This past Monday I want to see one of my favorite Japanese punk bands; Balzac! In the world of Japanese punk Balzac are legends in their own right. The band takes a heavy influence from the American band The Misfits. Balzac has taken what The Misfits started with the idea of `Horror Punk` and taken it to a much more dark and twisted place. Often, when people ask me who is Balzac I say they are the Japanese Misfits. Although, Balzac is much more than just a Japanese take on the classic sound and image of an American punk icon.
My venture into the dark heart of Balzac started with a bee line from work. I did not have time to change out of my suit and tie. I knew that I was going to stand out like a sore thumb walking into an underground punk bar but I did not care. The chance to see Balzac cannot be passed up no matter how I am dressed. I was mindful enough to wear a black suit and tie so I would not look too out of place. The train ride to Shin-Okobo was, to my surprise, very short. It only took me seven minutes to get to Shin-Okobo once I got to Ikebukuro. This gave me time to relax a little bit and get my wits about me before entering the Earthdom.
There were plenty of punks hanging around on the streets. This is usual for an evening when a good punk band is playing at the Earthdom. They like to hang out in the many sides streets drinking and picking up gals. Balzac brings out the more twisted punks from the underground punk scene in Tokyo. I do not see the more dark side of Tokyo punks so often. In fact, I had not seen any live shows in months! My working schedule has kept me from having the chance to get out to a show. Being off on Thursdays and Friday is not good for someone who likes going to punks shows in Tokyo. A lot of the best shows go down on the weekends, but Balzac played a very rare Monday show on a national holiday.
I entered the Earthdom about an half an hour before the the show started. The crowd was still lean as few people had an interest in seeing the opening act. I must admit that only reason I was there was to see Balzac and not some other band. Although, there must always be an opening act to get the crowd all warmed up for the main event. The first band was not too bad actually. They rocked as hard as they could. I think that front man was a little drunk. He fell over twice and slurred this words just a little too much.
About half way though the opening act`s set I kind of lost interest and headed into the bar area to chill for a while. I have always really liked the bar area at the Earthdom. Its got this relaxed vibe that is unlike any other rock bar I have been to in Tokyo. Even the bar area of the Shinjuku Loft does not have the same kind of relaxed vibe that the Earthdom bar offers. People lounge around on couches which should have been thrown away a long time ago. Casual conversation can easily be had and most people just do their own thing.
While I was having a good time hanging at the bar it soon came time for the mighty Balzac to take the stage. I had not seen Balzac play in several years so I was really excited to see them play again. The last time I saw them play live was at a music fest at Tokyo speed way a few years back. Kiss was the headliner and Balzac was playing on a second stage. It was a damn fine experience but I had never seen Balzac play a small underground place before. I found myself a semi-safe spot to the side of `the pit` and soon enough Balzac took the stage.
The kids went crazy as soon as Balzac played the first note. Fans of the band are known to be hardcore loyal. In their eyes there is no band other than Balzac. Many fans dressed up in classic Balzac Skull&Bones jump suits. The gals at the show love the guys who go all out for the kings of Japanese Horror punk. If you want to make a Horror punk gal wet in Tokyo just wear a Balzac jump suit and she is all yours.
The front man started things out with the classic Balzac megaphone bit. He sang into a megaphone which was blood stained and had Balzac plastered on the side. It provides for an interesting sound live. The small venue also made the sound of the band much more intense(I still am having trouble hearing very well). They really go crazy live as compared to just listening to a CD. In the studio Balzac likes to experiment with tech-o beats and samples which makes their albums a musical adventure. Balzac live is a horse of a different color. They go balls out wild with a sound so intense it defies all similarities to punk rock. One might mistake them as hardcore rather than Horror punk. Their loyal fans seem to love every minute.
The one song I was really happy they played was `The Day the Earth Caught Fire.` This song was covered by none other than The Misfits as part of a split album with Balzac a few years back. It is a great Horror punk song! The fans at the Earthdom went crazy for the song and for good reason.
It was a great performance by Balzac and one I will not soon forget. They pulled out all the stops and gave everyone a great show. They even did too encores just because the fans demanded it! Most bands will not even do one encore much less too! Balzac will be playing around the Tokyo area for a while so if you can go to a show I really suggest checking them out. If you like intense Horror punk you will love Balzac live.
I must say sorry for not getting any photos. The crowd was just too wild for me to get any decent pics to share. You will just have to go too this band for yourself.