Lack-co are in the middle of hosting a series of Monday two-man shows called "ステゴロ" (what does Stegoro mean??) and having never seen Tenten in any of his bands and The Gallo being one of my favorite active VK bands I had to go to this one while I was visiting Tokyo.
東高円寺二万電圧 (Higashi Koenji ni man Den-atsu) is just outside the central Tokyo region defined by the Yamanote Line, but it was a quick trip on a couple trains and Den-atsu is very close to the station when you arrive.
To access the venue you first have to descend an outdoor, concrete staircase toward an outdoor landing. The descent actually made me a bit nervous as there was no railing on one side and it was raining at the time. This was a very non-descript entrance from the roadway. After walking down the stairs and making a turn I was looking at a way too-cool-for-school 30-something dude manning the ticket table. Acknowledging that I don't look much like the typical VK fan in Japan, when I asked for one ticket this guy with shaggy hair at the table actually asked me "You know who's playing tonight?" He didn't sound mean about it, I think he genuinely wanted to save me from seeing this show normally reserved for younger women assuming I had just stumbled to the club looking for any live music I could find. I assured him I was there to see The Gallo and he handed me my paper ticket that doubled as a drink ticket.
I liked the set up in side Den-atsu as the bar and merch tables were outside the stage area, which meant I could stand pretty much anywhere inside and not be in the way of people trying to sell things. I found a spot in the rear of the club in front of a tiny alcove that was littered with bags belonging to the VK girls in attendance.
This was a fairly small club with low ceilings; their website says the capacity is 130 and I'd say this show had about 80-90 people in attendance. The head count reminded me just how niche a scene VK is. I'd consider The Gallo and Lack-co two of the more well-known indies bands, so it was a bit jarring to see the small venue they were playing at even in a giant city. I'm obviously too deep into VK to remember that almost no one cares about this stuff.
Obviously The Gallo were going to be playing first... both because Lack-co were hosting the event and because I saw a lot of the girls standing near the stage holding their signature bowl and spoon. One girl near me had a plain bowl with no logo on it that I could see, did I miss something or did this girl just bring her own bowl from her kitchen to clap along with? I think the latter scenario is pretty funny/ingenious actually. I mentioned in a live report from a couple years ago that The Gallo fans kept doing furi during the band's music playing between sets over the club's PA, and during this show the fans clapped along to the bass drum sound check. Gallo fans seem like a fun bunch in general.
The curtain was drawn to reveal the band in their latest Gallo-Vuitton all over print leisure suits. Jojo had his hair cascading through the top of a hat with the top cut off and some Day of the Dead skull inspired makeup for a very Tim Burton-y look overall. Andy had his palm against the ceiling atop the stage, and I don't think he was raising his hand to get the crowd hyped but rather to test whether or not he could pump his fist upward during the show (he couldn't without hitting his hand... a lot of the band members had to deal with this and would only throw up their hands while bending backward to afford themselves a little more space.) Some of the audience were even checking to see if they could touch the ceiling. The stage right guitarist (they have names for these positions in VK but I don't remember them) had one of those guitars with no headstock, and it looked from across the room like the end of the neck had dripping red wax poured on it a la a Maker's Mark bottle.
The newer guitarist, Nov, passed out paper plates to the audience so that people who didn't bring their own (like me, no I didn't pack my Gallo plate in my luggage) could clap along and the set began with "Belphegor". "Belphegor" has some pretty obvious clapping along portions, so even a noob like me could get the hang of the plate banging fairly quickly.
The highlights of the set for me were the fact that they played "Kuroi Ondori" (ok they played the remade version from Nero, but still) which is a favorite of mine, and also the 'circle pit' that Jojo started with himself dancing in the center of the maelstrom playing with a megaphone set to siren mode.
The lowlights, if you can call them that, were that two different songs had the audience doing the wave (do we need that two separate times?) and that the MC music was "Tokyo Cinderella" but they didn't actually play "Tokyo Cinderella".
Some of the non-bowl-based audience participation that was fun was the crowd stomping on the floor in time the beat and the crowd holding hands and swaying back and forth. Of course a couple songs had the requisite gyaku-daibu portions, and I'm certainly not jumping into the backs of some tiny Japanese girls, but they were fun to watch. Nov was kneeling on the backs of a couple girls during one diving song and slipped off them and stumbled backwards onto the stage. Wajou occasionally tried to demand the crowd participate in the diving like the other members were, but he is way too smiley and couldn't really pull it off. He just couldn't help being happy even trying to look mean.
