Show Review: May 14th Reggae Rock Party with Nayokenza, Johnson’s Motorcar, and Sans Danesin

Golden Week has once again come and gone, but this time with a bitter, dry, yet non-alcohol taste. The Reggae-Rock Party was intended as a fitting finish to Japan’s second favorite holiday as everyone usually pours back into Tokyo refreshed from their jaunts to the countryside and abroad. This year, in dire and direct contrast, went a little differently as the State of Emergency was in full effect and traveling across any and all borders was heavily discouraged if not outright banned. Naturally the attitude with which the Reggae-Rock Party was approached changed to one of cautious fun but with Nayokenza, Johnson’s Motorcar and Sans Danesin we were gonna make the best of a bad situation.


The crowd is slow to join as the 6 foot bad ass Nayokenza steps up. His Dream Pop chaos crashed into reality and from the get go, Nayokenza’s feet barely touched the ground. His DJ, SkinnyDozo, may be the coolest and smoothest man in the building that night as he appears completely in his element laying down beats for his gangly, tattooed singer to let loose to. If nothing else, Nayokenza’s presence tonight is a reminder that high octane energy can be found abundant in songs about heartbreak and depression and you should totally head bang to those songs.


As Nayokenza steps down and the Tokyo night air cools down, the crowd begins to swell in anticipation of Folk Punks, Johnson’s Motorcar. Comparisons to Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy’s can easily be drawn but they might be missing the point. Yes there is an Irish man in the band. Yes, there is at least a fiddle player in the band. Yes, it’s even possible that their collective favorite colour is green. Who knows and who gives a fuck. The point is that as far as punk outfits go, Johnson’s Motorcar are an incredibly tight unit that are incredibly well versed in the art of making you dance and jump up and down. Oh, and their singer is really good too. What was most interesting to me was that their essence as a folk band was well ranged. At times I could hear a likeness to the Gypsy Punk kings Gogol Bordello, sometimes it even felt as though there was a little bit of Persian augmentation present in the mix. 10 out of 10, would love to see them again.


Folky-punky efforts aside, it was time for a little bit of calypso infused reggae to take center stage with Sans Danesin. With three of the best session and live musicians in Tokyo at his back, frontman Andy leads the charge on a set of reggaefied covers and hits that turn the crowd wild from the get go. The State of Emergency has not been the kindest so an opportunity to feel momentarily free like this is a relief. The people skanked, two stepped and even did the salsa to their heart's content, punctuated by the occasional and casual inclusion of conga lines and limbos. It’s fair to say few bands attempt this level of audience interaction, let alone succeed at it. Whatever your feelings on reggae and ska may be, whether you find it a little bit cheesy and have grown tired of “picking it up” as they often say, or if you find it to be the basis of your entire taste in music, Sans Danesin has left no doubt that reggae and ska are worth your time if you’re keen to cut loose and party.


In the end a ton of fun was had by all and our Reggae Rock Party was carried out with the necessary gusto and fervour. Even left not so high and, for some, despairingly dry, we couldn’t and wouldn’t be stopped from having a good time with quality music and the best company.



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