(Click here for photos of the 99-02-14 Melt Banana show.) Click here to go to the (official?) Melt Banana Site
After taking a number of different subways and trains, I arrived at the Juso station in Osaka. According to Matt Exile in the Kansai Time Out English speaking gaijin magazine, the Juso area is a sleazy red light district for Osaka. When I asked a co-worker for an explanation on how to get there, he warned me to be careful. Foolishly, I overreacted to his advice and didn't bring my camera, so I don't have any photos of the bands I saw at Fandango. The strip of Sakaemachi which I entered was like one block of Las Vegas, with neon everywhere, sex shop, peep shows, and so on. It was quite well lighted and clean, and there were plenty of business men in suits coming and going, as well as young women walking together, and so on. I saw no reasons to feel concerned for my personal safety anywhere here. To find Fandango, Matt Exile's instructions were essential: "...enter the Sakaemachi area and walk down a couple blocks." You'll see a big sign indicating the Sakaemachi area if you look across the main street from the Hankyu Juso train station. The first block you walk is all neon, the second block is more of a regular city street block. "Turn left when you see a street sign on a pole with a '30' on it. Fandango is [not too far down] on the [right], next to a bunch of tall buildings with neon signs..."
I arrived in a reasonably full club to what might have been The Pitchers playing (It was either them or MC:7, but I think it was the Pitchers). They were really good, though I only caught the tail end of their show. Energetic hardcore, which was fast, but also had slow rocking melodies that I could really get into. The Pitchers apparently are from my current home prefecture of Nara. I'd recommend them, but I can't really comment more as I didn't catch all that much of them.
Next up was Melt-Banana from Tokyo. Though they just finished touring numerous cities in the United States, I'd never seen them before. They were intense. On album they are interesting and quirky, but their musical coherence, and their ability to precisely coordinate their feats of wackyness were something else to see live.
Rika provided consistently interesting bass workings, and the drummer Ohshima, supposedly previously of Satanic Hell Slaughter, churned out super fast start stop drums. The vocalist and the guitarist though were who kept my attention for most of the show.
Supposedly, the vocalist Yasuko O originally just played bass for the band. She has also played in Avalanche and Zeni Geva. She would spurt out rapid vocal bits, and then quickly turn her face away from the crowd. I was enchanted by what appeared to be shyness combined with her physical presence and confidence. Agata on guitar created noises that I realized I had mistaken for vocals while listening to the CD. He worked with Yasuko and combined guitar sounds with her quick vocal shouts. Agata in addition produced a large variety of sounds from his guitar thanks to his multiple effects pedals. He wore a white cloth mask over his nose and mouth. I might have though this unusual in the US, but every now and then here in Japan I see men or women walking through train stations with similar masks on, maybe to keep out pollution or cigarette smoke, maybe germs, or who knows what.
I enjoyed every minute of the show, and didn't understand a word. Frequently I just see shows to see what bands I like on CD actually look and feel and act like, and then once I've seen them once, I don't need to see them again. But Melt-Banana was different, if I ever get a chance to see them again I'll go, since their performace was so much more intense than their interesting CDs are.
Up after Melt-Banana was Nana with his band. I think the whole Voodoo Shock Rock thing was Nana's event, as he annonced Melt-Banana before they went onstage, wearing a bowler hat and a suit. When he appeared with his band, he had long bleached dreadlock horn braid things coming down behind his head and a wild outfit. He seemed pretty toasted on alcohol or something, and thwacked away half heartedly at his guitar while singing vocals in English along the lines of, "you can't understand me .... I don't care ... Fuck you ... I don't care." His band was composed of a woman on bass and a woman on guitar. They had long black hair and had a traditional pretty-girl look. They seemed uninspired and were trying to keep up with Nana and giggling at his antics.
The photographer in front of me was carefully aiming her camera at Nana's crotch and, when he turned around, his behind, as one leg and side of the plastic pants he was wearing was completely clear plastic. Looking closely, one could make out the details of, yup, a real live limp penis in there.
After a song or two I left, Nana's persona and noisy rock and roll weren't my cup of tea...
(by Stefan, KZSU Program Guide, Winter 1999)