When the power cut out during Roth Bart Baron’s debut Fuji Rock performance last month, its members knew exactly how to improvise.
The indie rock band often closes concerts by unplugging its gear to play “Aluminum,” so the members can easily switch off the amps if needed. Despite the momentary obstacle, vocalist Masaya Mifune says the crowd approved.
“We had no choice” he tells The Japan Times with a laugh. “The PA systems were down.”
Based in Tokyo, Roth Bart Baron regularly performs in the capital but the Fuji Rock gig was particularly special. Sharing his own memories of the festival, Mifune recalls he and his friends being impressed by Wilco, when the American indie band played there four years ago.
“My friends were blown away and I just kept saying, ‘I told you they’re good!’ ”
One thing Mifune likes about Fuji Rock is the crowd, who tend to break loose from the dynamic of performance ends-band says thanks-applause ensues at Tokyo’s live houses.
“Audiences in Tokyo are shier and more reserved,” Mifune says. “At Fuji, they know it’s a festival and they’ll let loose, be louder and party more.”
On the topic of crowds, Mifune brings up a recent tour that took his band to Mongolia and China.
Roth Bart Baron performed at Mongolia’s Playtime Festival in the village of Gachuurt, located 30 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar. The festival’s organizers have shown an affinity for the Japanese music scene, having hosted the likes of postrockers Envy and Mono in the past, and invited Roth Bart Baron as an international headlining act alongside Swedish group The Radio Dept.
The band members arrived to see men sporting leather jackets and women donning patterned face paint. When Mifune began singing the chorus of “Little Big Man,” the crowd chanted along with him — some women even screaming in tune. Caught off guard by their enthusiasm, Mifune couldn’t help but yell his gratitude in-between breaths.
“The Mongolians were super excited,” he says. “The crowd sang along to our songs and I was really surprised by that.”
Roth Bart Baron also played shows in Beijing and Shanghai, where the members encountered many dedicated Japanese learners who could sing along to the lyrics of the group’s songs.
“I met a fan, an elementary school teacher in Shanghai, who was dressed in colorful Harajuku-style cosplay,” Mifune says. “She had never been to Japan, but she was fluent in Japanese just by watching anime online.”
Mifune says that he feels that interacting with fans abroad can help fight misconceptions he has been brought up with.
“Sometimes the Japanese media puts down the Chinese,” he says. “This was my first time in China, and I met very kind people. Their support during our show gave me confidence.”
Currently Roth Bart Baron is back in Japan and finishing a tour for its latest album, “Atom.”
Roth Bart Baron plays Shimotakaido G-Roks in Suginami-ku, Tokyo, on Aug. 26 (6:30 p.m. start; 03-3325-3311). Admission is free, but pre-registration is required at www.groks.co.jp. The band plays Livehouse Nano in Kyoto on Aug. 27 (12 p.m.; ¥2,000 in advance); Rockcountry in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Pref., on Aug. 28 (5:30 p.m.; ¥3,000 in adv.; 0827-22-6655.); Umeda Shangri-La in Osaka on Sept. 4 (3 p.m.; ¥2,500 in adv.; 06-6343-8601); Tsutaya O-West in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on Sept. 10 (12 p.m.; ¥5,900 in adv.; 03-5428-8793); and the 2016 Solar Budokan in Nakatsugawa, Gifu Pref., on Sept. 11 (solarbudokan.com/2016) For more information, visit www.rothbartbaron.com. You can see pictures from Playtime Festival at www.facebook.com/Urlan-Studio-170559606330511/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1011461195573677.