Words by Pilar Haile Damato
Photos by Maia Stern
Brooklyn swooned as Yura Yura Teikoku took the stage last night for a rare US performance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. The trio from Japan whose name translates to something akin to "floating" or "suspended empire" brought staggering talent, fancy footwork and, of course, their hair to what certainly was a show many will regret missing.
We arrived in time to catch the second half of the crowd pleasing opening band Obits. The Brooklyn based rock band played a refreshing, tight and enthusiastic set that was only slightly marred when an anonymous bearded man climbed on stage to "help" guitarist and vocalist Rick Froberg with his unattached strap prompting the singer to fumble his last song and call out "leave it to the pros."
YYT, who formed in 1989, were a steady fixture in Japan's underground psych-rock scene before becoming one of the first bands of its kind in Japan to achieve mainstream recognition. After nearly twenty years, and only a handful of US shows, the band continues to baffle their followers and delight the blown away minds of their newer fans.
[Yura Yura Teikoku]
Most of the audience knew what they were getting themselves into and were no less than ecstatic when lead singer and guitarist Sakamoto Shintaro literally jump started the show with a three foot leap and hardcore maraca shaking. Naturally the band sings most of their songs in Japanese thus making Shintaro's voice a fourth instrument to the majority of the audience. That being said, YYT's set was all-inclusive, chaotic and totally captivating. At times songs like their fantastic single, "Dekinai" from the album Sweet Surrender reached close to ten minutes with bassist Chiyo Kamekawa's master rhythm and Shibata Ichiro's churning drum beats leading the way for Shintaro's on-stage freak outs, which looked like a cross between a seizure or exorcism and what I swear looked like Irish step-dancing. It's true the resemblance to a Mars Volta show was uncanny, but YYT's band has been around longer, which prompts one to believe they are the true wild haired fiends of epileptic rocking out.
Americans have no idea what they're missing. In Japan Yura concert tickets sell out almost immediately and all of their albums are released in limited numbers with original illustrations by Shintaro. The band paid an incomparable tribute to original 60s psych-rock in both sight and without sounding nostalgic. Their show was matchless, a focused mess, pure rock and roll, it was, to say the absolute least, astonishing.
If you know what's good for you head out to Hoboken tonight and catch the last US performance of YYT in what will surely be a good long while. Trust me and the band when they say you will "regret your decision until the day you go to your grave" if you miss this show.