Osaka, Japan - 19 January 2018
explosion in a locked room*"
Fifth-NewHeavy were the reason to attend this evening. Tucked away
in a basement of a shotengai (covered shopping arcade) just
off Temma Station, it's fair to say the tiny Para-dice live house in
Osaka wasn't the most illustrious of venues to catch the main act.
They regularly play to larger audiences. The last time I saw them
(also in Osaka) the venue was more in keeping with their muscular
performances - best appreciated on a reasonably-sized stage.
But, as always, I try to arrive in time to catch all the support
acts - because you never know what may lie therein.
First of whom were a young twenties male and female two-piece under
the name Creamcan. Frustratingly, I
arrived after they'd started their set. From what I could make out
they were managing to make a very big sound just out of a guitar and
drum kit. He on the guitar. She on the drums.
Perhaps particularly because she has youth on her side, in spite of
her compact size and build she belted the living daylights out of
her kit. And it wasn't just smashing noise either. There was a lot
of dexterity involved alongside remarkable power.
Style wise, (like a lot of underground acts I've seen live in Japan)
they play around with what we can (very) loosely collate under the
heading of 'alternative rock/pop'. Much like their food, Japanese
music is, to my Western ears at least, a never ending juxtaposition
of elements. Back home (UK) we wouldn't think, let alone dare, to
put such diverse genres into one creative pot. But, here in Japan,
it's practically a template for the underground music scene.
In spite of their power, there was something endearing about
Creamcan, that would draw me back to see them again.
Photos: L-R Yoshigoo, Sixteencoins, Fifth-NewHeavy
Neck Apes were the 'teen-band' of the night. And by that, I
refer to their probable audience of adoring females. An all-male
(again youthful) four piece built around the staple bass, rhythm and
lead guitars and drums. In their frontman, we have our first potential
idol of the night. With his neatly coiffured hair - part 50s
Americana, part slick Japanese biker hybrid - he looked like he ought
to be famous.
Their opening song was pretty conventional melodic rock and didn't
much excite. Naturally, with my English head on, I was expecting their
set to be thirty minutes of similar sounding songs to the opener. But
followed was more interesting and unpredictable. There's a
definite American alt-rock influence in there that comes across
and the lead vocalist's voice was not only well-suited to their
material but hinted at wider capabilities given time to develop.
Third to take to the tiny stage was Yoshigoo.
The solo singer/songwriter field is one that is overpopulated
with sub-par talent. Only a handful of genuinely memorable
artists every decade manage to make their mark in any truly
meaningful way. So, from my perspective, it was Yoshigoo that
perhaps had the most stacked against him.
Although largely not my thing, talent is talent in whatever
guise it appears. Yoshigoo clearly has talent. Given his range
of influences (60s and 70s British pop bands in particular),
it's understandable that he dreams of playing in the UK. If
anyone in London or Manchester is looking to book new Japanese
solo singer-songwriter support acts (it might happen!),
they won't go wrong by starting here. And his style would be
well-received in the pubs and small clubs of the UK.
Photos: L-R Fifth-NewHeavy (Tomo), Fifth-NewHeavy (Max)
Sixteencoins, or Sixteen Coins or Six
Teen Coins (I saw it presented in all three variations on this one
evening) were the playful wise-crackers of the night. Not knowing it
was him, I saw the bass guitarist in the audience during the
previous support acts. Tall and slim, his long black hair slicked
back and wearing thick black-rimmed glasses. On first glance I was
unsure of 'their' gender. Once on stage and after the band smashed
out their first number, his ponytail was unleashed, the hair got
tossed extensively. Meanwhile, the singer appeared be joking as much
I really have little time for 'comedy' music acts. It's a marriage
that very rarely works on any real quality level in my view.
However, Sixteencoins (we'll go with the single word spelling - its
seems the preferred) just about managed to strike a decent balance
between the two, largely thanks to some very inventive song
structures (ie not much like most conventional songs!) and committed
Not being able to speak Japanese, all the jokes were lost on me. And
yet I found myself smiling during their set. They went down as the
best of the four bands so far - and seemed to have a modest
following. I suspect they're fairly seasoned performers - they
certainly came across as such. How long Sixteencoins will be around
though is anybody's guess.
Finally, up were headliners Fifth-NewHeavy.
Out, mid-tour, promoting their latest (second) album entitled Sicks.
I first came across front man Yoshis when he was leading his former
band rhivs - who I really liked for their
creativity. (Saw them live a couple of times too here in Japan).
With Fifth-NewHeavy there's less up front synths than there was in
the rhivs material (I'd like to hear more) but the musical vision
seems clearer and certainly sounds more focused.
A friend who was at the gig described Fifth-NewHeavy's performance
afterwards as like being an explosion in a locked room*. Frankly, I
can't think of a better metaphor - so I'm just going to stick with
L-R Fifth-NewHeavy (Kazuma), Fifth-NewHeavy (Yoshis)
For that is the experience of seeing such
unrestrained energy on stage. All three guitarists weilding their
instruments in a gloriously dangerous manner throughout. The sheer
volume in such a small place has a lot to do with the impact (the
footage I shot of the band often distorting). Although entirely in
keeping with the band's style it was a touch oppressive at times.
One aspect of Fifth-NewHeavy's sound that I am especially partial to
live are the monstrous sounds generated by Kazuma's bass guitar.
I've always been a sucker for a driving bass guitar and that
tradition is maintained here in outstanding fashion. A couple of
technical hitches (including a mic that stubbornly refused to
operate midway through one song) do not deter lead vocalist Yoshis -
nor do they apparently affect his demeanour. He just deals with them
and professionally continues to power ahead. He's a charismatic and
committed frontman. It's no surprise that he's not just dripping
with sweat after the show, but positively flowing with it.
A couple of days after this gig, it was announced that they'd been
signed by UK label Native Records. (Once home to notable scene names
like Nine Inch Nails, Cabaret
Voltaire's Richard H. Kirk before they were tempted away by
better deals). This should provide the band with much more global
exposure, particularly in North American, the UK and Europe. All
regions where, with the right kind of marketing push, Fifth-NewHeavy
ought to be well received.
(Overall 7/10 - Fifth-NewHeavy 8/10)
Rob Dyer (* with credit to Ayumi Kasatani for the metaphor!)
Fifth-NewHeavy Photos: Yuki Kimura
Yoshigoo, Sixteencoins Photos: Ayumi Kasatani