Otoboke Beaver frolic with the collective ferocity you can only harness when you know, you just know, that what’s best in life is to be way cooler than the losers you hate. The Kyoto punk quartet (named for a “love hotel” in Osaka, in case you wondered if that entendre crossed the language barrier) exploded with a mix of visual style, punk precision, and noisy joy at the Fine Line last night. You shoulda been there.
A short lecture began the evening, as an offstage voice delivered a list of rules, all of them reasonable—don’t hop on stage, don’t post video of the show to YouTube, don’t steal the setlists. Over the next hour, we’d frequently hear that same voice modulate into an excitable shriek and close a song with “thankyouweareotobokebeaver.” It belonged to guitarist Yoyoyoshie (OB members go by a single name), the most kinetic onstage presence in the group. Her orange guitar, on which she played ziggity-zag lines or rhythmic chicken scratch or slabs of chonky skronk, matched her orange socks (well, yes, okay, probably vice versa) and if anyone was going to leap off the stage that night for some old-school crowd-surfing, it was her. (She did. Twice.)
All four members performed in sleeveless, cutely patterned dresses. Singer Accorinrin also wore pink sandals to match the streaks in her hair, and her signature move was to perch one foot on the monitor as though it was the prow of a ship and clasp her mic with both hands above her head in the pose of a mighty warrior or a bodybuilder. While she left much of the stage patter to Yoyoyoshie, Accorinrin did deliver an uncommonly straightforward pitch for merch sales: “We are so happy to make money. We have a lot of nice T-shirts that you must buy.”
As for the rhythm section, Hiro-Chan, with her two-toned black-and-white hair, was, in true bassist fashion, the quietest and most stolid of the crew, while Kahokiss’s virtuosic drumming, equally adept at straight-up hardcore forcebeat and intricately funkier patterns, seemed all the more impressive when she stepped out from behind the kit and revealed she was wearing white platform Croc boots.
Let me add that Kahokiss might be playing that whole range of rhythms in a song that barely stretched out past a minute. In that time Otoboke Beaver would transition from a catchy chant that could’ve been a chorus if they thought it worth the bother, to a thrashy breakdown that a duller band might make a whole set out of, to detours that cut abrasive noise with the best sort of tunes—the kind that it sounds like you made up on the spot.
Re-listening this morning to their fantastic 2020 album Super Champon, a burst of 18 songs in 21 minutes, I recognized a bunch of tunes from last night. But don’t expect me to provide a full setlist—I wasn’t even sure when some of the expertly rendered tantrums began or ended, or which tune belonged to which title, for the most part, because these snippetty songs meld together in a rush.
Well, yes, it’s also because I don’t speak Japanese—okay, it’s mostly because I don’t speak Japanese, though if anything makes me wish I did speak it more than Otoboke Beaver song titles ("Where did you buy such a nice watch you are wearing now," "You’re no hero shut up f*ck you man-whore") it’s the “rough English translation” of their lyrics on Genius. (From “I Am Not Maternal”: “Having let my parents meet their grandkid/Their grandkid, their grandkid/I immediately put it back in my belly." Johnny Rotten could never.)
Some English phrases did emerge from the songs last night: the ominous “I don’t know why!”s from “I checked your cellphone,” the single lyric of “PARDON?” (“I don’t know what you mean”) leading up to a "ha ha ha" climax, and whichever song ended with a unison cry of “Go to hell.” After Yoyoyoshie excitedly detailed the meals she consumed over the past two days, she asked what Accorinrin liked as a way of introducing the great Otoboke Beaver protest anthem “I won’t dish out salad” (pronounced sa-LAD, in a Japanese accent).
A recurring bit was for the band to freeze into poses, sometimes for what seemed like a full minute, until the room of bodies that had been ping-ponging just moments earlier fell silent. (Or silent enough—there’s always some dude.) At such times Yoyoyoshie stood, legs splayed with intent to rock, holding her instrument at the ready like a rifle.
After the set, the band posed in front of the audience for a group shot that took in was a wild mix of generations, from baby-faced all-age punks to gray-haired ancients who looked like they might have mail-ordered rare Japanese experimental noise vinyl during the Reagan Administration. Then the band raced through an encore that was shorter than the time it took for them to find Fine Line employee to shoot the crowd portrait.