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November concert: Asobi Seksu at Chop Suey

Last Wednesday night I went to Chop Suey to see Asobi Seksu, playing with Tokyo Police Club and Pit Er Pat opening. I knew of Asobi Seksu from hearing a few of their songs on KEXP over the summer; I'd liked the songs enough to write down their album in my list of CDs to pick up, so I was looking forward to seeing them. However, the other two bands were completely unknown to me. Other people apparently were better-informed, as the club had a good crowd right from the start and was pretty full for both Tokyo Police Club and Asobi Seksu.

Pit Er Pat were a trio on keyboards, bass guitar, and drums. The band played art rock, not of the grandiose '70s progressive style, but the quirky and moody '90s indie rock style: more Yo La Tengo than Yes. They're the sort of band who come out on stage, pick up their instruments, and start playing as though they were still setting up, tuning, and checking sound levels; after a couple minutes you realize there's a regular beat and they're actually well into their first song. They had some kinship with the so-called shoegazer genre as well, both in performance style and somewhat in sound. Most of the songs were moderate in tempo, sparse and obscure in vocals, and occasionally fierce in volume. I enjoyed the set, and the audience was generally appreciative as well. They didn't seem to be around after the show so I wasn't able to pick up their debut full-length, Pyramids, but I'll add it to my list, and watch for their return.

Tokyo Police Club were a quartet including a lead singer and bassist, guitar, keyboards, and drums. The guys were all young and fresh-faced, full of energy and enthusiasm. For example, when the keyboardist wasn't intent over his keys, he was thrashing about with a tambourine or screaming backing vocals. An extra snare drum was set up in front of the drum kit, which the keyboardist played in one song and the guitarist played in a few others. The guitarist broke three sets of drum sticks on the snare, while the keyboardist knocked it off its stand and just kept beating it on the floor. The choruses were often shouted by the whole band rather than sung, but it wasn't grating the way screaming punk vocals generally are. Musically the band were in the indie rock camp, though with a strong punk edge. My only complaint was that all their songs came to the same abrupt end, as though they didn't know any way to finish a song other than just stopping. Still, they're a new band with talent enough to grow. Plus, they opened with a theme song, and I just can't knock a band that has a theme song. I did not end up getting their EP, A Lesson In Crime, but I'll definitely be listening for more from them.

Asobi Seksu were also a quartet, featuring female singer and keyboardist Yuki Chikudate and guitarist and vocalist James Hanna, with a fellow called Haji on bass and Mitch Spivak on drums. They had an additional keyboardist for this show, as well. Asobi Seksu played straight-up dream pop, complete with swirling guitars, distortion and feedback, and ethereal vocals. Chikudate sings in both Japanese and English; a first-time listener such as myself can't really tell when she's singing in which language, not because her English is bad, but simply because dream pop is all about the sonic textures, and the intelligibility of the lyrics is besides the point. I don't remember the last time I saw a pure dream pop band, but I'm fairly sure I haven't since I left Boston close to five years ago, and it was glorious to once again get lost in the wash of sound. I had been looking forward to their show at the end of September very much, and unfortunately wasn't able to make it, so I was thrilled that they returned to Seattle so soon, and they easily fulfilled my expectations. I bought both their first self-titled album and their new release Citrus, and I'm certain they'll stay on my iPod for quite some time.



Next month I get to see more dream pop, as Portland band The High Violets come to The Comet Tavern on Friday December 8. I'll also be keeping an eye on the WZBC Boston concert report for shows during Christmas week, as I'll be back at my parents' for the holidays. Generally that's a dead time because of the holidays, but I just might get lucky - hopefully more so than last year, when Freezepop played in Boston the day before I left NYC to head up to my parents', and Elysian Fields played in NYC the day after I left.


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