Image Courtesy of Sarah Bonito’s Instagram (@sarah_bonito)
Tanukichan, Frankie Cosmos, and Kero Kero Bonito played the Neptune last Saturday night, in that order. In a way, the successive acts of the night demonstrated the clean breaks that separate OK bands from good ones, and good bands from great ones. Tanukichan was charming and demonstrated a lot of promise. Fronted by Hannah Van Loon with a backing band conspicuously lacking live drums, the group floated through a set of very airy tunes that, on occasion, threatened to run together a bit. Although Hannah was a little soft spoken and even bashful as a frontwoman, the band’s bassist (who apparently has a solo gig under the name ) kept the energy up with some really lively crowd work that may or may not have involved throwing his vape pen into the audience. As much as I enjoyed the songwriting and overall vibe behind Tanukichan’s set, I couldn’t help from longing for music with a little more physicality; the prerecorded drum tracks didn’t cut through the live instrumentation too well, downplaying the rhythm of the music, and I don’t remember any songs ever really getting intense enough to dance to. At the same time, I have a lot of sympathy for bands like this. I know it isn’t easy to put together a killer live set and it’s even harder to go on tour for an albums worth of material . I hope these people stick together and keep at it, but I wasn’t blown away by their set is basically what I’m saying.
Frankie Cosmos, who made it on stage within a half an hour of Tanukichan finishing up, demonstrated a couple of clear improvements in the quality of the night’s music: they had a drummer, for starters, and there was also this sort of je ne sais quois, a quiet kind of self-assurance that translates even though the music Frankie Cosmos was playing wasn’t necessarily much more “confident” than the opener’s. I guess there’s just some sort of energy that bands stumble upon, through lots and lots of playing together and practice, that can’t be arrived at or faked any other way. Frankie Cosmos had that. But at the same time there was still a little something else missing for me, like their set was all plot with no climax, or all verse with no chorus; the tempo never sped up or slowed down too noticeably, singer Greta Kline betrayed nothing in the way of emotion or intensity, and the liveliest the crowd got was during her banter between songs about Adidas brand loyalty (which was, admittedly, super charming). The exception to the very chilled atmosphere of Frankie’s set was some new material, one song of which the band even managed to get Tanukichan back on stage for in a wholesome display of band friendship-cuteness. But yeah – I get the feeling that on some level, fans of Frankie Cosmos are here for the consistency: an , the same , the same . I may find it a little sinister at times, but it is something I respect about the band. It’s just not necessarily something I enjoy in a live context, an environment that naturally lends itself to histrionics and drama and performances with intensity and vigor. Still, Frankie Cosmos played a solid live set, and I think the one that their fans hoped and expected them to.
The crowned jewel of the evening, the capital-g Great band that everyone was really excited to see, was Kero Kero Bonito. There was something in the air – even after two sets and a night that had gone on as long as an average concert would, the audience seemed to catch some collective second wind to lose its mind all over again as soon as the lights went down to mark the beginning of KKB’s set. The core KKB trio, Sarah, Gus, and Jamie, filled out with an added member trading off on keys and drums with Gus, as well as a guitarist for all of the new, more . The set opened with an explosion of synth and guitar feedback, followed by a bombastic drum solo, and things only really picked up from there. I could go on and on, gushing about the fact that they played not only all the hits but also all of my favorite songs in their discography, but the rub is this: the bedrock of a good concert is airtight performances from everyone on stage, as a unit. Frankie Cosmos achieved that. What Kero Kero Bonito achieved beyond the basic requisite stuff is something way more beautiful and transcendent than the other acts of night even seemed to be aiming for. In their way, KKB was truly trying to connect with the crowd, and connect the audience members to each other. There’s just something so nakedly vulnerable about the happiness and wholesomeness of KKB’s music and being in a space where hundreds of people were joined along that axis was an incredibly celebratory and maybe even profound experience.
The energy level in the crowd shifted accordingly: after two sets worth of head bobbing and general standing around, the crowd had erupted into a mosh pit by song three (Flamingo) of KKB’s set, and pretty much didn’t let up for the rest of the night. It’s hard to put in to words, but when a band is as exciting, energetic, talented, and (most importantly), sincere as Kero Kero Bonito, people can feel that, without ever having to say anything at all. At any rate, their newest album is a triumph, and it was great to see the new material translate so well in a live context. Tanukichan and Frankie Cosmos are good bands that played admirable sets. Kero Kero Bonito is a special band, and they put on a great show.
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