How to make an audience hate you: Momus and Romanporsche live at Ebisu's Milk, 3/15/02
Note: As you will read later, I thought Momus’ live show was excellent. Please don’t let the other musicians’ performances reflect on your opinion of Momus.
The first thing one notices when entering the main floor of Ebisu's Milk is a gigantic movie screen taught across the left wall from the main stage. I was a bit surprised that a musician as large as Momus was playing at a club as small as this. I was not a Momus scholar, all I knew at the time was that he got started in the 80's and had written/produced for artists like Kahimi Karie, but I knew that the club was small.
The evening was supposed to start at a still-quite-early 9:00, so we showed up at 10:00. The show was an all-nighter given the name "New Wave Gurentai-nishi-e" which is something like "New Wave Thug Gang, to the West!" We should have known that with only two bands an all-nighter would require some sort of magic or a lot of stalling. Unfortunately, it was the latter.
While waiting for the show to start, the promoters took the opportunity to play old synth pop and out of synch music videos from the early 1980's. The highlights were Gary Numan's "Cars" and an old Kraftwerk concert in Tokyo. Because the music and the videos were not matched, impromptu games of "who is that obscure (and rather ugly) artist in the video" erupted. On one particularly cruel occasion we sat through what we thought was a music video only to discover it was a whole live concert. I said the musician was Marc Almond, but I wanted to be sure so we stopped talking and watched the whole thing, only for it to be cut off before the ending credits.
About halfway through the televised Marc Almond(?) set he dawned a leather biker hat and a group of muscular gay men came out and danced behind Mr. Almond while attempting to remove Almond’s jacket. As though it were the "gay hat", when he removed his cap, another group of, this time, muscular women came out and began dancing one to one with the men in an effort to defuse the latent homosexual elements. I mention this because the show had been boring enough up to that point that we had taken the time to analyze the symbolism used in a Marc Almond concert.
Little did the audience know that Marc Almond would become a motif for the evening. Every few minutes after the initial concert footage a new Marc Almond video would appear on the gigantic video screen, we'd realize later that the DJ also looked a little like a Japanese Marc Almond, there was Soft Cell's music on the radio, and around us a hundred Japanese people confoundedly watching like aliens with Marc Almond shaped eyes.
As you can see, the first few hours of waiting were an exercise in boredom.
Around 11:30 the opening act, Romanporsche, appeared to the delight of all present. It was sadly a short-lived delight, for we didn't know what was in store for us. Still, for the first few minutes of their set we were glad to finally have live music.
Romanporsche: For you shall be gods
Romanporsche consists of two members: a man with long hair and glitter around his eyes who sings and a stereotypically goth middle aged man who sits at a bar table looking bored.
I've noticed a trend with Japanese shows: opening bands tend to give a combination music/comedy performance consisting primarily of the band yelling at the audience. The man with the long hair and mascara, whom I shall call the lead singer, handled this most deftly, waxing at length about the relation between gods, humans, and the members of Romanporsche. Then brought out a baseball bat and posed for the crowd. About ten minutes after the "start" of the show they finally played a song.
Step 1) An audience will hate you when you deprive them of what they want. At a concert this would be music.
How can I put this delicately? Resembling current European synth-pop artists like Zero Defects, Romanporche specializes in combining now kitsch synthesizer lines and angry, violent lyrics in an inexplicably innocuous way. The main instruments were pumped in from the club's sound system while the lead singer screamed lyrics like "I'm going to kick the shit" or "Omae wa baka" (“You are stupid!”). To the left of the stage the dorky goth man sat as bored as the audience occasionally turning knobs on what appeared to be a synthesizer in front of him. He also sang some impressively high background vocals for a thirty-year-old man.
Later that night I confirmed a suspicion I had had about the goth guy. Whereas the lead singer guy programs all music and sings/writes all lyrics, the goth’s sole function in the band is to control the delay on the lead singer's voice.
His *only* function is to turn on and off the delay on the lead singers voice.
"For my next trick": Both members of Romanporsche in one of their pre-song interludes. (Click the picture to go to the Momus Live Show Gallery)
After another 45 minutes of talking, occasionally breaking to play a cheesy eighties rip off song the band packed up and, again to the delight of the audience, left the stage.
