There’s no simple way to describe Kero Kero Bonito. The three-piece outfit isn’t like anything you’ve ever seen or heard before. The best summation (which still doesn’t begin to do the band justice) is a band with the lyrical style of a “Sesame Street” (1969–) song, the glitter-fueled grunge aesthetic of Ke$ha circa 2010 coupled with the bright, fun neons of a carnival and the sound of — well, this is where words are especially futile. Somewhere in a strange Venn diagram of post-punk, J-pop, synth-pop and dancehall exists Kero Kero Bonito.
If you’ve been on the internet at any point in the last few years, you’ve probably heard one of its infectious tunes. Its most popular (and most memed) song, “Flamingo” (2014), has been a staple on TikTok. But even long before the days of this app amalgamation of Vine and Music.ly, Kero Kero Bonito (referred to endearingly by fans as KKB) has maintained a cult following since its 2013 debut mixtape “Intro Bonito” and subsequent first full-length record, “Bonito Generation” (2016).
It’s not hard to see how the group’s fans have not just drunk, but chugged the KKB Kool-Aid. At its show at Paradise Rock Club on Oct. 11, dozens of fans could be seen milling about with glitter under their eyes, an homage to frontwoman Sarah Midori Perry’s signature look.
Accompanying KKB was opener Negative Gemini, a fun but otherwise unremarkable synth-pop performer. Her stage presence was slinky and engaging and her vocals smooth and echoey — your standard nostalgic indie pop singer. Regardless of how ‘safe’ her music was, she still pulled off a solid opening set.
After her set ended and the audience packed in so close to the stage it was practically impossible to move, the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived. Kero Kero Bonito, in all its bubbly glory, took the stage.
Of course, it wouldn’t do for Kero Kero Bonito to just step onto the stage and just play its first song. No, a band like KKB calls for theatrics in the form of Sarah Midori Perry stepping onto the stage in an oversized parka, obscuring her face from the crowd, and triumphantly waving an oversized white flag during its opening number, “Battle Lines” (2019), which is surprisingly fun despite being about humankind’s proclivity for war and tragedy. Even while Perry sings the words “I see blood in my dreams, a beaten face, a gas, the streets,” the electronic track still feels catchy. It parallels Grimes‘ “We Appreciate Power” (2018) and “Violence” (2019) in its brutal imagination of an apocalyptic future set to dance-y, synthy tracks.
The entire show consisted of a whopping 24-song set, with songs ranging from five years to five days old. Old favorites, like the much lighter “Lipslap” (2016) and aforementioned internet favorite “Flamingo,” were obvious crowd-favorites; during these tracks, glitter-adorned 20-somethings belted out every word alongside Perry.
The diversity of sound, both within and between the many songs, was one of the most compelling aspects of the show. Buoyant pop tracks like “Flamingo” flowed into heavily distorted, borderline harsh songs like “Only Acting” (2018). Even during songs, Perry would start in with pure pop vocals and flow into metal-esque screams. This interplay between playful pop and edginess is a trademark of KKB; Perry fluctuated between coyly telling the audience her Hogwarts house — Slytherin— and pretending a stuffed dog was alive, to covering straight classic rock bands like U2 and Boston in the encore.
One of the most quintessential factors in Kero Kero Bonito‘s success is its complete, wholehearted uniqueness — who else is rapping about shrimp in Japanese over flute backing? In sum, much like the band, this tour is one of a kind.