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Feb 26

[live report] Polysics at Blender Theater (The Gramercy), Feb. 13

I had never seen Polysics live before Feb. 13 but had wanted to for years. I’d heard the hyper new wave-revival band was incredible in concert and wanted to see for myself before keyboardist Kayo quits in March. The hype was valid–Polysics’s show had all the raw energy and audience interaction that makes indie rock so fun.

For one, the band knew how to work a crowd. During songs, the entire band led the crowd in aerobics routines, waves and dances. They used props effectively, such as by inflating balloons and launching them into the theater, where they zoomed around until they ran out of air. Lead guitarist-singer Hiroyuki Hayashi asked the audience about their Valentine’s Day plans and prompted audience chants, keeping to his zany Polysics character by speaking in the shriek he uses in his music. He was still spontaneous and responded to audience shout-outs.

Chemistry was also key to Polysics’s live appeal. Though their matching, Devo-style outfits conveyed uniformity, the members each brought a distinctive personality to their performance. Hayashi was wild and relentlessly energetic, while bassist Fumi played a more traditional but still charming rock ‘n’ roll star. Drummer Masashi Yano and keyboardist Kayo anchored the other two’s energy with a contrasting coolness. Kayo, most strikingly, acted like a robot. Though the music she played was positively caffeinated, she kept her movements minimal and only occasionally turned to face the audience. She even managed to make a cheerleading routine with pom-poms stoic. Polysics played off their contrasting personalities, with Hayashi walking over to Kayo and shaking spastically while she played her solos.

Polysics’s music is made for live shows. Admittedly, it’s not something I can take in large doses on CD; the combination of nonsensical lyrics, high-pitched, wailing vocals, vocoder, manic guitars and electronic beeps is something I only want to hear for a few songs at a time. But it’s perfect for a rock show—visceral, ecstatic stuff that gets you moving and smiling.

It also helps that The Gramercy is one of the best rock venues in New York City. I was there for the first time and impressed with its quality acoustics and slanted floor that guaranteed a good view of the stage no matter where you stood. It’s such a simple but ingenious design that it’s a wonder more venues don’t incorporate it.

It’s hard to imagine what Polysics shows will be like without Kayo. She provides the calm among the chaos and the mechanical balance to Hayashi and Fumi’s human energy. At least, I’m glad I got to see the classic lineup live in its last New York show.
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