Review: Roth Bart Baron and Bonobos at La Mama

by Ben Madden

Contributing Writer

Roth Bart Baron proved to be a tough act to follow when the band played La Mama in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward on Feb. 4.

The five-member group straddled the line between control and chaos, knowing when to hold back and when to let loose, to the delight of a close-to-200-strong crowd.

This was particularly evident during the conclusion of penultimate song “Monster,” which included a dissonant breakdown that transitioned directly into a secret final song that got rapturous approval. Favorites also included “Atom,” “Hal” and “Hex.”

There’s a definite Western influence to Roth Bart Baron’s music, as well as in their performance. If you closed your eyes for a minute, you would have felt like you were at a club in Montreal.

The band’s keen eye for visuals wasn’t lost, either, with a light show befitting a venue much larger than the basement space we were in.

Bonobos, who’ve been around for more than 15 years, released their latest EP, “Folk City Folk,” late last year. Time hasn’t slowed the band down at all, their dub-inspired sound sounding as fresh as ever.

Bonobos’ slower songs in particular were a real treat, with a setlist that demonstrated the band’s cohesion. While they were a bit more reserved than the openers, they were no less captivating, and by the end even the most respectful of fans were dancing, if not singing, along to the tunes.

Bonobos’ longevity has allowed them to build a considerable base over the years, with the age range in the room as varied as you’re likely to see at a concert. There was even a toddler present, which was a bit of a surprise to this reviewer.

It’s surprising how well two bands that don’t seem to have much in common can work together on a bill. La Mama booked the gig on the premise that neither band would appear in the other’s “you may also like” section on YouTube. In that sense, the show seemed like a playful slap in the face for algorithms.