First of all, above is my favorite shot in the entire photoset for the TOE Manila performance.
As a drummer, I am amazed how Kashikura Takashi’s drumming becomes him, as if all the notes he releases are not content to use his limbs and fingers as its conduits and therefore resulting to an emanation of percussive force through every part of his body. Sometimes, like in this photo, it would seem that he is pain. Physically, he might not be. TOE songs have moments in them that convey swells of emotion that rise and fall with intensity, calmly foreboding in one point and unforgivingly sudden in another. What amazes me is his range of movement–it is seemingly independent of the fluctuations in dynamics and tempo between and within songs. So what we have here is pure and raw emotion for the audience to drink in, seasoned according to how their palates react to TOE’s musical stylings. To paraphrase a Bon Jovi song, the poet needs the pain (Yeah, I just did that).
Although he is at his most intense the louder and faster songs, Kashikura Takashi delivers his ghost notes as if they don’t refer to their paranormal references. Never have I ever heard some of the softest and subtlest notes come from bludgeoning but deft movements. It is as if he used a warhammer to carve a figure from a grain of rice. Given the complexity of the drum parts and the physical rigor it requires, it is amazing how Kashikura Takashi was able to pull off song after song in every performance. His control and fury makes one assume this dire beast of a drummer is tied to a leash taut enough to ground him on technique and discipline but long enough for him to run after you and bite your ass at the slightest provocation.
I am so enamoured with the whole stage set up where the band is right smack in the middle of the audience. I’ve always wanted to perform in such a set up ever since I saw the Deftones video for ‘Hexagram’. For one, the audience gets to see the band in different angles and makes the performance feel more intimate. Another is that it allows for constant communication between the band members, which is a big advantage for bands that play intricately arranged pieces such as TOE.
A variation on the set up is one practiced by Incubus, where Jose Pasillas‘s drum kit would be situated on one side of the stage instead of the back, presumably facilitating better communication between members while they are playing. This is just an assumption, and I’d would very much like to know why they have such a set up on live performances. On the flipside, the set up could be a nightmare for the meeker and shier musicians because they are facing the audience at any given point.
I’ll say it once more: Taking pictures of TOE in the Manila leg of their Five Six Seven Tour was the most fulfilling and fun experience I had having a DSLR in a concert. This is primarily because I get to capture moments the moments from what I believe is one of the most talented drummers in the world has ever heard. He is both worth listening and watching. Some of the local drummers I admire don’t really register very well in photographs basically because of the limited range of movement they have on stage, compared to their more mobile bandmates that can freely jump and even stagedive at any given point. The more disciplined ones are stoic and seldom are subject of intense photos. What makes it worse is that drummers are usually placed at the back of the stage and do not receive good lighting, especially in small shows.
I am always reminded of an article years ago that points out that the bass drum does not represent the drummer’s “front”, and that some drummers like Ringo Starr were urged to play drums from a position higher than he usually does so that TV cameras can get a better look at him. At this point, I am making a disclaimer that it is not my intention to tell people that I want nice pictures of me taken while I am drumming, although that would be great. My point really is that taking great pictures of drummers’ performances has always been a challenge for me because of their range of movement and stage position, and that those things shouldn’t and doesn’t stop drummers to lend heaps of on-stage charisma to the band. That is what I loved about shooting Kashikura Takashi and the rest of TOE who feed off each other’s energy, which they also oscillate to and from their audience–they amalgamated labyrinthine musicality, empathic performance, and stage logistics to create one of the best shows in Manila by a foreign act this year so far.
Photos ©PTMTolibas2012, with permission from INTASTELLA BURST HK