I wish I had discovered Next Music From TOKYO earlier. I’m not a super dedicated music listener but I definitely feel like I’ve totally been missing out all these years. It’s a DIY music tour that was started by Asian Canadian, Steven Tanaka and he’s been organizing these shows since 2010 after having discovered a plethora of hidden talent in Japan’s indie and underground music scene. Without knowing anything about doing a show, he started flying these bands from Japan to perform in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. It was a learning experience for him but he’s become a pro at it after so many years. He used to be pretty much a one man show and still does most of the heavy lifting in regards to financing, booking and scouting but has attracted some dedicated volunteers. He spends a lot of money (over $40,000) and does the exact opposite of making a profit. The ticket price for the Montreal show was a ridiculously low $10 in advance or $15 at the door. That’s to see five super talented bands. Seriously, Mr. Tanaka could charge much more than that for a ticket.
This year’s show was on Monday, May 23 (Victoria Day) at le Divan Orange, it’s a small, intimate venue with a bar along one side and a fussball table. I’m bad at estimating how many people can fit in a space but I’d guesstimate less than 200 for a standing audience. The bands featured were MOTFD (Mass of the Fermenting Dregs), 午前3時と退屈 (Gozen Sanji to Taikutsu / 3am and bored), Dalljub Step Club, Nengu and Regal Lily. All the bands performed with lots of energy and passion. The choice of bands was diverse with each having its own distinct sound. It was hard to choose a favorite.
Personally, I feel the third act of the show, Gozen Sanji to Taikutsu was the most musically interesting and surprising. Their music and also their style of singing would change within a single song in interesting ways. The occasional use of dissonant sound was intriguing despite myself not really liking dissonant sounds at all. Categorizing their music seems difficult. There’s rock with the guitars of course but the keyboard also adds an interesting layer to their sound with the occasional dreamy interlude between more typically loud rock parts. Sometimes it sounded “noisy” but not in a bad way. They each wore a white lab coat with a Canada flag on it so it made them pretty easy to recognize while they hung around in the crowd after their performance. I guess that makes them science rock? chemistry rock? After spending a ridiculously long time taking the plastic off their CD, I asked Anisonan, the singer/keyboardist, to sign the booklet and she not only signed it but tracked down all the other members to sign it too, which was very thoughtful. I was very happy to have all their signatures.
Actually despite the image in the booklet, it seems one member has been replaced (their current guitarist is a guy).
The first act to start the show was Dalljub Step Club and like the NMFT twitter account said they are definitely headliner material but they were also a good choice to start the show as they easily managed to hype up the audience. They also taught the crowd to say Saiko (which the lead vocalist translated as happy but actually means the best or highest but in slang could mean awesome, which I guess is similar to being happy). They play electronic dance music with some rap segments. The type of music that would make even the shyest of people dance around like saiko psychos. I think the rapper/vocalist Shingen Mori signed my CD booklet. Or it was whoever was sitting behind the merch table after his set was done.
Regal Lily were the youngest band with one member still in high school. Seriously? These kids make me feel like I was a lazy talent-less bum in high school. Their opening song seemed to be very long but it wasn’t boring at all and was quite impressive. I’d say their songs range from sounding soulful and wistful to happy and uplifting. They can also rock pretty hard when they want to and will do so when you don’t expect it. They were the second act of the show. I got one of the members to sign the cover of the two CDs they were selling. The CDs come with English translations of their lyrics. Their T-shirts sold out before the Montreal show.
Nengu was the 4th act and were the hardest rocking band with powerful guitars and ear splitting percussion. The drummer’s talent was insane. It’s no wonder that the moshing and crowd surfing kicked into overdrive during their set. There’s no singing and it was all instrumental. The music is a bit outside of my preferences but their intensity was crazy high. They are considered to be a math rock band. This is the first time I ever heard of math rock but when they started playing it was immediately obvious to me that their style of rock was different than what I’d typically heard before. I admit at times it sounded like “noise” to me but I could detect an interesting variety to their pieces. The crowd seemed to really love them and they performed an encore. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any of their members to sign their CD that I bought.
Mass of the Fermenting Dregs might have one of the best band names ever or at least the most memorable. As the last act, they not only maintained the crowd energy built up by previous acts but elevated it even more. This marks a rebirth of sorts since the original band disbanded a few years ago but then reformed recently. They’re probably also the most well known in relative terms compared to the other acts. I found their music to be fairly upbeat with distorted guitars. A search online described their music as shoegaze, another music genre I’d never heard about before. The lead singer Natsuko Miyamoto definitely has a strong stage presence, perhaps the strongest out of all the bands. They weren’t selling any CDs which was too bad. I think all bands should bring at least some merch that can be signed, which is what makes CDs an obvious choice even in this age of downloading. I ended up buying a T-shirt.
Final thoughts: Recommended!!!
It was a kick-ass show. It started promptly at 8pm and ended after 12:30am. Unfortunately I had to leave just as MOTFD was doing their encore. The setup between bands sometimes felt long (one time I think it took over 25 mins) but it gave the ears a rest from all the loud music. The venue could’ve used a bit of air conditioning as both the audience and the performers felt hot but these are minor quibbles (I’m not sure if the venue even has AC). I can’t wait for the next show, which is scheduled for October later this year. Vol 9 will feature Maison book girl, skillkills, This is Japan and two other bands that have yet to be decided. You can see which bands are being considered to fill out the last two slots in NMFT’s comments.