Next Music from Tokyo Volume 10 Electrifies Canada

Yubisaki Nohaku guitarist and stage dive queen Junko Kimura

Over the past week, on May 19 and 20 in Toronto, May 22 in Montreal, and May 24 in Vancouver, five amazingly talented Japanese bands set the Canadian cities ablaze with high energy performances during the Next Music from Tokyo (NMFT) volume 10 tour. DJ Lawrell, CJLO’s resident Japanese music nerd and host of Fukubukuro, shares his thoughts on the Toronto and Montreal shows.


The Taupe

The Taupe is a post-punk/psychedelic/shoegaze band with a penchant for very, very loud guitars.  Naturally, their guitarist Neil Patti Patti Patti had to have the right attitude to shatter some eardrums. This materialized as frenzied on-stage theatrics. Neil thrashed around so much that I had to step away from the front of the stage, out of fear of being hit by his beat-up guitar. On top of not caring for his audience’s safety and hearing, he periodically flipped everyone off.

The Taupe guitarist Neil Patti Patti Patti with his banged-up guitar and his favourite dance move

Even though their discography is mostly brooding, noise, and feedback (I mean that as a compliment), they also have more radio-friendly tracks that always ended up being the highlights of their performances.

During their performance of “HADO-KEN” at Lee’s Palace and Le Divan Orange, vocalist and guitarist Yuki Kawamoto literally walked on the audience, not unlike a Japanese rock star Jesus. He then continued crooning the “ooh-oohs” of the chorus, with the audience supporting him both physically and musically.

On the track “Tempsey Cola”, bassist Emi Onodera took over on lead vocals, wrapped in the Maple Leaf, charismatically fluttering and shuffling around the stage.

The Taupe bassist Emi Onodera charming Lee’s Palace

For a band hell-bent on crushing you with walls of sound, The Taupe sure were cool and aloof about it.



Yukueshirezutsurezure (abbreviated YSTZ), also known as Not Secured, Loose Ends, is an idol group mixing neatly produced pop with hardcore/screamo, and they stand out as an oddity compared to the other bands in the lineup. Because they are an idol group, there is a heavy focus on elaborate dance choreographies and crowd interactions.

All their performances started with the members walking towards the center of the stage, staring into the horizon and reciting an eerie poem through the blue bandanas covering their faces. Each member then handed over a folded piece of paper with kanji written on it to the nearest person. I was lucky enough to be one of those people at The Rivoli, but unfortunately I was seriously confused about what I had to do with it and couldn’t read what was on it, either.

Fortunately, someone behind me gestured that I had to rip it up and throw it up in the air, which I did. That someone was part of the gunjou (Japanese for ultramarine, one of the group’s official colours)—YSTZ’s official fan club, who flew all the way from Japan to see them. Thanks to them, what was already an outstanding show turned into one of the most fun concert experiences I’ve ever had.

Idol culture requires the audience to participate, and sometimes specific interactions for particular songs. The gunjou, of course, answered each call. They knew all the moments when idol chants were needed; when to form a circle of synchronized headbanging in for the song “Roku Ochi Sakebi;” and when to run over to group leader Shidare when she crowd surfs during the climax of “Tsurezure Sanka.” The entire venue was shaking at the most intense moments. If that’s not a dedicated fan base, I don’t know what is.

Another notable thing in idol culture is cheki, cute little polaroid pictures that you take with and buy from idols. It’s an odd concept, but it does support idols the same way selling band merchandise does.

My friend and I posing for a cheki with YSTZ. Our faces are hidden by his request. Photo taken by the group’s manager


Yubisaki Nohaku

Yubisaki Nohaku is an all-female indie rock band with math and prog rock tendencies, but describing them as just that would be selling them short. If NMFT was like high school prom, then Yubisaki Nohaku would without a doubt win the “Most Likely to Succeed” award. Not only are their songs fresh and exciting, all their members have the talent to back it up, and their boundless enthusiasm make them a joy to both listen to and see live.

Their shows always start with guitarist Junko Kimura asking for a drink from the audience. We happily obliged, and cheered her on to chug as she took her first sip. This gave her enough confidence to stage dive at least a dozen times in a three-hour interval at Lee’s Palace, which made me think of her less as a virtuoso guitarist (which she still is) and more as the queen of stage dives.

Yubisaki Nohaku guitarist Junko Kimura chugging the crowd’s energy

Every single member deserves praise, however. From vocalist Kana Shimizu’s incredible control, range, and charm, to bassist Yuko Miyakoshi’s wild slap bass solos, to Yumiko Takeuchi’s über-precise drumming, all the girls deserve the acclaim Steven have given them: “Yubisaki Nohaku is one of the best female rock bands on the planet.” They even had a single dedicated superfan follow them from Japan, not unlike YSTZ's gunjou.

