Noo Yawk aka la grande pomme (Manhattan and Brooklyn to be precise)
After working 24 hours straight on-call (with no sleep) at the hospital I flew the same morning from Pearson International to LaGuardia airport in Queens. The flight was long enough to watch 60% of the movie the Fighter. Now I have to downloa... err... rent the movie when I get back home to finish the rest The purpose of my trip was to go and support Praha Depart who are one of my favorite bands. They are currently on a mini tour playing 6 shows in 9 days within Manhattan, illadelph and Crooklyn (Philadelphia and Brooklyn for the underground hip hop impaired). I managed to catch their 2nd and 3rd shows, both in Brooklyn, at Goodbye Blue Monday and the Trash Bar, respectively. Goodbye Blue Monday was a small, seedy club under the J-train tracks on Broadway. The acrid malodor of sweat and urine was quite palpable. I don't know if there was a cover charge because I just walked in and beelined it towards the stage and noone seemed to care. I think they were just happy that someone actually came to watch the show. There were maybe 4 people in attendance as Praha Depart warmed up for their set at 9pm. They were never given a proper sound check, just a quick 5min line-check before being forced to start. They kicked it off with "Patrol Song" and played their hearts out as if the venue was filled to capacity. It was my first time seeing the new line-up with Hashimoto on bass and Mai strictly on vocals given free range to dance to her heart's content. As a bit of trivia, Hashimoto used to sing and play guitar for the extremely awesome creepypop (RIP):
Damn, another great band bites the dust. And some further digression.... Substance, if you're reading this post Hashimoto may give Kouno (Lagitagida/Luminous/ex-mahiruno) a run for your money as who you may deem sexiest bassplayer on the planet. hahaha. He's actually not that good on bass having never played until last Dec but I think he's your type of eye-candy. ; )
Alright, where the f*ck was I... The new line-up ROCKED. To me it would have made more sense to snag a proper bassist with more experience but Hashimoto seems to be learning quickly. Also, dude seemed to keep his shirt on whenever he played with creepypop but now it looks like he's auditioning for the next Gekitetsu album cover. Aside from Mai's heartfelt, powerful vocals I think the component that really stands out is the sh*t hot drumming by Jumpei. Love to see him duel it out with Chris Hainey(Maps & Atlases) via cowbell solo. haha.
During the show at Blue Monday, I recognized one of the few people who came to see Praha Depart. It was Paul Wheeler, longtime proponent of Japanese music and ex-author of the site Rock of Japan.
I introduced Paul to Praha Depart and we all ended up cabbing it to the hostel Praha were staying at. Apparently the members of Praha Depart had walked one hour lugging their instruments from the hostel to the club. So they were happy I hooked 'em up with a cab for the ride back. They dropped off their instruments and then we all headed to the Lower East Side Manhattan. We wanted to check out PIANOS which is a club many famous Japanese bands like Number Girl/Zazen Boys, afrirampo etc have played in the past. It was completely rammed with a sizeable queue so we walked a bit further towards Spitzers. Unfortunately, their kitchen was closed and we were all starving so we headed back up towards Houston and ate at Katz's Deli. Overrated? Yes. But Katz's is a Noo Yawk institution and you can't say you've been to New York unless you've had their pastrami on rye.
Each member of Praha had their eyes pop out of their sockets when they saw how mountainous the serving of decadently fatty meat was in each sandwich. Hashimoto called it "the Ramen Jiro of sandwiches" Hahaha!!
Tsukasa (Gt) was the only one to successfully finish the entire sandwich. Everyone else left half to bring in a doggy bag for home. (I ate mine in approx 4 bites. I'm sumo like that)
After Katz's we stopped by the Cake Shop to have drinks. This is a well-known club where they serve cakes, pies and cupcakes... with alcohol. They also have a stage downstairs for bands. It's where I saw Chatmonchy play last year. It has the most retarded set-up known to man as far as live-music venues go but it's one of the most beloved clubs for indie/underground music in the city. I think Shingo of the Mornings has his heart set on his band playing there when they visit NYC in the near future. After a few drinks we decided to call it a night. The plan was to meet up again on Sunday before their show @ Trash Bar and go to Japan Nite to hand out flyers for their remaining shows.
Unfortunately, Praha were late contacting me and I was already inside the Bowery Ballroom for Japan Nite. I actually had zero interest in watching the bands at Japan Nite but I was curious to see what the crowd inside would be like and I had time to kill before Praha Depart's set started at 11pm in Brooklyn. The turnout for Japan Nite was just as sad as its line-up of bands. There were actually more people at NMFT vol 2 in Montreal on a Tuesday than there were at this gig. Too bad I didn't have Praha's flyers to hand out but at the same time most of the people at Japan Nite were of the anime convention/otaku variety:
I don't think anyone at Japan Nite would have really appreciated the raw power, soulfulness and sublimity of Praha Depart. For what its worth, here's a short clip of Zukunashi Sisters:
wtf?! that is cheese incarnate of the stale Velveeta variety. I nearly fell asleep watching White White Sister. Hystoic Vein were alright but definitely more style over substance. It was close enough to 11pm (thank god!) that I could skip Lolita #18 and cab it to Trash Bar in Brooklyn to watch Praha Depart.
The turnout at Trash Bar was only slightly better than at Goodbye Blue Monday (maybe 12 people vs the 4 on Friday and half those people were friends of Praha). It's to be expected given Praha Depart and their friends in NY never advertised/promoted the gig in any meaningful way. But those that did show up were floored and thoroughly impressed. One guy couldn't stop gushing in amazement at Jumpei's drumming.
Not sure about Mai's get up though. She looked like a human-size dream catcher. but it was a great performance (I never got footage of the best songs!) and I'm glad I came out all the way to New York to show some support.
Praha plan on returning to New York relatively soon in the fall. I'm sure their fanbase will progressively grow as they're too good a band to be slept on in the city that never sleeps.