Those lucky enough to have visited East Asia will attest that region has an amazing array of alternative acts. For those who can’t travel the 9,000 miles those nice guys at Damnably Records have assembled three bands from their roster for the Golden Week Tour which brings a flavour of East Asia to the United Kingdom.
Armed with a fast and furious sound Drinking Boys and Girls Choir are a trio of skate punks from South Korea. Opener ‘National Police Shit’ is suitably incendiary and the bands enthusiasm immediately adheres them to the crowd. Next track ‘Stay Here’ evidences a lot of variety with its ska infused mid section and it’s all very mosh pit inducing as they perform a set largely culled from their debut album Keep Drinking. That record is perhaps the sickest set of songs since Black flag’s Damaged with each tune being the most direct route to what it’s all about and they easily transfer that rage to the live environment. ‘Oh My California’ and ‘How Much Longer’ all increase the level of insanity before ‘Keep Drinking’ brings the set to a cataclysmic conclusion.
Standing in opposition to the Drinking Boys and Girl Choir’s musical maelstrom are Korea’s Say Sue Me who bring their lazy surf rock vibe. Recently championed by BBC 6 Music and picking up two awards at The 2019 Korean Music Awards finds the combo riding on the crest of a wave and their set tonight displays a seasoned confidence. Opening with the quiet storm that is ‘After Falling Asleep’ Say Sue Me look at ease on a big stage despite of some technical problems that plagued the second half of their set. Sounding like Sonic Youth tussling with The Beach Boys, Say Sue Me have a sound that travels well and doesn’t seem out of place in central London. ‘Old Town’ picks up the pace along with a frantic rendition of ‘I Just Wanna Dance’. Despite it being spring the band air their festive single ‘Christmas, it’s Not a Biggie’ before we’re treated to a dreamy version of Blondie’s ‘Dreaming’. Say Sue Me’s sound captures certain moments in time: a nook in a cosy bar, a beach at sunset or a crowded dance floor and their genius lies in setting these moments to music. Closer, the epic ‘Just Joking Around’, caps an enjoyable set and I’m sure Say Sue me will be back and headlining the Scala soon.
Japan’s Otoboke Beaver are the kind of band who like ripping up the rule book and set opener, ‘Mean’ is the perfect example: a 19 second blast of fury that’s worth an album of other, lesser bands material. ‘Akimahenka’ follows along with new single ‘Don’t Light My Fire’ (and be sure to check out the great video). Railing against Japan’s patriarchal society and using music as their weapon each song is delivered with the force of a volcanic eruption. Forget the Spice Girls and such nonsense: this is the real Girl Power and it’s heartening to see Otoboke Beaver attracting a healthy female contingent who’re moshing in the pit. With songs that are both complex and accessible ‘S’il Vous Plait’ follows along with a frantic version of ‘Bakuro Book’. ‘What Do You Mean You Have to Talk to Me at This Late Date?’ is full of neat time changes while ‘Introduce Me to Your Family’ sets the floor on fire as guitarist Yoyoyoshie makes the first of many forays into the crowd. Like Angus Young after too much caffeine her playing is simply spellbinding. Props to vocalist Accorinrin who largely sings in her native Kyoto dialect except occasionally, like on ‘Datsu, Hikage No Onna’ where she proclaims “I hate you!”, just in case anything is lost in translation. The band return for three well deserved encores, and due to their high octane performance their hour long set is just the right length as both the band and audience leave spent.
Reviewed by Peter Dennis.