Tokyo 2016 is a 13 part series of photo & live reports from September, 2016, documenting a deep dive into the city’s various underground music scenes.

After the first night’s short party, which served more as a warm-up, the first proper concert I went to also turned out to be one of the best. It was an event called Chain Reaction 2, featuring six local hardcore bands and the venue was Shinjuku’s Antiknock, which has been the city’s most important punk and hardcore club for quite a while now.

Antiknock is located south of Kabukicho, Shinjuku’s night life area, where most of the district’s clubs are located, including the legendary Shinjuku Loft, which was Tokyo’s most important punk venue back in the ’80. And while Loft is still a very important underground club, it has a lot more varied lineup nowadays, so now it is Antiknock that plays more-or-less the same role in the city’s punk scene, that Loft did a couple of decades ago. It even has a similar checkered floor, but while Loft’s has the classic black & white colors, Antiknock went for red and black, which gives the whole club a quite aggressive look… which actually fits the bands that usually play there quite well.

As most concerts in Japan, this was an evening event, with an early start at 18:30 (and of course, right on time as always) and the day’s lineup featured bands representing one of the many subgenres of hardcore, ones that follow the classic, old-school New York / beatdown hardcore punk sound, mixing it with a bit of a metalcore edge. Japan’s punk and hc scene is incredibly vast and diverse: you can find at least a couple of bands following each and and every existing subgenres (Crust, grind, melodic punk, ska punk, metalcore, horror punk, deathcore? You name it!) and NYHC is no different and this event was organized by two of this scene’s most prominent local acts, Fight It Out and Rockrimaz. And one thing that made Japan’s hardcore scene internationally famous is that it tends to be quite extreme and crazy (just think of G.I.S.M., Gauze and all the rest of the bands, that were and are known for their insane live shows) and this is also true about this specific scene and this night was the perfect evidence of that.

The first band to hit the stage was Eternal B who play heavy, mid-tempo hardcore, been around since 1995 and did an awesome job setting the mood for the night. Their name was shortened to Eternal B from the original Eternal Brotherhood and this name actually represents the whole scene so damn well. The whole event really seemed to be all about brotherhood and unity, which are the cornerstones of the hardcore movement and here it was just… in the air. The “one big family” kind of feeling, with people being very open and friendly, the bands’ members moshing at front of the stage during the other groups’ shows and them or some random friends jumping in for a verse or two mid-song all the time (including Loyal To The Grave‘s singer during a Numb track!). And even thought the mosh pit was one of the most insanely violent and aggressive I’ve ever seen, it was not aggressive in a hostile way. It was all about having fun. Even when they were throwing around a bench in the back of the room.


The second band, Super Structure was the only one that was musically quite different from the rest, but they were also the first to go totally over-the-edge. Their music was a series of short, fast and violent sonic attacks, with a heavy grindcore / crust edge and their singer, who was running around in a ski mask, looked completely insane and out of control, jumping off the stage all the time to join the mosh pit. If Eternal B managed to set the mood for unity, it was them who set the mood for the upcoming intensity and insanity. There is not much info about the band online, as they are quite elusive, as so many of the other Japanese punk / acts: all they have is a page on tumblr which lists their upcoming shows and a bandcamp page with two old demos from the late ’90s and that’s about it (but well, actually even that’s more than what some other local punk / hc groups have).

Next up were the three bands that I already knew from before and the three that represented the NYHC / beatdown sound in its truest form: Rockcrimaz, one of the organizers of the event, Numb which is probably the most well known of the six bands (no wonder though, as their City Of Dreams album had some true hc anthems!) and finally Fight It Out. While both Rockcrimaz and Numb were pure raw energy, for me, the absolute high point of the night was Fight It Out‘s show. It was during their show when all hell broke loose and things went out of control. Their singer was pure fucking violence incarnate and he was down in the dancefloor, pushing around and jumping on people even before their set began, and kept doing it during the whole show (but obviously it is just his usual thing to do). The venue wasn’t full, there was around 150-200 people I think? But still, the mosh pit was just insane and when the crowd wasn’t big enough for crowd surfing, people just carried around the stagedivers and dropped them on the people that were going for the safer spots at the back of the hall, while the middle of the pit was full of natural born martial artist, spinning and kicking around like windmill. But really, I have never seen a mosh pit with so many people doing high kicks. It was crazy and dangerous, but still, as I said above, it never had a hostile feel to it. It was all about having fun.

Fight It Out

The evening’s closing act was Swag from Oita and I guess they don’t play that often in Tokyo, as the event was also advertised as the release show of their Espirit De Unity album… which came out back in late 2015. They were also somewhat different musically, a bit closer to melodic punk than the rest and less in-your-face aggressive. And closing an evening after such bands is well… not a very rewarding thing to do. They were quite OK and put on a good show, but they just could not keep up the level of rising brutality that culminated with Fight It Out.

Originally, before the trip I was quite disappointed that 2016’s Bloodaxe Festival, which is the ultimate annual showcase of Japanese hardcore bands took place just a week or two after I left Tokyo, but this evening gave a more than perfect taste of just how awesome this scene is (and there was more to come a couple of days later). It was an extremely intense night, but this level of intensity is pretty much the daily norm at Antiknock, which holds similar gigs almost every day and at weekends they often run mini-festivals with 10+ bands on the bill, so, for anyone visiting Tokyo and into hardcore and punk, this definitely is the place to check first.

Eternal B / Super Structure / Rockcrimaz / Fight It Out / Numb / Swag