May 1, 2012
Theee Bat Takes on New York!
Pacifiction Records put out Theee Bat as the first release of their Swamp Fiction label. Theee Bat were one side of a split 7″. I received a copy to review for Rock of Japan, the website I was operating at the time. The band on the other side of the record, Atomic Suplex, was English, but I did review the Theee Bat side. I don’t remember it clearly now, but the two songs performed by Theee Bat were energetic, noisy, and fairly crazed. So, I was excited when I heard they were coming to New York, and would be opening up a show for The 5,6,7,8′s. Theee Bat were playing a number of other shows before The 5,6,7,8′s night, and I decided to see them as soon as I could. I needed to decide how many other times I might want to see them. It turned out their first show was going to be nearby at Otto’s Shrunken Head, so I made a point of being there.
Otto’s Shrunken Head is a small place, styled as a Tiki bar. It’s a hip place, it’s free, and it was Friday night, so there was a good crowd. Theee Bat began their set and bashed away at ‘Batman’ for a while before Mika signaled Sanshiro. On cue, he rose from behind his drums, grabbed a cymbal and headed off into the crowd banging away at it. Mika followed him with her guitar. Each of the three members of the band made forays out into the packed room several times during the set. Taku, the bassist, even did some crowd-surfing. Theee Bat rampaged through their set. ‘Batman’ was the only song I recognized until near the end when they began their encore with Blue Cheer’s version of ‘Summertime Blues’. I loved the idea of that, but they were distracted by some technical problem in the middle of the song, which deprived us of a recognizable guitar solo. I still dug it! They had taken the song and arrangement apart and left it scattered in pieces on the floor. The entire set was an exciting rage into pointless noise, and the crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy it and cheer them on as they banged song after song into a dazed stupor. It was good fun, and the sound was one loud roar. I could hear a bass line now and again, but the drums and guitar seemed to blend together. I dared to pull my earplugs out once or twice to get a clearer idea of what this band was doing, but when I tried to judge technical aspects, the constant onslaught of sound was all I could make out.
Theee Bat dress in black and wear English police helmets–Yes, the helmets worn by bobbies. Sanshiro has “MAD” printed on his, which is a reference to his previous position as Eddie Legend’s solo projects drummer. Eddie Legend is the guitarist/singer of Mad 3, an amazing Japanese trio of gifted rockers. Taku has a Theee Bat button attached to his, and Mika has an iron cross imprinted on one side, and a skull and crossbones on the other. The men both darken their eye-sockets to perform. Mika and Taku tend to wear their helmets pulled down over their eyes anyway. What is the point of this absurd costume? I don’t believe there is one. The only point to a Theee Bat show is to rock with all the furious gusto they can muster. That’s what they do!
I had seen them, and their performance was so over the top, exciting, and fun, that I bought a T-shirt, a various artists CD they were on called Tsunami Attack #2 (which I love!), and decided, with no other plans for my Saturday night, that seeing Theee Bat again was now an obligation. Plus, Mika had sold me a child’s T-shirt, and it didn’t fit. Not wanting to rely on my poor Japanese to explain the situation, I wore the shirt to their gig the next night. It meant figuring out where Brooklyn Fire Proof was located, but I managed to get there with enough time to consume a tasty burger before people began to arrive. The band finally came in the door and headed straight back to the performance space to drop off their equipment, and merchandise. I followed them into the back room, and took off my hoodie. My child’s Theee Bat T-shirt revealed a healthy amount of my belly. Taku and Sanshiro laughed, and I believe it was Sanshiro who pointed at me and said, “Oooh, sexy!” Mika laughed too, but was a trifle embarrassed, and quickly found a Theee Bat T-shirt that would better cover my girth. I thanked her and returned to the bar. They soon followed, and I invited Mika to sit down and talk. “I want to dance!” was her reply, so I obligingly got up and danced with her. We danced a couple of songs together. That was enough for me, but Mika kept on dancing. I invited Taku to join me at the bar, which he was happy to do. It was Taku who informed me that he and Mika both play First Man guitars. First Man is a Japanese company. The guitars are shaped similarly to McCartney’s Hofner bass, but Taku was more interested in pointing out that Blue Comets, an early Japanese GS band, had played First Man guitars.
