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Posts Tagged ‘Go!Go!Japan!’

Dengue Fever on the Electric Mekong Tour

There is one less thing I’m allowed to complain about in Hanoi these days: music shows.  See, back in my day (i.e., way back in 2008) the only live music that my admittedly-clueless-and-inexperienced self knew of was Minh’s Jazz Club, karaoke bars, the water puppets on Hoan Kiem Lake, and that guy who plays the flute with his nostril on the streets.  Music shows would happen on occasion and would serve as an impromptu expat Mecca for a weekend.

My, things have changed. These days, you can find live music every week at places like Hanoi Rock City, 21º N Club, and Ronaldo’s.  What you hear can be a little hit and miss, but the number of good performers either in or coming to Hanoi seems to be ever-growing.  We were rather spoiled over the last 2 weekends in particular.

First, there was the Electric Mekong Tour with Dengue Fever.  When it comes to music genres, I’m at a pre-elementary level of understanding.  When I hear there’s a music genre called “Crunkcore,” I assume it has something to do with porn featuring Lil’ Jon.  There’s also “cuddlecore” – porn featuring teletubbies and care bears?  “Cybergrind” – enough with the porn already.  “Cowpunk” – cowboys with mohawks?  Ok, point being that I know nothing of the world of music genres and subgenres, but Wikipedia tells me that Dengue Fever combines Cambodian pop music with psychedelic rock.  A combination that works rather well.

Crunkcore, cuddlecore, cowpunk

I had attended a wedding earlier in the day, where the bride and groom somehow convinced me to ingest high volumes of strange alcoholic concoctions. Like I’m going to argue with love. So, by the time I ended up at the American Club, I was miles ahead of much of the crowd, excitement- and inebriation-wise.  And what’s the first thing I saw?  Two enormous condoms – well, people dressed like enormous condoms at least. (I will refrain from making enormous dick jokes).  This strange sighting occurred not due to the correlation between sex and rock and roll, but because the event was sponsored by the American Embassy in Hanoi and PEPFAR – an aid program with a long name that gives money to combat HIV/AIDS around the world.  Of course I drunkenly stumbled up to the condoms and demanded attention from them. (Luckily, I wasn’t quite drunk enough to demand they let me wear their costume.)  To get rid of me, they directed me to a table with free condoms and HIV prevention information, including the materials below, which after a few hard blinks, I shoved into my purse:

By no means do I disapprove of these materials. Quite the opposite. I am, however, amazed at the level of explicitness in them.  For one, Vietnam is pretty conservative when it comes to icky sexy stuff. Also, they were funded by my country, and as an American, I realize how prudish and backward my country can be regarding sex, particularly gay sex. Props to PEPFAR then.

Back to music!  Last weekend was Go!Go!Japan!, a rock concert featuring Japanese and Vietnamese bands.  When I found out it was being held at the National Exhibition Center on Giang Vo St, I knew I had to go. I drive by this place every day and have been repeatedly awed at just how glitzy and hideous a place of this size could be, particularly on event days.  It takes the “bigger, brighter and more rainbowy are always better” approach to decorating.

Of course, the other major lure was the music lineup.  I had seen Okamoto’s at a previous CAMA event and like the rest of the crowd, I fell in love with the band and the Japanese Mick Jagger-like stylings of the lead singer.  They are apparently “psychedelic garage rock,” if that means anything to you.  To say this band is energetic is an understatement.  The vocalist is constantly running and shaking and bobbing and crawling and fainting and swaying and telling you to speak Japanese.  The drummer and guitarist are also enthusiastic.  But the bassist. No, he serves as the counterpoint.  Dressed in nerd chic, he calmly stands in place, practically bored.  Someone must be responsible.

Okamoto's - Charisma

Before Okamoto’s was the Electric Eel Shock, a “garage metal” band.  They were also very entertaining and quite good, even playing some “Brack Sabbath” tunes for us.  My favorite part of this band were their power moves, particularly those of the drummer.  He played with 4 sticks, 2 in each hand.  Occasionally, he would raise his fist, 2 sticks in a V-shape, and slowly move them across his face.  Think Pulp Fiction dance move.  Other times he would dramatically stand up and point at the crowd or the sky. I missed it, but someone told me he was playing the drum cymbals with his shirt at one point. And I heard that he usually plays in the nude.  Yep, he’s awesome.

Electric Eel Shock

Electric Eel Shock - note the power move

This band also instigated a mini-mosh pit of sorts.  The mosh pit was composed primarily of tâys, who tore off their shirts, ran into each other a lot, jumped on one another’s backs and unsuccessfully attempted to crowd surf.  I turned to Huong and said, “The white people are embarrassing us again.”  But that was a joke. The group never got overly obnoxious or rowdy, stayed relatively confined, and was almost as entertaining as the bands.  Another fun spectacle was the young Vietnamese metalheads (?), who with joined arms, were bent over and swaying rhythmically for most of the night.  Not sure if this is what they were going for, but I found them adorable.

Other bands included the Vietnamese “progressive rock” band, Ngũ Cung, also known as Pentatonic.  They were clearly a big draw for many of the young Vietnamese concert goers, many of whom were wearing the band’s t-shirts.  I wish I had more to say about them, but all I can remember is that at one point, they sported a keytar, and they performed a few 80s hair band reminiscent power ballads.

Ngu Cung, and their keytar

Other bands that were there but that we didn’t see were Molice of Japan and Rosewood of Vietnam.  They’re probably worth checking out.  Thanks CAMA and Japan and US Embassy/PEPFAR and music extraordinaires!

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