The audience were violent and happy. Many stage diving and mosh. One thing that was very different from usual shows was that the audience were all little green men. – Melt Banana.
After waiting outside in the cold for nearly an hour, I finally got in to the sold-out Melt Banana show at Bastard. I had only recently heard their latest album, Teeny Shiny, which a friend had recommended checking out. They seemed right up my alley: frantic paced punk with feedbacky guitars, interspersed with seemingly random bursts of silence and weird noises, complete with indecipherable lyrics about UFOs and bees spat out in at least three different languages (Japanese-English-Italian) by hot tough girl vocalist Yako…Why is it that the Japanese always seem to do punk better than anyone else?
Impressed as I was by the album, I still wasn’t expecting to see a show of such grueling caliber. Due to the delay at the door, the band ended up having to go on a couple hours later than they expected. It was well worth the wait, though.
Melt Banana is intent on transcending the old cliché of the 15-minute wham-bam-thank- you-ma’am punk show. These guys went on for over an hour and only appeared to get more energetic as the night wore on. Where your average, run-of-the-mill crusty hardcore outfit would have wimped out after five or six numbers, Melt Banana proved that they don’t fuck around: they’re professionals in the truest sense of the word. From the start, they attacked the crowd with a ferocious intensity, and were tighter than any band I’ve seen in a long time, which is no wonder considering their frantic touring schedule. These guys love to play, and refuse to quit!
What’s most intriguing about watching good performers is the way they so artfully maintain control over the crowd. It’s seldom nowadays that a band is able to hold both their music and their live performance on the same level of intensity. The crowd couldn’t stop moshing and throwing stuff in the air; I got beer splashed all over me and was seriously afraid my camera was going to be knocked out of my hands at any minute!
The rhythm section, consisting of drummer Dave’s tireless machine gun imitations and Rika’s turbo bass, kept things going at wrist-spraining speed while Sudo’s guitar playing strayed away from the formulaic three-chord amateurism traditionally associated with punk rock, instead opting for animalistic shrieking and insane slides up and down the guitar neck – aided, no doubt, by a confused array of effects pedals scattered in front of him. Watching him play, especially considering the fact that he Volle Länge RealAudio Clip
wears one of those scary-looking surgical masks you always see Japanese businessmen wearing on TV, you can’t help thinking he’s a total psycho, although he maintains such tight control over the noise that it’s clear he’s an incredibly skilled mischief-maker. At first, the music sounds extremely chaotic, but the band is actually tight enough to change speeds sporadically – even several times in one song.
Of course, none of front girl Yako’s lyrics make a whole lot of sense, but it doesn’t really matter. She’s got a powerful voice that matches the controlled chaos of the band. She commands a powerful, scary stage presence, effectively busting up the stereotype of the passive Asian female with a fiery intensity and a quick wit to match.
A few nights later, I saw Yako being interviewed on television. Despite the fact that she looks all tough and scary when she’s onstage shouting things like “I need to handle it, to needle it, crush it! So do my dead friends! Cats chase dogs but rats eat cats too!” she admits to being a sensitive artist with a pet goldfish at home in Tokyo. (“What will I do if there’s an earthquake while I’m on tour and I can’t save my goldfish?” she asked the interviewer, genuinely concerned.)
While it’s clear that the crowd loved them – they play here all the time and always sell out the venue – they also have an affinity for Berlin. The video for “Free the Bee,” the first track on Teeny Shiny, features exterior and interior shots of the Television Tower, showing the revolving restaurant jerkily spinning back and forth in sped-up motion, like a carousel gone totally awry.
In fact, this mad merry-go-round is a fitting metaphor for Melt Banana’s live performance. So if you were unfortunate enough to miss their last show at Bastard, you should journey to the top of the Television Tower, sit down in the spinning restaurant, drink 20 cups of coffee, close your eyes, and try to imagine what it’d be like if you were spinning 100 miles per hour, high above the city of Berlin…You’ll feel similar to the way I felt that night, not wanting to come down ever again.