Kero Kero Bonito
There are some gigs that are so attractive that they draw me to them like a shark to freshly chummed waters behind a fishing boat. Tonight the bait is Kero Kero Bonito. I circle Electrowerkz a couple of times and swim in.
The First Law of gig queues is in operation. This states that a long line of punters outside inevitably means that when you get inside there are no more than a few handfuls of people milling about.
The first act is on. And this is where I get way out of my knowledge zone. Those who know more about this kind of thing should feel free to make a derisory snort at anything I type from this point onwards.
On stage is a projection of a computer screen. It swarms with code. There are various beeping noises that occasionally become off-kilter beats. As the code is deleted or re-typed, so the sounds change.
This is the world of Lil Data, and it is as incomprehensible to me as an airplane is to a goldfish.
The bleeps and bloops are easy enough to listen to, and the small gaggle of guys (obviously!) who crowd around the console where Mr Data is weaving his magic are wearing contented smiles. It’s all very Neuromancer – an Eighties vision of the future.
Compared to Lil Data, the next performer, Bo En is normalcy personified. Compared to anything else, he’s very unusual indeed.
Bo En stands smiling behind a bench of electronica, bathed in a sickly fluorescent neon glow. He sings joyfully (and badly) along with samples of ancient Japanese gaming machine themes or film scores, sometimes duetting with squeaky disembodied hentai voices or crooning through a vocoder.
It’s simultaneously silly and clever, and hugely danceable. The crowd leap around and marvel in recognition at various samples that are chopped, diced and discarded in seconds.
So small is this scene (loosely affiliated around the ‘PCMusic’ label) that all the artists know and collaborate with each other. Therefore when he deconstructs and rebuilds Kero Kero Bonito’s track ‘My Party,’ this is greeted with whoops of delight even though it will form part of their own set in less than an hour.
Almost uniquely for an electronic act, Bo En radiates warmth and good humour. He’s genuinely funny. And his music is great too.
Kero Kero Bonito take tonight’s Japanophilia a stage further. They’re a bouncy, gaudy sugar rush of kawaii. They’re extremely arch and knowing, mimicking innocence and ditziness, but they do it in a loving and celebratory way. There’s more than a hint of taking the mickey, but everything is so shaken up like a soda bottle and played in good fun that all you can do is chirp ‘Kero Kero’ and go along with it.
It’s not as if I’m in a position to decode the subtexts that bubble beneath the bright colours and high pitched trills of anime and J-Pop anyway.
The band are led by the permanently grinning Sarah Bonito, a delighted and delightful singer who skips around the stage singing in a childish voice. She is accompanied on beats by Gus and Jamie Bonito, who occasionally pretend to be playing their equipment but are just as likely to be doing silly dance routines or reading a book.
This is pop music and its purest and pinkest. There is a sense of the absurd in all of this, particularly in the lyrics. In ‘Flamingo’ Sarah wonders about how many shrimps a bird must eat before it’s skin turns pink. Or how babies are so strange.
There’s a lot of dressing up. Party hats for ‘My Party’, a graduation robe for ‘Homework’ and a pile of boxes for ‘Build It Up’. At one point Gus and Jamie don furry masks for a version of ‘Cat vs Dog’ that seems to fall foul of a technical problem and is not actually played.
It’s impossible not to enjoy Kero Kero Bonito, but they are rather like gorging on sugary sweets and its possible that there is not really much here beyond the silliness.
But, on the other hand... seriousness is way overrated.