Guitar Wolf!

Japan’s greatest punk rock band ever came to town last night and I was there.  I hadn’t seen them in nine years, since I saw them at my friend’s club in Japan.  It was killer.

They put on a surprisingly energetic show for some guys who aren’t young.  If the legend is correct they put out their first album at the age of 33 and that was sometime in the 90’s.  By the end of the show their leather outfits were soaked in sweat. I wish I had taken pictures or recorded something, but trust me when I say, you just have to be there.  I’ll post a couple of their songs.  I know it’s cliche, but the recordings don’t really do their live show justice either.

Anymore, the best rock and roll bands walk a thin line between awesomeness and self-parody.  Everything Guitar Wolf does is over-the-top and cartoon-y.  Which is great!  My arms were sore from clapping along to their songs.  I went into the show, tired from a working Monday but once they got going I was sold.

If you watch the above video, you’ll probably notice what I consider either their most nervy, or maybe most self-parodic element- the fact that Seiji, AKA Guitar Wolf is a terrible guitar player.  And that’s a studio recording.  Live he plays much worse.  There isn’t a solo this man hasn’t met that he couldn’t fat finger or a key he could stay inside of for the duration of a song.

It takes courage to be that inept at an instrument and then name your band after it.  Their drummer, on the other hand, is a fucking master, and last night he played the physical equivalent of running a marathon.  There was one stretch that seemed like 20 minutes where Seiji took off his guitar, started crowd-surfing, pulled someone else out of the audience, instructed that guy on how to play a song, had that guy play for a few minutes, took the guitar back, played some more, finally finishing the song.  The whole time Drum Wolf (?) was tearing it up on the drums, not slowing down, not missing a beat.  The man’s not a big guy, but he was hitting hard.  I don’t if I’ve ever seen a better drummer.

The best thing about Guitar Wolf is what makes for the best punk rock- enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm and earnestness.  Those take maybe the most courage of all.  I wondered how a band like Guitar Wolf, which relies so much on interacting with the audience, would handle playing in the USA, since I don’t think any of them speak much English.  When I saw them in Japan there was a lot of call and response, which wouldn’t really work here.  Instead Seiji relied on the universal language- gestures!  It worked though.  I was clapping along.  I was raising my fists.  The only speaking he did was when he was trying to tell the guy he invited on stage to jump when he played:

You must jump.  It’s the most important thing.  For your life.  For ROCK AND ROLL!

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