studio cut. The band proved to be red hot once again, and put on a very satisfying show. Everyone in the audience got a giant laugh when aCky came on stage with a dildo attached to a theremin during the show’s opening song (Konya, Sugamo De) with the chorus girls pretending to fondle the erect object, and it responding with hilarious theremin sounds as aCky was about to get into the vocals. They did a version of Ai no Xanadu (Xanadu of Love) where aCky sung the original “blackhole” lyric in place of “Xanadu”. While the word “blackhole” may invoke scientific images of space in the minds of us round-eyes, in a Japanese context it means “the deep black hole that lies between the legs of every female–the pussy,” so it was cool to see them perform the song the way they wanted to. It was originally the theme song for that film the band was involved with, and the lyric change came about because the director requested that aCky exercise more subtlety.
One of the bigger treats of the night was a performance of Chiisa na Mama (Tiny Mama), the spectacular ending track of their pro debut album, Dairi Haha. The live version was rougher, and almost had more impact than the smoother album cut, with forceful drums and assertive horns, as well as effective use of the chorus singers to compliment Tet-chan’s beautiful guitar solo heavy with the song’s inherent tragedy. That’s right, Tet-chan–the band’s former guitarist–was back for the night. He lives in Kyoto, so he can’t come and jam all the time, but he was at the WWW for this show, and his exceptional guitar was one of the main factors that made the show as great as it was.
Other highlights included the band’s only performance of Pillow Talk, Tagalog-Go (Pillow Talk, In Tagalog) for the year, which was as magical as I remember its live version being. With Tet-chan on board for the night, the climax of the song was incredible with his emphatic guitar backing. They also did a performance of Pachinko Yatteru Aida ni Umarete Mamonai Musume wo Kuruma no Naka de Shinaseta Natsu (The Summer I Let My Baby Daughter Die in the Car While Playing Pachinko) which had the most power I’ve seen of the band’s performances of the song, and really got the crowd going. The encore consisted of Kore ga Kore na Mon De and Tokyo (Ja) Night Club (Wa), which also made great use of the previously mentioned dildo-attached theremin. In fact, aCky was so infatuated with the dildotheremin that he had to rush to the mic to sing Kora ga Kore na Mon De’s verses because he was too busy playing with his new toy during the song’s instrumental breaks. At the end of Nightclub, the theremin must have broken, because began to emit an ear-killing screech at the end of the song as aCky dropped it, and the rest of the band left. It was the most appropriate way to end the night.
As per the concert’s title, the band did an advice segment between songs. They took fans’ questions via the net, and received an alleged total of five inquires. Needless to say, all inquiries were answered. Both of the two “Tell Us, O.L.H.” segments opened with a hilarious laid back bossa-nova number, featuring a keyboard section that was revealed to be one of the guitarists going “la la la” into the mic after all the other musicians had stopped playing, resulting in laughs from the audience each time. Highlights included people writing in with problems like “I have a boner that won’t calm down” and “my girlfriend wants to have sex too much,” to which aCky replied, “man, you’re lucky.” There was a moment of tension during one question regarding one pitiable salaryman’s dilemma when it comes to choosing which songs to sing at company karaoke, and aCky suggested a number of off-color karaoke themes with which to narrow down the song choices with, like “Only sing songs by artists that have killed themselves.” After listing off a few names and gradually approaching artists who have killed themselves quite recently, someone in the audience started to get salty. “That’s not funny! That’s not something to laugh about!” This guy was actually being noisy before, and aCky replied with usual retorts–“There’s a deep, dark black river between you assholes and us” and “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t talk to me.” However, this guy continued to demonstrate that he didn’t know his place, and aCky eventually cracked, giving him the equivalent of a strong “SHUT THE FUCK UP.” He kept quiet for a bit, but ended up splashing beer on aCky during the encore. (For those interested, other suggested karaoke themes included “Artists who have questionable sexuality”, with a Matsudaira Ken mention.)
But while that one guy was an asshole, it was a great show, and I can’t wait for the next one, which at this point does not have a concrete date. If I had any criticisms with these shows, it would have to be that I’d wish they’d change the set list up a bit. I’ve been to OLH shows since 2011, and while I’ve only been to about enough shows to count on one hand, I wish they’d stay away from a lot of their trademark songs and do more of the lesser-known ones. I realize they most likely stick to the standards because they probably don’t have much time to practice, and since they don’t do shows that often, every show is someone’s first. I personally want to hear more of the weirder and older stuff, though.
At any rate, their next show hasn’t been decided yet, so I have to wait for that to happen before I get my expectations up about anything. That said, the band has a musical set to start at the beginning of next year–Iyaounashi Ni–which I’ve acquired tickets for. It has a cast of 1980’s Japanese heartthrobs, and uses O.L.H.’s songs to drive the story, so I really can’t wait to see it. As for Only Love Hurt’s other activities in 2015, the band is set to release a best-of album. I groaned upon hearing this news–until I heard that every track will be re-recorded for the album. It’ll be interesting to see which songs they do, and how they sound in the studio with the current lineup. It goes without saying that you can expect a review right here when it comes out.