MunizO – Samurai punks take over Toronto Print E-mail
Written by Jason Daniel Baker   
Sunday, 06 November 2016 03:20

I love to write about bands from around the world and actively look for them online. I have found many via the pages of Uber Rock.  But it isn't often that worthy subjects of attention are presented to me by chance.




I found Japanese power trio MunizO grooving outside Union Station in Toronto. They weren't playing in the square like other live acts had done over the summer of 2016. No, in fact they were busking much to the bemusement of thousands of passersby. A dude with an acoustic guitar busking is a common sight on the street and in the subways of Toronto. A full band going at it electric on a crowded corner is considerably less ordinary.


The stratagem of performing near a stadium (Union Station is near Rogers Centre - home field of Major League Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays) before a big game is one more than a few bands have employed over the years. They go to the crowd if it won't come to them. It works for some bands considerably more than others. Few are as bold and prolific in employing it these days as this outfit.


To this award-winning band it is an extension of a bold move they had the initiative to take, in moving across the globe to North America's fourth most populous city. With their wildly experimental sound and classic punk stage manner they went over with decidedly mixed results in their native Japan - a conservative culture in which their lack of conformity was off-putting. They got signed to a label that didn't understand them or their hot groove, got sufficiently alienated with the industry there and split. They came here from Tokyo in March as rock 'n’ roll refugees and by September word of mouth had made them a hot ticket.



On 8 October, they had a gig at Toronto's legendary Horseshoe Tavern and I seized the opportunity to cover the show. The vibe about them around here is absolutely huge. They've already been written about in the Toronto Star - one of the city's major daily newspapers - but only as a curiosity, not really for what they might mean in the context of rock 'n" roll now and in future.


By chance I found them at a fast food place next door to the gig a few hours before their set. But their shaky grasp of English made my attempts at an impromptu interview extremely difficult then, and after I chanced upon them again playing another street gig outside the Eaton Centre at Yonge & Dundas weeks later. I decided the best way to tell readers about them was to give them a little background about Muniz0 then relate whatever went down at their live show at the Horseshoe.


They filled the venue with sweating, slam-dancing humanity there to witness an epic display of live musical performance and showmanship during their set we only sometimes get to see here. Their drummer Yuta is like a Kabuki theatre version of Keith Moon. Brothers Taro and Jiro, who share guitar and vocal duties, were dressed as a clown and a samurai respectively in early celebration of Halloween.


At the end of a set full of hot rock, which evoked the best of the Red Hot Chili Peppers & Rage Against The Machine they collapsed in a heap in the centre of the stage even more exhausted and satisfied than we in the audience were. I felt extraordinarily lucky to see it as after the first few concussions they sustain things might get more tame in future gigs.


Toronto audiences are notoriously fickle (ask Noel Gallagher or Billy Bob Thornton). As far north as we are, if you rub us the wrong way things can go south for you real quick. But if you give us what we want in a way we haven't had it before you'll own us. That is what MunizO did many times over at the Horseshoe and other places across the city since they moved here.


Time will tell if it continues to be the right move for them. Early indications are extremely promising judging by how local fans have adopted them. Having independently produced a CD here they will be competing with bands from around the world in the Indie Week Showcase at the Silver Dollar Room in mid-November. The prize for the winning band is to be the headliner of Indie Week Europe 2017. My money is on them.


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