Review: POLYSICS – Seattle, Studio Seven, 9/21/03

It’s still POLYSICS week at Kittysneezes! To celebrate my trip to NYC to see POLYSICS on their last tour with Kayo, here’s a review of one of their concerts, back from 2003 — posted as written 7 years ago.  Mang, that’s a while.  Also — footage from this show is available on the PippikippippiP in USA DVD — and I’m in some of the crowd shots!

POLYSICS are the greatest band in the world. If you want evidence of this claim, you could pick up one of their records, or better still, go to one of their shows. I have done both. This is about the show.

POLYSICS were the first band. Normally, I’d be kind of pissed over that, since a band of that talent should be the headliner, if not doing a “An Evening With” sort of thing, but if they were the headliner, I couldn’t see them since it’s a work night (I’m working Graveyard Shift, you see), so it worked out.

They started the show by using Atari-era game soundtracks for the pre-show music. That was incredibly awesome. During this, their roadie (more on him later) would make sure everything was set up – in time to the track. So, it’d look like he was playing, I don’t know, Centipede or whatever on the bass, which is a really sort of odd sight.

After a little bit, they come out. Their uniforms (Photos courtesy of Rich Anderson) for this tour are a black dress-shirt/pants, with a sticker(? — didn’t look embroidered to me, and I was pretty close, but I’m also blind. Contributing to the sticker theory, it looked like the corner of Hiro’s was pulling up a little.) reading “POLYSICS” over the left-breast, and on the right was a metal “P” logo, about, I don’t know, 8 inches big? Someone who can actually tell these things can correct me. Anyway, it was pretty big and pinned on and would sort of flap forward. Also, they had on visors, sort of like DEVO in “The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprize” video. (These are the uniforms they’re wearing on the Kaja Kaja Goo EP; presumably, also on National P, but I’ve never seen anything from that album, so I can’t say for certain. [2010 edit: Yes, they do. And that album is real good.])

Then they started playing. Hiro, or rather, all of them are insanely good and insanely energetic. I have absolutely no idea how they can sustain for an hour at the rate they were going (more on this later, too). They started with Hiro sort of twitching around on stage, then taking his guitar and putting it on, twitching more and more, more and more violently, then playing a bit. Then when the intro-song ends, they go into “XCT”, which is one of my favorites of their songs ever (this is technically true, but just because pretty much all of their songs are my favorites of their songs).

It’s impossible to depict the amount of sheer, raw energy that they were exuding, so I’m not going to try. But needless to say that Hiro was almost a blur of motion. And while part of that was because of me jumping around and banging my head and all that stuff, even if I had been perfectly still[1], he would have still been just this side of blur-dom.

Anyway, they played mostly earlier stuff (they did do “Kajakajagoo” from the new EP, and I think one or two other Brand Brand New Songs), since Neu! just came out over here (their first Japan Major Label album, which came out a few years ago – I want to say 1998? I’m not certain, maybe 2000.), so it was new to most[2] of the crowd.

Also, they played “Good”, which shall come into play later in the story.

But… yes. They were INCREDIBLE. Before the show, I gave the merch table guy exactly 50 dollars in cash in exchange for a sticker (which later turned out to be a patch!), two buttons, 2 shirts for myself, and 2 for Field Marshall Stack. (Field Marshall Stack later got buttons also). After the show, I gave Dale some money to get a shirt and Neu!, since he didn’t have that one. However this left me with five dollars left that I had not given over to POLYSICS yet. This made me feel very distraught. I was considering suicide, but then inspiration struck.

I walked over to the merch guy, said “Hi, it’s, uh, me again” and he smiled, since he wasn’t expecting me to buy so much the first time. I say “Uh, I’ve got a really silly request…” and he goes “Uh, OK.” and I explain to him that I want to use my five dollars to pay for 5 dollars of the Next Person To Buy Something’s purchase. He didn’t really understand at first (Not only was it sort of a weird thing in the first place, but there was a little bit of a language barrier going on, since he was Japanese, and also a noise barrier cause we were in a club.), but after a few minutes he understood (he looked around for someone behind me, which caused me to explain that I didn’t know who the next person would be, just whoever it happened to be would get the extra 5 bucks of POLYSICSage (For context, that’d be equivalent to, say, 5 posters, 10 buttons, 5 patches, or half a record, or not quite half a shirt). At the time, there was no one behind me, although about halfway through, a guy who was doing video for them overheard and thought it was a cool idea, and kind of helped explain it to the merch guy (which probably helped a bit). He then bought a couple of posters[3], and asked if I’d like to come outside and say a few words on a tape for the band/their fans in Japan.

