After rising from humble origins busking on the streets of Tokyo and achieving international success as one of the world’s preeminent psychedelic rock bands, Kikagaku Moyo are currently in the midst of the final tour before their impending hiatus. The band stopped in Portland, OR last week for a pair of sold-out farewell shows at two very different venues, having added a show at the intimate Aladdin Theater on September 27th after tickets for their show at the larger Crystal Ballroom on the 28th sold out.
The decision to book a second show at a smaller, more intimate venue after selling out the first show was likely made only because there was another show already booked at Crystal Ballroom on the 27th. For the band and crew, that meant a day spent loading and unloading gear and sound checking—about the same amount of work they would do to get to another city—just to move a couple miles down the road. For fans, though, it meant a chance to see the band in a more comfortable if less prestigious venue.
Though completely sold out, the Aladdin Theater show didn’t feel too packed, except perhaps for the merch line, which seemed to never die down. Getting into the venue was a breeze, and the energy inside was electric as a crowd of mostly millennial-aged hipsters and hippies mixed and mingled while taking their positions in the fully seated theater.
Art by Dorothy Dot Cool
Vive La Void, the new solo project from Moon Duo co-founder and keyboardist Sanae Yamada, played an opening set of hypnotizing electronic loops. Her one-man-band-meets-DJ setup and sprawling keyboard rig took up the entirety of the stage, surrounded by gear waiting to be used by the headlining act. The crowd cheered in appreciation as her ambient sounds faded and she thanked the crowd, telling them to enjoy Kikagaku Moyo.
A palpable buzz permeated the room before Kikagaku Moyo took the stage as celebratory excitement mixed with the bittersweet finality of the occasion. The tension released when the band stepped out and opened the show with a pair of slow and gentle folk tunes, “Cardigan Song” and “Old Snow, White Sun”, both of which were tour debuts.
Kikagaku Moyo – “Cardigan Song” – 9/27/22
Drummer Go Kurosawa sat on a stool and played guitar and sang the first couple songs while his brother Ryu supported him on sitar while seated crosslegged on the stage. Guitarist Daoud Popal meanwhile added percussion behind the drum kit, and guitarist Tomo Katsurada played additional accompaniment on a percussion rig of his own. Ryu Kurosawa then stood up and Popal stepped out from behind the kit to reveal his gender-defying wrap skirt as he traded places with Go and bassist Kotsu Guy launched the band into “Monaka”, a groovy, psychedelic fan favorite from the band’s new album, Kumoyo Island.
Kikagaku Moyo – “Monaka” – 9/27/22
Kikagaku Moyo kept the energy high with “Dancing Blue”, an African-inspired dance groove with a driving wood block, repetitive guitar and bass, and understated but catchy vocals, and then a rocking cover of sitarist Ananda Shankar‘s “Streets of Calcutta”. They finished the song with an aggressive, almost heavy metal groove with wailing sitar, and the crowd went ballistic like an arena rock show when they pulled off the notey, technical ending.
The band then calmed things down a little with two mellower psychedelic tunes, “Nazo Nazo” and the instrumental “Melted Crystal”, before picking it right back up with “Carboard Pile”, another crowd pleaser from Kumoyo Island. “Silver Owl”, a gentle psychedelic waltz, then rounded out the set ahead of the penultimate “Entrance” and the set-closing “Dripping Sun”. When the crowd begged the band for more, Kikagaku Moyo obliged, ending on a high note with another fan favorite, “Smoke and Mirrors”.
Kikagaku Moyo’s show at Crystal Ballroom the following evening was a very different experience. It rained for the first time in weeks, which was a boon for nearby fire-threatened forests, but it was bad timing for the sold-out audience who lined the block unsheltered as they waited to get into the venue. The line wrapped around the block even as Portland’s own Rose City Band finished its opening set. The rain was light, but some fans were still drenched by the time they made it in.
Art by Dorothy Dot Cool
Once inside, fans were greeted by wall-to-wall bodies, most of them damp, and stifling heat. The historic venue was as packed as ever, and with the extremely limited balcony seats reserved, attendees were lucky to find a place to post up where they could see the band past the ballroom’s iconic chandelier.
The crowd had a similar makeup to the previous night, including some of the same faces, but the energy was far tenser with so many rain-soaked spectators and nowhere left to stand. The crowd immediately relaxed when Kikagaku Moyo finally took the stage and started with “White Moon”, another chilled-out show opener.
The members of the band gathered center stage before starting the second tune, “Green Sugar”, a bouncy psychedelic pop song that helped focus the energy that built up during the first song. Next came the first repeat from the previous night, “Cardboard Pile”, which kicked off a sequence of repeats that included “Dancing Blue”, “Entrance”, “Dripping Sun”, and “Monaka”. The repeats were welcome by those who were at the Aladdin, and even more so by the many fans who were not and certainly would have lamented their absence on the setlist at the band’s last-ever Portland show.
Kikagaku Moyo – “Dripping Sun” – 9/28/22 [Partial]
“Manjupose”, a groovy tune with a complex 7/8 time signature, then broke the pattern of repeated songs. “Yayoi, Iyayoi”, a highlight of both the new album and the performance, came next, followed by “Kogarashi”, which ended with an extended sitar solo by Ryu Kurosawa. The band ended the set on a high note with one more repeat, “Smoke and Mirrors”, which served as the encore the night before. For Wednesday’s encore—likely the last song the band will ever play in Portland—Kikagaku Moyo chose “Dawn”, a high-energy fuzz rock track off the band’s self-titled 2013 record.
Kikagaku Moyo – “Smoke and Mirrors” – 9/28/22
Kikagku Moyo’s final tour wraps up this week with two shows at Brooklyn Steel on Wednesday, October 5th and Thursday, October 6th. Tickets for the first show are still available here. The band will then perform two farewell shows in Tokyo, a “pre-final show” at The Garden Hall Ebisu on November 28th and a final show at Meguro Persimmon Hall on December 3rd.
In their statement to fans announcing their hiatus, Kikagaku Moyo wrote, “[Because] we have truly achieved our core mission as a band, we would love to end this project on the highest note possible.” With the Final Tour, the band has done just that.
Setlist: Kikagaku Moyo | Aladdin Theater | Portland, OR | 9/27/22
Set: Cardigan Song (Tour debut), Old Snow, White Sun (Tour debut), Monaka, Dancing Blue, Streets of Calcutta (Ananda Shankar), Nazo Nazo, Melted Crystal, Cardboard Pile, Silver Owl, Entrance, Dripping Sun
Encore: Smoke and Mirrors
Setlist: Kikagaku Moyo | Crystal Ballroom | Portland, OR | 9/28/22
Set: White Moon, Green Sugar, Cardboard Pile, Dancing Blue, Entrance, Dripping Sun, Monaka, Majupose, Yayoi, Iyayoi, Kogarashi, Smoke and Mirrors