It’s Friday night beers and I’m going to seminal Japanese Garage and Punk bands, The 188.8.131.52’s and the Jet Boys at the old Adelaide Uni Bar, courtesy of RCC, what is not to love? For the first time, three Japanese 80s punk legends, the Jet Boys, Guitar Wolf and the 184.108.40.206’s would be playing together outside Japan for the Tokyo Jet Daze weekend. Friday night would be featuring the Jet Boys and the 220.127.116.11s, with Guitar Wolf performing on the Saturday.
It was definitely festival season, wandering along the Torrens to the RCC, we chanced upon Tim Minchin, rehearsing for the opening night of Adelaide Festival, to a small crowd of bystanders. It was a balmy night, and the RCC decorated Barr Smith lawns and the cloisters, were filled with the young and chic, out for a night of festival fun, under the glittering lights and displays.
We climbed up the stairs to the old level five uni bar, but it felt like more we were descending into the pit. Bright colours gave way to a suitably dark band room, black jeans, band t shirts and leather jackets. It was an older crowd, probably there to relive the halcyon days of the uni bar of hold – me included.
Warming up the crowd were local hard rocking femme fatales, Stabbitha and the Knifey Wifeys – Sass on vocals, Eb on bass, Clair on guitar and Alex on drums. Out of the blocks they started to rev the crowd up with Sass the lead singer howling like a banshee through their first track, Wolves. As they progressed through their set we were treated to throbbing growls, screaming guitars, with a highlight being the most punk version of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive I have ever heard.
A mosh pit, well a dance pit – some of the punters were getting on – was starting to form up the front. As people moved forward to dance to the music, some super cool looking Japanese punk dudes were circulating around the crowd. The Jet Boys and Guitar Wolf were mingling and hanging out with the crowd, taking selfies and sharing beers with the locals.
After Stabbitha warmed the crowds up it was time for the first of main attraction, for Friday Night, it was the Jet Boys and The 18.104.22.168’s. It was hard to find out much information about the Jet Boys online, I’d been listening to some of their back catalogue, but had no idea what to expect.
They set up their gear and greeted the crowd. The guitarist didn’t speak much English, but he had been practicing local greetings and greeted everyone with “g’day c**ts”, priming everyone for the intense and superlative punk experience which was about to follow
The Jet Boys lived up to their name and launched into a blistering sonic assault. Lyrics were mostly in Japanese, so I can’t give a blow by blow set list, but the performance was intense and high energy, with incredible stage presence and charisma. The music was loud and heavy, swinging between punk rock and rockabilly.
The Jet Boys indulged us in some death defying stage antics, hurling guitars into the crowd, the guitarist tearing off his red jumpsuit and cavorting around the stage in leopard print jocks – he probably needed to, the sweat was pouring off him. At one point the yellow nunchucks came out, and were treated to a display of martial arts/guitar combination moves. Topping off their showmanship was when the guitarist and drummer swapped spots to belt out a cover of the Ramones, Hey Ho Let’s Go. We also heard a thumping rendition of I did it my way, in homage to Sid Vicious, before they finished up with a screaming epic rock finale, walking off the stage with screaming distortion.
It was all pretty breathless after that. I was not sure what to expect, but honestly if you ever get a chance to see these guys play, you will not be disappointed.
Next on the stage were the headliners, The 22.214.171.124’s, legendary all girl garage rock band, who had been playing since the 1980s. They had a big following in Japan, but were introduced to the world in 2004 when they appeared in Kill Bill.
When they came out on stage, the contrast between the two bands was pretty marked. The 126.96.36.199’s were immaculately coiffed in 1960s inspired buns, beehives and bobs, with chic upturned sunnies. They had a doo wap, rockabilly sound singing 1950s inspired garage rock with their silken Japanese voices. Their harmonies were sweet and sultry at the same time, reflecting the collision of Japanese and American culture.
The crowd were enthralled by their poise and presence, and while there was a language barrier, they had an infectious quality to the rhythms and harmonies, familiar forms blending with an exotic foreign language. There was a point, which in their home country it would have been a cue for the crowd to join in the singing, and you could feel the local crowd almost get it, like it was on the tips of their tongues. It was another superlative performance, reflecting a uniquely Japanese interpretation of an earlier rock era.
That was the end of the main show, afterwards, the Jet Boys, The 188.8.131.52’s and the Guitar Wolf crew all hung around mingling with the Adelaide crowd, making some connections, snapping selfies and enjoying the festival vibe. Capping off the night were the young locals The Lizards who belted some nineties inspired hard rocking tunes, while the band and the stragglers partied on.
On Saturday night, The 184.108.40.206’s are at it again, this time with the legendary Guitar Wolf, supported by the Hybernators and Superdose Gangway. I cannot recommend this experience highly enough, and hope we see some more next year.
Fringe Review By Jeremy Watkinson