The New York stop on the Japan Nite 2011 tour was held at the beautiful Bowery Ballroom. The Zukuna Sisters opened up the show with some very smooth soul music. The White White Sisters followed that up with sweet pop nuggets sung into a hugely distorted microphone, and then crunched completely into a noisy, electronic storm.
Hystoic Vein, who appeared third on the bill at Audrey Kimura’s Japan Nite 2011, are doing what few do, and that’s to create a new style of rock music. When it happens of late it often seems to come from Japanese bands. Hystoic Vein have taken a few old scraps from rock’s past, and put them together in a new way that works. Inko, Hystoic Vein‘s singer, has grabbed the theatre of glam and New Wave, while the band behind her takes an edgy trip to the garage that the new wavers of yore with their techno mostly gave a wide berth to. The result is that Hystoic Vein have got energy, showmanship, and most importantly they rock the house. For me, at least, they brought the first real excitement of the evening.
Hystoic Vein are known for being a flamboyant group with the singer, Inko, using unique costuming and make-up, to the point that the word “glam” is often thrown around. I was impressed recently by a live video I saw in which the raw power of Youkaku’s guitar roar caught my imagination. Tonight Inko‘s costume included a headress/hat with a wig of fur growing out of it. She also wore what at first looked like a fur coat, but on closer inspection was a kind of lace gown with thicker patches woven throughout. Beneath it you could make out her black leotard. The rest of the band, a bassist, a guitarist, and a drummer all dressed in dark clothes, looking very much like a rock band they rocked like one, too. Inko provided a certain amount of cuteness and drama to some songs, like when she acted out a phone call where she told the caller that she loved them, and then demanded that they respond in kind. She has a good strong stage presence, and she puts on a good show.
Inko’s definitely the front person for this band, but if you get the least bit tired of watching her, the band behind her is worth checking out, too. All three are able musicians. The songs are occasionally quirky, but more often they straight out rock. Yukary, the bassist, is playing constantly throughout the songs. Even during breaks in the songs she’s usually filling them with a hot run. The one time when Yukary seemed to stop playing, it was to give the guitarist some room. Youkaku was coaxing out some feedback and distorting it in wicked waves. Youkaku didn’t play that many leads, as such. She tended to stick to raunchy rhythm guitar riffs, and those riffs had sharp teeth which rocked the hell out of whatever she was playing. While she plays guitar, she shakes her hair, writhes her body, or sometimes just concentrates on pounding out the riffs, often with her long hair hanging down in front of her face. Lyn, the drummer, kept the beat coming and did it powerfully, keeping the energy of the band turned up. In front of all that rocking, Inko commands the stage, moving from one side to the other, and when she stops, which she does regularly to pose, she often takes a full stance with her legs apart, and through the lace gown her legs could be seen swaying rhythmically along with the beat. Her poses occurred almost with the regularity of a strobe light, her dramatic movements connecting one pose to the next. The rest of the band just kept up their rocking.
Toward the end of the set Inko jumped off the stage and quickly moved through the smallish crowd. She found herself in the back of the hall, and almost the entire audience turned away from the stage toward her. She used the nearly empty back of the room as her stage then and continued her dancing and posing. I took some pictures and then noticed I was in the way of multiple cameras wherever I moved. Everyone seemed to have their cameras out, snapping pictures of Inko’s antics. I solved the problem by moving back toward the stage, which, wonderfully enough, is exactly where Inko headed next. She danced, sang, and enthusiastically posed with the excited crowd surrounding her and delighting in the interaction. Only at that close range did I notice that she had black and white checkerboard racing stripes painted across her eyelids. She spent about a song and a half out in the audience, and Hystoic Vein just kept pounding out the rock, almost as if they were happy to have everyone ignoring them and concentrating on their singer’s theatrics. When Inko returned to the stage she brought out a big red flag and waved it around, at one point knocking over a microphone stand, and sending a stagehand scurrying. The band had magnificently stirred the audience, and a friend claimed with assurance that that would definitely be the best performance of the night.
Was he right? In my opinion, yes, but both of the next sets by Lolita No. 18, and Mosome Tonebender, did exactly what they meant to do with authority, energy, and a good amount of exuberance. Lolita No. 18 had themselves a punk party, and everyone enjoyed it. Mosome Tonebender took their standard rock songs, and brought them time and again to a frenzied climax of wailing guitar that even got me dancing.