Otoboke Beaver at the Observatory

All photos by Bob Lee for the Los Angeles Beat.

Even if they don’t claim to be fully punk, the existence and widespread popularity of Kyoto band Otoboke Beaver is proof that punk’s not dead. Although theirs is an extreme expression of it which incorporates a lot of other stimulus that is not necessarily common in American punk, the sheer brashness and good time high-energy of it registers in the American brain as “very punk” despite those other influences. We have no built in detector for the influence of Japanese comedy or pop music if we don’t consume that stuff, so “punk” in America they shall be, and they seem to be OK with that. It sure doesn’t seem they are at any risk of being mistaken for the Offspring here in the heart of OC, to an audience young enough not to necessarily be referencing famous bands of the nineties – let alone seventies and eighties – as their punk rock starting point. (Minutes after I wrote that line, the lead singer posted a photo of herself with the guitarist from the Offspring, backstage at this show, on Instagram.-Ed.) In front of a packed Observatory, they were resolutely themselves and gave us an hour of that thing they do, which after fifteen years, shows no sign of going out of style.

This band are a lot of fun to watch, each in their own colorful corner. Hirochan, on bass, is blue, like the sea and the sky, the environment which defines the shape for their strange forms. Kahokiss, the drummer, wears green like the meadows and the fields and the mountains. She forms the rhythmic floor upon which the stories can be told, the complex yet naturalistic structures that make them interesting. Guitarist Yoyoyoshie is orange, the spark, the fire under the feet of the band that makes them play with such incredible speed and urgency. And Accorinrin is pink, the reddened face and beating heart of the human being that pushes out thoughts such as “I Won’t Dish Out Salad”, “Take Me To Meet Your Family” and “I Don’t Want To Die Alone” as song topics, with terrific intensity. Not since Kiss in 1978 have a band been so thoughtfully and effectively color coordinated.

(Photo gallery after the break.)

A week into a North American tour by the time they hit Santa Ana, they are in fighting shape for this gig. I’ve never heard this music with the bass lines so well defined and weighty sounding, it’s a cool effect to hear them be this heavy when still playing at light speed. Kaho announces her new endorsement of Remo drum heads, promising to take the responsibility seriously and “kick your little asses”. This, she does. Most of us have seen those videos of her zipping along to “I Checked Your Cellphone”, looking relaxed while operating at superhuman velocity, but seeing it does in front of your eyes in real time is positively surreal.

Most of the hour-long set is taken from their 2022 LP Super Champon, with a few well chosen oldies. Did my ears detect at least one new work? I’m not enough of an expert in the back catalog to say with certainty, but at least a couple were “new to me.”

This summer, Otoboke Beaver is going to open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at a couple of giant venues in the midwest. It seems an odd pairing, but I can’t help but wonder if the young people in attendance will just immediately get it. The further we get from the music scene of my youth, for better or worse, there’s less reverence for the familiar now among the young people in the audiences. I think they might just go over like gangbusters – blistering tunes delivered with incredible musicianship, a little humor and go-go-go energy, why not? Asian flavors are gaining ground in the pop world, why shouldn’t the open minded in the rock world be next? I hope they blow minds, come out stronger for it and return to LA with a new stack of tunes about their trippy experiences in the big rock and roll machine.

Drinking Girls and Boys Choir from South Korea is travelling on this tour, a three piece with immediately catchy songs, friendly and warm-hearted. Local opener Mo Dotti began the evening with a strong set highly suggestive of My Bloody Valentine’s dreamy sonic swoosh. Both acts received a rapturous response from the packed Observatory, the apparent disparity of genre not seeming to be a problem for anyone.


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