Japanese New Music Festival

This was one of the most peculiar concerts I’ve ever seen. Billed as “Japanese New Music Festival,” it was actually two of the guys from Acid Mothers Temple (Tsuyama Atsushi and Kawabata Makoto) and the drummer from the band Ruins (Yoshida Tatsuya) teaming up in seven different configurations over the course of one night — so it was allegedly seven different “bands,” each of them including either one, two or three of these guys, and each playing music in a different style. A lot of it was comical performance art, really.

First up was Seikazoku, with all three musicians doing free-form avant-garde improv.

Then came the oddest act of the night, Akaten (Atsushi and Tatsuya). They used no instruments and hooked up clip-on microphones to various objects to make noise — including one song that they played on the zippers of their pants. Other “songs” were played on a toothbrush and a camera. For one piece, the two guys drank wine, using sound effects of bottles being opened and wine being poured into glasses, with the sounds out of synch with the actual objects. They were laughing and having a good time as they fooled around onstage, and it was pretty funny.

Next, Makoto and Tatsuya played as the improvising duo Shrinp Wark (a Japanesization of “Shrink Wrap”), which was more rock-oriented that the jazzy noodling earlier in the night.

Tatsuya did an impressive set of drum solos (actually drumming along with prerecorded tracks of guitar and other sounds), under the name Ruins Alone. And all three musicians performed a cappella under the name Zubi Zuva X. Introducing one song as a “world music jam,” they explained that it combined Tuuvan throat singing, African pygmy chants and Japanese Noh music, all at once. Again, the guys were cracking up.

The two AMT guys played as a duo called Zoffy, doing mostly weird cover versions of some well-known songs. They were laughing again as they gave a long introduction to one song — “This next song is a very, very famous song … avery, very, fucking famous … a million-peoples famous song … a more famous than George Bush famous song… This is a by-the-people, of-the-people, for-the-people famous song … It’s ‘Smoke on the Water’ by Deep Purple as done by Captain Beefheart and Bob Dylan.” And that’s what it was. They followed up that with a

hroat-singing version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and truncated versions of a few Miles Davis songs — with Makoto playing guitar and Atsushi pretending to play a toy trumpet (but not actually making any noise).

The final half hour was more of a “normal” Acid Mothers Temple set, which rocked with abandon. The band keeps using different names for its various units, and this one was billed Acid Mothers Temple SWR. Finally, for the last bit of the encore, Atsushi chanted, “We’re only in it for the money.” It was an appropriate Zappa-esque touch to end the show.

At times, all of the tomfoolery got to be a bit much, but it was certainly a very memorable concert.