Kiiiiiii live in Tokyo
Photo by Graham Webster

Reiko fights the power
Photo by Graham Webster

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Kiiiiiii For Any Occasion

Utako is bleeding, and it's only the second song. While jumping up and down during the Wiggles cover "Four Little Joeys," her left foot came down hard on the cheap plastic high-heeled slippers she is wearing, and now blood is soaking the bottom of her pink stockings. But she goes on with the show, and we in the audience have no idea that anything is amiss. She is frantically jerking and running across the stage as usual - so much that her right slipper accidentally goes flying out into the rafters towards the end of the performance. Kiiiiiii ends their set with one less gaudy slipper and a bloody foot wound, but at least two dozen new fans.

The litany of bruises coloring Utako's legs stands testament to the physical endurance required by a Kiiiiiii performance. Utako and drummer Reiko do not just "play" music - they enact a whole violent pageant that tears up the stage like a crayon-colored tornado. All this talk of unintentional injury unfortunately makes Kiiiiiii sound like some sort of Neo-Riot Grrrrl punk rock, which they are not. Utako and Reiko (aka u.t. and Lakin') find their inspiration in much more naive and gentle genres- namely, Nickelodeon cartoons, '80s American sitcoms like Family Ties, Captain Eo-era Michael Jackson, and Australia's answer to Raffi, the Wiggles.

Okay, they also like Neu! and Rage Against the Machine and Queen, but they go far beyond the conventions of "band." Kiiiiiii is not merely two girls making music, but the full-body realization of a nifty concept: two 13-year-old American girls in the suburbs (think DJ and Kimmy from Full House) rocking out in their room to an imaginary audience while playing imaginary instruments. In accordance with this theme, u.t. and Lakin' litter the stage with colorful streamers and stuffed animals and never directly address those watching, nor even speak in Japanese. In a time when punk itself has become a bloated and clichéd genre, Kiiiiii have boiled punk down to its most essential parts: just drums and vocals. And a crocodile puppet.

Of course, even the most meticulous Japanese tend to drift from their target into weird lysergic waters, and Kiiiiiii certainly go beyond the limitations and expectations of sticking to a world imagined by two 13-year old girls. For example, they have a song called "Ozzie Ozbourne" which is a tribute to Australian animals ("Whoa whoa whoa whoa kangaroo punch/ Whoa whoa whoa whoa wombat chop") sung to the tune of the Australian national anthem with a whole lot of kazoo soloing. The military march cover of the classic "Allouette" goes well until Utako randomly screams in fear pointing towards some mysterious object. Reiko screams,"Alvin!!!!" (as in the Chipmunks), which brings Utako back to the microphone as if nothing ever happened. (What??)

And the whole thing about "no Japanese" is technically correct, but they tend to speak in an imaginary colorful pidgin. For example, here's the dialogue uttered before their song "(The World According To) Carp and Sheep":

Reiko: Hey my cat! Where will you go now?
Utako: I like tabi (journey) and also matatabi (catnip)!

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