Tokyo Day 3: Penguins Attack Osaka
On the 12th, I took the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Osaka. It's a 3 hour train ride if you take take the limited express. This particular train was about to leave in 2min but I had to get some food for the ride before I boarded.I bought 2 bento boxes more or less blindly and then booted it to a vending machine for a couple of drinks before JUST making it onto the train. I actually had to walk 5 cabins down to where my actual seat was since I had hopped through the nearest entrance before the doors could close on me. Part of the fun is carefully choosing your ekiben (train station bento box) prior to getting on the shinkansen. They have food carts on the train but they only serve a limited array of snacks. Apparently, if you're at one of the train stations in the countryside they have some great elaborate, homemade bentos as opposed to the factory produced ones you get at stations on the main lines. Anyhow, I arbitrarily purchased these 2 boxes:
I arrived @ Shin-Osaka station at 3pm and took the subway towards my hotel. The crappy thing about Osaka is that they're a bit "anti-Tokyo" and you can't use SUICA cards there. Subway ticket prices are also about double what they would cost in Tokyo. The hotel room kicked ass however. It was much more spacious and sleek looking compared to anything you would find in Tokyo for the same price.
I highly recommend Cross Hotel near Namba HIPS if you want to stay in a nice hotel for a relatively cheap price in downtown Osaka.
I didn't have time to sightsee in Osaka since sgt's show started fairly early (doors at 5:30pm, show @ 6:00pm). Google maps screwed me up and it took me a little bit longer to find the club (Unagidani SUNSUI in Shinsaibashi) than it should have. When I went inside the club I bumped into Mikiko Narui (sgt violin) and Koji Akashi (sgt bass). They went nuts. I was superhappy to see them but I guess I was tired and didn't match their enthusiasm so they asked if something was wrong. I just explained my lack of sleep for the past few days but ensured it was awesome to be able to see them again. They took me to the greenroom where the bands hang out. Koji introduced me to ____ _____ (I couldn't catch the name) of toe. He said this person also plays for Kimura Kaela. I was thinking WTF?!!! Is this Kashikura? He doesn't look anything like Kashikura though. I found out later that he is toe's support keyboard player who also plays support in Kimura Kaela's band just like Kashikura. I talked to him about the possibility of toe coming to Canada and I got the sense it may be difficult since they all have jobs outside of music. Kitazawa (sgt's manager) also warned me that I'd probably have to bring a bunch of their staff/crew as well but if I brought more bands from his label instead I wouldn't have to. hahaha.
The show tonight was the tour finale of the World Penguin's Carnival. The tour was set up by Kitazawa and his label Penguinmarket Records. It involved Penguinmarket bands such as sgt., wooderd chiari, middle9, oaqk, Clean of Core, nenem, MAS, LED etc as well as other great non-Penguin bands such as: fresh!, wozniak, worlds end girlfriend, hununhum, miscorner/c+llooqtortion, akutagawa etc.
Tonight's show featured Clean of Core, sgt, middle9, Harp On Mouth Sextet, and MAS. It was also MAS' new album release party. For those that don't know sgt's beautiful violinist Mikiko Narui also plays violin and xylophone for MAS. Before the show started she said something to me about "2 stage." I thought maybe the club had 2 stages and the bands would alternate between stages to cut down on set-up time but now I realize that "2 stage" meant that she would be appearing on stage twice. (Japanese and their nutty bastardization of the English language).
Clean of Core were first and they RIPPED SH*T UP! Too bad the show started so early the crowd hadn't built up yet b/c their performance deserved a much larger audience. As a bit of musical trivia Clean of Core's guitarist Sunao Takeda is the younger brother of LITE guitarist Noboyuki Takeda. Sunao one up's his brother by playing both guitar and keyboards AT THE SAME TIME. He does hammer on's with his left and plays keyboards with his right similar to the bassplayer of wozniak.
Here's my clip from last night:
I've mentioned this in the past but Clean of Core's drummer used to be quite overweight but now Teruhito's so ripped he could release his own DVD: Drum Your Way to 6 Pack Abs. Clean of Core definitely got the show off to a great and energetic start.
sgt. were on next. All I can say is they are one of the best bands on the planet and if you like good music, live in Canada and missed them in October than you have feces for brains. They would love to come to Canada again and I'd love to help bring them again so make sure you don't miss them a 2nd time. Here's the abridged version of "銀河を壊して発電所を創れ" they played at SUNSUI.
Here's a great clip that shows the crowd getting into it at a different club (Vijon) in Osaka. Osaka may have the best audiences in Japan but Fukuoka and local scenes in Tokyo may beg to differ.
Intense, exceedingly talented and such great people, sgt are easily one of my favorite bands. It was definitely worth taking the trip down to Osaka to watch them perform.
But every band that played the World Penguin's Carnival tour finale was top notch. middle9 played 3rd and they put on an incredibly jazzy, soulful set.
One of the highlights of the night was watching Hiroshi flex his back-up dancing moves and then chug a cold one during emcee breaks.
This was his 2nd time doing this (he chugged an entire bottle the first time) . Hirsoshi told me he actually has very low tolerance for alcohol and he gets royally buzzed on stage whenever he does this which makes it all the more impressive since he never misses a beat performing afterwards. More trivia: Guitarist Hiroshi Shinbori and keyboard/vibraphone player Motoko Toyama are married.
After COC, sgt and middle9 killed it 3 times in a row I figured we were due for a drop in quality. I had never heard of Harp On Mouth Sextet and figured they were just a half-decent local band Kitazawa was being nice to by giving such a prime spot in the schedule. Boy was I wrong, they kicked just as much ass as the Penguin bands and deserved their near-top-billing status. H.O.M.S really got the crowd moving with their sonically and visually astonishing show. I don't think I could ever justify bringing a band with 7-8 members to Canada, 6 of which are girls playing harmonicas, but they were really fun to watch.
It's too bad you can't see dick all with my digicam footage but believe me they put on a fantastic show.
Topping the show were MAS:
If you love sgt, there's no reason why you won't love MAS since there are quite a few similarities but enough differences (greater focus on electronic/dub and with more sax and a jazzier feel) to set them apart. Hell any band with Mikiko Narui is awesome a priori.
The sax player/digital percussionist Yoshio Ootani also plays support sax for sgt and has his own band called sim. Apparently, sim is one of the most most renowned experimental jazz troupes in Japan. Yoshio explained to me I need to check out his band so when people ask, "Do you know 'sim'?" I can reply, "Yes... I know sim..... simはやばい!" hahahaha. Then later on Hitoshi Ono (sgt drums) walked by and Yoshio yelled at Hitoshi, "Hey, what do you think of sim?" And I swear to God, Hitoshi's exact words were, "simはやばい!" (note: やばい = yabai = "dangerous" or "terrible" if translated in the literal sense but it can also carry positive connotations ie sim is yabai = ooooh shit! sim is f*cking badass.)
Every band was insanely good but the higlight was probably MAS' encore:
After the show, all the bands (minus H.O.M.S) and some fans went to a nearby izakaya for an uchiage. Members of oakq and talking dead goats 45" were also present.
We drank until 4am and the bands drove back (8 hours) to Tokyo. Don't worry there designated drivers. I ended up staying in Osaka for a bit and then travelled to Kyoto and nagoya for a bit to make use of my JR Pass.