I spent most of Friday at Japan Nite, where two bands in particular stood out to me. Zarigani$ went on third. I love girls in shapeless dresses holding guitars. It’s such a staple of 90s girl bands- but this drum and bass duo sounded like nothing I’ve seen before. The pair donned totally cute haircuts that fit their peace sign flashing kawaii style—the singer/bassist, Eri, had little pigtail buns and the drummer, Mizuki, had a big bun on top of her head. But their cute look actually had nothing to do with their sound, because these girls rocked. Eri’s theatrical facial expressions give a hint at the mood of the song, even though I couldn’t understand the Japanese lyrics- she rolls her eyes, smiles, tosses her head. Though her stage banter was entirely in Japanese words, she used the only English phrase anyone needs to know—”let’s party.” She flung around the stage while Mizuki went so nuts that halfway through the set, her hair fell out of its bun. The highlights were when Eri suddenly started screeching and going crazy on her bass, both hands on the neck as she grabbed at strings not caring what she was playing. For another song, she put a coach’s whistle in her mouth and jumped up and down around the stage, playing bass and blowing on the whistle. For their last song, dancers came onto the stage and the singer jumped into the crowd as everyone danced around her.

Vampillia took a weirder, more terrifying turn. Their set began with mysterious people in black robes creating an eerie, beautiful mix of electric violin and piano- feeling a bit like occultist summoning music- followed by two guys in their underwear playing guitar, one covered in painted on symbols, the other just with his nutty tattoos [for example, The Simpson’s three eyed fish on his leg] and a monkey mask. They played huge slamming chords while the violin sawed away along with them. Then a lumbering character covered in what looked like fish netting pushed through the crowd and onto the stage and started shouting. It made sense these undistinguishable words came from this undistinguishable figure- but then he jumped off the stage and started writhing around, kicking off the netting and emerging in a full body suit covered in muscles- shedding his skin in a way. He asserts his dominance immediately by tossing the mic stand on the ground and handing the mic to someone in the crowd when he wasn’t singing. His next gimmick was to grab this metal scaffolding tower and place it on the floor, grabbing members of the crowd and making them hold it up so he could climb to the top and sing. His angry bloodlust transferred to the crowd, who crowd surfed one of the Dos Equis cutouts, as they did earlier, but this time people ripped his head off and tossed it onto the stage. The band was loud, it was consuming, it filled up the entire room. While not music I would normally listen to, their showmanship was astounding and it was insane to witness, though from a safe distance from the madhouse of a moshpit.

On Saturday I got to Caledonia in the middle of one of the Cloud Recordings bands. In true ramshackle Athens collective style, the band consisted of three women lead vocalists with an assortment of four or five people behind them, the whole lot clutching instruments that ranged from conventional (guitar) to conventional but not in a rock band (trombone) to the sort of stuff you haven’t seen since elementary school music class. They had all the oddball sounds and assortment of instruments that charmed us with Elephant Six and continue to charm us with Cloud Recordings. Coupled with this deadpan chanting of the main vocalists they positively blew me away. “Who were they?” I whispered, getting “New Sound of Numbers” in response, accidentally admitting I never actually listened to one of the bigger bands on this label- something I had to rectify immediately.

Later, I went over to the new brewery, Creature Comforts. The parking lot featured some art from Cult Cargo, the most fascinating being a computer rendering of a girl staring straight ahead. In true modern art fashion, the work was nearly incomprehensible without a title- or in this case, the info sheet next to it. The work was supposed to encourage you to look at the figure and think about your life and the choices you made. She swayed slightly like a human but she was so inhuman you could stare at her without feeling awkward. The prompting of the info sheet did put the idea in your mind. Also in the parking lot was a “waffle lodge” — a little room set up with a fake waffle on the table, a waffle fountain and, best of all, a waffle disco ball. There was a lo-res video projected on the wall of someone pouring syrup on a waffle, making it feel as if you are trapped in what David Lynch would have created if he had been hungry while writing the Black Lodge scenes of Twin Peaks. I then went inside Creature Comforts, which looks like some big city cyberpunk reimagining of a brewery, filled with various types of art, the coolest being this giant orb that had three different programs that would use light and audio to cut you off from the rest of the world. You stood on a Wii Balance Board inside a huge black orb and looked at a screen. Lights and sounds filled up your periphery so you couldn’t see or hear anything the orb didn’t want you to. The coolest setting was “synesthesia” which just flashed sounds and color at you. It felt like entertainment of the future. I made sure to get back to Caledonia in time for Circulatory System, who always managed to make me feel good, as the first time I saw them was when they opened for Neutral Milk Hotel. They didn’t go on until 1 but I still felt the only flaw was simply that their set wasn’t long enough.

By: Brett Bennett, Music Director