Nothing makes the world feel smaller and more connected like niche internet fandoms. Transcending borders, cultures, even language, the fanatic devotion of online followings is a fascinating and rather heartwarming side-effect of a perpetually logged-on world.
At the same time, nothing makes one feel older than standing in a crowd of several hundred frenzied fans, none of which look old enough to drink, all of which appear to be plugged into some pop culture frequency inaccessible to anyone even approaching 30.
Such was the scene on a frigid Friday night at Satellite Bar when UK pop sensations Kero Kero Bonito performed — or rather sermonized — to a delirious crowd of die-hard fans and loyal followers who were all inexplicably and intimately familiar with the obscure Japanese/British pop act. The large crowd of seemingly high school and college students were electrified, many were even well-versed in the discography of the yet more obscure opening act, Negative Gemini.
The stage name of singer-songwriter Lindsey French (and her onstage and studio accompaniment), Negative Gemini is an exploration of electric pop and genre-bending musical experimentation. French mixes intoxicating electronic noise vibes with dreamy synth-pop vocals — throwing in the occasional shredding guitar solo. The experience ranged from lurid house music to straightforward rock and most sounds in-between.
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From meeting on a UK message board for Japanese ex-pats, to commanding legions of online fans and touring the world, Kero Kero Bonito in many ways defines the modern music industry. The versatile and wildly unique pop trio began as a mostly EDM project incorporating a mix of English and Japanese vocals. Today they rock live performances with front-woman and lead vocalist Sarah Midori Perry jumping and head-banging through a set of high energy pop, electronic, and punk influences.
The set featured selections from their 2018 album Time 'n' Place, 2016's Bonito Generation, and a handful of singles including the wildly popular "Flamingo" — a 2014 self-expression anthem that perfectly encapsulates the band's colorful brand of quasi-Japanese electro-pop.
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A huddled mass of screaming fans lost little enthusiasm as a brisk evening turned colder with every passing track. Before Negative Gemini closed out her opening act, the backyard of Satellite Bar was nearly full. Halfway through KKB's set the rather large space was shoulder to shoulder with enamored onlookers shouting their support and undying love in-between songs.
By the time it was over, I had all but forgotten this was a burgeoning oversees act playing one of the city's more underground venues. Instead the evening mirrored the energy of a major festival or large theater performance for some breakout radio sensation. Such is the beauty of online fame. It has the potential to forgo traditional avenues, replacing formulaic talent development with a creative meritocracy that rewards genuine creativity and beautifully weird artists like KKB.
Last night at Satellite was a living meme, a look into the secret creative circles of Gen Z that make millennial creativity feel outdated. If Kero Kero Bonito is representative of the next generation's musical influences, I want more.