(Almost?) As cool as Kawabata: Acid Mothers Tsuyama and Higashi, above, taken last year at Pat's Pub by Femke Van Delft (not to be used without the photographer's permission). I didn't realize til after the Acid Mothers show at Pat's Pub last year that I'd previously seen Tsuyama with Ruins/Hatoba (a fusion of Ruins and Omoide Hatoba, featuring Yamamoto Seiichi of Boredoms fame) at Star Pines Cafe in Tokyo, back when I lived in Japan (1999-2002). He's got a fun personality - a mainstay of the Acid Mothers' tour roster the last few years, a member of Zoffy, a cool vocalist/bassist/"little instruments"-dude, and the prankster of the band onstage. He's on an uber-goofy project with Kawabata and Ruins mastermind Yoshida Tatsuya called Stones, Women & Records (by Acid Mothers Temple SWR, not the incarnation playing tonight; for a sense of how silly these guys can get, check Tsuyama and Yoshida out playing with their zippers as Akaten. Stones, Women & Records is a postmodern collage/nervous-jukebox-breakdown that is more orchestral, more hyperkinetic, and more (I guess) "serious" than that clip - but equally as zany. Music to bug out to). Higashi, meanwhile, has cool CDRs of solo electronica that he'll be selling at gigs; fans of Magneticring, BCVCO, or Sinoia Caves would get something out of these. Kawabata is the "star" of Acid Mothers and a very interesting musician and nice guy, but Higashi and Tsuyama are uber-cool too! (So, we assume, is Shimura Koji, whom I don't know as well; Forced Exposure tells me he's been in Splendor Mystic Solis, White Heaven, High Rise, Mainliner, and Miminokoto - pardon me if I leave you to track down your own links for those).
So obviously I'm plugging this gig, tonight at the Biltmore, by sticking this up, and I think any of you who like heavy psychedelic rock owe it to yourselves to go, especially if you've never seen them; but as I've said, live, the Acid Mothers just plain rock out too much for me. I mean, I don't blame them: performing musicians have to please their audience, and rock audiences in North America are simply not very subtle listeners (Kawabata and I discuss this in our interview, here, endless thanks to Alan Cummings for translating. May there never come a day when I don't feel like I need to include that statement - or don't remember to re-link to that interview when AMT are comin' to town). For the same reason, I have mixed feelings about seeing Sonic Youth live in North America. The one time I've seen them here, at least, at the Commodore on the Sonic Nurse tour, whenever the band got into their really subtle or out-there "noise" jams - exactly the part of their show that I'm most excited about listening to, and that I think they, as musicians, are themselves the most excited by - the audience chose to cheer, hoot, holler, and clap throughout, all of which are activities that interfere with careful listening and are so beside the point of what the band are actually doing that I wanted to run around the venue slapping people. (I recall no such problems the one time I saw Sonic Youth in Japan, note - or during any other concert I went to where there were lengthy quiet passages, like Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the Liquid Room; people listened attentively, in a way you simply don't get at rock shows here). This sort of behaviour, of course, is just fine for a lot of bands; yelling between songs or even during them is just great at a Reverend Horton Heat show, a Motorhead show - or a Rebel Spell show, a Subhumans show, even a fucking Nomeansno show, jammy and musical as it is (that last link is to last week's concert - more on that from me in this week's Skinny, btw). There's a jazz-oriented tradition of cheering hot solos and enthusiastic performances whenever you too feel most enthusiastic about them - to kick out and let the spirit move you, and give whooping and welcome feedback to the artist; it just doesn't work in ALL situations. People who don't go to anything but rock concerts, however, may not have had the chance to figure this out; they've never seen minimal/ambient noise, or "free music," or vocal improv, or so forth performed before, and know neither how to listen to it or how to show appreciation without wrecking the show. Medeski Martin and Wood's audience is equally as bovine, really; I sincerely believe they'd be a much better band, live or otherwise, if they had a better audience.
This is a shame, though, because the Acid Mothers Temple - to return to them - can be really a fun project! They have some terrific recordings (of those available through FE, check out Univers Zen ou de Zero A Zero, say). And it's not like they don't occasionally try to get "out there" live. There was a moment last year where Tsuyama started to fuck around with vocal improv and little instrument stuff, in a kind of goofy Akaten way -- but one that could have led somewhere, if the band had had an attentive audience willing to follow where they went. Insteaad, the audience laughed, hooted, made sarcastic comments and so forth, until the gesture had to be dropped with a shrug and a smile: we now return to our regular scheduled programming of Kawabata hoisting up his guitar and laying into ripping rock solos. Kawabata is a helluva performer, don't get me wrong, but it's only part of what he does, and even in terms of guitar improvising, there's only so far "out there" he can get to stay within the "North American rock guitar solo idiom;" better to "give the people what they want," if you want to be able to tour in North America every year or so. I understand - but frankly, I'd rather stay home and listen to his brilliant and constantly engaging early electronic music (thanks, Dan) than sit thinking about how much better the show could be if only the audience weren't ignorant, drunk and stupid. Grr!
But they're touring all the way from Japan, they're really nice people, and even when they're rocking out, there are moments where it grabs me, you know? I would probably enjoy myself at least a little, and there might be... women... there; maybe even (shudder) women like me (I all but stiffen at the thought). Besides, what else am I gonna do tonight, stay home and do my taxes? Transcribe Ray Fulber, with my ear still infected? Hell no! I want to relax, to unwind. I've just spent the weekend in Maple Ridge and the day doing laundry, putting my apartment back together after bedbug fumigation, and spending a frustrating hour with Telus trying to get them to actually send me certain documents that I've been requesting since March 9th. It would probably be at least, oh, a little fun, if I got my cantankerous ass out of this chair. Now I know how my friends feel when I try to talk them into coming to concerts with me that they aren't really that excited about: I'm running some of the same arguments down on myself.
Frankly, I'd feel better about not going if I knew all my readers were going. Would you do me a favour?
I mean, you might really not be as anal or difficult to please as me! You should go!
....By the way, did you actually click the Zoffy link? They're performing "Smoke on the Water." If Captain Beefheart were Japanese...