The Greenroom Festival
Yokohama, Japan
May 19th & 20th
live review

We head west from Tokyo along to the coastal port city of Yokohama for the annual Greenroom Festival, which is blessed with the bluest sun heated sky and heavenly cool salt scented breeze, a surf heavy, beach relaxed weekend is under-way and we are getting into the right head space with outdoor yoga, conservation art, drinking under d’ambre solaire and some truly great live music.

Def Tech’s Shen and Micro hit the stage running, literally, with ‘Pacific Island Music’ ~ “So get up out your seat and dance around We got that ragga rasta gunpowder feelin’ song” a great jumping, bounding number, everyone join in the outdoor life anthem. Splitting in 2007, there was a hugely ecstatic response to their return in 2010, recently completing the successful ‘UP’ Japan Tour Playing outside in the bright sunshine is the perfect place for the energetic Jawaiian reggae that Def Tech offer, with just a touch of sweet lover-man smooth when they take it down.
Singing in both English and Japanese the music is infectiously accessible, live Def Tech are fun, gregarious and always have some little surprises in their shows. “Yume to genjitsu no hazama de reisei to jounetsu no aida de Rimitto aru one time.
Jinsei wo mitasarenai hibi mo nan naku to Konaseru jibun ni mazu naritai to” the entire crowd have their hands in the air for the length of ‘My Way’.

“Daijobu? Daijobu?” asks Micro checking everyone is okay in the heat, they throw out bottles of water the crowd playfully catch then cheer to congratulate the ‘winner’, then all arms are up and swaying as ‘Catch the Way’ is beautifully sung.

The spaces between the stages is a mix of dancing, drinking, eating and socializing. People wander or sit, there is no litter because everyone cleans up after themselves, bags and seats are left to fetch fresh drinks, check out the live painting, a band or a stall after all no one will be stealing it. Children play, dance or make giant papier-mache sea monsters, the environment is safe and people are considerate of each other ~ everyone is smiling or laughing ”“ singing or talking.

From San Diego, Slightly Stoopid may seem at first (much like The Drums) to be a slightly of-kilter booking for Greenroom till you hear their music: a reggaefushion of acoustic rock, blues and punk rock. Just the right side of mellow and whoo hoo for the late afternoon, enough beer has been drink and the tequila is passed around the audience up front and by the third song things are well and truly moving as an ever increasing skanking mosh pit gets going. Not all Slightly Stoopid’s lyrics are going to fly well with everyone, but, right at this moment the musical dexterity rather than the lyrical integrity is what everyone is enjoying.

The chance to relax sun stimulated eyes and hang out in a cool darkroom away from the sultry air sounds like a great option. The Greenroom Festival makes perfect use of not just the outside but the inside of the buildings at Akarenga Soko, the stunningly restored 19th century red brick buildings, originally tax offices, now a beautiful area to stroll, shop and enjoy events and exhibitions.

So to the third floor and the Greenroom Gallery the room is almost pitch black and the few lights in shades of pink and purple pick out Mustang as they arrive one by one on stage. The French three piece offer up a an engaging mix of new wave, rockabilly and punk it’s defiantly throwing a nod out to the likes of Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground and The Stooges but it feels fresher and more vibrant than it sound on paper. Jean Felzine is quite the alluring front-man (keyboard, percussion and guitar) he sings with conviction, passion and a stoic conviction – spellbound I failed to even attempt a translation from French and buy completely into the music and the band. Playing several tracks from last years ‘Tabou’ album, Remi Faure does wonders on the drums, and Johan Gentile is comfortable working his bass, showing that everyone is a great musician, and this is not a band of costumed throwbacks. Humorous and entertaining they are engaging and interesting “Puisses-tu pleurer mille larmes sur moi Prie qui tu veux mais personne ne viendra Puisses-tu crever de rage mille fois” but perhaps with lyrics like this you don’t want to piss them off.

It is as the sun fades into the ocean that The Drums take to the stage to an affably anticipating audience opening with ‘What You Were’ it is as bitter-sweet as this time of day can be, the melodic pop bounce balances with Jonathan Pierce’s undulating yet reflective vocals. The Drums live are enticingly warm and effectively hypnotic. “Arigato!” says Jonathan through his eyelashes as Jacob Graham keyboard chimes in. “Your my best friend but then you died” has an opening line so polarizing been delivered in such an idyllic romantic tone? The tarmac sky, the candle lit stage and Jonathan’s winning moves traversing the full length of the stage has intoxicated our limbs into a lascivious sway. “We’re having such a nice time” shares Jonathon, it does not take a full bar for the audience to recognised the opening to ‘Money’ and the stimulation speeds up the dancing “Before I die I’d like to do something nice” The Drums wear their influences on the outside sure, but they do it with such honeyed poignant lyrics laying under either a opus of melancholy or infectious do wop pop, they quite simply are one of the best bands of the past few years.

One of the most enjoyable singer songwriters to grace a stage Donavon Frankenreiter has close to the entire attending audience waiting, almost silently in the dark. From the side of the stage he turns and a couple of thousand people shout his name it breaks the excited tension and as the blaze of lights illuminate the stage he receives an ecstatic boisterous welcome. Opening with a new song ‘Shine’ he instantly takes us to the beach, on a warm evening in Hawaii, the lyrics like a romantic apology “Just let our love shine To the end of time” we are all singing along dancing and grinning ear to ear. Donavon is clearly delighted “Is everyone daijobu? Thank you for having us” he opens a beer “Campai!” His naturally infectiously humorous and friendly personality lends itself perfectly to this warm, life affirming and blissed out festival. ‘What’cha Know About’ has a great bluesy rock feel kicking things up a notch. From CD to stage the laid back flow is still they with just the added verbosity of the ocean air, the stars in the sky and the man on stage his voice is a deep nectar and every move a testament to the jubilation he feels in playing and singing.

“We’ll play what ever you want. What do you want to hear?” several calls from the audience “Call Me Papa, I’ll play just for you guys” so soft and languid “When you close your eyes and you drift to sleep, from time to time I hope you’re running to me” a fathers love honestly and delightfully shared with the entire audience singing back up.
Returning for an encore “I want to say thank you on behalf of the band, thank you” and as the drum sticks count the song in we know what it is ‘It Don’t Matter’ a nice bit of acoustic pop, a light percussion, a bouncy bass and a simple sweet repetitive line giving it not only that island sun feel but is tailor made for a festival crowd “Turn down the lights its time to cool it down If it don’t matter to you It don’t matter to me” and as Donovan climbs off the stage and into the audience he gets everyone singing “Now I got to find just one person to sing this, now no one help him” the guy is happy to take to the stage singing the line in English, Japanese and then getting Greenroom en mass too sing it. It is a ridiculously funny, harmonious and convivial end to a festival that affirms the unwritten mantra of weekends like this stop worrying about where your are, where your going, what you’ve got to do and embrace life right now.

All words & photo’s Katie Clare. More by Katie can be read here.

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