LIVE REPORTNAEBA SHOKUDO8/20 FRI
These birds can fly
Opening your set with an ear splitting scream and a salvo of shrieking guitars is a good way to get anyone’s attention, and get attention South Penguin did at the top of their Friday Naeba Shokudo stage set. Another Rookie a Go-Go alum (2016), this project has since seen a complete lineup change save frontman Akatsuka, but don’t let this lead you to believe that they are having troubles. Their new configuration feels like a band reaching its prime.
Wild sax, bongo drums, whirling synthesizer soundscapes and staccato bass fit the crisp, reverb-heavy guitar and occasionally clean and occasionally barking vocals of Akatsuka like a glove. The group wore their musical inspirations on their sleeves for all to see, and the majority of the flavor was the Orange Juice or Stop Making Sense era Talking Heads side of post-punk. A solid backbone of funk, a frame of pop, and a heart of punk. The songs were danceable, but not dance songs, pop-y, but not pop songs. They managed to tread the line between these realms like few bands can. For their penultimate song Bubbles they introduced the element that really made it all click though, a female backing vocalist. Honestly she should be featured in all their songs, but we should be grateful for even the one.
South Penguin really brought a unique energy that few bands at this year’s can hope to be compared to. In general they shone when they let themselves get a little wild in a way their more staid songs just didn’t allow them to, like the end of their set closer House. When they went unbridled they made the Naeba Shokudo stage strain to contain them.
The last few years has seen them touring Taiwan and the Chinese Mainland in addition to Japan, and they play with the confidence of road tested veterans. Here’s hoping getting back on the touring circuit will push them even further, who knows what might come next.
[Photo: 10 All photo]