Anyway, with empty wallet[4], we wandered to the door where they were out loading stuff to the POLYSICS’ U-Haul, and ducked out, but a security guard yelled at us and said we couldn’t go out this door, and angrily shut it. (This is the first time I’ve been at the Studio Seven, and while it’s a pretty good venue, ceiling-beer aside, the security are ASSHOLES. They were surly when they turned us away from the doors “DOORS ARE AT SEVEN.” even though all the materials I could find said six, and that dude.) So, anyway, I’m writing this from the club, since we were unable to leave through that door, and as such, I’ll never be able to leave the club, ever. So, we milled around outside/inside, and hung out while the camera guy started to get stuff. Then he goes in to the POLYSICS’ RV (they’ve got an RV! That’s so cool!), and gets them to come outside (they’re in their civvies now). They’re signing stuff for a small throng of fans. At first, I wasn’t sure if they were Friends Of People or just Fans, so we all hung back and listened to the next band suck. Field Marshall Stack kept mocking them, which was amusing, but I still pitied them because it is impossible to follow up the Greatest Band Of All Time.

After a while, Dale gets sick of our indecisiveness (as is his wont), and starts saying to GO OVER THERE and MEET THE POLYSICS GODDAMMIT, and he actually gives me his copy of Neu! to have them sign and then for me to give him my old, un-signed copy (or rather the liners of same), and so we do.

POLYSICS are the MOST POLITE BAND EVER. They were REALLY COOL and REALLY HAPPY and REALLY GOOD-NATURED and EVERYTHING. They are just SO AWESOME, and their English is actually pretty good[5]. Hiro asked me about my shirt (I wore the Topato Magritte one), and I explained that it said “This is not a potato” in French, and it was from a comic, and that he was a flying potato (“Flying potato!”), and that he was poisonous (this made him laugh). Anyway, all of them signed my/Dale’s record, and we all shook hands and it was really really cool.

Shortly after, they went back into their RV, just because no one else was really around. Although, before that, the assistant Camera Guy (OK: I may as well give these people names. Assistant Camera Guy is Tony, and Camera Guy is Scott. Both are really cool people.) gave the POLYSICS juice, and also their roadie (Toshi). Toshi came over and talked to us a bit (he was surprised and happy when we told him that it was the best show ever, and that we weren’t sure but we thought it even beat out the Residents. He called them (the Residents) a silly band. Which I think they’d appreciate, cause they ARE silly.) Anyway, THEN they went into the RV, so it was just Scott, Tony and Toshi out there with us, and we started talking to Tony, and he’s REALLY COOL. On his pass-clip, he had a DDA Tour Residents Backstage Pass and talked about how he got to meet them since his brother works for them and everything, and how also, he’s seen them on every tour since 13th Anniversary with Snakefinger (he’s even seen the last Snakefinger/Vestal Virgins tour where Snakefinger died), and for that, since the Red Eye was stolen, he made his own out of plaster of Paris, only it held up, and so now he wears it to every show, dressed in theme. He was the Jesident (dressed as Jesus with eyeball[6]) at the Wormwood shows (he said there’s pictures up at Smelly Tongues), and at DDA, he was the Devident (dressed as a Devil).

Tony also told us that he had asked them to play “Good” during the sound check (which is especially funny, since part of the song lyrics are “What are you doing?/I am singing/What did you do today?/I did sound check”), because that was his favorite song of theirs, only when he was taping it for the video, his mic wasn’t working, and Scott didn’t tape it. So, it turned out that they had it in the normal set list, so they got it then, so it worked out. But it was funny, cause when he asked if we knew “‘Good’, y’know, the song by the Plastics”, we knew who he meant (both the song, since not only was it one of the first POLYSICS songs I’d heard, but also, Pizzicato Five did it, and for a while I was really interested in the Plastics, but that sort of turned out to be more in theory rather than practice, as I thought the Plastics were Merely OK), Toshi got kind of astonished that we actually KNEW who the Plastics were. Which was pretty cool, cause we were all like “yeah!” and he was all “YOU KNOW THE PLASTICS?!”, and we were all like “Yeah, we know who the Plastics are![7]”.

It turns out Tony just got back with Scott from Japan, where they were hired by DEVO to tape their show, and how the POLYSICS would do 2-3+ hour shows as the Headliners. Note how I said I couldn’t picture how they could keep that energy up for an HOUR without like spontaneously combusting or something. And he also said that the Japanese fans were usually as into it and excited as the band was. This basically dropped my jaw, because, uh, as I said, you have to see them to fully appreciate how INTENSE they are. I mean, the records are pretty much Intensity Defined already, but… yeah. MY GOD.

