Tokyo Day 2: family reunion
I decided to take it easy during the day. I caught up on some much needed sleep, wrote a blog entry about the show last night, validated my 3-week JR pass, scored reserve tickets for NATSUMEN's Endless Summer Jam one-man show (12/21) @ SHELTER (which I thought would be sold out for sure), went to Disk Union @ Shimokitazawa and surprisingly didn't buy anything and went to Tower Records in Shibuya and picked up CDs by 東京カランコロン and ソンソン弁当箱. When in Rome you blog as the Romans do and since Japanese people ALWAYS blog about what they ate that day I'll quickly plug one of my favorite lil hangouts: 3rd Stone Cafe (near Club 251 in Shimokitazawa).
Whenever I go there it's almost always near empty so I'm not exactly sure how it has managed to stay open for 10 years. Unfortunately, the awesome bartender/cook who used to work there no longer does. She was one of the main reasons I frequented the joint but the new staff are just as cool. They make a kick-ass taco rice and a mouthwatering grilled tuna sandwich with wasabi, nori (dried seaweed) and melted cheese. Here's the taco rice: It doesn't look impressive but it tastes pretty damn good. It's rather hard to F up something as simple as taco rice but they make one of the tastier versions. I know Ian will probably read this blog entry. He hates how Japanese people invariably blog about what they ate on a daily basis. So this arbitrary documentation of what I ate today is somewhat of an esoteric joke. At least I didn't blog about Ramen Jiro!
Tonight was Chiemi-chan's final performance with MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS. Club Quattro in Shibuya is a fairly large venue that likely holds ~ 1000 people. The place was PACKED and almost certainly sold out attendance-wise. I arrived ~half hour after doors opened and it was already 90% full. The first person I ran into at the show was Kenta Oshikiri of susquatch. I didn't even know he was going to make it to the show tonight. I had intended on calling him earlier during the day but my cell phone died. All 4 members of susquatch soon showed up as well as Kim & Midi of uhnellys. Unfortunately, sgt were playing a show in Nagoya tonight otherwise the family reunion would have been complete.
There was a guest area at the very back that was raised to allow a better view. I watched the first third of the show at the guest area with susquatch and uhnellys.... but decided to move near the front so I could have more fun. Kim and kenta were expecting me to stage dive but I wasn't close enough to the stage and honestly there's probably an unwritten rule that if you're 3 times the size of the people you're landing on you shouldn't jump out of respect for their general health and safety (Not to mention your own since they have to support you).
MOTFD sounded so much better tonight than they did in Canada since they had their own sound tech and much better backline. (Nattchan nearly cried when she saw the tiny bass amp Indie Week supplied us with at the Toronto shows.) They were incredibly tight and LOUD. I wasn't keeping track too closely but I think they played their entire discography. Their set started with the awesome intro music they apparently used for their endroll at Shibuya Ax: Does anyone know the name/artist for this song? I think it's by an artist/group in the States or UK.
As Natsuko, Chiemi and Yoshino walked on stage to the music above they were greeted with a deafening roar and ovation from the capacity crowd. Nattchan gave a heartwarming thank you to everyone who came then kicked things off with her signature "Seeeeeeeeeeh NO!!!!!!!" (Translation: "Ready... GO!") followed by an insanely loud wall of instrumental thunder by the trio which segued into "She is Inside, He is Outside." Taking pictures/video is STRICTLY prohibited at shows in Japan (though people turn a blind eye at the more underground events). Unfortunately I don't have any photos or video from last night but the start of the show went somewhat like this:
They played 20 or more songs and I can't remember any songs off their 2eps and album that they didn't play. They even performed "Ameiro no Heya" which is the song they covered for the Quruli tribute album. Highlights for me were the fact they played every song off their s/t ep including a full ~10 min version of "Endroll." Nattchan's angelic acapella intro to "なんなん” was stunningly beautiful and probably the best I've heard her sound. Oftentimes when bands perform at big venues they'll tune out and ignore the majority of what the audience says but Natsuko listened and responded graciously to every single "shout out," comment and remark made. "Highlight" was the penultimate song and I went completely nuts when they played it. Judging by the crowd reaction it's probably the favorite song of most MOTFD fans in Japan. Their rendition of "BEARS" (final song) was ridiculously badass! Actually, their entire show was absolutely fierce and intense!! Some fans were choked they didn't play an encore but seriously what can you expect if they played every recognizable song in their catalog. The only songs they could have possibly performed were "ないものねだり" off the "Kill Your TV 09" compilation (which requires piano accompaniment") and demo songs pre-Kirametal. I was surprised there was no mention of this being Chiemi's final performance with the band during the show. You might have expected a moment where the audience could express their gratitude and best wishes to Chiemi as a thank you farewell but MOTFD played as if they were all continuing on together. The only indication it was Chiemi's swan song was she stayed behind and shook hands with everyone near the front before finally exiting the stage.
