I had heard from a few people and sources that Juso Fandango, a club in Osaka, was pure rock'n roll. So when I heard that the Love Ningen, an upcoming quintet from Tokyo making waves in the underground scene, would be play alongside a couple of other bands while I was in the city, I decided I had to go.
Actually, I was supposed to see the band a couple days early in Tokyo but frontman Kaneda notified me of the shows cancellation. Thankfully, and coincidentally, I also changed my plans to fly into Osaka instead of Tokyo that week, so it was perfect to catch them on this day.
Fandango is in a pretty seedy neighborhood. Even approaching the place in the afternoon I saw a lot of shady looking people. Much like Marz and Motion in Shinjuku, Fandango is also located in a red light district kind of area.
But once I found the little door carved into the side of the street I made my way inside. The staff actually come over and ask you what you want to do drink and are always checking on you if you'd like another(not in a bothersome way) throughout the show. The place wasn't so big but was probably big enough to house some larger artists. The wall behind the stage was covered in (intentional) graffiti, and the walls donned posters of many a tour held by many a band.
I had no idea who was up on the roster besides a band called Sex Machine and, of course, the Love Ningen. The first band to come out was 撃鉄 (Gekitetsu), a group I learned was also garnering attention for their crazy live antics. The band situated themsevles on stage as the audience looked at the stares behind us to see the vocalist riding down from the second floor on a beer crate, while holding two big plush tiger dolls. He proceeded to the stage, chugging down an energy drink that looked like it put him into overdrive. He began violently moving about the stage after that, and the band went straight into their set. I wasn't so fond of Gekitetsu's music, but I admit I was really wow-ed by their live show. Visually it was exilerating even if their music, rock'n roll and dance pop mixed together to form a hybrid as strange as the band's album cover. At the end, the vocalist managed to get to the top of a high speaker and leaped to the floor with the tiger between his knees.
Up next was another mystery band that looked extremely young. 人性補欠 (Jinsei Hoketsu) were four guys probably around my age who were busy making the rounds of the nation's live hosue circuit trying to make a name for themselves. They played a brand of punk that made me think of Seishun Punk, a genre, if you will, that sounded a lot like Ging Nang Boyz/Going Steady and Taiyouzoku. Their punk was fun, sometimes agressive, never boring, and always relying on the voice of the crowd to carry the song through it's chorus. They were extremely lively and the singer jumped into the crowd a number of times and marched into the audience. It was a fantastic set from this young 4-piece band, and I really hope more people take notice of them soon.
セックスマシーン (Sex Machine) was a band I had heard of but was not obsessed about. I knew they had to be a lot older than the other bands here since I had seen their songs on V/A punk CDs released years ago. As the band got up on stage I noticed that they looked a lot more seasoned and perhaps maybe more mellowed out because of their age. It didn't take long to change that. The vocalist marched down the steps from the second floor and stopped halfway. His jeans looked like they were thrown in a huge blender. He jumped from there(quite a ways down) and made his way to the stage. When the band got into motion there was no way you could tell they were much different from bands probably half their age. They played with this unrestrained energy, sweat dripping down their faces, and never giving it less than their all for their performance. Their brand of punk was a lot similar to the jinsei hoketsu's, it wasn't too poppy but at the same time it was a lot of fun, and demanded a lot of audience response to sing along in the choruses. I had always wanted to go to a show like this, and Sex Machine put on the epitome of what I wish I could see more of in the Japanese music scene: audience interaction, and less regard for that "invisible line" that separates the stage from the crowd. The vocalist was always in the crowd, sometimes in the middle of a song, and sometimes in MCs and wasn't just stuck on stage. It was crazy, and a lot of fun.
The ラブ人間 (the Love Ningen) went up last. Their genre of music wasn't anywhere near the last three bands', there wasn't anything punk about them. I thought having them on the bill was strange, but since I came to see them AND had a good time with the other bands the night was looking pretty good. A number of other fans moved up to the other stage while the more "punk" people eased to the back of the crowd.
They played a lot of songs I didn't recognize, probably most from their live shows and from the upcoming single they are debuting with, but songs I did recognize were pure bliss. With five members, including a violin and keyboard, they had plenty of perks to keep their music interesting. It was very heartfelt when they played their songs, a sense of nearly the opposite of what the previous musicians had done(not to say that being fun is a bad thing, especially in the case of the last three bands I saw, no way).
At the end of their set I grabbed a T-shirt from the band, who told me that they would be playing a show in Hiroshima, even if they wouldn't be coming all the way to Okayama. The manage also spoke perfect English since he grew up in Hawaii. As I was leaving I saw Kaneda, who was enthralled to meet me and was really happy I came to the show. He gave me a hug as I left and told me it was quite alright I couldn't answer his survey. They were all really nice, approachable people, and it made me really appreciate some of the bands out there that really do appreciate their fans like that in a genuine way.
At the end of the night I hurriedly dodged men in suits trying to get me to go into their clubs so I could head home, about an hour train ride away. It had been a great night and I experienced a lot of interesting music from so many genres. Not only that, but Fandango had really proved to be a club full of spirit and one that seemed to really want to keep the spirit of rock'n roll alive with awesome shows like this and less strict rules for bands, giving them total freedom when they perform. I can only hope to see another(better!) show here again.