Rock-n-roll is an American invention. Along with jazz it is one of our great cultural contributions to the world. Sure, other nation-states have given us useful things like paper (China), democracy (Greece) and the calendar (Italy). But the United States of America...rock-n-roll. That is not to say, we do it the best (see Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, etc.) But anyway this blog is not about the US.
Not long ago a friend of mine here invited me out to an event she was working. It was in a dingy Kyoto nightclub called Metro that is literally in the subway. There was a band playing that night called Great Big Kiss. And they rocked. The Japanese have a way of taking things that are not their own, things like rock-n-roll or whiskey and doing it so well you think they might have invented it. It feels somehow more authentic than the original. They study it, dismantle it, rebuild it and then give it back to you with a new intensity and cool. You see it or hear it, taste it or feel it and think, wait a minute, I know this, but... It is not just imitation because there is always something slightly different, something Japanese.
Great Big Kiss were a tough, four-piece Ramones-ey outfit with musical duties split evenly between the sexes. They were tight, loud and all-out. The leather-clad guitarist had his kicks and leaps and wide-legged Billy Zoom stance down; the singer, a little blonde firecracker had her punk strut, her girly pout and Roger Daltrey microphone grip down; the drummer and bass player held the unit together, banging out the mostly ferocious rhythms to their songs.
Besides all the rock-n-roll swagger, they played with heart, like it meant something. And that is probably what I liked most about them. I remember listening to Henry Rollins on the radio in Los Angeles talk about how he hated bands that played like they were bored, like they didn't care, like they were doing you a favor. No. F%@# that! I paid money; I want to be entertained! Smash your guitar!
It's been a while since I saw a live show. And I'd been wanting to see some Japanese rock. It's always a treat when you go to some venue without any expectations and are blown away. Yeah, a Great Big Kiss indeed.