Now that Tokyo Jihen disbanded and Shiina Ringo just released a lame and mostly boring tryout of a rock song for some dorama, I got myself thinking about her last solo release before this one: An instrumental song where she plays piano, in a duo with long time partner violinist Saito Neko. That was cool! And if you watched recently released Tokyo Jihen’s “Last Live” DVD, entitled Bon Voyage, you could see her skills on piano are really good (actually we could already see that in other DVDs, like Tokyo Incidents Vol. 1, Dai Ikkai Ringohan, Ringo EXPO 08 and Zazen Extasy). So, what if our Japanese Goddess of Music could unite her piano talents with a hard rocking sound reminiscent of her Shouso Strip days in a band formed only by Japanese awesome female musicians? That’s what I pictured:
Since this is planned to be a rock n’ roll band, Ringo (椎名林檎) would not only play the grand piano but also some neat synthesizers, just like his fellow bandmate Izawa (東京事変). Ringo was trained on piano as a child, and it is probably the instrument she uses to write most of her songs. Here, she would work more like a team leader and songwriter, leaving the main spotlight to the vocalist (to be revealed in the end of this text), but would also present us listeners with her distinct vocals in the shape of background ones, together with the lead guitarist. As for the video above, we could expect intense piano-driven ballads too.
This Asian-doll-faced woman can take the shit out of male shredders anywhere. With her exquisite and heavy guitar tones, she can burst out a frenetic guitar solo while her face looks totally peaceful, as if she is thinking of lakes and trees or something. Plus, she also sings in Boris, with a sweet, almost whispering voice which is also very unfamiliar. And if Shiina Ringo is known for being a music chameleon, Boris is well known for being pretty much that same as a band, so here we could have a lot of possibilities for a creative partnership. And she's into Orange amps.
To accompany such monsters of music above mentioned, I choose Tokie. She’s got the attitude, the looks, the skills and the experience required. This babe comes from two impressive instrumental bands (Losalios and Unkie), was a founder member of modern rock act RIZE and even accompanied legend Tomoyasu Hotei on tour. She also played on AJICO, a project led by BLANKEY JET CITY’s Kenich Asai and singer UA on vocals, and now she is teaming up with GLAY’s Hisashi on his new pop rock band, Ace of Spades.
This girl is not really a well-known musician, but is one hell of a drummer. Yoko plays as a support member for electronic rock duo Boom Boom Satellites, and she just got the grip that my dream band needs, especially if we consider the roughness of its vocalist. As if her drumming was not enough, Yoko has a mysterious aura that almost never lets her reveals her face, hidden through her hair and the drum kit.
AYA, whose oficial artist name is 亜矢, in kanji, is an obscure rock chick who had some brief popularity in the early 2000’s, presenting somewhat of a Japanese-girl version of grunge. She even had her first album produced in Seattle by Adam Kasper, which produced a couple of Foo Fighters' albums. She eventually recorded an anime theme, the ballad Overnight, and disappeared without a trace since 2006. This chick can write and sing some hard-edged, angst-filled, powerful songs, and can play guitar like she is actually beating someone up. There’s no better place for her comeback than my dream band.
Ok, now I am imagining a version of Shiina Ringo’s Tsumi To Batsu performed by this band, and it totally kicks ass. Someone please e-mail this text to her and make this happen.
Today I got really sad news. My favorite band announced its death. How would you feel if a friend you like very much said to you he would die in less than two months? Yeah, you must think I am overreacting, and I would think that too if it was not me on this spot right now. It was a surprise to me how sad I felt when receiving this news, but now I realize that actually the unit of those five people, who lives in a 12 hour time fuse distance of me, is my friend. A very close friend, who accompanies my daily journey, with all its good and band emotions, since January 2006.
That was when the album Adult was released. A friend sent me the album in a zip file and asked me if I knew this band. Never heard of it. Then I pushed play, the song Himitsu started, my mind did blow with that fusion of cabaret-styled jazz and cool funky and rocky instrumental elements. And those vocals… those vocals…
-That voice sounds like Shiina Ringo. – I told my friend. -It IS Shiina Ringo. – He answered me.
