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Japanese band delights S.F. audience

Helena Guan

On Thursday, Nov. 13, the Japanese rock band POLYSICS made a stop on their U.S. tour at Bottom of the Hill, a small venue at the bottom of Potrero Hill in San Francisco where some might walk down the lampless street thinking, “I’m going to die.”

POLYSICS is a Tokyo-based band that was formed in 1997 by vocalist/guitarist HAYASHI while he was still in high school. The band name was derived from the Korg Polysix, HAYASHI’s first synthesizer. They have been called “the Japanese equivalent of Devo” by, and they are known for their highly unique sound and distinctive costumes. The band first performed at Bottom of the Hill in 2007, and became known among overseas fans for having some of the best live shows.

The interior of the modest-sized venue was dimly lit with Christmas lights, decorated with a mashup of mission-themed items, and featured an immobile disco ball just in front of an elevated stage that seemed only large enough to fit a band and their equipment. By 10:30 p.m., the house was full. There were plenty of odd characters in the room, from a tall, thin woman handing out cookies, to a man with a Devo hat, to a longtime fan who had gotten the band to sign his guitar. Many of those present had also seen POLYSICS the first time they came to San Francisco over one year ago. The whole room was packed, and people were anxiously vying for the area closest to the stage.

Around 10:45, a few of the band members came onstage for a quick sound check. After they left, the crowd began to cheer, chanting, “POLYSICS! POLYSICS!” while electronic funk played in the background. An emcee came out to greet the crowd and introduce the band, and the four members came onstage dancing in orange jumpsuits sporting large pinned-on Ps, and odd rectangular sunglasses.

The whole hour-long set was incredibly high-energy with wonderful enthusiasm from both the band and the audience. The musical style alternated between fast, upbeat techno and pop-ish rock. Vocalist/guitarist HAYASHI’s amazing stamina made the show; he frequently ran around the stage, led the crowd clapping to the music, and jumped around enough to knock over the microphone stand a few times. Bassist FUMI and KAYO on synthesizer performed great backup vocals, while drummer YANO gave rhythm to the catchy melodies and HAYASHI’s impressive riffs.

A two-song encore ended the night with uproarious applause. HAYASHI stepped forward to high-five several crowd members, as YANO came from behind the drumset to hand out drumsticks.

Twirling a drumstick in her hand, fan Aya Matsumoto commented, “This was my first concert, and it was pretty awesome, even though I didn’t know most of the songs,” while Akie N., who preferred not to give her last name, added, “They were really energetic. I was amazed by their stamina. It was a good performance, and really good music.”

POLYSICS is a band with a dedicated overseas fanbase and a truly different sound. Their stage presence is unforgettable and highly enjoyable.

To listen to the band, visit