It’s one of my first gigs since I came back from Japan.
I wanted to look for a different view of Japan from the cliched country depicted in the west.
The “country of extremes” (un)balanced between tradition and modernity.
The country of Geishas, unbelievable nature and HI-Tech… erm… gadgets.
To be fair, I didn’t find the country of extremes. I found a country. A country with its own feel, culture, places, philosophy. I haven’t seen manga in the street, Lupin, or samurais.
They listen to all music, not just grindcore jazz, death metal or classical.
They shop as we do. Eat better then we do and are in a mad love with tuna.
And don’t speak English.
Bo Ningen are Japanese, no questions about that. They dress with colourful long Japanese clothes, have almond eyes, long straight hair.
Bo Ningen moved to London few years ago. They live there and tour predominantly UK.
Bo Ningen are Taigen, singing, screaming and playing bass, Kohhei and Yuki, on guitars, no idea which is which, and Monchan, the drummer closest to your idea of a Samurai you’ll ever meet on a stage.
My first time live with Bo Ningen was at the 1234 Festival in Shoreditch in 2010. It was an early set. They were at their beginning, played a small tent of a small hipster festival when hipster were not yet dressed up as 30s USA farmers with 80s colourful plastic spectacles.
Bo Ningen show was a blast, almost a hour of uninterrupted noise decorated by rigorously Japanese screamed lyrics.
3 years passed and few hundreds bands passed in front of my lens too. In the meanwhile I missed a now legendary set of Bo Ningen at the Wish You Were Here festival, here in Cambridge, and more gigs in London but I kept the memory of that first show and the desire to see them again.
They spent these years playing and recording two albums, both critically acclaimed. Self-titled Bo Ningen in 2010 and Line the Wall earlier this year (2013).
Still is for their live shows that people keep talking about them. Both friends and specialised musiczines never stop praising their sets too much.
The chance arrived by chance as by chance I read that this Japanese quartet was about to touch base on the Portland Arms, the now refurbished and shiny pub not far from my house.
it’s the end of the worst May in… forever… and glimpse of a better weather June it’s highly wished but not on the horizon.
It’s almost my birthday. For the records.
It’s a perfect thursday. I have my scooter. I am in.
Bo Ningen are on stage setting up guitars and pedals while I set up my camera struggling to get the mist condensed on the large front lens of my ultra wide zoom away. The temperature inside is far hotter than the fresh evening I faced on my ride. Physics is merciless. Solution is to wait.
The gig blows up in an eruption of guitars, by the two guitarists and the heavy bass that form the front line. The riffs seem to be neater and more defined to what I remember. Not that I can perceive a clear song structure, it’s not Led Zeppelin, but there is a vague sense of melody, the Japanese way, that makes the songs… actually… songs.
The singing is still in Japanese which to a non Japanese person (maybe to Japanese too) means just another layer of sound sent from the microphone to the mixer that then amplifies it and send back to the speaker next to my left ear. I brought professional earplugs. I am safe.
As for the 2010 festival set I remembered, Bo Ningen show is an escalation that towards the end fuse in a mystical relationship between men and instruments. It’s like trance. There is no more space for those riffs. The magma erupts as if Mount Fuji decided to wake up in a Cambridge pub.
It’s tumultuous and grows to the point of exasperation then, when perfection is reached, it ends.
Breaking News! I bought a film camera body.
After 3 years I’ll come back to shooting B&W film. I will do concerts too. Live on 35mm nick still has a reason to exist.
This Bo Ningen show has been the main reason why this happened.
Because I promised a friend some B&W photos of this show for a music website. I couldn’t produce them.
The gig was lit by the much hated led lights, much more hated than the mean old red spots. If those reds are impossible to deal on a digital sensors, there is still space to convert in digital B&W with ‘decent’ results.
It is not a solution, as Mark Lanegan shows, it is better than nothing.
I love blurred B&W shots of concert, one of my all-times favourite set is A Places to Bury Strangers shot here at the old Portland Arms before it went refurbished back in 2009. Those grainy b&w shots live of their own life. (photo below)
A similar but digital of one of the 2 Bo Ningen guitarist B&W shot looks dead. (below)
If you know how I can sort this problem I will appreciate, so far I ordered some ilford rolls and will spend more time in my favourite darkness