The Piqnic

The Piqnic


After seeing London based Japanese ‘acid punk’ 4-piece Bo Ningen at The Ruby Lounge almost exactly 4 years ago, I left the venue in some kind of state of shock. The words that I wrote about the event (review) could not convey with enough fervency just how great I thought the gig was, and I ended it by almost commanding every reader to go see them live for themselves, as soon as possible. The option to witness them again left me with a very tough decision to make. Would my expectations for tonight’s gig be too high for the band to fulfil, as the element of surprise is no longer on their side? It’s questions like this that keep me up at night.

Fellow Japanese band The Piqnic support. After hearing just a few bars of their work on Soundcloud, the decision to travel into darkest Salford an hour early, becomes a no-brainer. Their sound is more psychedelic than Bo Ningen’s – each of the 5 songs in their set pushes the 10 minute mark, reminding me of the dark repetitive beats, grinding guitars, filthy baselines and mantra-like vocals of Dead Skeletons.

The slender frames of each musician explode into life as they start their set by making as much noise as possible, throwing their guitars, drumsticks and long hair around, with total abandon. They eventually settle into something that’s recognisable as a tune, and perform an exhilarating set of 5 feature length sonic joyrides. ‘Hebi’ is a highlight, along with a tune that features repeated lyrics, which may possibly be “everything’s heavy”.

Their last tune is like something out of Sin City, and the band are in an all-or-nothing kind of mood. The female bassist wanders into the crowd as the singer holds his head as if surpressing invasive thoughts. The lead guitarist on the far right strums his guitar with any available surface/object, including the edge of the stage, and his teeth. He finishes the set with just 3 strings intact. The drummer pounds the toms while standing, challenging the other musicians to keep up with the pace that he’s setting. They’re really bloody good. Judging by the sheer volume that our “accidental Editor” Simon Poole generated with a whistle; he, the rest of the crowd, and myself, are all going to give this band a good Googling when we get home.

Bo Ningen

Bo Ningen

Bo Ningen couldn’t have hoped for a better warm-up act. Bassist and vocalist Taigen Kawabe prepares himself next to the merch stall, by doing some stretches. The gauntlet has been thrown. Strangely, their first tune ‘Daikaisei’ turns out to be the highlight. It has everything. They launch into it and intelligently construct a wall-of-noise, brick by brick. The breakdown happens when they can reach no higher, and the impact is stunning. My spine tingles, and I can’t help but smile (quite rare for me).

The tunes in their 7 song set differ from one to the other, with emphasis being made on the 1 note bassline during ‘Slider’, and then an unpredictable beat during the next tune, and then an addictive guitar riff the next. ‘Henkan’ is the most recognisable song tonight, but ‘Koroshitai Kimochi’ is a personal favourite, with a guitar sound akin to a police siren, behind vocals that are spat rhythmically, like an incredibly talented parrot. When not singing, Taigen parades around the front of the stage, mouthing words as if facially expressing the notes that he’s playing on his bass, while making eye contact with as many fans as possible.

One criticism that I had from their last performance was for the slower song. In the middle of their set, after a fragmented start involving guitar effects that sound like an old clock being dismantled, they play at half-speed, with a funky beat (possibly ‘Gasmark Rabbit’). But, the closest thing that they have to a ballad tonight is the penultimate tune, which contains lush, refreshing guitar chords and carries us nicely towards the finale.

They invite Lydia Lunch onstage to cover Suicide’s ‘Ghost Rider’, which I’m familiar with from The Rollins Band’s cover version on The Crow soundtrack. The 70’s punk/no wave icon struts around the stage in her leather jacket, looking as punk as ever, improvising to the bands extended experimentation. Taigen holds his bass with the base against the ceiling while he and Lydia smack the strings in a random free-for-all.

The crowd appeared uninhabited tonight, fully immersing themselves in the all-encompacing sound (it was loud). For me, the impact of their live shows somewhat outshines their recorded material, but that’s not to say that their discography isn’t well worth delving into. I’ll repeat my plea from 4 years ago – go see this band live, and the support band The Piqnic, as soon as you can.

BO NINGEN Official | Facebook | Twitter THE PIQNIC Official | Facebook | Twitter

Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.