When the tour dates for POLYSICS' North American tour were announced, I instantly fell into a transfixed state of excitement over making a mini-pilgrimage up to DC to see one of my favorite bands.
But the anticipation took a somewhat bittersweet turn when a major announcement was made on their official website. Keyboardist and vocalist Kayo had decided it was time to pursue a normal life and follow her own dreams outside of Polysics. After this tour and their upcoming sold-out show at Budokan, she would no longer be in the band. With this news, it became clear that going to this show was no longer a whim, but a priority. Plans were made and tickets were bought, and earlier this week, the day finally came…
Okay, first of all, The Rock & Roll Hotel is not a hotel, they just thought it was a cool name for a club. It's a small place, with the show capacity listed as only 400 people. It's fascinating to think that back in Japan, Polysics packs huge halls and plays to giant crowds, but over here, their shows are smaller and more intimate affairs. On one hand, I wish the USA would get with it and embrace this band on a bigger level, but on the other, more selfish hand, I got to enjoy the band with only a few other dedicated fans.
After the opening band finished, the members of Polysics started rolling out their own equipment. They had a couple of helpers, including their tour manager, but this was not an entourage you'd associate with a band that's headlining Budokan in a few days. They had their famous straight-bar glasses off, and were all business as they set up. As frontman Hiroyuki Hayashi set up his microphone, he was singing along with A-Ha's hit "Take On Me" playing on the sound system. Then they left the stage and got themselves mentally ready to rock. The tour manager stepped up to Kayo's mic, introduced the band, and the four of them sprang back up on stage in full POLYSICS mode! The show was on!
If you're familiar with Polysics' legendary stage show, then you have some idea of how it went. The songs came at the audience fast, loud, and full of impossible to resist energy. It wasn't long at all before Kayo pulled out her famous golden pom-poms and was jumping on one foot to "Peach Pie On The Beach". And before anyone knew what hit them, Hiro was practically right up in the audience with with guitar, and at one point stuck his butt out and shook it in the crowd and encouraged us all to give it a spank. Who can pass up that offer? I managed to give his skinny ass a firm pat before he darted over to the other side of the stage…
The band ripped through a virtual greatest hits collection of songs that the crowd around me seemed to love as much as I did. The set also scattered around much of the newer stuff from "We Ate The Machine" and the most recent album "Absolute Polysics". (Here's the awesome setlist) Audience participation was pretty much required, be it spinning around for "I Me Mine" or jumping jacks for "Baby Bias", and everyone did their best to keep up. The band was both tight with musical precision and yet completely all over the place at the same time.
Fumi rocked the bass and kept the timing with master-drummer Yano flawless and pounding. Hiro was the maniac we all love. I can't figure out how he manages to handle his guitar while jumping up and down like he does. He even took a few moments to make amazing swipes at a theremin nearby! And then there was Kayo, adding wonderful layers of synth to the whole thing, and delivering her trademark vocals with robotic flair. One thing I realized during the show, when Kayo has those glasses on and looks out at the audience, you feel like she's staring right through you!
After the show was over, we went upstairs because we heard that they would most likely join us later. A small group of us hung out and made new acquaintances. There was a fellow named Mark, with a perfect homemade Polysics uniform and his gang of friendly folks. He had flown all the way from England to see them in Akron, Ohio as well as the DC show. He's blogging about his experience over here!
There was also a crew of people who flew over from Japan for this show! These were the truest Polysics fans you could hope for. They drew Polysics logos in the condensation on the windows as we waited for the band to come out, and at last, they did!
When I got home, I realized that I didn't get a decent photo of Yano on my card! #$@#!, sorry Yano!
The members of Polysics are just some of the nicest people you could be lucky enough to meet. All of them signed autographs, posed for photos and took time to talk a moment to everyone there. One special moment I got to observe was when the Japanese fans greeted Kayo. There was this wonderful quiet moment when they bowed to each other, and you could really see the pure joy in the fan's faces when they were taking photos with her. I enjoyed that as much as I enjoyed the show. It really made the trip worthwhile.
As for myself, I wanted to create something to give to Kayo since she's leaving the band, and made a little 4.5" square drawing of her. After I made that, I thought, "why not make one for the whole band?" and there you have it. I threw these together at the last second, and with no time to scan them, I shot this quick photo.
I gave each member their own mini-portrait in a sealed envelope and encouraged them to open it later. I'd like to imagine that perhaps they forgot about them for a second, and maybe came across the envelope when they got home and opened it…
Anyway, it was a great night. I'm just completely honored that I got to see one of their last shows with Kayo. The other members of Polysics intend to stay together and continue as a three-piece, and I look forward to hearing what they'll do next. I also hope that maybe we'll get an occasional glimpse into what Kayo's up to.
So to the band and all the great fans I met, TOISU!