While everyone was slowly piling out of the concert room an incredibly cute girl came up to me and tugged on my shirt. She said (in Japanese), "This is kind of embarrassing but is your name 'Steve' by any chance?" I told her it was, tried my best to remember if I've met this person before but she quickly explained that she went to the NMFT vol 1 tour final @ O-nest in May. She said it was one of the best shows she had ever been to and she was deeply moved by the impromptu speech the bands forced me to give at the end of the show (it was probably more eloquent and profound than any prepared speech I've ever given in English. I'm not sure how I pulled that speech out of my ass although I did think about what I might want to talk about should the bands make me give a speech.. which they did!). She said when she noticed me in the audience tonight she almost cried because it brought her back to the awesome time she had in May. Her name is Hikaru and I'd like to give her a HUGE shout out in case she reads this blog. One of the coolest things Hikaru told me was that she went to the NMFT tour final because she was a fan of andymori but she ended up falling in love with グーミ's music and now thinks オワリカラ is the shiznit as well. She's even become good friends with Takahashi Hyouri and the gang. Hikaru said she hoped I'd continue with the tours. She recommended I invite predawn (andymori Souhei's girlfriend and one of the brightest up & coming female singer/songwriters in Japan) to Canada. I told her I'd consider it especially since she's only one person and would save me loads of money on airfare. hahaha. Hikaru walked back towards her friends and I made my way back to the guest area where susquatch and uhnellys were waiting.
Guests with invitations were allowed to stick behind for an uchiage (after-party). But given MOTFD are on a major label (EMI) and the size of the venue the uchiage had an extremely corporate/formal mood to it instead of the fun party atmosphere at almost every other uchiage I've been to. A lot of members from fairly big-name bands came out to give their best wishes to Chiemi. At the beginning of the show Maki-chan (susquatch drums) said she saw Chatmonchy members on the guestlist. I said, "No way!" although it was entirely possible since they've performed at least once together and Eriko tweeted me a msg on my Twitter account wishing me and MOTFD luck on the NMFT v2 tour. But I didn't see anyone from Chatmonchy in the guest area during the show and I doubted they would watch the show in the main area with the crowd going nuts. But sure enough during the uchiage Maki and I spotted Fukuoka Akiko first and then Hashimoto Eriko. I told Maki that I was going to go up to them and say hi and she and Kim (uhnellys) said, "Are you nuts?! You can't just go up to them and say hi!" (In Japan, people are incredibly sensitive towards proper decorum and social station/hierarchy i.e. the whole "sempai" system). But I reassured them that I had met Chatmonchy numerous times before including their trip to SXSW. Hashieri and Akkobin were surprised to see me at the uchiage. Apparently Echan hadn't done the math and didn't realize that the person she tweeted good luck was the same person from Canada she had met at SXSW. (My twitter account is actually under NextMusicfromTokyo and 99% of the tweets are just RSS feeds of these blog entries since that's how Denise set my account for me. BTW thanks Denise! Though I should probably kill the feeds and start writing proper mundane twitter material. For the most part I had been anti-Twitter but I concede it's an extremely useful networking tool.) Although I never took any pics or video during the show I did smuggle my digicam in case I wanted to take pics during the uchiage. But due to the uptight nature of the uchiage and the fact noone else was even taking cellphone camera pics I decided not to take any photos EXCEPT for one:
When I saw Akkobin and Ecchan greeting Chiemi I had to sneak a photo ala secret agent mode (cameras weren't allowed hence the crappy nature of the photo). =)
Hajime of ミドリ was also there ( I said "Hi" and reminded him about the October tour) and Maki was geeked to see the singer of 9mm Parabellum bullet. There were probably a bunch of famous peeps I didn't recognize. I'm sure Kentaro Nakao +/- Ahito Inozawa were around somewhere.
