I’m a believer. And those dudes who were going ape sh*t in the front row, they’re believers. The dude who got tossed from the Grog during the opening number, “Flower Sun Rain,” I’m pretty sure he’s a believer, too. Else, he wouldn’t have been so pissed that he only managed to hear five minutes of Japan’s now legendary, Boris.
The first thing you notice when Boris takes the stage, besides the stacks of amplifiers and the giant gong behind drummer Atsuo Mizuno, is how small they all are, and consequently, how such a small band can make such a large sound. Unless you were in the front row of the packed Grog Shop, you’d be hard pressed to catch a glimpse of Atsuo, and his Seinfeld like poofy shirt, bassist/guitarist/vocalist Takeshi and his double necked guitar, the ever so stoic, Wata, on guitar, or frequent contributor, Michio Kurihara, also on guitar, who had joined the band on this tour. Look, I know that it’s not the size of the man, but the size of the amp, yet it was still a surprise, how hard, and how heavy they played once the slight and quiet groove of “Flower Sun Rain” gave way to the throbbing Rock ‘N’ Roll overdrive of “Buzz-In.” I’m so accustomed to heavy bands being and acting larger than life, and here were four short musicians from Japan, filling the room with a heavenly buzz, out shredding the most manly of American metal men.
Doom, drone, scuzz, fuzz, or metal. I may not know how to label it, but I can describe what followed as amazing. The heavier numbers like “Laser Beam” and “Statement” had the front of the crowd thrashing and slam dancing, with many others head banging in approval. While “My Neighbor Satan,” with its alternating movements of flowery, ambient tones, and thick, rumbling chords provided a much needed break for stiff necks and sore joints.
With Boris’ set list largely following the U.S. track listing of Smile, adding the occasional b-side like “Floor Shaker” and Pink’s title track to fill out the 90+ minutes, the night’s climax was destined to be Smile’s closing suite of “You Were Holding My Umbrella/…” And what a climax it was. They jammed on that number for what had to be 20 minutes. I went outside for a cigarette, got a glass of water from the bar, checked out the merch table and its pricey imports, and the band were still jamming. They jammed for what had to be another 20 minutes. They shocked the crowd with blitzing feedback. Covered the crowd with glacial movements of sound. Retreated back to abstract tones and ambient textures, only to bring that wonderful rumble back again. This wasn’t some band indulging their inner rock star on stage. The reverence in the eyes of the front row could tell you that much. No, Boris are rock stars, and those fans fixated on the stage came for 40 minutes of bliss, and to see Atsuo attack that giant gong with all the energy he could muster as the guitarists blazed away. They came to be one with their heroes, as they did once Atsuo leapt into the crowd, not once, but twice. And they wanted more, as the band kept jamming after Atsuo left the stage. More than anything else, they wanted to believe that there are still bands who can change your life, and make no mistake about it, Boris is that kind of band.
1. Flower Sun Rain
2. Buzz In
3. Laser Beam
6. Floor Shaker
7. My Neighbor Satan
8. Ka Re Ha Te Ta Sa Ki
9. You Put Up Your Umbrella
Disclaimer: This set list was scribbled hastily at 1 a.m. and I swear there were 12 songs in the set, but when I opened my notebook to go over my notes, I only had 10. So take it for what it’s worth.