The word “Hoxton” to me is like the word “Mordor” to hobbits — a terrifying place whence flows all the evil plaguing London. So tonight I’m deep in the heart of enemy territory to see Bo Ningen, and you know what? It ain’t that bad.There are very few shovelbeards on show here, and while part of me fears that this may just be because all the hipsters have moved north in order to ruin my neighbourhood, the nicer explanation is just that people have come from all around to watch the finally-acclaimed Bo Ningen. Which had a certain level of plausibility, given that they’re playing two nights, and both are sold out. So the place is packed to the rafters, rammed to the roof, stuffed to the gizzard and any other metaphor you can think of for “quite a lot of people are in a room all at the same time”.
And it’s fucking bonkers. The pounding rhythm section provides the perfect backdrop over which Taigen can deliver his trademark vocals, one minute shrieking, the next singing, the next slowing down to rap languidly before suddenly it all kicks in again and he’s back to the Mike Patton-esque crazed shrieks and squawks while that solid backing suddenly morphs into something somewhere in that vast gulf between The Magic Band and, well, funk metal.It occurs to me, as it often does, though this time particularly when Taigen’s practically just speaking over the music, that it’s a fascinating thing, listening to heavily-vocal rock music in a language you don’t understand. He could literally be singing about anything right now, but the words sound great and the music carries all the feeling you could realistically want. This also adds (perhaps unfairly, it is genuinely impossible to know, really) to the idea that there is something quintessentially Japanese about this high-octane, all-eras, garage-prog attitude to rock and roll. Although this isn’t the Ramones-on-meth jet rock’n’roll of Guitar Wolf, nor yet the epic psychedelia of Boris, nor even the… the… the whatever the fuck it is that Maximum The Hormone do so awesomely, though Bo Ningen to have a quick paddle in each of these pools before swimming out towards their very own sonic horizon.Angular and twitchy, and yet meltily fluid at the same time, they are what I’ve always imagined (well, OK, not always, this is literally the first time I’ve ever thought of it, but who gives a shit?) a non-Euclidean geometric whirlpool would sound like, and they’re succeeding in drawing everyone in. And, as I believe I mentioned earlier, that’s quite a lot of people.Taigen is a sight to behold, his face as they squeeze out new and incredible sounds from the traditional rock set-up a study in both horror and delight, looking for all the world like an adorable child who’s just committed his first murder. This effect is only enhanced by the way he spends a lot of the set tickling his bass — yes, tickling it — only to hit a new pose towards the end where it looks like he’s eviscerating a chicken. And yet while he’s doing this, he somehow manages to make this look like the only sensible way anyone would ever want to play the instrument.The set builds and builds, and there’s something of the triumphalism of prime Jane’s Addiction as we launch into the final extended breakdown, finally leaving behind them a room packed to the brim, rammed to the bunghole and crowded as a motherfucker full of sweat and smiles.
Bo Ningen — so good they’re worth going to Hoxton for.
-Words: Justin Farrington-
-Pictures: Dave Pettit-