I had the pleasure of seeing "Happy Fun Smile" perform at Forbidden City last night. One of my favorite New York City acts, Happy Fun Smile seems transplanted straight out of the 1300s Japan, perhaps picking up a couple of NY hipsters to play the sanshin and sanba along the way. Brian the lead singer is kind of a force of nature by himself, leaping around, throwing his hands in the air, shouting out "hep hep!" and generally riling up the crowd. And the rest of the band attack the silly j-pop with equal abandon.
Seeing Happy Fun Smile play at Forbidden City, a funky Asian bar on Avenue A, is really the best way to catch them. Their six members are crammed impossibly into a tiny alcove at the front of the bar — you have to walk around the two cosplay-dressed female singers just to enter the bar.
I joined my sister Cori and a bunch of folks from her crew squatting on a bunch of barstools near the band, ordering food and drinks from the friendly barkeeps. Cori is a regular there, so she'd run behind the bar and pour us all drinks or into the kitchen to get us more rice, which was hilarious. At one point Happy Fun Smile led a silly dance that ran around the bar, with happy
fans joining in and everyone pulling out their camera phones. We could
have been in Akihabara.
Being in an East Village bar surrounded by a friendly crowd, eating delicious pan-asian food, listening to an Okinawan pop band on a Wednesday night — New York doesn't get much better than that.