Live Review – text by Dai Onojima

Buffalo Daughter 30th Anniversary Tour Final x Essential Tremors Tokyo

Event Report

Text by Dai Onojima

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Buffalo Daughter, and this is the last in a series of anniversary events. The event was co-hosted with “Essential Tremors”, an experimental music and video event from New York. The show, held at Shibuya Club Quattro in Tokyo, was filled with a lot of excitement.

When I arrived at the venue, MoOog Yamamoto was DJing. He plays in the typical Yamamoto style: mondo, psychedelic and electro. Yamamoto is still supposed to be an official member of Buffalo, but his absence has become more frequent in recent years. It’s been a while since his last performance. Since this is a festive event, why isn’t he participating in the show as well as DJing? He took the microphone and mumbled something and the audience cheered loudly. The audience knew exactly what was going on and they enjoyed it.

First up was Australian duo Party Dozen. A singer/saxophonist and a drummer played physical, lo-fi and wildly improvised music based on sample loops. The no-wave sound of punkish free jazz is a delight. The atmosphere is light and relaxed. The singers, saxophonists, and drummers give their all, and the audience is having a great time. This is fun.

The second support band, Tamanaramen, was introduced. The two sisters faced each other and operated their laptops without moving, while Hikam occasionally sang. The ambient drone continued unobtrusively, giving the audience a strange feeling as if time had stopped. But it was not as if the audience rejected others; instead, they were enveloped in a soft light. Party Dozen and Tamanaramen are both far from rock and pop conventions, but they are not too avant-garde, and their pop and catchy familiarity is somehow similar to that of Buffalo Daughter.

And finally, the star of the show. It was announced beforehand that four drummers from the band’s past would participate in this Buffalo Daughter show and perform double drumming. An extravagant plan befitting a 30th anniversary event, but I had assumed it would be a sideshow at this festive event, but it turned out to be a far more daring experiment than I had expected. It was double drums on every song and a different two-piece combination on every song.

Chika OgawaAtsushi MatsushitaKinichi Motegi, and Masahiro Komatsu sat down one after the other on the drums set up on either side of the stage. The combination of four drummers of completely different ages, sensibilities, musical backgrounds, playing styles, and personalities opened up a new world that could not be achieved by a single drummer. The slightest groove wobble or rhythmic timing shift can add another dimension to a familiar tune, making the beat more powerful, more smooth and delicate, or groovier and funkier. From “Cold Summer” on the first tape (1993) to the latest track “Malfunction” in 2023, the four drummers vividly connect Buffalo’s 30-year history. The songs seem to have been selected and combined mainly from songs written and recorded with these drummers. It is only natural that Matsushita played the most songs since he had been in the band the longest. “Daisy” (included in the limited first Japanese  release of “New Rock”), which Ogawa played, would not have been played very often without such an opportunity. It shows the simple essence of early Buffalo. Although the two musicians’sense of time and taste must have been different from those days, they were in sync as soon as they hit a note.

The ability of Yumiko Ohno and Sugar Yoshinaga (as well as their support Takeru Okumura) to sense and respond to these minute changes is remarkable. Buffalo’s flexibility is reflected in their music, which is solid and unwavering, yet has always sounded fresh, gradually changing the details of their sound in response to the atmosphere and circumstances of the times. Their songs are often minimal and repetitive, but they add ups and downs to them with rhythmic changes and colors in their arrangements. When you get into the looping chorus, a tingling sensation occasionally pricks your ears. You cannot let your guard down.

What surprised me was their reaction when the Mini Moog synthesizer Ohno was playing suddenly broke. During the Havana Exotica era, Ohno and Yan Tomita went to a synthesizer store called Five-G in Harajuku and bought it. The vintage synthesizer, which had become an indispensable weapon in their music, suddenly broke down. But they were unfazed. Sugar casually asked, “Did it break? Ohno replied, “It broke. What should we do?” Despite their words, their tone is as relaxed as their daily conversations. In reality, they may have been a little pale, but that is a testament to their 30-year career. Ohno said, “Well, let’s get on with it,” and the show went on as if nothing had happened. Songs that were supposed to be played on the Moog are replaced by other instruments, and the music that was supposed to be what you had in mind takes on a different color. It is as if you are listening to a different take, or rather, enjoying the “taste change” of ramen noodles. The band takes advantage of accidents and difficulties, and a new world opens up, like a new tentacle growing out of it. While last year’s “We Are The Times” tour was a hard, stoic show with no video projection at all, this time onnnacodomo’s cute, handmade visuals will enhance the show. Angus Andrew (Liars), the founder of “Essential Tremors”, also appears in the video projection.

The highlight was the second encore song, “Pshychic A-Go-Go,” which began with Matsushita and Komatsu on double drums, but as the song reached its climax, Komatsu switched to Motegi, who had been standing by, for the break part. The solid, dynamic and energetic dance beats that Matsushita was pounding out were transformed into funky and organic rhythms like a living creature with Motegi’s participation, and the floor was instantly on fire. I have seen Motegi play in three different bands in the last month or so, and he always seems to be really enjoying himself, using his whole body. He is the best. Then I noticed that MoOog Yamamoto joined in on the chorus!  The last piece finally fell into place at the very end, and the more than three-hour show came to an end.


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