Show Review: Melt-Banana, Retox, Peace Creep at Bottom Of The Hill, 11/29/11

by Dakin Hardwick on December 5, 2011

I have a live music bucket list. There are about a dozen or so musicians that I’d like to see before they call it quits. The number one band on that list is Melt-Banana. I first uncovered them working at the old Wherehouse Music on Geary in San Francisco. Somebody was selling back used CD’s, and there was a single loose disc left behind. It was Cell Scape by Melt-Banana. I put it on the overhead, and I was blown away. It was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. It was chaotic, weird, and beautiful. I instantly knew that I needed to see this band live. Sadly, it took almost 10 years before I was able to make that work.

The show opened with a set by the band Peace Creep. The band mentioned that it was one of their first shows, which is a pretty impressive feet to open for such a legendary band at such a legendary venue so early in your career. They played two songs during their 35 minutes opening slot, which may have been to balance out the speed in which the other two bands of the evening were going to be pumping them out. The first song started out as a slow, Built To Spill influenced number that evolved into a frantic piece that went in several different places. I wasn’t entirely sure that I was only hearing one piece, but, in actuality, several pieces all going at once. The bands bassist moved around so maniacally that I thought he was going to hit me in the head with his instrument. The second song was loud, groovy number that sounded like Black Sabbath on crack.

Next up was Retox. This is a hardcore band featuring members of The Locust. This was also the first time that I’ve ever heard them. This band is a little less “weird” than The Locust, but still intense. They immediately spawned a full throttle pit in the crowd. The crowd went nuts for their loud & fast punk rock. Their set list consisted of about 20 songs in just under 30 minutes, all played one right after the other, and with the pure adrenaline. The only break in the music was about halfway through the set when the drummer abruptly got up to go to the bathroom. Here is their setlist, just to prove how much they crammed into such a short amount of time.

The night was filled with surprisingly quick sets and even quicker set changes. It only took about 15 minutes for Retox to take down their gear and Melt-Banana to set it up. This included the single most elaborate pedal board I’ve ever seen. Actually, it was two pedal boards and and a synth emulator. Anyways, it was intense, and guitarist Ichirou Agata tested every single one of those pedals before kicking off their set.

They opened up the set with “A Dreamer Who Is Too Weak To Face Up To.” And, much like Retox before them, it was a ferocious set. The band doesn’t have any new material to promote right now, so it turned into kind of a greatest hits set. The band has an obscene amount of material, and pulled from all portions of their career. Vocalist Yasuko Onuki is one of the most unique singers in rock, bouncing between squeels, shreiks, yelps, and the occasional hooky melody line. She is also one the most hyperactive frontpeople I’ve ever seen. She was virtually impossible to photograph because she continuously bounced around Bottom Of The Hill’s tiny stage.

For the uninitiated, it’s difficult to really understand the appeal of this band. They don’t do typically listenable music. They do a frenetic punk rock with layers of electronic noise and dissonance. All of their songs are performed at a breakneck pace, and they fit quite a bit of music on their 45 minute set. The audience was such a ferocious, steady mosh that I spent more of the show with my feet off the ground than on. The person standing next to me, a professional photographer, found it nearly impossible to trade lenses throughout the show, and more than once, I thought a crowd surfer was about to kick his $10,000 camera in. Luckily his gear stayed safe.  (All this photos were taken with a point n shoot, mostly for safety reasons.)

A rare moment of calm

The show had many highlights, including a wonder bit of cat tribute songs, including tasty and weird rendition of “Cat Brain Blues,” and a medley of 8 songs in four minutes. (!) Their encore consisted of Onuki singing “Happy Birthday To You,” entirely in “meows,” followed by an epic rendition of the Louis Armstrong classic “What A Wonderful World.”

It was a fantastic show, and it was the bands very last date of their 2011 North American Tour. They will be back in the states next year to promote a new album that they are wrapping up. I would highly recommend clearing your schedule t0 insure that you don’t waster a decade trying to see them yourself.

Here’s the setlist. Bonus points to anyone that can translate it:

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

shaboobi January 16, 2012 at 5:45 am

This was my sister in laws first time seeing melt banana, she really isn’t into that whole scene but was blown away by melt banana. One of my favorite bands. Always lovely to see JP too.

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