When one considers Beijing’s own No Wave scene, whimsy is rarely one of the first things that leaps to mind. Earnest indie scholarship, with required devotionals at the altars of Sonic Youth and Joy Division? Check. Insightful exploration of their generation’s nihilism and/or search for authenticity in an ownership-obsessed society? Check and check. But what of irreverence? Absurdity? Dressing up as a cow and devoting yourself to the “shooting of miracle magic milk” into audience’s minds? For such specific needs, we should look no further, of course, than swaggering Tokyo: home to a famously odd, vibrant underground arts scene.
Trippple Nippples, or PPP, have yet to release an LP, but their bombastic live performances, soundtracked to glitchy, funky poptronica, are already the source of much enthusiastic online chatter. The crowd was clearly ready for some “Japanese weirdness,” and as such, dressed for the occasion in leopard print and stonewash, sailor hat and grandpa cardigan. In a city like Beijing, in which, regardless of whether you’re a yuppie climber or artsy sub-cultural diver, sensible black or navy are the mode de rigueur, PPP’s show became a colorful celebration of unabashed fun, of wackiness for wackiness’ sake.
It began humbly, with opener Platinum (Bai Jin 白金) leaving some wandering if he was indeed the opening act, or simply a well-dressed man playing electroclash numbers off of his iTunes. After several songs, all utterly devoid of anything resembling “live performance”, he began to shout-sing into a microphone. And after that…hurrah! He put on a guitar and it began to feel as if we were at a concert. Bai Jin’s songs are catchy, well-crafted pieces of post-punk rock, mining themes of disillusioned youth and bitter love. The guy just really needs some band members.
PPP, on the other hand, in addition to nippple sisters Yuka and Qrea, included a band of three hip-looking white boys with tribal-signifying painted faces. They played the drums, turntables and keys with assurance and swing. Half the fun of a PPP show lies in discovering what costumes the sisters will conjure, and on this occasion they wore no shirts, but rather black clouds of tape and gladiator aluminum foil head crests: it was part cow, part Roman gladiator, all tongue-in-cheek, libertine fun.
The gig began like a fashion show, with earnest young DIY photographers and video-camera operators vying to snap the sisters Nippple, whose performance appeared half-rehearsed, half-spontaneous. After the first song, Yuki and Qrea smashed pillows against one another, and the exploding sea of feathers made their way throughout the show from stage floor to audience body. Halfway through the set, with the crowd suitably warmed up, the camera crew gave way to a sea of giddy, moshing revelers, leaving the crowd fittingly sweaty, slightly bruised and covered in goose down.
While undoubtedly a performance-over-craft act, PPP’s songs, with titles like “RIP Meat” and “Cavity”, feature endearing English bubblegum raps over well-patched beats. And while their nonsensical theme songs are a far cry from MIA’s anthems of the oppressed or Santagold’s righteous rap-singing, watching these confident young women leap about theatrically, masterfully overcome technical difficulties, then leap climactically into the crowd for a surf felt similarly globalized, gender-liberated and triumphant. I imagine the after party at White Rabbit only built upon such infectious good vibes.
Trippple Nippples official site: http://trippplenippples.blogspot.com/
Written for Beijing City Weekend, originally published May 21, 2010: http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/articles/blogs-beijing/the-beat/trippple-nippples-at-dos-kolegas/