Posted on 2013/07/28 16:27
  • Live Report
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Taking their aesthetic cues from butoh rather than rock, the Japanese expat band Bo Ningen is the kind of creative unit that knows exactly what it wants but takes a rather roundabout route to get there. Formed in London in 2007 by two members who were playing with other groups but wanted to transcend all the labels that seemed unavoidable, Bo Ningen fits snugly into the anarchic Japanese avant garde best represented by Yoko Ono, who, in fact, used them for one of her art shows.

10:20 on Sunday seems too early to have to endure the kind of punishment that Bo Ningen dishes out, but the crowd was large and dense, owing partly to the brief rain shower that started when the band did, but also due to the fact that there was no competition, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. Androgynous and almost comically hirsute, the band wielded its long hair as dramatically as they did their instruments. Leader and bassist Taigen Kawabe effected a breathy, effeminate tone when talking to the audience, and during the onslaughts they call songs he would stare at some middle distance in the audience, as if looking for something to eat (an image intensified by his occasional mastication expression). Second guitarist Yuki Tsujii was even harder to pin down, and we’re still not sure if Yuki is a man or a woman, but in this instance (s)he was wearing a kind of two piece red satin gown. With his/her hair mostly in his/her face during the performance (s)he looked like Sadako with a more developed fashion sense.

That said, the music, for all its avant garde trappings, was remarkably accessible. The songs had structures that moved in and out of repetitive riffs, and the vocals were musical. On one song the band brought out Jehny Beth from Savages, and it took her a moment or two to find the center of the knotty rhythm, but once she was there everything fell into place, which may sound like the opposite of chaos, but there’s method to Bo Ningen’s metal madness. The last song of their 40-minute set was basically two chords that just kept getting more insistent until it seemed as if the whole world would collapse under its weight. At the end of the show Taigen tried to disembowel himself with his bass guitar. There are no encores when every performance ends in death. The crowd just loved it. -Phil