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Mika Bomb wins the ‘boro with sexy guitars

by Jordan Green

The members of Mika Bomb keep many secrets, foremost among them the ages of the three Asian women who front the band.

If you have to ask, the answer would probably be eternally young judging by the way they strut the stage in mini skirts and sling loud guitars like some gasoline-fueled mutation of the Supremes, the Ramones and some anime girl martial arts superheroes.

The second secret is the true identity of Wataru Idol, the bleach-haired bass player for the band who skulks in front of the drum set with a pen stem dangling from his lips, black leather jacket hung over his rail-thin frame.

On stage, he comports himself like a Londontown hooligan who’s just stepped off the set of A Clockwork Orange. After the show at the Green Bean on June 4, he giggles as he puts his autograph on a couple posters for a pair of mesmerized teenage girls.

He tells me his real name, and then chops his hand across the air.

‘“Don’t put that in there,’” he says. ‘“My parents don’t like the life I live.’”

His parents sent him to London to study hotel management, which helped him land a good job as a restaurant manager for Nikko Hotels International, a Japanese luxury hotel chain. The lyrics to the Mika Bomb song ‘“9-5ers’” seems to sum up his attitude about that career: ‘“Mondays are sick and low/ I don’t wanna get up early in the morning.’”

‘“It kills my creativity,’” he says. ‘“So busy.’” Then he giggles again.

With the exception of drummer Ergi Ahmed, who grew up in Reading, England, Mika Bomb is a London band of upstart immigrants.

Mika Handa, the band’s singer and namesake, in describing the circumstances of her move from Japan about 10 years ago, emphasizes the purity of her rock and roll motives.

‘“I just want to see England,’” she says. ‘“I like the music scene, but I thought I could do better than any of them.’”

Yes, Mika Bomb’s music is influenced by the Ramones, she says, but also many other garage punk bands.

And Japanese pop music. She shrugs her shoulders when asked to explain how the parts come together.

‘“Everything is really catchy,’” she says. ‘“Very melodic. For hundreds of years, people have liked music with a good melody line.’”

Mika Bomb’s appearance in Greensboro resulted from the persuasion of local punk impresario John Rash. The Crimson Spectre front man became acquainted with Mika Bomb guitar player Ann Lee (nom de rock: Anko) when she booked his band to play at Duke Coffeehouse about five years ago.

A Chinese-American woman who grew up in Japan, Lee was recruited to join Mika Bomb after she graduated from Duke University three years ago.

‘“I wasn’t doing anything but getting drunk,’” she says, ‘“so they said, ‘Why don’t you come over here and get drunk and get paid for it?””

Like Wataru Idol, she doesn’t always get respect for slinging a guitar. When she was in Berlin, she ran into an NC State University alum, who was shocked to learned what had become of her.

‘“I get this horrified look like, ‘What are you doing playing music?”” she says. ‘“They think I should be working in banking or something.’”

Part of the charm of Mika Bomb ‘– whose Greensboro concert was the fourth gig of their first North American tour, which culminates on Friday with a performance at North By Northeast in Toronto, Canada’s biggest music festival ‘– is their total lack of irony.

After an opening set by local rockabilly band the Tremors, the Green Bean fills with giddy patrons: tattooed women with Bettie Page haircuts, rockabilly cats at least one of whom sports a waxed mustache, and a handful of adolescent girls accompanied by parental figures who look as if they might be attending their first rock and roll show. The adults in the room sip red wine or one-dollar cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Handa sizes up the audience and then stomps her feet as the first infectious chainsaw-pop guitar chords grab the audience like an electric fence. She prowls the stage and gyrates her hips, scowling toughly. She struts up to the edge of the crowd, wielding the microphone like a bike chain that might come in handy in a gang rumble. Every once in awhile she raises her leg and kicks the air.

Just before about the fourth song, she chides the audience.

‘“You guys are too quiet,’” she says. ‘“It’s Saturday night. Have a party, all right?’”

One guy yells out, ‘“Hot sh*t!’” but if the measure of a wild crowd is one where people are fighting or making out, this one’s pretty tame.

The lyrics of Mika Bomb’s songs tend to not mince words in their celebration of fun or their denunciation of creeps and uptight killjoys, whichever the case may be. On the celebration list are slutty movie stars, motorcycles, rock and roll (of course), alcohol, and male and female sex partners. On the dis list are boys who want a girlfriend who takes care of them, straight jobs, men who flaunt material wealth, and ‘Japanisers’ with ‘yellow fever.’

It’s hard for the audience to match the drama of the band, but they clearly love it.

As Wataru Idol walks off the stage, Nancy McCurry ‘– herself a bass player in the local band Sin Tax ‘– pats him on the back in a maternal sort of indie rock way and tells him: ‘“Y’all rock.’”

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at jordan@yesweekly.com

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