The Notting Hill Arts Club is a small basement venue on London’s Notting Hill Gate. Despite its awkward shape (the stairs down slice the club in half) it’s hosted a lot of cool club nights such as Anokha and Brazilian Love Affair which suit its unpretentious, open vibe. It’s now home to Sticky Rice on the last Monday of every month, a night celebrating the exciting world of Japanese music.
For the October event, regular disc-spinner, DJ Kyukyusha, threw down an eclectic mix of Japanese rock and roll and electronica while the crowd enjoyed an exclusive preview of Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem(the Battle of the Planets inspired collaboration between French funksters Daft Punk and anime director Kazuhisa Takenouchi). However, the evening belonged to London-based Japanese band, Mika Bomb.
Mika Bomb is an almost all female rock band (drummer Ergi Ahmed and bass player Nic Tse doing their bit for the guys) fronted by the impossibly foxy Mika Handa. Mika came to the UK in 1998 with a mission in mind, to create a band that kicked ass live and on record. Shows with The D4, The Datsuns, The Donnas and others proved that their blend of New York punk, 50s Garage and Japanese Pop could blow anybody off stage. They were initially signed to the Beastie Boys’ ill-fated Grand Royal label, but with its demise, their debut album, The Fake Fake Sound of Mike Bomb, was released through Damaged Goods.
The fact that Mika Bomb is fronted by three oriental chicks with short skirts and a man-chewing rock and roll attitude means they have a loyal fan-base as addicted to the band members as they are to the music. A recent line-up change has meant that the band are now sporting not one, but two sexy new guitarists: Tomy and Ann, itching to churn out the riffs.
In fact, Sticky Rice was Tomy’s first night, but unless someone told you, you’d never know. As soon as the band appeared on the makeshift stage, the crowd surged forward, angling for a better look. Seconds later, Mika Bomb launched into an incendiary, take-no-prisoners set of songs.
The centre of attention and clearly the boss, Mika commands the stage like a seasoned pro, growling, singing, screaming into the microphone as the fuzzbox heavy tunes throb like greasy Harley Davidsons. Ergi and Nic’s powerful backline keep the energy levels up while Tomy and Ann thrash out the chords. Imagine Joey Ramone being reborn in Japan and you can start to imagine what this band is about.
Older stuff like Magic Boots and Heart Attack combine with newer tracks to form a sonic wall of cute-but-nasty surf rock as stunning as Hello Kitty with an axe in the head. The crowd lapped it up, screaming requests and marriage proposals to the band. Mika just smiled coyly and then began snarling the next song.
The gig was not without its problems: a couple of technical issues regarding Tomy’s guitar sound were sorted within a song or two, and some of tracks were a little rough around the edges, but none of this detracted from the sexy, sweaty power of Mika Bomb live. This band have everything you could want from a live performance: they look great and sound even better, with more meaty hooks than a butcher’s shop.
Notting Hill Arts Club, London
(27 October 2003)