...Only for the lead singer to return back to the stage after only two minutes holding a toy gun, screaming at the audience. And this time, he was naked. What ensued was a rather long diatribe from the lead singer, followed by another song. I will swear to my dying death that the lead singer to Romanporsche practices dancing naked in front of a mirror in order to hone his "nasty dance" technique.
Step 2) if you want an audience to hate you, take off all of your clothes and shake your body violently.
But this was not the end. After finally putting on a g-string, the lead singer treated the audience to a Carrot Top style prop "comedy" show. As one would expect, the audience was not amused. At the end of the set the lead singer ran through the audience to the exit, finally concluding the story of Romanporsche.
Step 3) Bad props = bad performance. Also, props are NOT funny unless you are smashing things with a giant hammer.
Some things just aren't funny
Round 2: The DJ
In between Romanporsche and Momus the Marc Almond-like DJ played underground hits from the early 80's. My favorite moment was when he stopped right in the middle of an Ultravox song to say "Ultravox kitsuii, gomen".
At first we weren't sure whether we were free of Romanporsche or not because the DJ sang along to the first few numbers. The audience started looking around hoping not to find Romanporsche’s lead singer. When we saw a real, live DJ we all sighed in relief: that night at Ebisu’s Milk elation was fleeting.
Step 4) To be hated emulate those who have been hated before you.
But then the DJ decided that he wanted to contribute his own part to the irritating atmosphere and, in addition to singing with each song, played only one verse from each track.
Step 5) Note to you DJ kids out there, people do not like it when you cut off their music. For further explanation, see Step 1.
Halfway through the DJ's set the stage crew brought out Momus' ibook. The crowd grew solemnly quiet and the apple logo glowed over the darkness like a lighthouse guiding the audience through the Scylla and Charybdis of Romanporsche and DJ Marc Almond.
Momus: "Wearing a smile, and nothing at all up on the catwalk" only with clothes
At last, at around 12:45 AM our pirate-like leading man armed with laptop lighthouse, Momus, climbed the stage, hit the return button, and the real show began.
Momus did not talk a lot, which, although it gives me less quirks to mock, was a welcome change from Romanporsche. To our weary ears his music was therapeutic.
The Momus that I had known before the concert was a strange man, wild, dirty, with music intriguingly cute and electronic but lyrics manic and harsh enough to scare away you parents. For some reason I had mentally linked him to Tom Green.
But the Momus of March 15 was not one analogous to Tom Green so much as one remniscent of a young boy stuck in bed, caught in the dilemma of wanting to rush down to see his presents the minute the clock strikes Christmas but being too afraid to touch the floor for fear that monsters would catch him.
Momus during his first number
The show was quiet compared to Romanporsche, and Momus' performance ranged from emotional animation to David Bowie rigidity. His set reflected both his own works and three tracks originally performed by Kahimi Karie. I think it is a testament to his performance that a one eyed, middle aged, Scottish man can pull off the pikachu level-cuteness of Kahimi Karie singing "What are you wearing".
After his main set he returned for one encore, leaving the song to audience request. He turned down a couple of calls for one of his 80's songs, and closed the set with one last Kahimi Karie track. Then, like his little boy alter ego would, he closed his ibook and meekly walked off stage.
More of the "David Bowie" Momus
The end, but not really
Without our beacon the crowd was lost. People went from one person to another asking if there was another act; there were more cheesy 80's music and more Marc Almond on TV. Word had it that there was to be another live set from a band called "Violent Onsen Geisha" which was a cool enough name to make me want to stay. And then came the talk show.
Step 6) Once again, see step 1.
I do not know what the concert planners were thinking, but it was not kind. The talk show featured both members of Romanporsche. It seemed like a bad enough idea to bring back Romanporsche anyway but to compound issues the talk show dragged on forever.
Two entirely unknown people accompanied the members of Romanporsche and the entire dialog was, of course, in Japanese. As far as I could tell, the audience was thoroughly disinterested with the talk show.
Although I couldn't help feeling curious about a band named "Violent Onsen Geisha", I was unfortunately unable to withstand one more minute with Romanporsche. At a little past 2:00, tired and hungry, hating naked men and endless talking, we left the show.
For more info on Momus and a schedule or upcoming shows,
check out his homepage at http://www.demon.co.uk/momus
All works this site copyright D. Szkoropad, 2001-2003 unless stated otherwise. This means don't steal it or I'll tell your mother on you. Domo-kun copyright NHK.