Monday 2 March 2009

No Cars, Fuzz Valentine, Ginkinta at 'Harajuku' 27 February 2009

No Cars pic courtesy of

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a committed Japanophile. They will therefore not be surprised that when I saw an ad for a club night called ‘Harajuku’, with the promise of Japanese bands playing, that I was on to it before you could say ‘(Shonen) Knife’.

The venue is on the third floor of a studio complex and an idea of the impermanent nature of the set up can be gleaned from the fact that the cloakroom is actually a goods lift.

A very welcome surprise is that this club is not locals having a Japan-themed party, but run by, and largely for, London-based Japanese. So events pan out in much the same way as they did at gigs on my recent trip to Tokyo and Sendai – things start politely but gradually go wild.

The first act is four Japanese guys dressed in black, with long hair obscuring their faces. They hardly have any English, so I am unable to say who they were, which is a great pity. They play a deafening, distorting, guitar-heavy psychedelic space rock, each member of the band flailing their hair all over the place and posturing as though wringing the last ounce of energy from their instruments. Above and behind them, ultra-violent anime flashes across a screen.

There are no real songs as such, more a succession of solos and wig outs. As they build towards an even more frantic finale than previously, they start to dismantle themselves, passing guitars and bass into the audience, who grab them and start to play. At one stage there are three people standing on the drum kit, pounding it to pieces. In the general melee one of the drummers loses his trousers.

Not bad for an opening. [ This band now identified as Bo Ningen. Catch up with 'em here.]

Next up come Ginkinta a.k.a. Hazel, Hannah and Alison, three girls who play a decent brand of power-pop, and who grow in confidence the longer they go on. The rattle and bang in winning fashion and are worth keeping an eye on.

No Cars share a drummer with the first band and are Haruna & Sachi, two Japanese girls in near complete kimono attire who play garage punk. They are endearingly ramshackle, make jokes in halting English and are great entertainment.

Songs are sung in a mixture of languages, often at the same time. Each track is introduced by a title card, placed in front of the band. After a rousing tune called ‘Funny Farm’, they embark on ‘No Cars Theme’. The guy who had early lost his trousers is invited to hold up the necessary title card. As the band plays he performs a wild striptease, eventually ending up completely naked, to roars of laughter from all concerned.

The evening ends with Fuzz Valentine, a rowdy combo with Husker Dü tendencies. They motor along in a fuzzy (honest!) punky style and are still going as I head out the door. I’d stay and listen, but I’ve overdone the Kirin and my bed is calling.

‘Harajuku’ seems to run erratically every couple of months. Their next night is in April. After the fun that I’ve had here, I may well be back.


Anonymous said...

The First Band was Bo Ningen (see No Cars top friends). I thought it was them from your description, but when you mentioned the drummer I was sure.
Sounds like a good night. I was really close to coming down, but plumped for checking out Kasms at Powers Bar. Ginkinta played with Kasms earlier in the week.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, it was a different night at South of the Border I saw Ginkinta. Not the night Kasms played.