LIVE REPORTGREEN STAGE7/27 SAT
GING NANG BOYZ
Still Dang Good!
Despite the threat of impending rain hanging heavily in the charcoal clouds above the stage, and the light rain that has already started to fall, hundreds of people file into the gated enclosure in front if the stage, ten minutes before the band is set to play. And, despite this band’s heyday being between ten to twenty years ago, there are many fans gathering who must be in their early twenties.
Lead singer Kazunobu Mineta starts off the show with a keyboardist playing gentle piano parts behind him, as he sings while strumming a Gibson Hummingbird acoustic guitar. He croons like someone who has fought his way up from the bottom, yet, also with the drama of one who has taken acting lessons. It is worth noting that he is intently focused on his acting career as of late, and that he is the only remaining original member of this band. He sings of having bought a woman at a hotel in Shinjuku, and a man in the crowd yells out “as you do”. There is something poetic in this street-level artist rising to the status of a national hero who is appreciated as an actor; rather than being crucified for selling out.
He screams about not being able to be beautiful no matter how long he walks these city streets; no doubt striking a chord with many men in the audience. He lets saliva dribble down his face theatrically; possibly to show that he hasn’t lost his “punk cred”. Then, on cue, a backing band appears, and starts accompanying him with overdriven guitars and all the frills. A one-centimeter wide strip of white saliva traces the space from his mouth to his chin (and he is clearly acting like a character who is endlessly tormented) but the rapt crowd eat it up as if it was a stage play in which a famous actor has been cast. In every sense, it is so.
The end of the song is drawn out in endless jamming on the part of his backing band, which its members seem to love. As they produce perhaps one of the most raucous song-ending vamps in rock music history, the crowd throw their hands above their heads and applaud madly. The artist has hit his desired target. Perhaps Mr.Mineta is Japan’s Iggy Pop. Slinging a Rickenbacker guitar over his shoulder, he leads the band in an all-out punk song, with the spit on the left-hand side of his face growing to cover a significant part of his cheek. The members of the audience love every second, bouncing up and down, and singing along while throwing up an arm to punctuate every backbeat.
Once again, an incredibly indulgent vamp ends this second song. As this track seems to end, the crowd goes wild and the band jumps into a very similar musical passage that may or may not be a different song. The chord progression is exactly the same as a well-known Jawbreaker composition. Who influenced who? As this song once again ends in a raucous vamp of sonic destruction, the crowd applauds enthusiastically. The lead singer breathlessly, and seeming on the verge of tears, thanks the audience for being here. He explains that he started playing in bands some twenty-three years ago, and encourages those who want to sing, to sing, and those who want to dance, to dance. He then confesses that he loves (boy band) SMAP’s song “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” because it speaks the truth that you don’t have to be number one; that you can be happy just being unique. He then speaks about how he was reflecting on what it means to be a student, and how students are often known for dressing differently than the average person, or cutting their hair in a different way than the average person. He concludes that he just wants to encourage people to enjoy what they enjoy. As his speech draws to a close, his guitarist’s amp starts feeding back, and the band dives into a hardcore punk number worthy of a mosh pit. Dozens of fists accentuate every beat, in 4/4 time. Some audience members try to crowd surf, but a smiling security guard pulls them gently down to safety. Mr.Mineta then starts singing from the edge of the stage, and proceeds to climb over the security barrier, in order to crowd surf himself, while singing. As security guards try to help him back on stage, he mounts the shoulders of one of them, and chaos ensues as some fans try and pull his genitals out of his shorts. They almost succeed, as most of the pubic hair above his tallywacker becomes clearly visible on the stage-side screens. He then crawls back on stage as the song ends, and the audience goes wild on the last beat of the song.
The band’s lead singer then walks over to the drum riser, squats down, and takes some swigs of water while the adoring crowd calls out his name. Returning to the mic, gasping for air, he thanks his longtime fans in addition to the people seeing Ging Nang Boyz for the first time. He explains that he understands that each person leads their individual life, and he feels grateful for anyone who goes out of their way to come to one of his concerts. He then says that he hopes we enjoy his concert all the way until the end of his show. Suddenly confessing that he himself is a big music fan, he tells a teary-eyed story of being in a taxi in Tokyo after he decided to break up one of his old bands. There was a song on the radio that he liked, he says, so he asked the aged taxi driver to turn up the volume. As the old man did, he said,”OH, this IS a good song! You weren’t lying!” [Crowd laughs] “So we bonded over that moment.”
Strapping his acoustic guitar back on, Kazunobu Mineta sings the classic “Koi Ha Eien” (“Love is Forever”) and stage-side screens show smiling fans swaying side to side, singing along. A young lady who looks too young to have heard this song in its heyday nods thoughtfully at the lyrics. The audience wave their hands side to side in unison during the chorus. Before the last chorus, one of the rhythm guitarists plays a riff similar to the intro to The Byrds’ cover of “Mr.Tambourine Man”. As the song ends, without missing a beat, the lead singer introduces a new song, while his backing guitarist’s feedback still hangs in the air. The band dives in full-on like a freight train being fed too much coal. It’s a glorious speeding vehicle with accents of faster Ramones’ songs; but of course with an aesthetic that belongs purely to Ging Nang Boyz.
Towards the end of the track, they shift into a more rhythmic rock’n’roll outro, before ending the song in a noisy-ass Sonic Youth-ish vamp. Barely taking a second to breathe, the band leaps into the next song, whose chorus is “Aishite kure” (“Love me!”). It sits in a Bad Religion groove, but could also owe a lot to the Blue Hearts; Japanese punk pioneers.
Before the before-last song, Mr.Mineta assumes the crouching praying stance with which he started the concert, and lets profuse white saliva pour out of his mouth and onto his chin, as the band break into what must be a well-loved classic; such is the overwhelming enthusiasm of the crowd. After the band finishes the song, Mr. Mineta stares bewilderedly at the sky. He then gives a speech about how he never thought he could play this gig – on the green stage at Fuji Rock – and says that he hopes he can meet us all again. For the very last song of their set, Ging Nang Boyz deliver a funky folk-rock number, as a torrential rain comes down hard enough to float an ark. Kazunobu Mineta delivers his vocals soaking wet and topless, kneeling on the edge of stage left, tearing at his chest with one hand, leaving visible red marks, and professing his love for the audience. He implores his listeners that they should never try too hard; because if they don’t make unreasonable efforts, that leaves them the strength to meet again someday. As the very last song grinds to a noisy close, Kazunobu thanks the audience with sincere warmth, and leaves them with a final wish, “mata aimashou!” (“Let’s meet again!”).