Japanese garage rock legends King Brothers are probably one of the greatest live bands you could ever clap your eyes on, their incendiary live shows are legendary. Hell, they have even been banned from venues in Osaka. Yet tonight, in York’s finest music venue, they play to less than 30 people.
Even my 19-year-old son couldn’t entice his gig going buddies away from their TV’s and computer screens on a Monday night. It’s a damn shame, but it’s their loss because King Brothers played like their lives depended on it as I’m sure they do every night.
More of that later, as we have two very fine bands to check out before we get some Japandemonium going. Opening tonight are Manchester based scuzzy blues trio Bones Shake. Now, these guys are mighty special, a guitar and drum set up with a difference. They immediately come on like The Cramps meets The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, it’s raw and sleazy, just the way I like my rock ‘n’ roll.
Dressed head to toe in black with a mop of unkempt hair, singer David cuts an imposing figure. He struts the stage and howls his lyrics to all who will listen. Part Nick Cave, part Stiv Bators, he has the moves and his band have the grooves. With an interesting style, a mix of fingerpicking and slide, guitarist Andy brings the blues to their gritty primal sound, as drummer Davey keeps it all together with frantic beats. It’s not long before the sweat is literally dripping from the guitarist’s arms as he jams out riff after riff. The set culminates with the singer in the crowd, on the floor gyrating like he is having a seizure.
Their primal brand of garage rock goodness is bluesy and ballsy in equal measures, and they enthrall from start to finish. You should certainly be checking them out, I know I will.
Tonight’s the night of the three-piece band it seems. The mysterious Black Mekon hail from Birmingham, they wear superhero masks and dress in matching black shirts. Up front, you have a pair of Mekons, the singer, who is a leftie and plays a right-handed strung guitar upside down, (if you catch my drift), and the guitarist, who just plays the damn thing normally! The drummer has a massive beard and dresses like an extra from Peaky Blinders…he doesn’t need a mask.
The songs are short, sharp and quirky. They sound like a 50’s rock ‘n’ roll band with the erratic moves of Franz Ferdinand. Although I’m unfamiliar with their songs, I sure do dig their grooves, there is something mesmerising about this unusual trio. The back catalogue beckons methinks.
“York people, we are King Bruthaaas from Japaaan!! “ Shouts frontman Keizo from the stage for the first of many times as an introduction prior to his band laying waste to The Fulford Arms. Dressed in black suits and ties the trio play like men possessed in a show with no let up from start to finish.
There may not be many people here tonight, but King Brothers play like they are destroying a stadium crowd. 2 guitars, 2 voices and a shit-kicker of a drummer who plays the first song with a Jason Vorhees mask on.
They play a host of garage rock classics from their back catalogue and choice cuts from excellent new LP ‘Wasteland’. Including a killer version of ‘No Thanks’ with audience participation, even though we have no idea what Keizo is trying to get us to sing.
It’s not long before guitarist Marya is in the crowd. In fact, the band spends as much time in the crowd as they do on stage. They are drenched with sweat after only a few songs. Someone places a beer by each member; they don’t touch a drop as they are in the zone, too busy rocking the fuck out!
It culminates with Keizo helping drummer Taichi drag his kit onto the dance floor while Marya removes his shirt, and gets a ton of distortion from his guitar on stage. He then takes over vocals as the band bash out an intense punk fuelled jam. Marya shakes and screams like an extra from ‘Train To Busan’. He ends up crowd surfing around the whole venue, which was pretty impressive considering there were 30 people here!
A high energy, chaotic show with enough insanity to appease even the most hardcore of gig-goers. The King Brothers should be high on everyone’s list to catch live. Tonight, it was 6 quid for 3 excellent bands, that’s value for money any day of the week, but I’m still left with the question “Where were you York?”.
Photo credit to Martin Frank