Their spectacular performance at Le Divan Orange was the best way to close the eastern leg of the tour. Somehow, for the songs “Nanigashi” and “Sou”, the audience knew all the lyrics and sang along to them, guided by vocalist Kana Shimizu’s call and response of “sukiyaki!” This deeply moved her, and she thanked the audience, saying that words could not describe her gratitude and astonishment at what just happened. This, in turn, gave them unbridled confidence in their own talent, and made them perform even better than they usually do, earning them non-stop cheering from the audience and two encores.


Bakyun the everyday

Yubisaki Nohaku was not the only band to have leveraged the audience’s cheers to their advantage. Bakyun the everyday, a two-member pop punk unit accompanied by their friends on the bass and drums, were not exactly the band I was most excited to see, after I compared their music to the other bands’, before the start of the tour.

Their first show at The Rivoli had a bit of a rocky start, but it proved to be a turning point for the band, especially their vocalist Nobumi Nanamure. She was so nervous that she was basically hyperventilating into the microphone, struggling to communicate her thoughts in a language she doesn’t understand.

And yet, instead of letting the nervousness get to her head, it got channeled into hands-down the most genuine and emotional performance of the entire tour. The fidgeting and heavy breathing didn’t go away, but that didn’t matter; Nobumi Nanamure and guitarist Yuji Ino shredded their doubts away at blistering speeds.

I’ll admit, Nobumi isn’t the greatest vocalist, but what she lacks in natural talent, she more than makes up in heart and soul. In their heartbreak song, titled “5”, Nobumi poured in all her anxieties, all her feelings, and all her frustrations into her performance, singing with such emotion that she looked like she was going to break down crying at any point. All I could do was stand and stare at her, mesmerized by how anyone could put so much of themselves into their music. I still get emotional every time I think of that song, even though I don’t understand the lyrics. Hell, I’m crying as I’m writing this sentence.

After that, Bakyun the everyday was noticeably more confident at each subsequent show. Seeing Nobumi go from a nervous wreck to a badass capable of getting hundreds to shout “BACCHIKOI!” (“bring it!”) in unison in merely four days was one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had as a concert-goer.

Bakyun the everyday vocalist and guitarist Nobumi Nanamure MCing at Lee’s Palace and generally being adorable.



You know you’re in for something good when a grey-haired Japanese man (guitarist Masaru Goshima) introduces himself and his companions on stage as “Bon Jovi from New Jersey.” Indeed, Hyacca stood out from the rest, both in appearances and sound. Their music is probably the hardest to describe among the five bands in this edition’s lineup, but their sound lies somewhere between noise rock, math rock, and post-hardcore.

Despite the members’ ages and the inherently unpredictable nature of their music, their show at Lee’s Palace was so intense that it was like having a full-body workout. Apart from vocalist and guitarist Hiromi Kajiwara’s intro on the shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese flute, and one particularly long and dreamy shoegaze track during which I fell asleep on the edge of the stage due to exhaustion, Hyacca’s shows were a barrage of hard-hitting, lightning fast, and thunderously loud songs, designed to be the soundtracks to endless mosh pits and, without exaggerating, about 3-4 stage dives per minute. I was part of that statistic when they played their insanely catchy and exciting closer, “Hanazono.”

During their performance of that song at Lee’s Palace, Hiromi got carried away with the crowd’s energy while singing. Allowing her guitar to get some rest, she grabbed the mic, yelled the lyrics away, and disappeared into the horde of sweaty moshers. In the meantime, members of other bands took turns on her guitar. No rest for Mrs. Fender Supersonic. Hyacca’s ferociously energetic performances would earn them encores at both Lee’s Palace and Le Divan Orange, the latter of which was right before the closing band Yubisaki Nohaku’s killer set. They would have had a second encore at Lee’s Palace had the sound engineers not suddenly declared that fun was no longer allowed and shut down the mics.

The Taupe’s bassist Emi Onodera taking over for Hyacca’s vocalist and guitarist Hiromi Kajiwara



In case you couldn’t tell, the highlight of the entire tour for me was Bakyun the everyday playing “5” at The Rivoli. It encapsulated everything that is great about NMFT, in the sense that no words or language could possibly describe a jaw-dropping performance by a band whose audience most likely has little to no knowledge of them, their music, or how to communicate with them. Don’t you think it’s odd that a pop punk ballad can make a grown man cry, even when he doesn’t understand anything that’s said in it? I don’t quite understand it either.  

But that’s the beauty of NMFT—and help me God if I ever use this cliché ever again—it doesn’t matter if you understand or not, because music is transcendent. It’s highly likely that most of the audience didn’t know what they were getting into, but knew that Steven Tanaka would find a way to get them riled up, to get them teary-eyed, and most of all, to give them the time of their lives, as he always did, and will do for the next edition of Next Music from Tokyo, volume 11, in October.


Credit/special thanks

All photos (unless stated): Jimmy Wang (Twitter, Instagram)

Tour organization: Steven Tanaka (Website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)