Acid Mothers Temple at the Empty Bottle

Japan’s masters of heavy psychedelic jams, Acid Mothers Temple, returned to Chicago last night (April 12) for a show — where else but the Empty Bottle, the same venue they’ve played several times in recent years? As always, the guys in the band were sitting behind a couple of merch tables, completely covered with dozens of different CDs. Acid Mothers Temple (in all of its various configurations and different names) is incredibly prolific.

Touring this time as a quintet under the old Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. name, the group played just four songs, but each song stretched to somewhere around the 30-minute mark. Right from the first minute, the band dug into its cycling, circling guitar riffs with fierce intensity. The synth notes swooped up and down, and the noisy suites occasionally arrived at something that sort of resembled as a chorus, as a few of the band members joined together into a chant. Fans applauded when they recognized the bright riff from “Pink Lady Lemonade.” At the end, it all came to a crashing climax, with founding member Kawabata Makoto hoisting his guitar to the ceiling and letting it fall into the audience. It was another thrilling performance by a band that possesses great powers.











Denver band Tjutjuna — two drummers, a guitarist and a bassist who doubled on Theremin — opened the show with instrumental psychedelic rock jams, a perfect match with Acid Mothers Temple.



Acid Mothers Temple at the Empty Bottle

To get an idea of how prolific the Acid Mothers Temple musical collective is, all you had to do was take a look at the merch table Wednesday night (April 6) at the Empty Bottle. The musicians sat behind a table covered with dozens of different CDs… and even that impressive display was far from complete. In fact, the band wasn’t even selling most of the Acid Mothers Temple albums that I own, including last year’s intriguingly experimental and atmospheric release, In A to Infinity. It’s hard to keep track of all the recordings this group puts out under its various incarnations.

On this tour, the band is calling itself Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O., which is the longest-running and most famous version of AMT. Its latest record — and one that dominated Wednesday’s performance — is Pink Lady Lemonade — You’re From Outer Space, which is apparently some sort of sequel or makeover of a 2008 album of the same name by a different version of the band, Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno. Huh? Confused yet?

Beyond all the confusing nomenclature and baffling discography problems, Acid Mothers Temple stands out as a bunch of musicians who love to jam out. And that’s precisely what they did at the Bottle, with the four-musician lineup bending its tunes more toward the Jimi Hendrix guitar-rock end of the spectrum than usual. There were a few moments of needless goofing around, but for the most part, AMT bore down and dug into its epic songs, including the four-part, album-length “Pink Lady Lemonade.” The concert’s climax — before the encore — ended with one of the guitars hanging from the ceiling.

As far as I could tell, the members of Acid Mothers Temple made no reference Wednesday night to the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear troubles back in their homeland, it was hard not to think about it while watching these Japanese musicians. One of the concert’s most impressive and moving moments came when the band stopping playing its instruments for a few minutes and chanted a cappella. Like most of the audience, I had no idea what they were singing, but it felt like the voices were commanding: Stop what you’re doing and listen to this.

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.


Acid Mothers Temple at the Empty Bottle

Last year’s cancellation of an Acid Mothers Temple at the Empty Bottle was a big disappointment. Since seeing this band back in 2002 at SXSW, I’ve been eager to see them again — especially since I’ve become more familiar with their recordings (though I’ve just heard a fraction of their prodigious discography).

So it was exciting to finally see AMT again. I’m not sure which version of the band this was (Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O.? Acid Mothers Temple and the Cosmic Inferno?), or exactly what the differences are. This was a lean, mean version of the band, with just four guys making a ton of noise. There was some fabulous guitar soloing, and several cacophonic moments that brought “Instellar Overdrive”-era Pink Floyd to mind.

Commenting in their broken English on being in Chicago, AMT offered up a couple of fun Chicago pieces of music — a short version of Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” followed later by a chorus of “Saturday in the Park” thrown into one song. And the encore? Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye,” the White Sox anthem — or some twisted version of the tune.

The opening band, the Antarcticans, was a pretty good instrumental group. They sounded almost exactly as I’d imagined — big glaciers of guitar riffs.