PWRFL Power + Chubby Behemoth + Capillary Action, Cake Shop, Manhattan NY

Whoever curates Cake Shop weeknights must do it with a dartboard, a stack of printouts and a sawed-off shotgun. Guess they figured what with the $3 Sparks (an old Cake Shop tradition) everyone’ll be too jittery to sit for more than one set.

First up was Capillary Action, a name which conjures up images not only of tiny blood vessels but of the absorbing power of Brawny paper towels. The lead singer kept going into a Dave Longstreth impression, but the band’s playful use of long, awkward silences was, at the very least, distinctive.

Then comes the oddest thing to come out of Japan since used underwear vending machines: PWRFL Power. Kazutaka Nomura (or just Kaz), the entirety of the band, is a ball of contradictions, with songs that swing wildly from patness to snarkyness like an epileptic preschooler going at a piñata. The lyrics are sometimes so honest, and sometimes so jokey, that the Power is frequently inexplicable: not silly enough to be a joke band, not pretentious enough to be twee folk. Like when in “Alma Song” he goes “You are not that attractive / but something makes me feel that you’re going to be my girl,” or on “It’s Okay” where he follows the ridiculous, repeated “It’s okay to be yourself” with “It’s ok to release your… powerful power. Because it feels good.”

Seeing Kaz up on stage makes only one thing certain: he’s not even sure exactly what’s going on here. Are his songs written to be funny or are they sincere, if slightly skewed, love songs? Is his jittery, uncomfortable banter an act, or is that just how he talks? Between songs his delivery is straight out of Andy Kaufman’s foreign man – with his slight but distinct Japanese accent saying things like “Soon you will hear this song on TV. Esurance picked it up. And they gonna give me some cheddar.” or “Looks like some people in the audience… are on… drugs!”

The answers: Yes the songs are funny. Yes they’re sincere. Yes he really talks like that. The point, I think, is that Kaz doesn’t take Kaz seriously, so why should we?

But this should all pale in comparison to the actual music, his powerfully powerful acoustic guitar. Clearly he can play, if the degree in music performance means anything. And yet, he writes ridiculously simple tunes for PWRFL Power. They’ve got maximum play-around-ability, and can really pull out some trills and vamps inside the changes. He didn’t break out any really face-melting numbers at Cake Shop, sticking mostly with the short, cute, funny songs, but a quick YouTube search will reveal some of the powerful prowess of this powerfully PWRFL Power. Things like “the cat song“, a simple blues number in something of the mien of the Rev. Gary Davis, reminds you that it is in fact possible to shred on an acoustic.

He ended with a song about bananas where the only mention of bananas were in Japanese.
In typical Cake Shop fashion, the night ended with as much noise as possible. Enter locals Chubby Behemoth, a five-piece that spilled off the stage and into the audience. Good thing, too, I don’t think a stage has been built that could hold these guys. They were everywhere, the violinist spazzing out like there was a mosh pit in his pants, the guitarist screaming “fuck you guys, fuck you all!” at the audience in between songs, the saxophonist looming and swaying like a chubby behemoth himself.

To call the band awful, terrible, the worst thing you’re likely to hear without dying from an aneurism afterwards, would not only be a gross understatement – it also would be a compliment. These guys want to be terrible; their playful hatred and disdain of the audience, themselves and their instruments is merely a front for actual, deep-seated hatred and disdain of the audience, themselves and their instruments. Their biggest influence must have been a pile of toddlers banging on a pile of electrified pots and pans.

When three of them tried to take over the mic in a all-out scream fest that defied the laws of harmony (and of physics), the audience couldn’t take it and bum rushed the stand to sing along. It was a cluster-fuck of screaming, overturned chairs, foggy glasses and a conspicuous can of Sparks. No wonder these guys are crazy.

Not one axe made it through the show without battle damage: the drums lost a cymbal, the keyboard lost a key, the guitar lost a string, etc. If I hadn’t been wearing earplugs my brains would have probably dribbled out. Quite literally, this band was the most offensive thing ever, and further proof in the nonexistence of a benevolent god. Then they gave out cupcakes.
It didn’t matter if there were any songs left before they announced that there were free cupcakes, as soon as those fateful words were said the audience was gone in a sugar-blur. And mind you, these were red velvet cupcakes, which is about the closest you can get to heaven while keeping your pants on.

So this is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but a cupcake.