buttonMotion City Soundtrack Japan Tour 2008
feat. Beat Crusaders, Cartel & Motion City Soundtrack
@ Shibuya O East (19th Feb. '08)

Off To Join the Beat Crusade

      Motion City Soundtrack was the headliner, Cartel sold the most T-shirts but the Beat Crusaders conquered the crowd Tuesday night at Shibuya's O-East.

      It was crowded from the moment I got to the sold out show around 6:30 P.M., mostly, I believed, for Motion City Soundtrack. I suspected many had caught their set at Fuji Rock, and were listening to their new Epitaph album, EVEN IF IT KILLS ME. I mean, I know I was.

Cartel      MCS and friends rolled in for what I thought was going to be another mid-week, quick get-em-in-get-em-out show in Tokyo. Instead, I saw a longer show featuring a young band with energetic promise (even if they had nothing new to offer), a Japanese lesson in rock and roll, and a band with some good songs that just couldn't compete with the act they followed.

      As always, I was astounded at the amount of concert T-shirts trotted out and on display. One of the things I love about this city (and Japan in general) is the cult of the concert tee. Tonight's display was more homogenous than others (I didn't see a single Misfits shirt, which usually goes without saying). They were all Beat Crusaders and Motion City Soundtrack shirts. I didn't actually see anyone wearing a Cartel shirt, but when I asked one of the girls at the merchandise counter at the end of the evening, she said they had sold the most. Hmmm. Maybe it was because nobody wanted to get caught wearing a white shirt in the sea of black on black.

      I had never seen Cartel before, and for some reason I was expecting a band so-named to be a bunch of slightly overweight, British bad-dressers wearing ironic T-shirts with thick accents, playing some heavy EU noise rock while spouting off bad political rhetoric. Instead, I got the Backstreet Boys with guitars. An outfit who have seen every Epitaph band play, but just don't have their moves.

Cartel      Looking for all the world like the blonde-headed singer from aforementioned boy band, singer Will Pugh kicked things off around 7 P.M. with a hearty, if cliche, "Hello Tokyo!".

      I half expected them to break into some cheesy a cappella love song, with hands over their hearts and emotional pained expressions on their faces. Thankfully, it was just my imagination and they were, in fact, a rock band. I can't say their brand of mainstream rock was highly original, though.

      Communal stops on power chords and a little bouncing up and down on stage is a good start, but it wears off after four songs or so without variety. The band had started strong, with "Luckie St." the audience punched the air and waved their hands in time to the music, but it eventually petered out. By the time they were half way through, the crowd was appreciative, but not moved.

      Pugh tried to give it some energy, pumping his fist in the air and moving from one side of his stage monitors to the other, but once he picked up the black Telecaster (a nice '72 Custom, by the way) it was pretty much stand around and sing along to the power chords for the rest of the set. It wasn't until the last two songs, "Burn This City" and radio single "Lose It" that the crowd really joined back in.

Cartel      I'm sure folks who like them weren't disappointed in the show. If I was an eighteen year old girl, I probably would have liked them, too.

      When Cartel finished their set, the lights came up a bit and I could see that the venue was still filling up. People were jostling for position, getting close to the stage, putting on their newly acquired shirts, downing beers, and soaking up the Dinosaur Jr. that barked and whined over the house speakers like a mangy dog chasing an aging postman.

      It was readily apparent who they were here to see.

      When the lights dimmed, the crowd started chanting the band's name. When the Beat Crusaders finally came out onstage, each member of the band wearing a dot matrix printout of his face as a mask, the crowd was cheering - all of their hands up in the air.

      Lead singer and guitar player Toru Hidaka wasted no time, giving a text book lesson in how to move a Japanese audience. He dove right into a near hour long set of hard crunching, infectious pop-punk. Guitar player Taro Kato wore an Angus Young school boy uniform and thundered out riffs on his Gibson SG, even bobbing his head up and down in imitation. Obvious fans of classic power rock, they made the AC/DC song their own, but I couldn't help think that Kato-san was in an AC/DC cover band in another life.

      Their sense of humor, always on display, is one of those intangibles that a band like Cartel hasn't found yet. "Never take yourself too seriously" and BECR (as they're known here in that we're-Japanese-so-we-gotta-shorten-every-name way) never did. They joked along with the audience, with Angus - I mean Taro - playing the demure funny man to Hidaka-san's gruff straight man, telling short road stories, and inviting everyone to party Japanese style, ne?

Cartel      Keyboard player Keitaimo was a constant source of amusement, striding out from his synth to do the robot across the stage, or coaxing the audience into clapping and jumping with strange and syncopated dances.

      They ran through fan favorites like, "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight", "Hit In The USA", "Love Potion #9" and of course their newest single, "WInterlong". Looking around I saw all sorts of people singing along, whether they were cramped up at the front of the stage, up on the mezzanine, or back near the rear doors.

      This was rock school, and class was in session.

      When they finished and left the stage, a good portion of the class went as well. Maybe it was lunch break, or wood shop or just time to head to the smoke pit skip the next class.

      J. Mascis continued his between set serenade as the crowd replenished drinks and got ready for the next act - Minnesota's Motion City Soundtrack

The featured photos are from the show in Osaka.

report by jeff and photos by takumi
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buttonmag files : Cartel, Beat Crusaders

buttonOff To Join the Beat Crusade (08/02/19 @ Shibuya O East) : review by jeff, photos by takumi
buttonphoto report (08/02/17 @ Shinsaibashi Club Quattro) : photos by takumi

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buttonOff To Join the Beat Crusade : Motion City Soundtrack with Beat Crusaders & Cartel (19h Feb. @ Shibuya Club Quattro)
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