Sammy the Seal

“Touching my skin won’t get you to my core”

In music videos, vinyl on Wednesday, 22 June, 2011 at 22:24

Cibo Matto, w/ The Chain Gang of 1974, @ Neumo’s, June 21, 2011  

Once again, I considered not going to a show I already had a ticket for (I believe it was Dismemberment Plan the other time), just because I had a long, thankless day at work (though it must be said I did myself no favors by getting little sleep the night before). I was fatigued enough that before I got home, I was already leaning against it. I’m not sure what snapped me back, possibly it was just lying down or taking a brief nap that cleared my head to make me sane enough to make the decision to go.

Anyway, the opening band was The Chain Gang of 1974. Not that I like to pigeonhole or label bands, but they had a decidedly 80s new wave, synth pop/rock, glam feel, that covered both the moody and dreamy aspects of that era. (There must be a revival going on, I recall a few opening bands in the last few months with a retro 80’s sound.) It certainly was abetted by such refrains as “never say it’s over”, “tell me”, “don’t walk away”, and “your love is all that I have to hold on to.” The lead singer had some Robert Smith hair going on which tended to get into his face, but he wore no make-up, thankfully. You can pay homage without doing straight-up mimicry, and I don’t think Robert Smith ever wore what looked like a sweatshirt with Mickey Mouse sticking out his tongue or blowing a raspberry. But, all the band members had huge holes in their jeans at the knees, as did I growing up, though that was a function of not being able to afford new clothes, it wasn’t stylistic. His vocal style certainly echoed that era, as did his dancing, with body gyrating and arms spread out and up, twisting and flailing about. He sure as hell didn’t care what anyone thought, I can tell you that. Hey, nothing wrong with dancing to your own music. It’s nice when people enjoy what they do. Maybe I’ve not been to enough shows, but I’ve never seen the singer for an opening band audacious enough to hop off the stage and perform in the audience during the second song. We all spaced out to give him room to move, but also, I suspect, because we were taken aback by this move and were slightly afraid of him and his carefree dancing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought that. I was kinda impressed, actually. Not only that, but the next song had a bass hook that clung to my brain as soon as I heard it. I felt a li’l bad I didn’t have any cash, as I really wanted to know what that song was– I coulda bought the record, their full-length debut Wayward Fire, which dropped the same day. If all this sounds like 80’s aping, well, at least they brought it. It didn’t feel like posturing, everyone in the group was into it (bless your awkward white boy grooving, guitar player)– it didn’t seem so calculated, especially judging by the way they danced. Looking cool was not on the agenda. Here’s a first: having a set list for a band I’d never heard of, and an opening one at that. However, as I mentioned before, the refrains made it easy to look up their songs:

Heartbreakin’ Scream
Devil Is A Lady
Matter of Time (the one with the awesome bass line)
Tell Me
Don’t Walk Away
Hold On

You can sample here. I think it will bear out my description rather well. Pump each one up to dance level and that’s what it’s like live.

Wow, that’s a lot for an opening band. And now, the girls. According to Miho Hatori, they were in jail for the last ten years since their last show, so this must have been a big deal. They sure did make us wait, it was probably close to 45 minutes. All I know is it was long enough that people started chanting their name, it was a little after 10:30 finally. I don’t know, maybe they were nervous about touring again. Or maybe, they wanted to look just right. They did change from the clothes they had on during set up. Yuka wore a sleek, short black dress with a bright red belt in the middle, to contrast with the hoodie and black pants she had on earlier, with Miho in a cute, slightly poofy, sheer orange/peach outfit. (I hope someone posts their photos soon so I can link to them. If only I had an actual camera, as camera phone don’t cut it.) The girls were radiant, and very gracious and grateful throughout, like they were remembering what it’s like to be performing together again. After the first or second song, an audience member gave them each a corsage. Incredibly sweet moment. They were obviously touched. I know Miho, as lead vocalist, is the cuter (and did she look as cute as ever), more outspoken and goofy one, but Yuka is no less charming. It’s easy to forget her, as she’s more quiet, thoughtful and understated, but she’s just as sweet. She seemed a little overwhelmed (in a good way) by all the energy there, it was very sweet to see. For a group whose heyday was close to 15 years ago, they have aged quite well. Compare to the video below– they both look almost the same, just slightly more mature. Hardly older than their 90s selves. I can imagine feeling the same too if I were them, to be away for so long, but to be greeted so and still adored, if even in a small club like Neumo’s, you probably still have feelings and memories rushing back. (The guy in front of me with the shaved head and wife-beater certainly appreciated them.) It was nice to see them enjoy that feeling of being on a stage again, they looked so happy.

Anyway, for the first three songs, it was just Yuka and Miho, and neat as it was to hear and see them, I must admit, it felt like we were just kinda living in the past. After “Sugar Water”, they added a drummer and a bassist, in time to start playing off Stereo Type A, which makes sense, as more was added on that album to the musical/instrumental stew than on Viva! La Woman. It was awesome, the bass player was a guy with a dark jumpsuit with a neon orange stripe down the right side, and the drummer was a Japanese woman who looked like she could have been their aunt (the girls, I’m guessing, are at most early 40s)– listen to the song “Blue Train” below and imagine an older Japanese woman playing drums on that song. She fucking rocked. “Tenth Floor Ghost Girl” was one of the two new songs they played, and it was rather decent, for being an unfamiliar tune. Most of the time it’s hard to get into a newly unveiled song (I figure most people just indulge a band) but that one worked rather well. The other new one I didn’t feel so much, but they didn’t give a title. Seeing as they spoke of a 2012 release date and that they’re still writing, I’m guessing that song is still a work in progress.

It wasn’t a mind-blowing, life-changing show, but it’s always great to see and hear up close something that’s only existed on record– I still feel lucky to be there. Miho’s vocals on “Moonchild” always get me, and it was lovely to hear it up close and personal. A fun, goofy moment of audience participation was shared on the “stop– I need a new beat” segment of “Spoon”, as well as Miho turning the mic over to us for some “Birthday Cake” screaming. Wish I’d brought something to sign. And with no cash, I couldn’t buy anything to sign. No biggie though, I’m not superfan or anything. I was just happy I was there. Woulda been nice to say hi, but there were an awful lot of people around them afterwards. I know they were on a major label way back in the 90s, but it was still neat to see them in the back of the club, signing and selling stuff. Unlike a full-on rock show, my neck didn’t hurt so much from swinging it around, which no doubt helped make work more bearable. It was a fun show, but relatively easygoing. And, the show got out before midnight, so I was still able to have my fun and get some sleep too. So thoughtful of them! I love you girls.

Beef Jerky
Le Pain Perdu
Sugar Water
Tenth Floor Ghost Girl (new song)
Sci-fi Wasabi
(unnamed new song)
Birthday Cake
Blue Train
Know Your Chicken

The same people who brought you such loveliness as “Sugar Water”, “Moonchild”, and “Stone” also present to you “Blue Train”– yes, that’s them. Pretty damn cool.

Song: Blue Train
Album: Stereo Type A

A concert performance of the song from the late 90s, it’s unfortunate that the recording level was so low. Still though, look at the two of them. They’ve barely aged, in my opinion. Again, replace the drummer with an older Japanese woman. Yeah!

  1. […] of his tattered trench coat and playing with his hair. Such affectations have both disgusted and delighted others who’ve reviewed their live […]

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