Monday, 24 November 2008

Kaji-kun!

by craig


Hideki Kaji is one of my guilty pleasures. He is unabashedly Pop, but he has taken his cues from Swedish indie-pop and created a very unique style with fast, upbeat songs, big guitars and impossibly catchy vocal melodies.

When I came to Japan I was getting into the whole Shibuya-kei thing, so I was so pleased to be able to buy his whole back catalogue from second-hand shops for a few hundred yen. You see, he'd experienced a short boom a few years earlier, and then, like Kahimi Karie, disappeared back into the indie underground. When I tell Japanese people I like Kaji, they are often surprised to hear that he still makes music.

I remember the first time I saw Kaji live; he was playing a late night acoustic show at a cafe in Shibuya which I managed to get tickets to. The cafe was jam-packed with adoring girls and Kaji-kun (as the girls call him when they scream his name) put on a great show. I had to sleep in an internet cafe afterwards and then go directly to work. Since then I've seen him play a couple more times at larger venues like Shibuya Ax and Astro Hall.

Showing his dedication to the Shibuya area, Kaji's show last week was at Shibuya Club Quattro. The only acts printed on my ticket were group_inou and Hideki Kaji, so I was surprised when I rocked up and saw an electric cello being set up on the stage (group_inou are just two guys - 1 mc and 1 dj). Then three guys with bright tights and sunglasses came on stage - one on synthesizers, one on the electric cello and one on a ridiculous headless guitar. It was B-Club. They played tongue-in-cheek techno-rock complete with huge choruses, dance moves and big 80's synth sounds. The audience didn't really know how to react except to giggle. I can see why Kaji chose them as a support as his new album Lollipop has a definite 80's influence.

group_inou came on next and played a short set of their original take on glitchy reverby electronica and hip-hop. The fun they have on stage travels to the audience, all bouncing around with big grins.

group_inou hyped me up for Kaji who I expected would be on next. A band came on stage and out ran the singer! Yeah! Hang on, that's not Kaji! Whoever it was, the girls were certainly going crazy for him. It turned out to be Riddim Saunter. If Kaji is capital P Pop, Riddim Saunter are all-caps POP. They played a set of punk and funk-influenced radio-friendly POP which it seemed half the crowd was there to see. Just when they started to become tedious, they finished their last song, causing a bunch of people to leave and a bunch more to push their way to the front for Mr Kaji.

Hideki came on looking all embarassed wearing a tie, shorts and knee-high socks. The girls in the front went wild shouting "Kaji-kun!" and giggling. He played guitar for most songs and was joined by another guitarist, a bass player, a female drummer (Yoshié?) and a flute player. They blazed through a few songs from Lollipop, starting with Amai Koibito, a couple from the previous 2 albums and a couple of oldies like La Boum~My Boom Is Me~ (the definite highlight). Kaji joked around shyly between songs and kept stopping to fix his fringe which still hangs in his face in his trademark style. Just as the audience was really starting to let loose and enjoy ourselves, he suddenly announced the last song. They had only been playing for about half an hour! Of course they came back for an encore (a very rocking Typical Me, Typical You) but in total they played no longer than the support bands! Admittedly, the set was great fun but I did feel a bit ripped off.

Gigs

Hideki Kaji is playing a daytime show at Honmaji Temple on November 29th for Mona Rock Caravan 08 along with Kotoringo, Maezono Naoki Group, Yukawa Shione and Youmoutoohana. Details here.

group_inou are playing a one-man gig at Unit in Daikanyama on December 7th. Details here.

B-Club are playing at Grapefruit Moon on December 15th. Details here. They will also be playing a street gig at Yoyogi Park on December 13th.

Riddim Saunter are playing at Shelter in Shimokitazawa on December 23rd with asphalt frustration, Fed MUSIC and he. Details here.

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