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The Scarlet & Black

The S&B reviews Kero Kero Bonito’s show in Gardner Lounge

Kero Kero Bonito played in Gardner Lounge on Tuesday night. Their show wrapped up the concerts lineup for the fall semester. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.
Kero Kero Bonito played in Gardner Lounge on Tuesday night. Their show wrapped up the concerts lineup for the fall semester. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.

Post-show, as my tired eyes were seared by the sudden advent of Gardner’s fluorescent lights switching on, a friend mentioned to me, “Y’know, I heard that fights have broken out at their concerts before.” This is, in retrospect, unsurprising. Kero Kero Bonito’s manic energy and infectious beats whipped up such a fervor in Tuesday’s crowd that I was engulfed in not one, but three half-formed mosh-pits in the second row.

Kero Kero Bonito’s saccharine, PC-music-esque discography translates extremely well into the grizzly aesthetic terrain of punk. Classic Kero Kero Bonito singles like Flamingo and Sick Beat seemed to draw a mysterious energy from the fuzzy chorus of electric guitar and drum, rendering themselves more immediately and forcefully danceable than their electropop counterparts. Even an encore performance of “Trampoline,” from their 2016 album “Bonito Generation” was punctuated by a hunched-over Sarah Midori Perry growling the interlude like a stand-in vocalist for Skinny Puppy. It, quite frankly, made me lose my mind.

These playful subversions of genre certainly aren’t new to KKB whose most recent album “Time n’ Place” collages Sarah Midori Perry’s well-established bubblegum vocal stylings against a lo-fi landscape of pop-punk instrumentals. Similarly, KKB’s performance oozed a kind of confident self-awareness that masterfully mediated between the sugary and the angsty. Dissociative indie ballads like “Make Believe” were often followed by the childlike wholesomeness of songs like “Pocket Crocodile,” with Perry often wielding stuffed versions of the titular animals like an amateur puppeteer at a kid’s birthday party. In this sense, the band seamlessly preserved the disjunction between the childlike fantasy and the crushing ennui of daily life inherent throughout their discography.

During “Sick Beat” and “Lipslap,” I found myself holding my friend’s hands and gleefully hopping around like I was peaking at a rave, feeling as if the lightness of Midori Perry’s conscious theatrics could somehow grant me the weightlessness to float onto the stage. Depressive indie jams from their album “Time ‘n’ Place,” released in October, often punctured these moments of escapism, with the subsequent washes of melancholy blue stage lighting often making me feel hyperaware of the reality that I was, in fact, in a basement in Iowa during the most emotionally draining season of the year. To quote “Intro Bonito”’s “Rather Sleep,” “Now I know what’s real, what’s fake / Rather sleep than stay awake / Just to be a kid again.”

Of course, any account of the show would be incomplete without mentioning the impenetrable wall of amateur hype-beasts in the front row. These men, hailing loudly from an unnamed Iowa university, reeked of a particular strain of frat house masculinity that was poorly masked by their penchant for JNCO pants and ironic designer accessories. One of them, who clearly missed the memo in “Sick Beat” about Midori Perry’s lack of interest in “eating / bitching / submitting,” took it upon himself to loudly proclaim, in gruesome detail, the ways in which he would sexually conquer the women performing, eliciting a kind of toothless male bravado more at-home in some of the more unsavory anime boards of 4chan than in the basement of Main Hall.

Indeed, it seemed that these men appreciated the music of KKB more as suitable background noise to fuel a ketamine high than anything else. This became evident by their dazed expressions when the band played anything more obscure than the widely meme’d “Flamingo.” During “Only Acting,” I swore I could see a glint of disgust in a band member’s eye when some took it upon themselves to aggressively pseudo-mosh like they were at an Aviicii show (RIP). However, I’m sure this was just a projection on my part.

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  • K

    KevinNov 16, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    I wish they had played “Let’s Go To the Forest”, but this was the best concert I’ve been to at Grinnell.