28 Sep Sui Zhen’s Japan Tour, Live @ Shibuya O-Nest (17/9/16)

Words by Jacobo Gonzalez // Photos by Noemi Minami

After spending a month based out of Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio as an Artist in Residence, Sui Zhen has been playing a few shows around Japan to mark the end of her stay in the country.

Joined by the rest of her band, Sui Zhen had a show in Shibuya O-Nest which is operated alongside its sibling venues – O-East, O-West and O-Crest. Catching an elevator to the 6th floor of the building, walking through the bar, past the merch table (which featured someone cooking up falafels for punters) then leading to an outside section where you walk down a spiral staircase… You FINALLY find yourself in the band room.

Venues in Tokyo all seem to have their own interesting knack to them, and the “you’ve got to go up to then go down” notion feels a lot like you’ve found the ‘hook turn’ of Tokyo venues.


Warming up the crowd before their headlining slot, Pepe California took to the stage. I’ve never seen a band set up with a steel drum before, but there’s a first time for everything I guess. Complimenting the steel drum was a keyboard, a traditional drum kit, bass, guitar and an array of small handheld keyboards including a rare Omnichord that would prove to be the pick of the litter.

Playing a mix of songs that ranged from Tropical Post-Rock vibes to a blend of Tycho and Errors, with just a hint of “I’m stuck on an island with coconuts and still want to boogie” flavour (that the Polarsets are known for), their set never really seemed to hold onto a particular sound. Rather, they just vibed through their setlist, as each song stood out on its own rather than coming together as a totally cohesive performance. It sounded great though with really blissed-out tones and none of the distinct sounds of each smaller keyboard or the steel drum overstaying their welcome.

Their final song was again, quite different from the rest of their set; suddenly kicking things up into dance mode, with what felt like a medley that had the hook from ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine thrown in for good measure. An odd way to finish things but the crowd were receptive to it nonetheless.


With a more populated crowd ready to go, Sui Zhen took the stage in their three-piece format, and happily bounced into their setlist focusing heavily on their most recent offering Secretly Susan. Becky’s interactions with the crowd between songs were brief and sweet, addressing them in Japanese when possible, and even managing to get a few laughs in response to her banter.

Looping in the background were projections focused on Northcote Plaza; it almost felt like we were in a venue back in Melbourne, not someplace else. The crowd had a few foreigners spread out but ultimately the greater presence seemed to be of locals who were taking in the music and flowing along to the dreamy electronica manifesting in front of them. An enthusiastic videographer ebbing and flowing around the stage made for an interesting addition to the show, making sure no angle or space was left uncovered.

A small mix-up towards the end saw a song be skipped due to words being forgotten. A short apology to the audience was given then WHAM, they moved straight into ‘Infinity Street‘ to finish the set off. It could have come across unprofessional, but the charm and stage presence all evening made everything seem like we were in a bedroom of sorts, so all-in-all it felt very comfortable.


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