I already knew about that lady, and some of her songs like Kabukicho no Joou, Tsumiki Asobi and Honnou. The lesbian rebel nurse video was an instant hit among me and a couple of friends. Though, I cannot say I was a fan. Speaking of Japanese music, I was more into visual rock bands, like X Japan, Luna Sea and L’Arc~en~Ciel, so you can assume I preferred a sound with a more intense straight rock edge, mainly with male vocals. I still like all that today, but listening to that crazy jazzy album represented a changing point, a landmark, in the way I saw music.
The same thing happened a few times before in my musical life: First with Brazilian 80’s band Paralamas do Sucesso and their compilation Arquivo, when I was 12, which opened my eyes (or ears) for the world of adult-oriented music and lyrics. Second with Aerosmith and their album Nine Lives, when I was 14, which was my first “serious contact” with American hard rock and aggressive guitar work. Third was the album that introduced me to the variety and creativity that Japanese music could provide to my musical tripping, when in was 16: hide’s second solo album, Psyence. So diverse, so heavy and mellow at the same time, so crazy, so free of boundaries.
And then came Adult, opening my musical word once more to many things that I was ignoring because of the “way of hard rock” where I was so immerse. Jazz, bossa nova, sweet female vocals, experimentations with electronica not being industrial rock, the magic touch of black music, the strength of a nice bass line… plus the cherry in the cake, which was that special , unique and unavoidable Japanese touch presented on their songwriting and in the vocals. The perfect blend this band showed in their music made me think: THAT is a BAND!
That is why I am not a fan of Hirama (the band’s first guitarist) – a great player, but owner of a style that was just too rock-standardized. And a thing I especially liked on that band’s sound was the unusual guitar work navigating from bluegrass to funky rhythms in all songs, to then explode in power chords in the second chorus of the song Tegami (is there even a chorus?), and finally bursting up in a Queen-fashioned beautiful guitar solo. All courtesy of Mr. Ukigumo.
Speaking of Tegami, what a beautiful song, written by Mr. Izawa, the man that - despite all the power and magnificence that Shiina Ringo has as a singer, performer and songwriter – showed talent to establish himself as a kind of “counter-leader” in this band, really important for the artistic direction they took until the very end, and author of great songs that could compare even to Shiina’s previous masterpieces. And so we have Mr. Kameda, “Shisho” (Master), as called by Shiina – a monster in the bass, showing that this instrument should never be overshadowed, and which even came to reveal himself as a talented songwriter, responsible for some of the most catchy tunes of the band. And, finally, we have Mr. Hata, who showed himself to be a spirituous and consistent drummer, able to play greatly in a variety of rhythms and styles, and also a good kagura dancer!
But there is one member left to talk about. If you read through here and you are not familiar with Shiina Ringo, you must be wondering why I put her in a pedestal to somewhat like a genius. And the answer is simple: That’s because she IS. Unfortunately, or not, I was only able to realize that after listening to her work with this band. After weeks of listening to Adult on repeat, I was obviously more curious about her solo work, which already was comprised of four albums and a full range of singles and live records. And discovering each new work of that woman was somewhat intense. Almost literally, a mind-blowing experience.
And that is why, even feeling the sadness of the death of my good friend, I understand the reasons behind it. Shiina-san showed herself to be a musical mutant, always changing and experimenting so much, that this time had to come, someday. After five albums and a collection of respective five extremely beautiful live tour registers, maybe she felt the band completed its lifecycle. After all, from the beginning it was a “what if?” that came from her mind, abruptly interrupting a successful solo career. And what will this young woman take out of her hat next? I am curious, and I hope you are. Plus, we have four more friends to follow up on their upcoming musical roads.
Thanks for the great moments in these five years we have been together, Tokyo Jihen.
