Weird Live Review: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu at Club Nokia Los Angeles February 16 2014
This and all other non-sucky photos by Hernan Perez

I gotta be honest: I have no frame of reference for reviewing a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu concert. I had never been to a J-pop show before, unless you count Trippple Nippples, which I don’t. Where the Trippp Nippps are clearly trying to be a little edgier and more “arty,” KPP is gleefully, blissfully, unironically out to sweep her audience away under a raging torrent of cuteness. It was quite possibly the most ridiculous show I have ever been to, and definitely one of the happiest. If you walk out of a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu concert wearing a frowny face, you need to adjust your meds.

So is KPP fairly typical of a J-pop show? I have no idea. All I know is not since the ’90s heyday of candy raving have my eyeballs been bombarded with such a colorful display. Oh, and the music was pretty good, too. Even though it was all just a pre-recorded backing track, including most (all?) of the vocals. You don’t go to a KPP show because you want to hear an extended version of the piano solo on “Mottai Night Land.”

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There was a set that looked like the bedroom of a giant toddler. There were Oompa-Loompa-like backup dancers. There was a dancing rabbit and a dancing bear. There was an inexplicably bizarre video interlude, to cover for one of Kyary’s many costume changes, that featured her playing poker with a bunch of scary-looking Americans and posing next to a motor scooter like a kawaii James Dean. There were not, sadly, any of the dancing fuzz-monsters from the “Invader Invader” video, but they did throw in that song’s dope-ass dubstep breakdown—and in case you’re wondering, yes, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is still totally adorable, even when dancing to dubstep. Her adorableness defies all logic and the basic laws of the space-time continuum. All the kitten videos on YouTube contain less cumulative adorableness than a single KPP dance move. I can’t explain it, but it is so.

The crowd was almost as much fun as the show, full of elaborately costumed J-pop fans of all ages, races and even styles—there were more than a few goth/steampunk dolls in attendance, sprinkled amidst the expected packs of girls in frilly pink princess dresses. I tried to snap a few pics but when you’re a middle-aged guy at a J-pop show, you have to be careful about who you point your camera at. Fortunately, others with more balls and better cameras were there, too.

My arms are still tired from doing the “Fashion Monster” dance, so I’m going to stop typing now and just leave you with a couple more photos. As you can see, we got there late and our seats weren’t the best. I did try to capture the energy of the crowd in that one shot, though. Yeah, people were really into it.

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Kyary Pamyu Pamyu world tour is coming to North America

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

As much as I sometimes wish Americans were into better pop music, our bad taste does have its benefits. If nothing else, it often means that when cool superstars from overseas come to our Black-Eyed-Peas-afflicted land, they play much smaller venues than they do back home. Case in point: Harajuku J-pop icon Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, who can fill arenas in Japan but will hit comparatively intimate theaters when she tours here next month. God bless America and our isolationist monoculture!

We’ll be going to see Kyary when she plays the small-ish (2,300 capacity) Club Nokia here in L.A. on Feb. 16th. And I gotta be honest, I have no idea what to expect. It’ll be our first real J-pop show, unless you count Trippple Nippples, which I don’t. The crowd at that show was a hipster-palooza. The crowd at Kyary’s all-ages show is likely to be a lot younger and screamier.

KPP WORLD TOUR 2014

Feb 13 Seattle / Showbox at the Market
Feb 15 San Francisco / The Regency Ballroom
Feb 16 Los Angeles / Club Nokia LA Live
Mar 5 Chicago / House of Blues
Mar 7 Toronto / Sound Academy
Mar 8 New York / Best Buy Theater

We’ll leave you with Kyary’s latest eye-popping video, for the track “Mottai Night Land.” In this one, she dresses up like a giant fluffy cat, dances with skeletons and plays a spastic piano solo. It’s one of her more restrained efforts.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

We’ve had a rough couple of weeks here at Weird Band HQ, so we were in dire need of some cheering up. And what better way to cheer up than with a little candy-colored, hyper-caffeinated J-pop? In J-Pop-Land, no one ever gets stuck in traffic, the serotonin flows like tap water and fluorescent is the new black. You know your favorite adorable kitten video on YouTube? Cram all five minutes of it down into a three-second animated GIF and you have the perfect visual accompaniment to most J-pop.

All J-pop looks and sounds pretty strange to us Westerners, but the genre’s most freshly minted superstar, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, takes things to a whole new level. She’s sometimes described as Japan’s answer to Lady Gaga, but it would probably be more fair to describe her as the majokko lovechild of Katy Perry and Psy. Like those two, her music tends to be polarizing (you either think it’s adorably catchy pop or annoyingly repetitive drivel), her dance moves tend to be varying degrees of ridiculous, and most importantly, her costumes and music videos tend to be garish eye candy explosions in which the cute, the comical and the grotesque intermingle in all sorts of head-scratchingly unexpected ways. You may prefer to watch Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s videos with the sound turned down, but I bet you’ll watch them all the way through.

Kyary, who’s only 20, got her start as a fashion blogger and model associated with Harajuku, the youthful Japanese clothing style known for its bright colors and obsession with all things “kawaii” (cute). Kyary’s unique spin on Harajuku has always been to inject it with a touch of the bizarre: a rubber shark hat, a demonic painted-on mouth, hair clips with eyeballs on them. “I love grotesque things,” she told one interviewer. “There are so many ‘just cute’ things in the world, so I add grotesque, scary and even shocking materials like eyeballs and brains to balance out the cuteness.”

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is a bona fide superstar in Japan; her first video, “PONPONPON,” has racked up over 50 million views on YouTube, which I’m pretty sure makes her the most popular artist we’ve ever blogged about (sorry, Flaming Lips; you had a good run). But popularity and weirdness are not mutually exclusive; over the course of “PONPONPON,” Kyary dances with a giant floating eyeball, pterodactyls and what appears to be a fat dude in blackface and a pink princess dress. And “PONPONPON” is probably her least eccentric video. In her most recent clip, “Ninjya Re Bang Bang,” she rides a giant carp, dances with cartoon robot mice and vanquishes an evil floating head by turning her arm into a laser cannon, all while wearing what we’re gonna describe as ninja sleepwear. Here, check it out, but be warned: This song will lodge itself in your head for days.

We’ll leave you with “Invader Invader,” which both visually and sonically gets our vote Kyary’s for greatest and weirdest achievement to date. The finger-mustache dance moves, the breakdancing fur monsters, the TV-headed DJ, the completely gratuitous and totally awesome dubstep breakdown…why can’t American pop music be this much fun?

Kyary’s latest album, Nanda Collection—which features “Ninjya Re Bang Bang” and “Invader Invader”—just came out in Japan and the States (not sure about the rest of the world). You can buy the digital U.S. version here.

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