Shugu Tokumaru: Boy wonder

Shugo Tokumaru is pretty much the standard bearer for that quirky brand of Japanese indie rock, and has been for a while. He’s become so good at it that he has no problem tempting ridicule with overly cute touches. There were lots of interesting things on the White Stage before he came out, including mechanical dolls.

The cuteness works not as cuteness but as something with meaning in an entertainment sense. Tokumaru is no longer a boy, but he still understands what impressed him when he was young and he tries to impart that wonder to his audience. During his afternoon set, when there was a lull in the precipitation, he explained that although Mount Fuji is far away, Fuji Rock Festival can still celebrate a great Japanese mountain, except that it’s Mount Naeba.

This imaginative and optimistic grasp of the world extends to the music, which is happy without being saccharine, quirky without being precious. Time and key signatures are as malleable as Tokumaru’s imagination, and he’s go the band to make it happen. Everyone except the drummer and the bass player double and triple on various instruments. The woman who was mostly on the accordion picked up the electric guitar for one song and stood on platform to shred, the keyboard player fanning her with a big board to make her hair blow like a real rock star.

Tokumaru also brought out Maywa Denki, the two-man performance group whose schtick is inventions for every situation, in this case an electrical percussion instrument that Maywa’s president word like a set of wings. He added beats to a great Latin tune and it made perfect sense. As did the bluegrass interlude in another song (Tokumaru is a great guitarist), and the crude AV touches, like streamers that came out during the climax of another song, a did the whistling and mouth percussion that formed the “solo” in another song.

In Tokumaru’s world, everything works because it works in his head. That he allows us entry is a privilege.