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Friday, February 22, 2008

Happyfunsmile Unplugged

NEW YORK, February 19 — On an extremely windy night, I went searching for the Aruba Bar Lounge (100 Park Avenue) in order to attend a Happyfunsmile performance. The bar was a hidden side room in the Peking Park Restaurant.

Aruba Bar Lounge had a strange atmosphere. The place was much smaller than the Forbidden City Bar and Lounge, Happyfunsmile’s home bar. It was also very darkly lit except for the stage area. The stage lights consisted of a strange mix of candy red and yellow-orange hues. The stage light gave the whole room a reddish glow.

Aruba Bar Lounge was a tiny room with a huge horseshoe shaped bar in the center. It was strangely cramped. The bar occupied most of the room, and the seating area was thin strip between the bar and the wall. This made it difficult to walk around the bar. The customers were literally up against the walls. The bartenders had a huge work space.

I quickly found a seat at the bar and ordered a few drinks. I started looking for the band. I couldn’t find any colorful wigs or Japanese Happi coats, which have become distinct parts of a Happyfunsmile performance. After a few minutes, I took a closer look around the bar and began to recognize Brian Nishii, Rodrigo Morimoto, Akiko Hiroshima, and Kaori Ibuki. They were dressed in their normal casual street attire. I barely recognized any of the band members without their bright outfits and neon colored wigs. Happyfunsmile decided to perform a stripped down show.

The stage area was extremely small. Only a handful of band members could fit in the stage area at one time. The rest of the band hung out at the bar. The musicians had to rotate every couple of songs throughout the night. Happyfunsmile performed some amazing acoustic versions of their songs.

At one point, Brian and Rodrigo took the stage to sing a duet. Brian tried his impression of Michael Jackson a la "Smooth Criminal", while Rodrigo went into his suave crooner mode. They sang a few tunes together. During the set, Akiko and Kaori sat behind me at the bar, and they began to sing background vocals. At first, I was a little surprised at the voices coming from behind my barstool. The main band played in front of the bar, and Akiko and Kaori sang behind my chair. It created a weird surround sound effect around my seat.

The whole night was very strange. The oversized bar, the tiny room, the strange lighting, the stripped down performance, and the surround sound effects combined to create a surreal experience. The whole scene was straight out of a David Lynch film.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been there too, but left early and could listen a couple of beautiful tunes from happyfunsmile!