Japanese jet rock legends Guitar Wolf landed their rock n roll mothership at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on May 13th, 2011, the fourth stop on their Hoochie Coochie Space Men 2011 US tour in support of their tenth full length album, Space Battleship Love, which came out on Sony in Japan but, like most of their recent output, has yet to see a release in North America.
But shit, distribution be damned, the band brought their all to the small sold out Williamsburg venue and the audience ate it up like a pack of starving dogs hungry to feast on real rock n roll, something seemingly in very short supply these days. With my wife home sick, Heavy Metal Horace (who popped his Guitar Wolf cherry this glorious night) and yours truly hit the venue around 10pm and missed openers Cheap Time (check them out on In The Red Records) but arrived in time to down a jet beer before the holy trinity took the stage to the sounds of a revving motorcycle engine. Feedback ensued as new Bass Wolf U.G. and long time drummer Toru took the stage and made some righteous noise before Seiji himself took front and center. Hair was combed, rock was respected, cans of beer were downed with no fear and the band broke into Machine Gun Guitar, culminating in a bit where, as is typical at Guitar Wolf shows, Seiji tried to mow down the audience using his guitar as a Tommy Gun.
From there the band blistered through a massive set of material from throughout their discography, blasting through better known songs like Invader Ace, Wild Zero, Jet Generation, Invader Ace, Caa Nana Fever, Missile Me, and All Through The Night Buttobase to more recent stuff like UFO Romantics, Jet Beer, Jet Satisfaction and tracks off of their latest (no English release – beats me what they’re called but they’re good!).
The sound man at the venue deserves credit for doing what few before him have done – the levels were set so that the show was loud enough to make you shake but at the same time audible enough that you could make out what songs the band was playing and understand Seiji’s periodic screams and yells and rants (at one point trying to explain how he had come to New York City as a high school student and at another point trying to instruct the audience to snap their fingers, not to clap). Security was lax enough that anyone who wanted to get into it could stage dive, crowd surf or slam dance but the audience was smart enough not to set out to hurt anyone – that was the band’s job. At one point a man got on another man’s shoulders, approached the stage, stood in front of Seiji’s microphone and chugged beer and at another point Seiji got a couple out of the audience and taught them how to dance Guitar Wolf style. Midway through the set a rather jolly looking fellow was pulled out of the crowd and given the distinct honor of playing one of the three guitars Seiji used throughout the night while the front man danced around, snapped his fingers, and slammed the mic stand into the ceiling.
The band played a solid hour, sweat and spittle pouring off of them (all three in leather from start to finish, though Toru understandably had to take his shirt off due to heat – his Yakuza style tattoos getting a cheer or two from some of the female audience members) and then managed three full encores culminating in the evening’s highlight in which Seiji got a bunch of people up on stage, built a human pyramid out of them and climbed to the top to finish singing. The fact that this band has been around almost twenty-five years now means nothing in terms of them slowing down and if May 13th’s NYC show was anything to go by, they show no signs of letting up anytime soon. Thank God for that. As a wise man once said, “love has no borders, nationalities or genders” and neither does rock n roll.