Asobi Seksu @ The Empty Bottle, Chicago 2/28/2011

This is the last Asobi Seksu post this month, I’m sorry! I went and saw the band last night at The Empty Bottle in Chicago and it sure was something else. Going to a show is a strange experience, and going by oneself adds another layer of strangeness. The show itself was a hooteneanny, though this music is hard to react to in a public space; most of the time the crowd just slightly nodded to the groove and snapped cell phone pictures. I forgot my camera and my cell phone was not cutting it, so all the pictures are from Flickr user Swagato, who has a whole photoset available for those inclined to observe it.

I couldn’t find and video from last night, but this footage from another show captures exactly what it was like, even down to the sweaters worn:

(via Future Sweden)

While Asobi Seksu makes really beautiful music (Citrus is mostly a classic in my book, and Fluorescence gets better every time I listen through), much of the band’s charm lies in their sound – a sound which uses the studio itself as an instrument to create walls of sound with the fuzzed-out, reverb’d guitars and echo chamber’d vocal layers that fans know and love. In other words, many of the songs in this catalogue seem like they’d be pretty difficult to pull off live, but if the 2009 acoustic album Rewolf proved anything it’s that this is a duo with a talent not only writing songs that are good enough to withstand transformation, but also execute that transformation themselves.

One of the first things I ever read about the band is that they play “shoegaze” music, which is a term derived from bands’ tendency to stare at their feet while performing (not verified), but for this show everyone on stage was way too busy to look down: I’m certain the drummer burned over 1,000 calories playing the skittering high-hat/snare combo during the chorus of “Thursday”; Yuki Chikudate clearly has the hardest job in the band between singing, synthesizing, utilizing extra instruments as needed (tambourine, sleigh bells, maracas) and interfacing with the crowd; James Hanna worked his guitar like crazy, flailing thoughtfully, and providing the essential soundscape for each song without seeming like he was actually doing anything. The bassist had to have the best job of the night: playing memorable, distinct phrases without having to juggle other instruments simultaneously or keep up with triple-digit BPMs. He also got to wear a cool sweater.

Getting to see songs that I’ve air-performed for so long was a real treat, and my initial concern about how the songs would sound live was met with a wonderful show that was neither quiet nor understated, but felt like both.

UPDATE: A little bit of sleuthing and the magic of the Internet have combined to bring you footage from the actual Chicago show I attended! Moreover, it appears to cover the entire 45 minute set (good lookin’, Vimeo user TRageCapone). Check it out below to slake your ravenous thirst for Asobi Seksu live footage.


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