On my recent trip to Tokyo, I saw three indie bands with slightly funny-sounding names over three consecutive nights. J-Pop megagroups likeAKB48 (and their “warring” sister factions SKE48 and badass Kansai-basedNMB48) may blanket airwaves and adverts, but the indie scene is a-boomin'. I learn something new each time I attend a Tokyo indie-rock show. Considering these three were back-to-back, I learned a lot. Here's some of that!
* Who the Bitch: everyone gets to mosh, if you want to! Two riot-grrrls and a dude resembling an extra from Nagasaki jet-rockers Guitar Wolf playing punchy pop-punk. The crowd had been circle-pitting nonstop when the band launched into riff-heavy 「ベクトル」 (uh: “Vector”?), guitarist Ehi crooning “come back to me in my bed” (in English!). Want some of the action? The big crowd-control dude moshing along will see to it you get your moment of stage-diving fame. Don't want to? Cross your arms NYC-style, and even the wildest kids will politely avoid crashing into you.
* 住所不定無職: ease back on taking photos and just have fun! These vintage clothing-coordinated indie-pop girls met at the unemployment office, hence the translation of their name: “no job nor fixed address”. I was up front and right-of-center to photograph cutie Yoko, co-vocalist and player of a glittering double-neck bass/guitar—but I held off. I alluded in my previous Tokyo indie-rock post that photography is generally verboten. How refreshing to just experience their upbeat, singalong anthems without studying an iPhone screen!
(speaking of Guitar Wolf: they headlined this show, and I've never seen so many white people at a Tokyo indie show before. Guess how many were taking photos!)
* Plastic Girl in Closet: Japanese shoegaze rules! J-Pop may rule, but the Japanese do some mighty fine—and ferociously loud—shoegaze. The adorable four-piece Plastic Girl in Closet celebrated their third LP ekubo(“dimple”, a nod to their twee-ness) with their first-ever “one-man show”, ripping through their back catalogue for nearly two hours of sonic bliss. That the long-delayed My Bloody Valentine reissues coincided with this show felt particularly auspicious. For beyond the guitar squalls and ethereal vox, it was Ayako's muscular basslines that really shined, up there with MBV's Debbie Googe.
* reserving tickets: perhaps it's thanks to these bands' indie-ness, but each offers to reserve advance tickets, so long as you email them. You still have to pay, but at least you've secured a spot in one of Tokyo's “cozy” 100-person capacity live-houses.