Otoboke Beaver require your compliance

One of the perks of covering Japanese music is getting to go to several live gigs a year. My latest venture to see Otoboke Beaver live in Manchester proved to be among the most exciting, enlightening, and perplexing nights of music I have seen. The band commands the stage in such a unique way that it almost defies description, which is a problem when my job requires me to describe it.

Otoboke Beaver is one of the most exciting bands in the punk scene, with a sound that is experimental, aggressive, and brilliant. On May 4, they unleashed their persona on a packed crowd in the basement of the Manchester University Students’ Union building.

Otoboke Beaver commands the crowd

Otoboke Beaver's Acco on stage

I went into this gig as a confessed fan of Otoboke Beaver. Their most recent album, Super Champon, was one of my top six albums of 2022. It consists of 18 tracks that run just over 21 minutes in total, making it the kind of quick, rapid-fire music that dominated the punk scene for years. The setlist for their UK tour heavily featured songs from Super Champon. YAKATORI, I won’t dish out salads, and PARDON? were all familiar to me going into the Manchester performance.

The opening act caught me off guard, however. Drinking Boys and Girls Choir – DBGC for short – play a wonderful mix of thrash punk with melodic elements. I hadn’t heard of them before their tour with Otoboke Beaver and the Korean punk trio immediately made their way into heavy rotation on my personal playlists. They are certainly one to watch for punk fans around the world.

By the time Otoboke Beaver took the stage, the crowd was packed tightly together. The energy was high and the mixture of old and young punks needed a release. Fortunately, the four women from Kyoto delivered one of the most bizarre yet undeniably compelling performances I have ever seen. I went to my first punk gig more than 20 years ago and I have never seen anything quite like what I witnessed that night.

As loud as their music is, there is undeniable musicianship on display when Otoboke Beaver takes the stage. They are aggressive but controlled. Chaotic but practiced and precise. They harmonise with each other brilliantly one moment and then Accorinrin’s machine gun-esque vocal delivery takes the music in a totally new direction. Their energy is infectious, as evidenced by how quickly the mosh pit formed after they took to the stage.

I tried to observe each member throughout their set, a task that was more difficult than I expected. Not because I couldn’t see them, but because it is difficult to look away from Accorinrin when she has the microphone. Her charisma is almost frightening; she has the air of a dominatrix to her. Not in a sexual way, mind you; she simply makes it clear that neither she nor the rest of the band is going to suffer any nonsense.

Acco’s ability to command the crowd makes watching Otoboke Beaver perform an almost religious experience. With a gesture she can command the pit to move, explode, or even stop entirely. The few times I felt her gaze move toward my section of the crowd, there was an intensity that shook this old punk to his core. She might be one of the best lead singers in any band in any genre. Certainly, she is one of the best I have ever seen live.

It isn’t just Acco’s performance that stuck with me days later. It was remarkable the way the band used their energy as a currency. They stopped performing entirely for almost a minute, waiting for the crowd to quiet. Withholding the thing they wanted to compel obedience, going so far as to offer a curt “Shut the f**k up” when a few stragglers failed to take the hint. Few punk bands in the world will let the energy drop so completely in the middle of a set and none do it as effectively as Otoboke Beaver.

If you’re a punk fan, you need to see Otoboke Beaver live. It is a revelation of the most intense variety, occupying my thoughts across a long bank holiday weekend. They are, simply put, one of the best punk bands on the planet, giving the kind of performance you only expect to see once or twice in a lifetime.

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