Melt Banana Live at Mac’s Bar

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Last night was my first time seeing Melt Banana live.  Although fellow Asian Invasion co-host Danny and I had interviewed front-woman Yako about their current American tour, and had been listening to their music we really didn’t know what to expect.  Melt Banana’s studio albums are certainly not for everyone, but with a record of sharing the bill with such artists as Slipknot, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Le Tigre, and Tool, I was really interested to see what the live show would be like.

When I arrived at Mac’s Bar, the parking lot was packed and cars were spilling out into lots of surrounding businesses, or any sort of pavement that resembled a parking lot.  We took our spots near the front to get a good view of the band, but were completely unprepared for what was about to happen.

Melt Banana has their own unique brand of music, while you could categorize them under noise-rock, punk, or even metal, none of these labels give an accurate description of what Melt Banana has to offer.

The picture above does not do the show justice, and it was the only thing I was able to snap before a mosh pit appeared around us.  As soon as Yako started to sing/shout/rap, the crowd went crazy.  She had an almost mesmerizing power over the fans.  Some were shouting “Light Banana” in reference to an act the band put on during a previous American tour, turning off all the house lights and wearing headlamps while performing.

Yako’s energy never lessened throughout the performance, and even more impressive was guitarist Ichirou playing face-melting licks, using a wide array of crazy effects pedals and techniques to make the guitar sing, and even scream.  All the while, he was wearing a mask nearly covering his whole face; I wondered how he could breathe, and how he is able to do this night after night, year after year.  I wasn’t the only one impressed with his guitar skills; in 2010 Ichirou Agata was invited to play with legend Lou Reed at the Sydney Opera House.

In our interview with Yako, she said they’ve been playing new material from the upcoming album on the Lost & Found Tour, and the new songs were definitely a treat, with the band fleshing out more elaborate pieces, while staying true to the frantic energy of their in-your-face 45-second songs.

After the set ended, the fans were going crazy and demanded an encore.  Melt Banana delivered with two more songs, including closing with a very unique version of “What A Wonderful World.”

Within seconds of leaving the stage after what had to be a very exhausting performance, Yako was at the merch table methodically laying out tee-shirts, albums, and pins, complete with adorable signs describing the goods in true Japanese fashion.  Another Japanese woman pulled out a clamp light, directing the light at the band’s colorful merchandise.  Having toured the US almost 20 times now, Melt Banana have got the whole tour thing down.

I can’t help but be conflicted by the duality of Yako’s inherit cuteness and raw energy.  While I had seen pictures of her, seeing Yako in real life after interviewing her was a strange experience.  Her voice on the phone was peppy and cute, she often used “ano“, the Japanese equivalent of “um” and to sum up her phone presence: adorable.  However, on stage, Yako Onuki is not cute; she rocks, hard.  The intensity of the mosh pit and the energy of the fans are evidence of this.  Still, one guy in the mosh pit probably felt the same was as me when he screamed, “You’re so fucking cute!”

If you want to hear/read the interview: click here

If you want to hear more Asian music, check out the Asian Invasion on Monday nights from 8-10 PM

And, if you missed Melt Banana, it’s not too late! The rest of their tour schedule:

2011/10/22 Cleveland Grog Shop (OH, USA)
2011/10/23 Ithaca The Haunt (NY, USA)
2011/10/25 Toronto Wrongbar (ON, CANADA)
2011/10/26 Montreal Il Motore (QC, CANADA)
2011/10/27 Cambridge TT The Bears (MA, USA)
2011/10/28 Hamden The Space (CT, USA)
2011/10/29 New York City Santos Party House (NY, USA)
2011/10/31 Philadelphia Union Transfer (PA, USA)
2011/11/01 Washington DC The Red Palace (DC, USA)
2011/11/02 Baltimore The Ottobar (MD, USA)
2011/11/03 Virginia Beach Shakas (VA, USA)
2011/11/04 Chapel Hill Local 506 (NC, USA)
2011/11/05 Atlanta The Earl (GA, USA)
2011/11/06 Tallahassee The Engine Room (FL, USA)
2011/11/08 Orlando Backbooth (FL, USA)
2011/11/09 Tampa Crowbar (FL, USA)
2011/11/10 Gainesville Double Down (FL, USA)
2011/11/11 Jacksonville Jack Rabbits (FL, USA)
2011/11/12 Athens Caledonia Lounge (GA, USA)
2011/11/13 Nashville The End (TN, USA)
2011/11/15 Birmingham Bottletree Cafe (AL, USA)
2011/11/16 Mobile Alabama Music Box (AL, USA)
2011/11/17 Houston Fitzgerald’s (TX, USA)
2011/11/18 Dallas The Prophet Bar (TX, USA)
2011/11/19 Austin Mohawk (TX, USA)
2011/11/20 San Antonio Jack’s (TX, USA)
2011/11/22 Tucson Club Congress (AZ, USA)
2011/11/23 Mesa Hollywood Alley (AZ, USA)
2011/11/25 Las Vegas The Bunkhouse (NV, USA)
2011/11/26 San Diego Soda Bar (CA, USA)
2011/11/27 Los Angeles Echoplex (CA, USA)
2011/11/28 Sacramento Harlow’s Night Club (CA, USA)
2011/11/29 San Francisco Bottom Of The Hill (CA, USA)

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