Sunday 14 June 2009

LITE, Boris, Cro-Magnon, nenem @ LiquidRoom, June 12th

by colin

After a rather lengthy walk around the lovely Ebisu gardens and Yebisu beer museum I made my way to the LAUNCHPAD event at the Liquid Room. The Liquid Room is a popular live house in Tokyo and considered to be one of the city’s best. Tonight’s LAUNCHPAD bill included a healthy dose of some of Japans finest trend setters - Nenem, Cro-Magnon and LITE, with Boris headlining the night.

As usual, the gig started on time with the first band of the night walking onto the stage to zero applause or acknowledgement. It was early and sunny outside, so they probably had expected a small crowd.

Nenem are a 5 piece that make some incredibly well crafted songs with bizarre noise samples and guitar rhythms that would grab anyone’s attention. People seemed immediately engaged in their set with songs blending into one another and lots of surprises thrown in randomly for good measure. A really great sound to the whole set I thought. An incredibly skillful guitarist armed with an large selection of effects lead the band and seemed to orchestrate the other members with his nodding head. The performance and sound were both absolutely flawless. The keyboardist positioned himself centre-stage and rightly so; superb talent like his just can't be ignored.

Next up was the brilliantly trendy Cro-Magnon. A Tortoise meets New Order type mash-up which the smallish crowd completely lapped up. The trio appeared quite confident throwing ominous stares out to the crowd. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand and moulded us into their dancing puppets with ease. The addition of a cowbell, drum pads, some pitch shifting tools and a guy busy tweaking knobs on his Korgs really made this more memorable than your average gig. Really enjoyed this even if it leaned a little on the eighties side.

It was time for LITE and I was genuinely pumped for it. I knew LITE quite well and I like their stuff a lot. They were one of few Japanese bands I was quite crazy about before I left for Japan, so I was very excited seeing them play on their native soil. I caught them on their last Irish tour in Dublin’s intimate Whelans venue where they played to about 80 people, mostly people who went by themselves and had nothing better to do on a Monday night, and the average age was 25. Tonight was much different. They were playing on their home turf to the most diverse crowd I had ever seen at a gig. Some people were as young at 18 and I saw some borderline granddads floating around too. Marshall stacks and an impressive drum kit were wheeled onto the stage, which was quite the contrast to the ram-shackled setup they had when I saw them in Dublin where they had presumably rented the gear or borrowed it. Even with that gear they performed one of my favourite Whelans gigs to date. Again, taking to the stage to not even the slightest clap or a "woo!!," LITE broke into a killer rendition of "Ef". Probably my favourite LITE song and they were in top form. The crowd started to roar and it was obvious that most people were here to see them, including a spattering of foreigners. LITE have travelled the world quite a bit now and I am not surprised they have foreigners coming back for seconds. What I like about LITE is that they are not about costumes, gimmicks, fake moustaches, fancy back drops or dry ice. They are the real deal. A scarily talented bunch of guys who play complicated guitar compositions with ease and I'm pretty sure every guitarist that was present tonight felt a little inadequate after LITE's set. I certainly did. The small banter with the crowd was completely not understood by me but they sounded incredibly grateful to be playing the gig and to be acknowledged in a scene that is saturated with rock music. The crowd applauded politely and the crowd pleaser "Human Gift" got a well-deserved airing, transforming the crowd into a flailing limb frenzy. A brilliant band and I cannot wait to see them play with Adebisi Shank on the 15th July in Super Deluxe. The set was over after about 7 songs and I contemplated giving Boris a miss as I was on a high. But I stuck around and I really regret it.

Quite the contrast to LITE's incredibly accomplished and engaging set, Boris performed very loud (I have heard nothing like this since My Bloody Valentine at last years Electric Picnic; I was genuinely scared) drone, psychedelic, stoner rock. They have the long hair, double neck guitars, a sweaty bare-chested drummer, reverby vocals and an overused dry ice machine to go with it all. Their equipment set up was beyond ridiculous and it was just not needed for a 900 capacity venue that was only half-full (many left after LITE's set). It's acceptable to see this at a stadium but not in a venue this small. Enormous Orange PAs dominated the back of the stage towering over the band. The drummer sat on a podium with a huge gong glimmering behind him. I was waiting for heads to spontaneously explode around me during some of their over-the-top self indulgent "wall of sound" efforts. The skill is certainly there. I have no doubt about that but for me Boris's set is 100% style over substance unfortunately.

More photos of LITE:

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