When I was asked to come down and review henrytennis at “Minna no Senkan”, a 2-day indie festival, I must say I was originally a little hesitant; after all, my taste in music tends more towards the growlier end of things. Watching the bands that came on before them, I can’t really say there was anything out the ordinary that took my fancy, but as soon as henrytennis started setting up and I saw a saxophone and (more importantly) a glockenspiel, my interest was immediately piqued.
The band are rather an unassuming bunch, taking to the stage with little fanfare and only the briefest of banter. They prefer instead to let the music do the talking, and they pulled the audience in with guitarist Okamura’s chilled-out picking over some atmospheric synth. As the rhythm section kicked in, opening song “Holy Ghost”, took on a psychedelic and proggy edge, smoothed out later with a good dose of sax.
Over the course of the show though, the style varied throughout. While “Holy Ghost” was much more progressive in its timing and overall trippy atmospherics, “Luster Brain” harkened back to me more towards 60s British jazz musicians like Mike Taylor and Michael Garrick with its` meandering sax at the forefront of the song, backed up with some hypnotic bass and warm yet rangy guitar.
New track “Free City” gave the glockenspiel a chance to shine, lending the song a very upbeat and whimsical feel, while “Hydration” was heavy on the funky keyboard and picked up the pace, with a frenetically busy “chorus” punctuated with extremely tight rising breakdowns that garnered whoops of appreciation from the crowd. “Jesus” finished off the band’s 40-minute set with a very dreamy meander, run through with soaring saxophone.
Overall, henrytennis were completely not what I was expecting, and the better for that – progressive, dreamy, and rather nostalgic sounding, they are the kind of thing you could imagine kicking back to at home on a summer’s evening on a record player with a few beers.
Having been on hiatus for a long while, henrytennis are definitely a band it’s good to have back around as their brand of mellow yet groovy indie rock is something very unique and very well worth checking out. In fact, you can check out their whole show at Super Deluxe here:
Thanks to Kyoko Oabayashi for photos from the event!
henrytennis homepage: http://henrytennis.com/wp/
The crazy pace of life in Tokyo tends to take a toll, so it’s always nice to escape for a bit of daily yoga, meditation, amazing food, and marvellous massages. I took this photo a few years ago in Ko Samui, Thailand. I got up three days in a row at around 5am to get the perfect sunrise. Not being impartial to the occasional selfie, I took this photo of me in the sea.
As it happens, that photo may now be able to take me back to a yoga retreat in Bali. By clicking on the link here http://www.oneworldretreats.com/contest/vote.php?id=73 and then hitting the like button, you’ll be putting me in with a chance to being in the top 5 photos selected for the final vote in July. The winner receives a trip for 2 people to the wonderful One World Retreat in Bali. I’ll post all about that wonderful place in July if I get into the final round of voting!
So go vote, and get me some relax time in 2015. If you like the photo, please feel free to share with your buddies too.
Thanks and namaste!
Yeah, I know. This one’s a little on the late side, but better that than never, ne?
Gakido were always a band I really enjoyed seeing, writing and shooting live. While their music on CD had its moments (Liz Riot, Ocyame Pop, Checkmate) I always thought they were much more enjoyable in the flesh. A band with three singers, an irrepressible stage energy, and a box of fun for a wardrobe is gonna be hard to see go, and there was not a dry eye in the room by the end of the band’s final show last year. Even I felt a little lump in my throat and I’m generally hard as a ten tonne monolith when it comes to goodbyes.
I made sure to be there for the final, as I felt it was my duty to shoot and say sayonara to a band who made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion, and who a lot more to give before their disbandment was announced last summer.
So, here are some of my favourite shots from the show. There is also a photo report up at Rokkyuu you can check out, but this page contains a few images not in that report, including this one of Kahiro, my favourite spangly Arabian pirate.
I covered The Mootekkis last month when they launched their album, so I’m not going to say too much more about them here, merely that Mike asked me to come down and shoot them in a venue with better lighting. So I did.
I don’t have much to say about this Wangan Sheep show except that it was awesome and was unite possibly one of the best and busiest nights in Gamuso for a long time.
Comprising 4 members who are all well known for their own respective music projects, Wangan Sheep come together to produce a brand of tight yet grimy, garage rock mixed in with a dose of rap from vocalist Hiro/. Guitarist Reds☆ personified rock n roll cool, while bassist Ryo-ta rocked his long blue hair about like a mad thing. Stealing the show from the back was drummer CHARGEEEEE whose energy and ferocious drumming made him almost impossible to get a clear shot of.
Definitely a band to check out.
Check out more from them here: www.facebook.com/WanganSheep
There’s some weird stuff that’s gone on in Gamuso in the past – blood-letting; fried mice; what may, or may not, have been people actually having sex whilst wearing horse heads on stage – but that all seems to have calmed down somewhat in the past few years. Then along comes the Mootekkis show and I’m standing there shooting when my eye is caught by a semi-nude dude pulling faces at the camera from the stairs leading up to the 4th floor. So, always on the hunt for flesh, I wander upstairs to find these two guys in wrestling outfits lurking about being muscly and comical.
Ladybeard (right) is a “pro-wrestler, heavy metal vocalist, party rocker and 24 hour photo opportunity” who started pro-wrestling in Hong Kong back in 2009 and in the time since has become what can only be described as a “kawaii-core” act mixing cross-dressing, Japanese pop, death-growls and body slams into a brief but hilarious show. Having appeared in Japan two years ago, his show last week was the first since he returned and it was certainly a sight to behold.
I’m not sure what the audience was expecting after three songs which went from かわいい (cute) to こわい (scary) within the space of 4 bars, but I’m pretty certain a guy in a luchador mask kicking Ladybeard’s ass across the 3rd floor and smashing a painting over his head was not it. What I wasn’t expecting was being yanked out of the way by organiser, and savour of camera lenses and faces, Johnny, as Lady Beard’s adversary was flipped across the stage at me. So I missed the shot with the art smashing as I was pulling myself together in the corner by the DJ booth.
His brief 20 minute set was perfectly timed – just enough cuteness, acrobatics and death growls to keep everyone from the back of the room shouting “Ladybeard ちょかわいい！！”
You can catch some more next month on February 15th at Gamuso. As Ladybeard himself says: Sing! Dance! Destroy!
You can also check out Ladybeard’s chat with Johnny and Shank on Got Faded Japan, here: http://vimeo.com/80552218
Over a beer the other week, The Mootekkis’ singer Mike asked me to come along and shoot the party celebrating the bands first album, “Heckling the Dawn”. As it turns out, some of the tracks on the CD were being laid down the night I spent with them when I interviewed the band back in 2012. The recording process has been a long one, but the finished item is well worth a listen and definitely worth seeing played live.
The show was a packed out event, featuring appearances from beat boxers The Bmons, Bitter Haze and a rather startling and unexpected appearance from kawaiicore act Ladybeard – who deserves a post all of his own. The place was filled with people squeezing up the stairs to try and get onto the third floor live space to catch the band in action and there was plenty of dancing and grooving going on during the set.
Gamuso is a tiny space, and The Mootekkis could have played a bigger venue, but something about the sweaty confines of the bar and the slightly dodgy PA sits well with their boozy, guitar-fuelled brand of garage rock.
I don’t normally use flash at live shows – it annoys the musicians and the audience – but the venue is so underlit that myself and the other photographers had no choice but to crack out the speed lights. In the end, they didn’t come out too badly.
You can download The Mootekkis’ new album “Heckling the Dawn” via Bandcamp, for however much you want to pay, for a limited time only: http://themootekkis.bandcamp.com. You can also pick up the CD at any of their forthcoming shows.
Check the gallery below for some of my favourite shots of the night.
Last time I shot Gyze was back last year at Shinjuku Headpower. I’m not sure what happened to them between then and now but the Gyze who played at Crescendo on January 12th were a completely different beast to the ones I saw last year. Perhaps releasing their album “Fascinating Violence” has had something to do with it. Collaborating with Ettore Rigotti has most definitely put a more extreme spin on the melodic death metal the band were playing before and they seem to have become a much more self-assured bunch both musically and in terms of performance.
I commented last time that the band had seemed a little static at the Headpower show, but this was most definitely not the case this time, with the band bounding about the stage and engaging the audience all the way through the show. Drummer Shuji put on an almost show-stealingly intense performance as he blasted away at his drum kit with an ease that made things look effortless.
Gyze will be playing around Japan for the next couple of months before performing in South Korea on March 29th. Check `em out!
It’s been a little over a year since I last shot Vorchaos. In that time they’ve released their fantastic album “Vortex of Chaos”, celebrated with a sold out show at Harajuku’s Astro Hall, and have continued to hold packed out shows as more and more people pick up on them.
Starting 2014 with a show at Kichijoji’s Crescendo, Vorchaos were playing alongside Another Stream and Melodic Death Metal headliners Gyze. Vorchaos tore straight through their album from start to finish and left the crowd shouting for an encore. With an infectious energy and stage presence, they are never a band you can get bored of seeing, (and I say that as someone who has gone to see them pretty much every show since I first saw them a year and half ago). As they continue to play live they keep placing the bar higher and harder for themselves and it’s going to be a pleasure to see them continue to grow as a band.
Let’s hope 2014 sees Vorchaos playing some bigger venues, and further afield. They are definitely a band to look out for in the forthcoming year, and I’m sure you’ll get to see them on these pages again soon.
“Vortex of Choas” is available through HMV, Disk Union and Tower Records in Japan and at gigs! Pick up a copy if you get the chance!
It’s been difficult trying to pull together a collection of my favourite photos for this year. I’ve been to a LOT of gigs – both shooting, writing or just enjoying myself at metal, punk and ska shows. Narrowing it down to just 10 was impossible, so I gave up counting and just threw in my favourites.
The year started off with electro one-man fun-machine Adapter in February. Fukusuke had returned from a tour of Europe and entertained the audience with tales of his adventures in curious foreign parts with stinky cheese and books on tattoos and a who that had to be continued at a later date, there was so much to talk about.
Read the report and see more photos here: http://www.rokkyuu.com/live-report/adapters-memories-of-europe/
Fukusuke recently celebrated his birthday at Koenji High so expect photos from that show in the new year.
This photo is cheating slightly as it was shot in December last year, though was published a few months later (so it still counts). It is my favourite photo ever. The colours all come together and complement each other and the flying hair heralded a year where I seemed to be capturing quite a lot of action shots, and mostly of drummers.
In fact, the whole flying hair thing is the theme of 2013, as it was not only the drummers doing it, but the guitarists as well.
Blackline guitarist Yudai is one of my favourite bandmen to shoot as he not only has amazing hair (and guitar skills, of course!) but a wonderful ability to execute yogic-quality backbends and rock poses that make my job a pleasure. The band went on hiatus for a while, just a few days ago so it will be interesting to see what they’ll get up to next – more rock poses please.
Speaking of guitarists, above are two more of my favourites from this year. I shot Daizy Stripper for two days of their 6-day stint in Shibuya. I have a lot of favourite images from that show, but Nao was very good at playing to the camera.
Astrid Crown Photo Report: http://www.rokkyuu.com/live-report/photo-report-astrid-crowns-1st-anniversary-takandanobaba-area/
I also spent some time backstage with a few band this year. I worked with Wing Works at their show in August, shooting the crowd and the band backstage as well as live. Bassist Intetsu is one of the “Wing Men” (the revolving selection of band members frontman RYO:SUKE calls on for live shows) and very kindly showed me around the backstage area as I’d never really been being the scenes much before. He is also a camera nut like me, so we got to geek out about cameras and lenses too.
Interview and Photos: http://www.rokkyuu.com/music/wing-works-taking-flight-interview/
O-West, in fact, seems to be where I ended up spending most of my time shooting this year. My friend Izumi asked me to come down and shoot her 5-minute appearance there in June and I snuck backstage and shot her wonderful hair in the dressing room.
Meanwhile, while interviewing sForzato for a forthcoming piece we’re working on for Rokkyuu, I had the chance to shoot the band backstage as they got ready for the show. My favourite thing to shoot is band members taking each other’s photos for チェッキ, the Polaroid photos of the band members available for sale at each gig. Lurking in a stairwell behind the venue, I caught a rather lovely shot of guitarist Hiro posing for the Fujifilm camera next to a fluorescent strip-light.
Before the interview goes up, check out my shots from their who earlier in the year here.
There was one particularly sad note for 2013 was the disbanding of Gakido. I’ve had the opportunity to write and shoot them a few times over the past year, so when drummer Tossy announced his departure I made sure I’d be available to capture his last show with the band. That the band then announced November 30th’s tour final show would also be their last made it all the more important. It was a great final show and hopefully you’ll get to see the full set in the very near future.
This brings me nicely onto the subject of some photos by other photographers I’ve worked with. Rokkyuu photographer Eric Agnew accompanied me to Gakido’s 4th Anniversary gig earlier this year and managed to capture some really cute and funny images from the show. It’s difficult to make notes when you’re laughing your head off.
Rokkyuu photographer Yuliya Libkina came with me to see Lycaon in May and managed to capture this sleaze-soaked show with aplomb. I quite enjoyed writing the report for this show, despite it not being the best spent 4 hours of my life. You’ll have to go check it out here.
My final mention has to be photographer Julen Esteban-Pretel who I met when I was interviewing Crossfaith back in May, and who very kindly let me use his photos in my interview. Julen is lucky enough to be able to capture some of the biggest bands coming from and into Japan for smaller venue shows as well as larger events such as the Fuji Rock festival. His photos are always really high-energy and saturated with colour, and whilst I envy his job (in a good way) I don’t envy the concussions he braves when heading into a Crossfaith gig!
Julen sent me over a couple of my favourite shots from Crossfaith’s December 8th World Tour Final at Shibuya O-East to add to this . Bassist Hiro continues the theme of flying hair, while the picture of Singer Ken (taken during “Scarlett”) gives me goosebumps as it reminds me of how much of an amazing show that was. The best show this year by far, and perfectly timed to show 2013 out with a bang.
Check out Julen’s awesome website here: http://www.julenphoto.com
Well, aside from some honourable mentions, that’s it for 2013. I’ll be catching out on some leftovers in the new year but for the meantime, thanks for reading the blog throughout this year and please look forward to more images and reports from shows in 2014!