Seems most of Japan missed the film PCU, because most concerts feature tons of fans being “that guy” wearing a t-shirt from the band playing that night. It’s a weird flip-around, realizing you, the dweeb wearing another group’s swag, might actually constitute the minority. Self-consciousness doesn’t seem to exist at Japanese shows, replaced by real passion that almost demands you support the band in the spotlight via t-shirt. This seems to be especially true for Cubismo Grafico Five fans, who sports all manners of merch covered in random English phrases and band logos . It was the case the first time I saw them, and it was even more so at the band’s latest show, in support of new album Double Dozen. The band made sure to repay the fans devotion.
First, though, were fuzzy astronauts Avengers In Sci-Fi. These guys couldn’t be any less subtle about what theme they aim for – the band name, for one, is pretty telling, almost as much as the band’s first EP Jupiter Jupiter featuring a bunch of songs sporting titles imagined only by the most far-out NASA geeks around. Then there is the group’s actual sound, an especially loud and aggressive approach to rock coated in all sorts of “spacey” sounds, from Close Encounters keyboard to actual science fiction worthy samples. The added intergalactic sounds never seem forced, though, always coming off as integral to the songs as a whole. Live, Avengers bring a lot of energy to the stage, making huge rock-star poses and leaping onto the drum kit. At their very best, they sound like Klaxons on the moon and if the reception they got at Shangri-La pointed towards anything, they have a real potential to get big.
The vast majority of the crowd came for Cubismo though, as indicated by wardrobe selection. The last time I saw the band, they delivered a spazzy set where they jumped between genres as effortlessly as Shaq jumps from NBA teams. Somehow the Five managed to be even more rapid-fire at Shangri-La – the group’s woozily excellent new album Double Dozen crams, uh, a double dozen loony songs with none of them lasting more than three minutes in length. It does a great job of translating the Cubismo live experience to record, so naturally it worked wonders live Saturday night.
The way Cubismo Grafico Five leap from hardcore squealing to mall-punk to reggae (?!) to proto-barbershop quartet (??!!) from song to song (or sometimes, within a single song) makes it seem like the band are masters of manic improve, when really it’s testament to a kind of precision that wins gold medals in figure skating. Everything clicked together in a perfectly chaotic way, the rush of punk-followed-by-pop-followed-by-dub also being given a timeout so standalone tracks could get some extended time in the light. Double Dozen single “Life Is Like A Season” and it’s surf-rock riffing was a set standout, as was throwback closer “Jamaica Song.”
The one wildcard during Cubismo Grafico Five’s was Cubismo Grafico himself. Grafico aka Gakuji Matsuda shoots around the stage like the Tazmanian Devil, sometimes sprawling out on the floor or leaping into the crowd to let fans shout into the mic. He’s the physical manifestation of the group’s sound, a whirly dude who can’t stay still for very long. His singing is just as unchained, sometimes taking off in directions that improve upon recorded versions of the song. Case in point, “Chukit,” which on Double Dozen is an uplifting bit of “We Are The World” all-together-now. Live, though, Matsuda doesn’t have the support of a big chorus, so he had to do all the singing himself. Instead of delivering it straight, he shot it up a level, howling the second half, transforming it from feel-good group hug to damn near cathartic.
After the band exited stage left to the recorded sounds of Double Dozen closer “Ticket To Sound,” fans who hadn’t already bought the newest Cubismo Grafico Five merch made a beeline for the table set up in the lobby. These fans…many whom I recognized from my first CG5 show…are devoted, and it’s not hard to see after seeing the energy the band brings to the stage. I can’t wait for the sea of smiley face towels sure to be present at the group’s next Osaka gig.