After talking to Scott and Tony (we didn’t get to be interviewed for the POLYSICS tape, because they were running behind with getting the tapes to the label and stuff, who needed them in Japan on the 24th, but they also had to dupe the tapes, too), we had to drop me off at work, so we went, but a good time was had by all, and Tony and Scott said that this was the Best Show of the 4 they’d been to, and that the audience was So Into It, and they were So On, and the Venue Was Awesome. We bid each other goodnight, and the three of us went off driving off, me to work, Dale and Field Marshall Stack to Sunset Bowl.

Luckily, work turned out to be in the club, also.

If you want to check out POLYSICS, consult your local library, OR visit these fine sites:

  • Asian Man Records — Their US Label. They’ve got Neu! and Hey Bob, My Friend! for pretty cheap, AND you help out a cool label, and by buying POLYSICS albums from them, you make sure they know that POLYSICS are AWESOME (not something they need to be told) and that hopefully they’ll continue to release their albums over here.
  • CDJapan — A Japanese CD/DVD shop where you can purchase the Japanese albums/DVDs. I’ve bought stuff here from the past, and it takes a little while sometimes, and they send it Registered so you have to sign for it, but it’s AWESOME and their prices are pretty decent (Well, for Japanese CDs, anyway…). I recommend their DVD especially, but only if you have a hacked DVD player. (The disc is Region 2).
  • POLYSICS.Com The official site, both in Japanese and in English.
  • POLYSICS Lyrics Database Lyrics from all of their albums, some translated.


[1] It is only possible to be perfectly still at a POLYSICS concert if you are under very, very heavy sedation. Even if you are deaf, you will still be compelled by the music, because they are so frenetic and loud you can feel the vibrations very easily. The kickdrum was almost like a Vortex Cannon, and I’ve been hit in the head with one of those, and the drum was doing the _same damn thing_, only not quite as strong because I don’t think it actually had a hole in the front (which was kind of odd, since they usually do.

[2] I say most, as right near us, there was a ULTRA HARDCORE JAPANESE FAN who was there. It was cool, because Hiro threw the pick into the crowd, and me, Field Marshall Stack, Dale and her were looking on the floor for it for, like, five minutes. I don’t think either of us found it, but no one asked the Hardcore Fan because we didn’t know her. But she was just jumping around and everything just as much as we were, and she’d shout out requests[a] in Japanese.

[2a] At least I think they were requests.

[3] With his own money, not with any of the five, since I think we both realized that would have been hell of cheap.

[4] This is not entirely true. I actually had about 55 cents from the burger joint we stopped at before the show. Also, lots of things that aren’t money are in there, too. Like my MST3K Info Club Card.

[5] I only mention this because on the records, the English lyrics are rather hard to understand. Although I think perhaps if I knew Japanese, I would find that the Japanese lyrics might also be difficult to understand because of the Sheer Raw Rock Energy And Power that POLYSICS Exude From Every Fiber Of Being. This is the best sort of not being understood ever, because as Autograph taught, things go better with ROCK.

[6] He also said that before the show, he actually FOUND a Santa Dog, and since Santa Dog’s a Jesus Fetus, he hooked it to his costume with an umbilical cord and carried it around[a].

[6a] This is quite possibly, one of the coolest things in the world.

[7] If you DON’T know who the Plastics are: They were a Japanese band in the 1980s, who actually had bit of minor Stateside Success. At the time, they seemed to be sort of considered the Japanese DEVO[a]. “Good” is probably their most famous song, although I tend to prefer the covers of it to the original. Anyway, one of their videos actually appeared on SCTV, and I think there’s at least one of their albums available on CD over here (and you could probably find LPs pretty easily in used record shops). The one story I remember about them is one time they were opening for DEVO in Japan, and they came out in Sumo Suits, shouting “We are DEVO”, because I guess in Japan, “DEVO” sounds like “debo” (or “dibo”?) which I guess means “fat”. So, it was a pun. Then, I assume they played their set, because that’d be kind of weird if they didn’t actually play any songs, since I’d assume the DEVO/Sumo thing would get old really, really quickly.

[a] This doesn’t have anything to do with the Plastics, but apparently Jerry Casale’s actually said that POLYSICS are The New DEVO. Which, I mean, was obvious before what with POLYSICS taking and building on some of the same themes and visual elements, but it’s always good to have an endorsement.


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