Otoboke Beaver at The Scala, London

live report - 28.05.2018 10:01

Find out what Otoboke Beaver did on their holidays.

Making a living in the music industry can be hard work these days, particularly if you choose to take as wilfully an uncommercial path as Otoboke Beaver’s unruly punk sound. The four women from Kyoto fit their band activities in around their regular day jobs, but even so, part time doesn’t mean small time. In the USA, they’ve already ripped the ears off the SXSW festival in 2017 and this year they hit the Coachella festival, one of just two Japanese acts on the bill – the other being superstars X JAPAN, no less. Their last visit to the UK won them enthusiastic praise in the national press and airplay on BBC radio too.

Having to cram touring into their limited time off work has led to an insane travel schedule. They play the first weekend of Coachella, blitz the UK during the week for shows in Glasgow, Leeds and London, then play the second weekend at Coachella before heading back to Japan, and presumably work on Monday morning. The London gig puts them half way through their epic 25,000 mile round trip.

After selling out the cosy 100 Club in 2017, they’ve moved up a league to a considerably bigger venue, The Scala, an elegant historical building, converted from a cinema, in London’s Kings Cross. Their hard work touring the UK over the past few years has paid off and tonight the place is pretty much full. The UK tour is organised by Otoboke Beaver’s London based label Damnably Records and features a triple bill of their artists. American trio Leggy open with a set of edgy alt-rock, reminiscent of Throwing Muses and The Breeders. Next up are South Korean four piece Say Sue Me whose breezy shoegaze pop gives no hint of the whirlwind that’s about to tear through The Scala.

There’s no grand entrance for Otoboke Beaver. They just stroll on stage, wearing colourful vintage style dresses like they’ve just arrived from the 1960s. They set up their gear and when they’re ready guitarist Yoyoyoshie lets rip with a ferociously gabbled screaming introduction. “We are Otoboke Beeeavaaaaah! Welcome to Otoboke Beeeavaaaaah! Hello UK London, yeeeaah!” she yells and they blast away with Ikezu, a 20-second primal scream of raw punk. If you track down the music video for this one, it’s an anime short of a woman repeatedly punching her boyfriend in the head, and that’s pretty much what it feels like in the venue as the crowd get a sharp wake up with this musical smack in the mouth.

Just to make sure they’ve got everyone’s attention, Yoyoyoshie screams, “Are you ready?! Are you ready?!” Barefoot bassist Hirochan steps to the front and cool as you like, with one foot on the monitor, lays down the bassline for Oniisan Anone. Lead singer and guitarist Accorinrin trades Ikezu’s shrieking for more straightforward vocals. It’s actually a pretty laid back track compared to Otoboke Beaver’s usual frenetic style, but as soon as it picks up the pace a mosh pit kicks off that lasts all night.

They crash their way through tracks from their Okoshiyasu!! Otoboke Beaver album and it’s wild and raucous stuff. While much of Japan’s music industry gravitates toward Tokyo, Otoboke Beaver defiantly stick to their Kyoto roots and their lyrics, sung in a Kansai accent and littered with Kyoto’s local slang, make them sound even more brash and abrasive to Japanese ears.

From the word go, it’s obvious Yoyoyoshie will steal the show. Owner of possibly the shortest guitar strap in Japan, she wears her cherry red Gibson SG slung high across her chest and tucked under her arm, wielding it like a cartoon machine gun as she sprays her 1,000mph riffs in all directions. She’s all attitude with her exaggerated moves and gestures and whenever there’s a lull in the action between songs, she whacks up the energy again with her frantic, raspy yelling – the crowd lap it up.

One of the venue security staff has been keeping an eye on the mosh pit to make sure things don’t get out of hand, but by standing up on the barriers at centre stage he’s turned the best front row spot in to an obstructed view ticket. Yoyoyoshie has some fun at his expense, pulling faces and throwing monster claw shapes as he’s not looking, but behaving herself when he turns around. Then they get into a little cat and mouse, look-don’t look, which raises a laugh. It’s all a bit of silly fun and the guy takes it in good heart.

It’s not all screaming and racket though; they have the tunes too. S’il Vous Plait is a cracking song where Yoshie picks out a catchy riff and the band ping the vocal around between themselves. They finish with a scream which the crowd returns and before you know it, they’re into Ai no Bakuro Book. Though Otoboke Beaver give the impression that they go hard and fast at absolutely everything this one shows they have all the song writing skills too. The shifting rhythms and switches from pop to shouty punk, show what a tight, together outfit they are as musicians.