(Even though I will not be able to attend a concert of you, as I wished)
Well, here we are, already in 2011. What expects us in this year only God knows, but speaking of now deceased 2010 all I can say is that it was a pretty good year – to me, at least. Or should I say an exciting year? Yeah, that should be more appropriate. Many things happened, specially speaking of music and concerts. Hell yeah, 2010 was a great year for concerts to me and I decided to pick the most memorable 10 out of it and do a quick retrospective here. Is there any better way to review an year than to comment its musical happenings? I don’t think so, then let’s do it already:
In my last few months living in the island of Florianópolis (paradisiacal site in the southern region of Brazil) I was already bored in terms of musical options there: Always the same tribute rock bands, performing Deep Purple songs and stuff, and lots of reggae, dance and all this beach-oriented bullshit. Ok, some night I went to a place called Barbudo’s (meaning Bearded Guy’s – now closed) with some friends to see a local ska band. I never thought there was a ska band in that city, but those guys impressed me! They had the whole pack, with violin, keyboards, brass section, sax and a very good guitar playing. The guys were dressed like The Blues Brothers and had the energy of the Ramones, playing covers from American ska/punk bands and some Os Paralamas Do Sucesso (a very representative Brazilian latin-rock band from the 80’s) earlier hits. The place burned down in enthusiasm, but I got the final grin on my face when they performed a fast-paced of Phil Collins' Another Day in Paradise. That was unexpected.
Still in the subject band from Florianópolis, here is the one who intends to save rock n’ roll in the recent musical scenery. And I think they are already getting it! These guys are working really hard on their songs and on local publicizing, aiming to reach national spot in a larger picture. Brazilian mainstream rock scenery in the last years has been dominated by emo and now so called “happy rock” shitty bands, and those Califaliza guys bring some fresh air to the genre, influenced by classic rock bands like Kiss, Iron Maiden and Nirvana, with a heavy twist on hardcore. I had the opportunity to attend their concert at a private beach house party which marked their “new phase”, when they started to claim to be ready to rock out for sure. The concert was pretty rad, and their authorial stuff is really consistent and has radio potential in my opinion (at least if there still some hope left for this world!). Now they have an EP out, containing six songs, and rockers should definitely check them out.
[From here on, all concerts were placed in São Paulo] Life can be hard, day after day can be an amount of suckage, but I know God loves me when I realize I could attend to not one, but TWO Aerosmith fuckin’ concerts! This was the band that made me fall in love with rock n’ roll in my early teenage years, and I was able to see them live in 2007 (with opening act by Velvet fuckin’ Revolver) and now in 2010 again. That was awesome. Although in their private lives and on gossip websites they seem to be in a living hell, onstage the Bad Boys from Boston doesn’t seem to get old. No, they belong to the selected group of living legends of rock, which put out a hell dynamite of a show every night they perform. Opening with explosive Eat The Rich, bringing the fan-favorite Kings and Queens and letting their popcorn hit I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing aside, they gave us an excellent concert of good and old blues-oriented American hard rock (thanks Joe Perry for being Joe Perry). Joey Kramer gave his personal show doing a drum solo bare-handed, literally punching the drums. Tom and Brad are still the “hard rock” (allow me to use such a pun) that keeps the band firm and strong, and Steven Tyler is still the best frontman out there, the Demon of Screamin’. A great concert, but I’m not satisfied yet, guys. Please come to Brazil again and release this goddamit new album already.
Bourbon Street, a place for R&B concerts in São Paulo, presented us with Bourbon Street Fest 2010, bringing many foreign bands and musicians to perform. During its last day, the festival literally closed a whole street and put the artists to perform on open air, and I could attend to that event, watching the concerts of Gary Brown (American jazz saxophonist) and Trombone Shorty (some very vivid musician from New Orleans). Man, it was awesome to feel the energy of actual Orleans-based black music. As the bands continued to perform long setlists, the crowd grew more and more and drank more and more beer. It was a pleasant evening, with long solos by everyone (from the main stars to their guitarists, bassists and even percussionists) and strong vocal performances that only someone who got this kind of music running on its blood can give. Unfortunately I was feeling really tired and kind of sick, so I couldn’t enjoy as much as I wished to.
On my birthday night, I had the opportunity to see Dinosaur Jr. live. Here is a band I have a relationship of love and hate with. That because I really am a fan of their style - comprising country-influenced rhythm with rispy vocals and hard rock giant solos – but it bores me that they don’t seem to be very creative, much of their songs following more or less the same formula. Anyway, they gave a great concert, filled with underground hits and songs from their last album (although they didn’t play my favorite, Get Me), and J Mascis showed everyone how to put a hell load of noise from a guitar and a wall of big amps live, making our ears bleed with satisfaction. By the end of the concert, he did some giant solos that are not in any of their studio work, and that was pretty mad. The bassist, who even did a good work singing a couple songs, and drummer also impressed me, because of their high enthusiasm, which derived on the songs execution. The low point was the venue itself, a small, bad architected place, where I could barely move and barely see the band. But that’s ok, that was fun.
