When you are a Twenty-something college student who grew up in the 1990s, the news that Cibo Matto has reunited can be pretty exciting. The news that you actually get to see them is even more exciting. That was me on June 6th, just a few weeks before their tour opener at Neumos in Seattle. But then, I experienced a radical transformation. Suddenly, I was no longer a happy-go-lucky college student on Financial Aid -by the June 21st show date, I’d become an unemployed college graduate suffering from a bout of depression- and I didn’t really feel like watching a concert anymore.
I was never a particularly big Cibo Matto fan, but I have certainly enjoyed their music a great deal over the years. The first time that I’d ever even heard of the group was at Bumbershoot ’99. My friend Jacob took us to see them at the Key Arena, explaining that they were this fun band with two cute Japanese girls who sing weird songs about food, and that John Lennon’s son Sean was playing with them. It was enough to grab my curiosity, so I went and I was instantly hooked. I only distinctly remember two of the songs from that day: the one about chicken (“Know Your Chicken“) and the song about monosodium glutamate (Birthday Cake). I do, however, remember watching them bounce around on stage and I remember seeing Sean Lennon hopping in circles, which seemed particularly silly to me at the time. Most importantly though, I remember that they made me dance, which is a hugely impressive feat, because at the time, as a young, too-cool-for-school teenager, I pretty much never danced. It was some of the most fun that I can remember having at a show. I’d later buy their album Viva! La Woman and listen to it plenty, but my strongest connection to the band was always seeing them live that one time.
So, for the weeks leading up to the show date, I’d waited in anticipation. But, at the same time, I was finishing up my B.A. at the University of Washington. A week before the concert, I graduated. My financial aid ended. My work-study job was no longer available. My landlord deposited an old rent check that he’d been sitting on for a month. I was broke and needed a job, but I graduated with a degree that served no real practical purpose (Philosophy). I had no idea what I should do, or wanted to do with the rest of my life, and I was paralyzed with the crippling fear of being stuck in customer service forever. Things started getting weird and my mind sank further and further into a sort of existential dilemma. I couldn’t think of a good reason to do anything and I had lost my appetite. It sounds silly, and it is, but it happened nevertheless. Needless to say, I sort of lost interest in going to the Cibo Matto show – but I went anyway.
June 21, 2011
We arrived right as The Chain Gang of 1974 was starting. They seemed completely uninteresting and I felt like there was no way in hell that I could endure their entire set, so we promptly left to go roam around the Elliott Bay Book Company. Let me take this opportunity to mention that the book store’s recent move to Capitol Hill has been a godsend, providing the perfect activity to partake in while skipping out on lackluster bands performing at Neumos and the nearby Comet Tavern. I looked at some Andy Goldsworthy art books and thought about buying a Slavoj Žižek book. I tried to use the restroom, but it was occupied. I also marveled at a book of old Bossa Nova album covers. After that, we headed back over to the venue.
Before the band came onto the stage, I started to wonder what sort of people show up to a Cibo Matto show. First, I noticed that a lot of the younger males appeared to be gay, or at least they carried themselves in such a way that might lead one to assume that they might be gay (one guy brought flowers for the band). This was not much of a surprise, as my friend who first introduced me to Cibo Matto was himself homosexual. Next, I noticed a lot of Japanese people in the crowd. Again, this was not much of a surprise. But the third most prevalent and noticeable category was the large number of older, chubby guys. Like, definitely on the heavier side and definitely at the end of their 30s, if not hitting the start of their 40s. I expected to see a few Forty-somethings hanging around towards the back, but not such a large number, and a lot of them seemed to be maneuvering their way up towards the front. While lost in speculation as to what the connection might be between older Cibo Matto fans and weight gain, the lights dimmed and Yuka (C. Honda) and Miho (Hatori) made their entrance.
Now, I’d been feeling down all day. I think that I may have had a bagel to eat, at most, though I wasn’t feeling too hungry. I didn’t really feel like I wanted to be there and I was worried that my bummer mood was gonna ruin the whole evening, but when Cibo Matto started off the set with “Beef Jerky“, things turned around pretty fast. When the dreamy opening sample started up, my face immediately lit up and, when the beat kicked in, I was already moving. I don’t care how deep of a depression a person is suffering, it is impossible to feel down when someone is onstage singing “a horses ass is better than yours” through a thick accent. Yuka and Miho kicked out a series of classic jams as a duo, which they claimed was how they originally did it back in the old days. The two of them can get funky when they want to and soothing when they need to. The jazzy hook of “Le Pain Perdu” got the whole crowd moving and the serenity of “Sugar Water” washed over the audience, despite that the bass notes were coming through a little too heavy.
Aside from a handful of recent benefit shows for Japan, this was the first live Cibo Matto performance since 2001. Miho joked that the decade gap between live performances was due to the fact that they were in prison. But it turns out that this reunion tour wasn’t completely spontaneous, because the group had new songs to show off and, to help them do that, they brought out two new band members: some dude who plays bass (the Brazilian Girls’ Jesse Murphy) and a fucking awesome shorter woman (Yuko Araki of Cornelius) who played the shit out of the drums. Songs like “Tenth Floor Ghost Girl” proved that they haven’t lost their zany touch, while a lot of the other newer songs hit me with a surprising fact: Miho can do a lot more than just shout words in broken English, she can actually sing pretty damn well too. The full band also busted out a few more classics. “Know Your Chicken” sounds great with a live drummer. When the group asked the crowd what they wanted to hear, they seemed surprised that “Birthday Cake” was the nearly unanimous response, but they played it and the whole room was stoked. Everybody bounced along and, when the chorus came along, almost every single person was shouting “Extra sugar, extra salt, extra oil and MSG!”
By the end of the night, I had forgotten all about feeling sorry for myself. I had been rejuvenated. Cibo Matto presented a powerful force of upbeat, carefree fun, and I couldn’t resist it. The magical mix of nostalgia and dancing was all that I needed to take my mind off of my troubles. On the way home, all that I could think about was making myself an awesome sandwich. Leave it to a band whose name translates into “Crazy Food” to restore a person’s hunger.
Miho and Yuka are in the process of writing new songs for an upcoming album, which is scheduled for release by early 2012. To keep updated on the progress, please visit their official sit, YeahBasicallyCiboMatoo.com.