Anamanaguchi: Nostalgia as Religion
I’ve made plenty of remarks over the past few years about contemporary party culture and the Dionysian. The one Nietzsche talks about in The Birth of Tragedy, which he cites as everything abstract and subjective, mystical and of music. About how partying, drinking, drug use, raves – the modern orgia – and the general chaos of being young (or acting young) and being bad (or acting bad) is directly related to the ancient Greek rituals of Dionysius, the god of debauchery and license. By losing one’s self and merging with the collective spirit, one is able to transcend physicality and consciousness and possibly encounter something mystical. This is how the ancient Greeks saw it (and I guess Nietzsche and Wagner – I’ll get to them later), anyway, and I’m hard-pressed to disagree.
Last night, I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite bands, Anamanaguchi, in concert. It was pretty great. While the band played chiptuned guitars, a holographic montage of bad media and 90s computer graphics splayed behind and around the stage, a neon and aggressive altar. The crowd raged, pogoed, drank, crowd surfed, danced, and generally had a good time. At one point, a member of the band sent a prominent fluorescent neon light into the audience, which proceeded to be raised by the crowd, kids riding it, a modern horah.
For many of Anamanaguchi’s fans, the music is nostalgic. To claim that the band’s music is simply old video game nostalgia would be a disservice to the band and its music though. There’s many layers at work here. The NES inspired and powered music does not emulate what a video game sounds like, but instead incorporates that sound with elements of power pop, indie rock, surf rock, and new rave sounds. Visuals are also incorporated into the Anamanaguchi experience, from album covers to the band’s website, a hodgepodge of Lisa Frank colored social media and totally tumblr 90s computer art and design. Not to mention their music video for “Meow,” a hyperactive and visually stimulating homage to Saturday morning cartoon blocks, Chuck E. Cheese, Japanese culture, and growing up and being twenty-something in 2013. It’s like living in the internet and surviving off Pixy Stix, pizza, and sound waves. The visuals are in no way necessary to understanding and appreciating the music, but they do elevate the experience.
There was a moment during the concert where the audience began chanting the word pizza. It was at this moment that I noticed something mystical beginning to happen. I’ve been to plenty of concerts, from local synth rock gods Vice Grip, to the Rochester Philharmonic, to fucking Macklemore. One of my all time favorite concert experiences (this is pretty funny) was seeing post-hardcore pop punk Senses Fail in Syracuse not too long ago. The crowd was intense from years of listening to the band, everyone knew every word of every prom queen killing song, and there was a real high energy of eighth grade, 2004 nostalgia. Most people would probably disagree with me, but there’s certainly something religious about a hundred kids screaming “Just like the lady in the blue dress/you’ve got cigarettes on your breath/hair spray and some cheap perfume.” That kind of energy, no matter how goofy it might seem, shouldn’t be dismissed.