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Another season of KCRW’s World Music Festival is underway at the Hollywood Bowl, and to kick off the 2011 edition, a promising reunion was the most intriguing part of the bill. The long broken up New York-based group Cibo Matto was to play their first Los Angeles show in over ten years. Coupled with their performance was the first LA-area show since literally 1979 from Japan’s Yellow Magic Orchestra. Those two groups along with Tokyo’s Buffalo Daughter and Towa Tei (who most of you probably know as the coke-bottle glasses wearing DJ from Deee-Lite in the early 90’s) made up a show entitled “Big in Japan.” The night had a lineup with the talent and diversity to make for an excellent show, but sadly, the order of the bands and unneeded theatrical accompaniment bogged this night down.
Appropriately enough, the evening began with a ten-minute set of authentic taiko drummers. With the crowd still filing in to the venue the thunderous percussion didn’t quite capture any enthusiasm from the audience, and wasn’t performed long enough to make an impact. Immediately thereafter, a troupe of Kabuki dancers did a ten-minute dance sequence. While colorful and painless, again the performance seemed out of place, and might have been better placed during one of the other performances to come later.
On the positive side, Tokyo’s Buffalo Daughter had the goods in an eclectic mix of space rock. The group’s three main members Sugar Yoshinaga, Yumiko Ohno and MoOoG Yamamoto alternated between standard bass and electric guitars to samplers and synthesizers. The group undulated between escalating sequenced electronics into speed metal drum fills, artfully dropping in twang-y chords to punctuate the proper points.
A short and sweet DJ set from Towa Tei followed without any break after Buffalo Daughter concluded. Tei stood on the far stage right behind his turntables quietly dropping old school soul and hip-hop jams. Most notably was the strong use of an anarcho remix of the Reel to Reel 90’s dance hit “I Like to Move It.”
The highlight of the evening came next as the reunited Cibo Matto took the stage. Starting their first two songs with only the core duo of Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori, the group later expanded with a bassist (not Sean Lennon for those curious) and If By Yes member Yuko Araki on drums. Honda primarily focused on bringing each song’s complex pop orchestrations to life, while Hatori bopped back-and-forth on stage in a bright orange jumpsuit. Hatori urged the largely stationary crowd to dance and jumped into the rap-focused fun of “Sci-Fi Wasabi.” The group sounds as polished as ever, playful and danceable smartly wielding genres like a painter would with so much paint. “Sugar Water” was the sweet and serene side of their sound and “Know Your Chicken” was the humorous end. Here’s the only real problem. The band only had a 30-minute set, not one minute more.
Yellow Magic Orchestra finished off the night with a somewhat tedious and overwrought set. In contrast to the far too short set from Cibo Matto, YMO played nearly 90 minutes. There is nothing really bad to say about their music, it’s a colorful, upbeat and whimsical take on electronica that American audiences are probably not too exposed to, but quite simply about 30 minutes of this was all that was needed, all due respect to the band and their legacy. Cibo Matto should have headlined and had at least an hour to play. For YMO’s conclusion Yoko Ono came out to perform one song as part of the encore. Ono spoke before the song, asking the crowd to give and that any bit of kindness done would come back ten fold, joking that was better than the stock market. The song then began, but truthfully this was just Ono yelping over a bluesy number from YMO. Nothing too special or exciting, but thankfully over before it became irritating. She rejoined the band along with the the members of Cibo Matto, the taiko drummers and Kabuki dancers from earlier on in the evening for a pleasant rendition of The Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye.”
It was a good night of music for sure, but after ten years, Cibo Matto deserves a full-length headlining show. The fans do too.
All photos by Raymond Flotat