There’s a brief pause as Accorinrin takes a moment to encourage the crowd, “Let’s sing, let’s dance, let’s kill me!” Compared to the frantic blur of noise and motion that’s gone before, they take a freeze frame silent moment before launching into Imasara Watashi Ni Hanashitte Nan-e, a proper screaming thrash up.

Accorinrin had ditched her guitar after S’il Vous Plait and she spends the second half of the show purely as lead singer, which frees her up to give an aggressively expressive performance. She’s a powerful stage presence, alluring and slightly terrifying at the same, definitely not a woman to be messed with. She takes a moment to introduce her bandmates and drummer Pop, Hirochan and Yoyoyoshie each crank out a brief solo in turn. Yoshie returns the favour, introducing Accorinrin in trademark screaming fashion, then they’re into Introduce Me to Your Family, with its surprisingly disco bassline. It flips back and forth from funky to punky while they bounce the vocals around between themselves and the crowd gets bouncy along with it.

It’s not often that you get to hear hundreds of people shouting “Beaver! Beaver!” in unison but that’s the chant that fills The Scala before Akimahenka. Yoyoyoshie amps up the craziness by going crowd surfing, all the while hammering away at her guitar, somehow staying in time and in tune.

With their guitarist safely retrieved from the moshing melee, they close with Anata Watashi Daita ato Yome no Meshi and Yoyoyoshie leads the crowd clapping along as it all goes mad again. The band enjoy the applause, making their bows and in a rare ladylike moment, Yoyoyoshie even curtsies. They finish up by taking a selfie with the crowd before heading off backstage. A chant of “We want more!” breaks out with a good deal more passion than the usual obligatory cheers you get for the obligatory encore these days. Everyone’s been blown away by the sheer ferocious energy of the performance and they’re desperate for one last shot of Otoboke Beaver madness.

Perhaps to make up for being obscured from view earlier, Accorinrin clambers down into the crowd for the encore, Anata ga Falling Love Shita no ha Watashi ga Kirai na Onnanoko. She makes her way around the crowd, singing as she goes, trailed by bemused venue staff. She even gets up close and personal with everyone’s favourite security guard for a brief serenade, like a slinky nightclub singer. While Accorinrin is out making new friends, Hirochan and Yoyoyoshie thrash away, standing back to back at centre stage.

Just as Accorinrin scrambles back on stage, diminutive drummer Pop, who’s been tucked away behind her drum kit all night smashing out the beats, flings herself into the crowd. The band take their applause and bow all around, Accorinrin and Yoyoyoshie even throwing in some super grateful ‘saikeirei’ kneeling bows. They finally depart as Yoyoyoshie’s abandoned guitar lies face down on stage, squealing out feedback.

The house lights and music come up and the feedback is cut, which some take as their cue to leave. They should be jet-lagged half to death but Otoboke Beaver are obviously buzzing and they come back on stage, inviting Leggy with them, to enjoy a bit more applause. Spotting their chance, like mischievous kids who don’t want to go bed yet, they huddle up with the sound engineer who tells them they can have another two minutes. Yoyoyoshie announces the extra time to a delighted audience and they crack on with Sawarantoite, albeit slightly out of tune from Yoshie dumping her guitar on the floor earlier.

Otoboke Beaver make their last goodbyes and the knackered, sweaty moshers finally head home, having learnt two things. Always stay until the very end, and punk’s not dead – it lives in Japan and was just here on its holidays.

Set list
01. Ikezu
02. Oniisan Anone
03. Suki Suki Darling
04. Otoboke Beaver no Theme
05. Ultra Miracle Super Saiya Pysche Festival
06. Burikko Bokumetsu
07. Chu Chu Song
08. S’il Vous Plait
09. Ai no Bakuro Book
10. Imasara Watashi Ni Hanashitte Nan-e
11. Mou Sono Hanashi Kiita
12. Shinzoku ni Shoukai Shite
13. Love is Short
14. Aisare Roulette
15. Heart ni Hi wo Tsuketa Naraba Chanto Keshite Kaette
16. Akimahenka
17. Powerful Busu
18. Anata Watashi Daita ato Yome no Meshi

Encore
01. Anata ga Falling Love Shita no ha Watashi ga Kirai na Onnanoko
02. Sawarantoite

Note: pictures via Coachella
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Otoboke Beaver 19/04

Otoboke Beaver  
London - United Kingdom
The Scala
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