Speaking about 9mm, Kubota-san (MOTFD's manager) introduced me to 2 different A&R's from and the owner of Zankyo Records. MOTFD actually played at Zankyo Matsuri 3 years ago and I missed them b/c I watched the Pink Panda play across the street at O-West while MOTFD were performing at O-east. To this day i am kicking myelf b/c at that time Reiko Gotoh was still the drummer. Anyhow, the staff at Zankyo records are extreeeeeemely enthusiastic about getting involved with the NMFT tour. The prez would especially love for me to invite Mudy on the Sakuban. She was shocked that I had even heard of her label which is pretty nuts since they have arguably the hottest indie label in Japan. But she soon found out that I know the entire Zankyo roster inside out from 9mm to haisuinonasa to rejuvenated half-face! I told them that I had invited texas pandaa to NMFT vol 2 but they couldn't make it b/c of work and I was considering Perfect Piano Lesson (due to their fluency in English) before sgt confirmed to join the tour. Mudy would be an awesome choice ALTHOUGH I pointed out they have 3 guitarists and that means I have to rent 3 guitar amps when most bands usually need just one.
I had a feeling this trip would change my mind and get me excited about resurrecting hopes for a tour in May. I was looking forward to chillaxing for the first half of 2011 but I may end up devoting all my free time planning a tour in May once again. But no promises yet.
Crap. I have to end this entry here for now since I should already be on a train to Osaka to see sgt tonight. Will finish the post when I get to Osaka.
I'm back, but Osaka was actually 2 nights ago and I've since been to Kyoto and I'm currently in Nagoya.
The highlight for me at MOTFD's uchiage was when Natt-chan saw me, screamed "STEEEEEEEEBU" and gave me a huge hug right in front of Eriko and Akiko of Chatmonchy. Then she saw the rest of the gang (susquatch & uhnellys) and said it felt like a family reunion. I didn't catch it but Natsuko told me that she accidently blurted my name while she was performing on stage when she first saw me in the audience. We all wished Natsuko the best in continuing with the band and even though we were all curious we decided not to ask about what they intend to do about replacing Chiemi (esp since I heard from tacobonds that they may carry on as a 2-piece without a guitarist). Since there were a ton of people waiting to greet Natsuko we kept our reunion short and let Nattchan fulfill her duties as host.
We waited around until Chiemi was free b/c everyone in the room wanted to give her their best regards. It was great to see her in such a good mood. She was ecstatic to see all of us again. Again there really was no indication it was her last show with the band even though everyone knew that was the case. I'm not sure what the other guests were saying to her but we decided not to bring it up in case it was a sore topic. They played an amazing show that night and none of us wanted to kill the mood.
Midi had already left early and susquatch/uhnellys needed to get back home for various reasons so we ended up leaving Quattro after chatting with Chiemi. I got another awesome hug from Natsuko before leaving though. =) Once we got out of the performance area, I thought it would be safe to take a group pic at least with Kim & susquatch (Midi already left).
All of us, including sgt, will be meeting again at Baba Yusuke's Gyoza Party @ Shimokita ERA on the 16th. That's going to be incredibly fun with a lot of drinking, irreverent behavior, and f'd up-ness plus lots of tasty gyoza. =)
After MOTFD's uchiage, Baba (susquatch's support bassplayer) actually had a set to play at a nearby livehouse with his own band ウタノマニマニ (Uta no Mani-Mani). He had to boot it for soundcheck and they were the first band to perform at 10min after midnight. It was an all-night club event running from midnight till 6am. I told Baba I'd at least watch his band. My clip hasn't finished uploading onto Youtube so here's footage from someone else at a different show:
They play a variety of styles from Jamiroquai-esque acid jazz to Supercar-esque electro/dance to rock ballads. They're solid musicians with some great songs but I have to be honest that the music doesn't fit with what I normally listen to. It's a bit too "happy" for my tastes but I wish them the best and there are a ton of people that would be open to their brand of music. The clip of the song I taped was pretty cool however, it's one where they sound a bit like Supercar. I'll embed it once it's finished uploading. here it is: