Striking out of my musical comfort zone

Now generally my musical tastes when it comes to offerings from Japan run more to the likes of Gackt and yes, for my sins, one of the groups out of the notorious idol jimusho, Johnny’s Entertainment, TOKIO, but I like to support efforts to bring Japanese culture to Chicago so last Tuesday night, a friend and I took in the annual Japan Nite offerings at the Empty Bottle, in Chicago.

This is becoming an annual event at Empty Bottle, with Japan Nite in its fourth year and I was excited to be able to make it this year, having had schedule conflicts previous years. I knew almost nothing about the 4 groups who would be playing, other than the brief blurb on the Empty Bottle site and a quick spin of the various bands’ web pages, and I purposely chose not to sample any of their music in advance because I wanted to experience them first live and in-person.

First up was Hystoic Vein, a 4-girl group billed as Garage / Glam / Punk on their My Space page.



(Left, vocalist Inko, Right, drummer Lyn)

Is it wrong to call them charming? But I did, enjoying their somewhat quirky vibe. 

Next up were the Zukuna Sisters, aka Zukunasi, a female foursome specializing in blues and funk. They were, for me, the highlight of the evening. They brought a true Chicago sound to Chicago, and delivered it with great style.

Following their energetic set was Lolita No. 18, four deceptively cute girls (sense a theme here? …three groups, each of 4 women?) who combined chipmunk vocals and hardcore punk. We’d retreated to the bar area for refreshments so were to far removed for iPhone video or pics — and even more fortunately, to avoid the spray of water distributed courtesy of lead singer Masayo Ishizaka over the adoring fans!
The evening was capped off by the biggest name on the bill, Mo’Some Tonebender (4 guys, for a change), billed as alternative punk. (More info here)

They certainly had the crowd pulsing and the floor shook with almost alarming intensity. Thanks to my trusty foam earplugs (don’t laugh; you hear the music perfectly without the damage from high amplification, especially the vocals, and my ears don’t ring for two days — I never go to a concert without ’em!), I was really able to enjoy the musicality of the group, and their passion. I was also amused by the quirky “banter” (and I use that term as loosely as possible) of the lead singer, and I quote: “Are you drunk? (pause) Are you drunk? (pause for a swig from his beer bottle) I’m drunk.” It wasn’t so much what was said as how it was said, like the way you might say casually to someone sitting next to you, “Do you like baseball?” (or some other non sequitur-type like). 

Best of all, the evening also served as a fund-raiser for Japan earthquake relief efforts with the proceeds from sales of some drinks and donations going to the Japanese Red Cross!

I’ll leave you with a sample of “Aishitereu” by Zukunasi, from their album, “Lovin’ & Feelin’.”