Monday, February 7, 2011

Chirinuru Wowaka - チリヌルヲワカ

While Akko from GO!GO!7188 is on maternity leave, guitarist Yuu Nakashima has taken the opportunity to focus on her other band, Chirinuru Wowka (known as Wowaka to English speaking audiences). Recently, they've been touring extensively in support of an upcoming mini-album release scheduled for April. Last Friday night, Wowaka played at Koenji High with Kinoco Hotel, the retro rock group that I first saw with GO!GO! last May.

While GO!GO!'s sound is ska-influenced and playful, Wowaka takes on a more straight ahead rock-oriented approach. Simply put, the band's songs have an anthemic quality, supported heavily by second guitarist Natsuki Sakamoto. To non-Japanese speakers and first-time listeners, Yuu's high pitched vocals and use of falsetto can be a bit off-putting, something definitely apparent in GO!GO!'s quirkier songs. But in Wowaka's music, I think Yuu has found a fitting match for her characteristic vocal style. The band's newest single, White Hall, definitely illustrates this synthesis.

As a musician and artist, Yuu is mysterious and fascinating. In person, she is painfully shy and unassuming. It's almost hard to imagine that she fronts two well-known rock bands. Her posture is slightly awkward and her bangs often hide half her face. I've had countless opportunities to talk with her, yet somehow our conversations never go beyond everyday greetings. She is no different on stage, where she only lets out a few sentences during her set, all with an overly reserved tone that suggests a shy girl more than a grown woman.

But all of this changes when she plugs in her signature Telecaster guitar. As I've written time and time again, she can totally wail; she is a brilliant guitarist admired far and wide in Japan. Her fretwork is complex and busy, yet oddly tasteful. During her solos, Yuu often steps up onto a small podium placed center-stage and showcases her energetic playing for a wild-stricken audience. At the end, she always leans deeply into her last slide down the fretboard.

Akko's ability to fire up a hungry crowd is hard to replace, but Wowaka certainly had their fans jumping off their feet. I'm going to have to go see them again next week.

Chirinuru Wowaka

Yuu Nakashima, brilliant and mysterious

Guitarist Natsuki Sakamoto was the bubbliest in the group. After the show, he let me strum is 1969 Les Paul which he claimed cost him 15 grand.

Kitsch-rock outfit Kinoco Hotel took the final slot of the night. They deserve a post in their own right.

One of the most exciting moments of the night was when their lead singer jumped up on her keyboard to do a risque dance.

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