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Monday, Oct. 17, 2011

Melt-Banana @ Cactus Club

Oct. 15, 2011

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You can often tell how good, or at least how interesting, an act is by the number of hyphens required to explain what kind of music they play. By this rubric, Tokyo's Melt-Banana scores off the charts, playing what can only (well, not "only" but...) be described as hardcore-electro-noise-experimental-thrash-pop, and, by all accounts, playing it very well.

The biggest reaction to seeing Melt-Banana live, besides joy, is a lingering sense of disbelief. Listening to the band's records, of which there are many, it would be understandable to believe they're speeding up the tape, but the sound is mind-bogglingly real, accomplished through the use of a sampler, heavily treated guitar and beyond-dexterous musicianship. Strangely, their set started with the strains of Pink Floyd's "One of These Days," and it only got more brilliantly weird from there. Playing for roughly an hour, it would be nigh impossible to count how many songs they ran through, especially since some of them are psychotic bursts no more than a few seconds long, but the set list did include their lovably insane cover of Toots & The Maytals' (by way of The Specials) "Monkey Man." Closing out the night was another cover, this time Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," and you couldn't help but agree with the song's sentiment.

Judging by their performance alone, it would seem to be an ideal show, but that feeling was tempered by the crowd, or at least segments of it. From the very beginning, the night was permeated by a weird vibe. The venue was crowded and people seemed all too willing to shove past one another, with little regard for decorum or the well-being of beverages. And then the mosh pit started. Now, there are basically two types of mosh pits: There is the fun kind, inspired by an abundance of enthusiasm, with bodies resembling excited particles pinging wildly off each other; then there is the mean and ugly kind, the kind started by dead-behind-the-eyes aggressors. Melt-Banana drew about 15% the former and 85% the latter, which was a bummer and a distraction. But I suppose one should focus on the positive: Did I mention there was a guy (or girl?) in a full-on anime-cat furry suit?