“Oh my God! You go to a Dinosaur Jr. concert and then to a Bon Jovi one?”. Yeah, I don’t care to stupid labels, and that’s none of your business. All I case is for good music, and for sure Bon Jovi created some of the more catchy melodies on rock music, don’t you agree? And the guys came to prove that they can sustain a crowded Morumbi stadium with more than three hours of songs non-stop. That’s pretty much rock n’ roll, ain’t it? Including songs from their last album, The Circle, and hits from all their career, Jon Bon Jovi and his mates gave us “one wild night” with everyone singing along famous songs like It’s My Life (I went crazy on that), Blaze of Glory, Bed of Roses, Always, Have a Nice Day and the opener, very good new song, We Weren’t Born to Follow. As a guitar player myself, I gotta observe that Richie Sambora deserves a place between some of the most charismatic guitarists on rock music, and Jon impressed me playing lead in a few songs – that was unexpected. Of course the place was filled with girls who went for the ballads and to see Jon, but also there were many hard rockers with black leather jackets and good musical taste (like me, lol).
Allow me to be such a nerd. I went to my first Video Games Live and that was awesome! If you don’t know what is it, here goes a brief explanation: Some guy with an electric guitar (Tommy Tallarico) play along and orchestra themes of classic and not-so-classic video games, and both him and the conductor (Jack Wall) keep on joking around all the time with the crowd – there is even a part when someone is invited to play a duel of Frogger onstage, with live musical score! Pretty impressive. What is more impressive is the reaction of the crowd: Ok, you are in an orchestral presentation, so you assume you should be silent and quiet while watching? No shit! You shout, clap, and even sing along all the time, like in a rock concert. Extra points because this was the first time they performed the Street Fighter II medley, attending Brazilian audience demand. As the retro gamer that I am, that song, Zelda’s, Sonic’s and Top Gear on solo piano were the highest points of the night. They even had the composers of God of War and Silent Hill scores playing guitar as special guests, and they all played together with Tommy and the orchestra during Sephiroth’s theme song in the end. A rock show, no doubt. This year I’ll be there again.
I’ve seen and listened to a fuckin’ Beatle live! What else needs to be said? Oh, of course, my favorite Beatle, the one who composed some of my favorite songs and probably the responsible for the rising of the power ballad as we know it: Sir Paul fuckin’ Mccartney. A crowded Morumbi again, a heavy rain, wet clothes, long waiting, but he was there, leaving aside any opening acts because who the hell would want one? And he performed many of his The Beatles hits (with the crowd singing along for minutes after the ending of Hey Jude) and even a George Harrison’s one (Something, introduced in the ukulele). Besides that, there were also his solo hits, great songs like Band on The Run, Live and Let Die (fireworks and more fireworks!) and Dance Tonight. God, there was even Helter Skelter and I’ve Got a Feeling! We all went crazy, singing and shouting like there was no tomorrow. Otherwise, in fact, I needed to go to work in the following day, but who cares? It as unforgettable, and Paul showed everyone he might not reach the high notes he did in his 20’s, but he still got the power to keep his status of living legend of modern music.
Pato Fu is a Brazilian alternative rock band with a strong foot on pop music, and that is for their good. With female singer Fernanda Takai and her husband, innovative guitarist John Ulhoa as the leaders, the band built an artistically strong career for almost 20 years already. Their last album, Música de Brinquedo (meaning Toy Music), accomplished a brave proposition: To make music only with toy instruments and other toys themselves. The result was impressive and they are putting out a live tour based on the album. I could attend to a pocket show and all I can say is that there is a pretty involving concert. They have some puppets transforming the concert into a theatre, giving funny comments and even singing some parts of the songs, and the guys in the band are playing the miniature piano, drums, guitar, bass and all other crazy stuff like a pen that makes sounds and whatever. On the setlist, classics of Brazilian and international music, like Live and Let Die, Love Me Tender, Rock N’ Roll Lullaby, My Girl, Bohemian Rhapsody (which is not on the album) and even Pizzicato Five’s Twiggy Twiggy (that because Fernanda is Japanese descendant and appreciates some Japanese music).