When Theee Bat finally began playing in the back room, on one end of a small hall, they did so, of course, with a good deal of energy, but the small crowd, with few exceptions, stood and stared. Mika and Sanshiro ran out into the crowd, Sanshiro banging on his cymbal, Mika with her guitar, to everyone’s delight, but no matter what they did they couldn’t get this crowd stirred up. Taku, was running out into the crowd, too. In fact, they spent a good deal of the set out in the crowd, and sometimes on the other side of the room, so that the audience had to decide which bandmember to watch, or aim their cameras at. They spent much more time away from the sttage area than they had at Otto’s Shrunken Head. The small number of people in that large, open room, left things a bit too relaxed. Theee Bat, rather than accepting the situation and just getting through their set, were driven to exert every ounce of energy they had to get something back from that audience. They were hungry for it! If they couldn’t get an energetic reaction from the audience, then they were going to create the energy themselves, and that’s what they did.
At one point Mika shoved Sanshiro’s cymbal in my face and handed me a drumstick. I was more interested in taking photo’s, so I tippy-tapped on the cymbal, and she gave me a look that said plainly, “What’s wrong with you? Bang on that cymbal!” and then quickly grabbed the drumstick back, and handed it to someone she thought might better appreciate the sport. They blasted away at their instruments. Sanshiro kept the beat coming, when he wasn’t running around the room with his cymbal, and the excursions into the audience continued throughout the performance. By the end of the show, both Taku and Mika were rolling around on the floor, kicking and waving their arms and legs as if having tantrums, not even attempting to play their First Man guitars anymore. The guitars lay discarded on the floor beside them, and the feedback roared. It was as if, unable to create the energy high they craved from the crowd, Theee Bat burned out every ounce of energy they possessed, and finally self-destructed, giving their all to the demons of rock ‘n’ roll. As I left the club, I ran into Sanshiro having a relaxing smoke outside. I sat down and joined him. After talking about various rock bands, Japanese and American, and his time playing with Eddie Legend, the subject of Tokyo’s trash rock scene came up, and Sanshiro proclaimed with no reservations that “Theee Bat are No. #1!” Having seen them play two nights in a row, I raised my fist in the air and gave him a power salute.
I had a week to consider the band before I saw them again opening for The 5,6,7,8’s at Mercury Lounge, which is one of my favorite small clubs. Mercury Lounge has a number of things that make it a good club. It’s comfortable, there’s a good size stage, they’ve got a great sound system, and usually good people operating it. I had enjoyed Theee Bat’s previous shows so much that I was actually more excited to see them again than I was to see The 5,6,7,8′s this time. Again, like at Otto’s Shrunken Head, the place filled up fairly quickly. Theee Bat came out to a sold-out crowd, and they rocked it hard and fast, as always. Being on an actual stage and playing to a good sized crowd must have given them a certain confidence, and I rejoiced seeing Theee Bat playing in a more professional situation.
They started this show out with ‘Batman’ again, as they had at Otto’s Shrunken Head, and it wasn’t long before Sanshiro grabbed his cymbal stand and jumped out into the audience, but this time he quickly handed it off to someone, and headed back to his drum kit. Mika eventually made it out into the audience, too, finding some room and doing a guitar solo out there. Meanwhile, Taku was running across the length of the stage and on up the wall. He often did that while Mika was up front at the microphone, too. It was another exciting performance, but what did it for me was when I pulled out my earplugs and sampled the actual sound of the room. Instead of the roaring noise that I had heard at their other shows, I now heard a very tight, competent band, with more intense power than I’ve heard in a good long time. Technique may not be what this band is concentrating on in their performance, but I was more than impressed how much of it they have to fall back on. I’ll usually only pull my earplugs out once or twice during a set, but I did it regularly during this show, mostly because it just sounded so great and so powerful. Yes, it was loud, but hearing it was a joyful experience. Theee Bat had very little merchandise left to sell after the show. It was near the end of their tour. Good for them! I hope that will encourage them to come again next year, ’cause I want to see this exciting band again–not The Bat, not Thee Bat, but Theee Bat!
—Paul Wheeler (former webmaster, writer and photographer of RockOfJapan.com)