Polysics bassist Fumi sits on the curb outside Rhythm Room chatting with the band's photographer Tsukasa as drummer Yano stretches out. The show's over, but she's still wearing her orange flight suit with iconic "P" tacked onto the front and says she's tired. After witnessing the explosive set Polysics laid down tonight, it's not hard to imagine why.
There are those bands who are obviously into what they do on stage and then there are the Polysics, in a class of their own. I can describe to you in words the volume of fluid spraying off of lead singer Hiro as he banged his head like a mental patient. I can go into detail about how the band was so tight and the musicality so good that they reached that fine balance between sounding as good as their albums while still bringing something fresh to the live performance. I can describe how entertaining keyboardist Kayo's robotic movements and clip-clop keyboard-playing made the crowd laugh out loud. The only problem is it won't do justice to Fumi's technicality on bass. It won't let you hear the shrill, piercing cry of Hiro announcing "We are Polysics from Tokyo, Japan!"
Nope. You would have had to be there.
The interesting thing is that so many people were there...for a Japanese band.
And though it was an all-ages show, both sides of the Rhythm Room were packed to the gills with Polysics fans clad in Polysics T-shirts and eagerly hoping Get Down! to Brass Tacks would get off the stage already. That's right, these weren't curious concert attendees looking for a gimmick band from Japan. These were Polysics fans. Fans who lost their shit when the show opened with "Shout Out Loud," a track on the band's new album, Absolute Polysics, which came out about two weeks ago in this country.
And that reaction continued as the band worked there way through other tracks from Absolute, like "E.L.T.C.C.T." There were also tracks from 2008's We Ate the Machine (most noteably a kick-ass rendition of "Rocket") and older tracks including "Kaja Kaja Goo," from National P! and "Baby Bias" and "I My Me Mine" from Now Is the Time! And each time one of these tracks came on, it took about four notes for a group of fans to wail in excitement that their favorite song was being played. You know, just like at an English-language concert.
Hell, even Mike "Bam-Bam" Sversvold from JFA was in attendance, and he was a bit ticked off that Polysics didn't play "Electric Surfing Go Go." That makes two of us, Bam-Bam.
That's not to say there weren't plenty of high jinks to make up for it. Turns out the show was the same night as Setsubon, a Japanese holiday likened to our own Halloween, in which people throw dried black beans at folks dressed as demons to drive away evil spirits. Hiro explained this, then asked the audience if they would "participate in Japanese tradition." I couldn't help but laugh out loud when he put on a demon mask and tossed beans into the crowd along with Fumi and Kayo. Later, Hiro hurriedly inflated microphone shaped balloons for the audience to sing along to.
If there was a gimmick to be had, that was the extent of it. The fact is that four rock stars from Japan in orange jumpsuits didn't need a gimmick to give a few hundred Rhythm Room patrons a great show. They just needed to bring the rock.
Well, they didn't just bring it, they Absolutely killed it.
Last Night: Polysics at Rhythm Room
Better Than: Just about any show I've seen in Phoenix, including the last Polysics show at Clubhouse. I asked Fumi what she thought of the crowd at Rhythm Room and she said the place had a great feeling, even better than Clubhouse.
Personal Bias: As described in Wednesday's Nothing Not New, I'm a Japanophile. Naturally, I love Japanese music. Looks like I'm not the only one.
Random Detail: While setting up the stage, Polysics played a remix track from a highly influential Japanese electro group called Yellow Magic Orchestra. They also played "Take On Me" by A-Ha and I swear everyone in the joint was singing along.
Further Listening/Watching: So this is where things get tricky. There is a lot of Japanese music out there begging to be explored by virgin, American ears. If you like punk, listen to Ga Ga Ga Special or Stance Punks. If you like prog-rock, you have to hear X-Japan or The Gazette. Alternative more your style? Try Asian Kung-Fu Generation. Need something poppy? Try Ayumi Hamasaki or Perfume.
There are so many more. If you'd like to hear about some other Japanese bands, drop me a comment and I'll put something together.