The Gallo ended their set with a really high energy rendition of "Incubus" (which I'm still disappointed has no theremin in the live version) during which Jojo was leaning over the crowd singing and got some feedback when he put his mic in front of the amp and proceeded to give it a disappointed look and bop the amp on its 'head' like it was a recalcitrant child.
With The Gallo finished with their set thus began the churning of the crowd as Lack-co fans moved into the frontmost positions and many girls invaded my small space in the back looking to find their bags and check their phones and makeup. It kind of sucks for people in the back, as the polite spot changing for peoples' favorite bands leads to a weird concert-going scenario where the back of a venue is often more crowded than the front, but it is kind of cool that the scene (or just Japanese live music fans?) doesn't require people who want to be up front for the band playing last to endure being crushed through all the other shows as concerts in the west would.
Interesting note about Den-atsu: in tearing down the stage between sets (which isn't quite the production at these Japanese clubs where you basically just have to bring your instrument and plug in) the bands/roadies had to move equipment down from the stage into the audience area and out through a side door that wasn't connected to the stage. So after the curtain was closed on The Gallo, a couple minutes later we saw band members bringing things down from the stage to this side door.
(from Lack-co Twitter)
While The Gallo fans can be identified by their white bowls and spoons, Lack-co fans had all produced blue and red clamshell castanets to clap along with. I have to say these did dramatically change the sound of the crowd applause in a way that might get old, but was kind of refreshing for the first time.
Lack-co's intro SE was a piano rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" that gradually morphed into the requisite fist-pounding, techno track. The first member to take the stage was drummer Higiri, and wow I thought I hated his black face, but this blue Alfalfa x Cindy Lou Who hairstyle he was rocking for the show might actually bother me even more (not bother in the same way obviously, but it was not pleasant to look at.) I resolved to avoid watching him as much as possible.
The band, except for Tenten who had a Lack-co band tee over a white shirt, were all wearing the red suits with writing strewn all over them from their most recent look. I recognized some of the words scrawled on their suits like 'shine' and 'kimoi' as 'mean things to say to someone'. Very edgy boys.
Between not loving their output so far, and the majority of their tracks having titles in Japanese, I didn't recognize much of Lack-co's set list other than a riff here or there. The show did remind me of why I keep giving Tenten's bands chances and will continue to; he is one hell of a charismatic frontman. His sly smiles and confident stage mannerisms had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand and made it so it was hard to pay attention to any of the other members of the band. His best move was when he parted the Red Sea of fans to do a bit of 'everyone run into each other from opposite sides of the venue' but just as the opening in the center stabilized, he jumped down and ran to the cameraman at the back of the venue, struck a pose for a moment, then dove back onto the stage just as the cue for the crowd to go wild hit.
Lack-co's set actually resembled a straight up rock show the most of any VK bands I've seen I think. There was very little *furi*, most of the synchronized moves were headbanging, clapping, fist-pumping type stuff that required no direction from Tenten or the band. Tenten even commanded an almost bona fide circle pit during which one girl lost her sweater and it ended up absolutely trampled. In fact, I was a little surprised by how much the show, for lack of a better word, rocked. Lack-co has always seemed like an assemblage of too cute ideas in search of a central theme or melody to hold on to on wax, but live their songs resonated nicely even with perhaps a 'jazz' breakdown a little too often.
Milk threw a carton of milk into the crowd as the band were leaving the stage... ride that USP hard buddy.
Ivy was fun strutting around the stage and headbanging as usual. I say as usual because I'm pretty sure I saw him at three different shows the week I was in Tokyo, at Lack-co and as a session bassist the other two.
When the set ended the girls chanted and clapped in unison for an encore. (Though they appear to be saying "an-ko-re" instead of "an-ko-ru"? I guess the first group that did it had only seen the word encore and not heard it spoken??) They even started up a chant for a second encore that was cut off by the house lights and a voice over the PA system telling them, I'm guessing here, that the show was actually over and it was time to go home.
This was a fun pairing for a two-man show as both bands and their groups of fans have pretension-free fun jumping around to some quality tunes. I'll be sure to check out Tenten's next band if I visit Japan again 😉.