Columbus, Ohio USA
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The Barista Rock Star
Hundos opens for Melt-Banana at Skully's Music-Diner
By Allex Spires
July/August 2015 Issue
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Friday, the Fifteenth day of May in the Hundred Score and Five-and-Tenth year since B.C.(E.)
Hundos with Melt-Banana © Courtesy Photo
DJ and I were nearly an hour late getting to Skully’s Music-Diner at High and Fourth to see the internationally acclaimed band Melt-Banana. We wanted to catch the opening act – their YouTube videos implied they would deliver a powerful performance, fun for the right kind of audience – but we were so late arriving we were sure to have missed them. However, the flyer had been misprinted so we were right on-time.
Soon a group of four men called Hundos were onstage delivering a sound somewhere between The Mars Volta and Dream Theater with a hint of Pink Floyd and a bent for sharp transitions and breakbeats. Guitar and bass were run through mixers and digitized live.
The singer/frontman wore skinny jeans and a loud short-sleeved salmon button-up with a high collar. He danced in a way that reminded me of Beck and Mick Jagger, and he never stopped moving or let the intensity slip. Though most in the audience hadn’t come out to see Hundos, the frontman kept the crowd on his side.
Throughout the four unreleased epic songs they performed during approximately 30 minutes onstage, I felt intense harmonies sliding in and out of a discordant syncopation. I felt the music moving through me, literally forcing me to dance. I felt uplifted by the absurdity, humor, and poetry.
During Hundos’ finale, the frontman picked up a crash cymbal from the drum set. The lighting went to stroboscopic flashes spotlighting him and the drummer who tore through a wicked Tool-esque solo, arms flying like Gene Krupa. All the while, the flickering frontman held a cymbal’s stand, pumping it into the air over his head. Then he crouched down to hold it in place in a new position amidst the drums.
I saw it as an absurdist comment on symbolism itself, expressed with a cymbal. The lighting normalized, the singer rose away and the rest of the band came together for a soul-rending finish featuring a few well chosen bars off their 2014 release “Corridor of Diamond Rings” and the audience went apeshit.
After Hundos cleared off, my friend DJ positioned himself at the foot of the stage watching two Japanese people – a man in a surgical mask and a woman with bushy chin length hair – who brought out about a dozen amps. The man did a sound test on guitar. He scowled at the asymmetry of Skully’s music hall, in particular the staircase up to the mezzanine. Then the woman, who’d been working a laptop that was run through a mixer board, plugged in a microphone and did a few tongue clicks into it: “TIK! TOK! TAK!” She seemed satisfied with the echo.
Suddenly the music hall was shoulder-to-shoulder full of excited people, the lights dimmed, and the two onstage faced the audience. They were Yasuko “Yako” Onuki and Ichirou Agata: Melt-Banana. For this tour the band’s drummer and bassist were replaced by recordings. Yako sang and directed the progression of playback using a glowing Bluetooth remote, and Ichirou followed the remote like a conductor’s baton.
From the outset, DJ stood at the edge of the stage at Yako’s feet, looking up at her, and the music didn’t stop for almost an hour. There were very few intros or outros, anecdotes, and titles. More just song before song after song upon song. Among the 30 or 40 pieces Melt-Banana blazed through I heard “Monkey Man,” “Candy Gun,” and “Ninja Slayer.” I bounced and swayed, standing at the back until their encore when I let myself bust-loose up to the front, to the mosh pit, where I slam danced my way to DJ, my elbows wailing as I stepped backward into fists and forearms, battling for my place at the front of the stage. I looked up at Yako who held her glowing remote, her body fading in and out through the strobe lights and a blue projection of a music player’s visualizer washing over her silhouette. The light from the remote never flickered. It was as if Tron had been directed by David Lynch.
After the show DJ bought some Melt-Banana merchandise, directly autographed by Yako, and gave me a Hundos tee. When I had the band sign it, the singer and I recognized each other, and then he and DJ recognized each other. Then it clicked. This energetic showman who had so impressed me and whose band had just opened for a pair of international celebrities was Short North regular Sean Hundley.
You can often find Sean behind the counter at One Line Coffee. The first story I ever wrote for this paper featured him as just about the most knowledgeable barista you could ever meet, and he loves everything about coffee and his place in the industry. Turns out he’s not just a one-sided, two-dimensional café maven. He has more interests brewing than coffee and more hobbies than preparing the perfect cup of java. He can also put on a pulse-pounding stage show that speeds you up like a double-espresso.
Allex Spires email firstname.lastname@example.org
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