The Stone Temple Pilots are back, and they did a concert in São Paulo in December. That was indeed pretty cool, but sadly I got late and missed a few songs in the beginning, including some of their finest, like Crackerman. My main intention was to figure out the style of guitarist Dean DeLeo playing live, since on their CDs there is pretty much a lot of guitars mixed here and there, composing really cool effects. Well, I could confirm that, on live situations like these, if you have a good bass player it helps a lot, and also the amount of vitality the guitarist puts on its amalgamated lines are what really matters. The guy is a true blues-influenced hard rock guitarist living under the stigma of a so-called “grunge” band. Those guys are not grunge, children, they are American rock n’ roll, born in the 90s, that’s all. You gotta tell me that Metallica’s Load and Reload and grunge too, then, don’t you? Well, speaking again about STP concert, Scott Weiland was more centered and singing better than 2007’s Velvet Revolver concert I went to. He looked less “rockstar”, but seemed more mature to me, putting his heart on the songs, resulting in passionate performances.
X-Rated is a J-Rock cover band from São Paulo which I came to know incidentally during a festival at Bairro da Liberdade (Japanese town of the city). I have already seen a lot of bands with this proposal in different cities of Brazil and I can say these guys impressed me for having two things that most of bands don’t have: 1) A coherent setlist – All of their concert consisted basically on hit songs by GLAY, LUNA SEA and L’Arc~en~Ciel, which are some of the most representative bands from earlier visual kei pop movement during the 90’s. Most of J-Rock cover bands tend to mix crappy anime themes with hard rock and pop tunes with female bad executed vocals and that all results in a mess that only otaku can digest. 2) The visual kei pose – Being asian descendant surely helped those guys, but they really incorporated the style of the aforementioned bands on their stage posture. They even had an electronic playback intro, with each member entering separately. They had some pretty cool visual aesthetic that most J-Rock cover bands fail to get, resulting in ridiculous. Although they have those two strong points, I shall say they need more rehearsal. The vocalist has potential, but he should take some vocal lessons to not getting tired in the middle of the sentences, for an example. The guitarists need to listen to their own sound. Their guitar timbre was TERRIBLE, making difficult to recognize well-established songs. They should throw away that crappy digital pedal boards and buy some analog vintage pedals, to begin with. The bassist doesn’t even seems that is part of the band, as distant he is. And the drummer I assume was really good. He even was the leader of a taiko group that performed later that night. Come on, guys, you can do better.
Well, there is already a lot of good concerts being announced for 2011 in Brazil, but I’m not rich and for sure I won’t be able to attend all of them. I’d like to see Slash, Iron Maiden, Roxette, Motorhead and even Ozzy Osbourne, but there are three concerts I won’t miss for anything in this world:
I missed their Brazilian dates in 2010, and now they are headlining the Heavy Metal day in Rock in Rio 2011. Even if I have to rob a bank, I’ll see James, Kirk, Lars, and (yeah…) Rob (miss you, Jason) and gonna cut my head off after so much headbanging. Important to notice I’m NOT a headbanger, so that is serious.
New album coming and probably a world tour. Never saw these guys live, and they gave a lot of hits to my teenage years soundtrack. I love Dave’s style and, if the new album is as powerful as he is saying it is, the concert is gonna kick serious ass. Not missing at all.
Come on, it’s X fuckin’ JAPAN, with Sugizo from Luna Sea on lead guitar. I listen to these guys since I was 15, by the same amount of time I listen to Aerosmith, Metallica and stuff. How can I miss it? Word is they will perform in São Paulo in April, and every Brazilian fan is dying to listen to an official confirmation right now. The band broke up in 1998, their guitarist and Japanese rock legend hide died in the same year and no one had any hope of seeing the band alive again. But, in 2007, it reborned from the ashes like a Phoenix, with hide’s protégé Sugizo assuming his guitar parts. And now we are waiting to see them LIVE. :D
ROCK ON 2001, FOLKS!!
Also, in 2010 I gave the first steps on my musical project Maximauze, which I plan to transform in a full live band in 2011. The first five demos were recorded and I hope I can put some more rock n' roll in this city in the next months!