Live from Tokyo!! via Canucks City
After my trip to Japan followed shortly by travelling to Vancouver, I've developed an obscene amount of jetlag. My body has no clue what time it is, it just wants to f*cking sleep! Before my flight to Vancouver I ate a massive breakfast at the airport's Tim Hortons b/c they don't serve complimentary meals on domestic (economy) flights anymore. But upon boarding the plane I found out I had been bumped up to executive class and they kept bringing me food as if they wanted me to change my last name to "the Hutt."
When I arrived in Vancouver my mom picked me up at the airport. Due to the time difference, it was still noon in Vancouver so my mom had prepared a nice lunch for me when we got home. I was going to ask if I could put it in the fridge for later but she had made Philly cheese steak sandwiches. Damn! So it may not be jetlag I'm suffering from but history's greatest case of 'itis.'
I managed a 2 hr nap and forced myself to get up to drive to UBC so I could drop off CDs by the NMFT vol 3 bands at CITR (University of British Columbia's radio station). It was a bit painful handing them such a huge stack of CDs knowing that they might not even get played but they assured me that they still occasionally played CDs by bands on the first tour and 1 or 2 even received album reviews. I also talked with the station's manager about helping curate a 2nd show in Vancouver somewhere on UBC campus for Oct 19. We'll see what materializes because I managed to almost guarantee a spot to play where I went to next.
Just before heading to Pacific Cinematheque for the screening of Live from Tokyo I stopped by Zulu Records. Unfortunately, Erin, a fan of Japanese music, wasn't working there that day but the shop let me drop off some flyers. Coincidentally, Zulu Records was holding an in-store live at the time. I asked the staff at Zulu if I could hold a "free" in-store event on Oct 19 and they said, "Definitely!" So depending on the flight situation, at least 3 of the 4 bands may be available for a 2nd show in Vancouver at either UBC or Zulu Records. My preference would be for UBC since the sound will likely be better and more people could attend. In particular UBC students who might not go to the Biltmore show due to exams may be able to make a show that's right on campus. Zulu Records still have sgt's CDs for sale! People in Vancouver, snatch that sh*t up! You don't want to make Narui Mikiko (sgt's violin) sad.
I made it to Pacific Cinematheque 20 min before the film started. I was met by the curator Susanne Tabata who has her own excellent documentary on Vancouver's punk scene in the 70s: Bloodied but Unbowed For people in Toronto, it'll be screening at NXNE on Fri, June 17 so watch out for it. Susanne being half-Japanese and having lived in Tokyo was chosen to be the guest curator for the Kibatsu Cinema festival. My suspicion that I might be the one having to introduce the Live From Tokyo film came true. I asked Susanne, "Shouldn't Lewis (the director) be the one introducing the film?" Susanne: "Lewis actually isn't here today." me: "... oh" hahaha. Thankfully I thought about what I might say in case I did have to make the introductory speech but I had to pull sh*t out of my ass like a freestyle emcee. The worst part was figuring out on the spot how I was going to end the damn speech. 3/4 of my speech involved plugging the Next Music from Tokyo tour! hahaha! But I segued nicely to talk about the film. So what did I think about Live from Tokyo ?
It was fantastic! It's not the type of movie that must be experienced in a theater setting but music fans are doing themselves a great disservice if they ignore this film. You don't have to have any pre-existing interest in Japanese music to thoroughly enjoy Live From Tokyo. There are a couple segments that seemed to drag and the selection of imagery juxtapositioned over a few of the live performances to me seemed clumsy. For example, 90% of Nisennenmondai's awesome performance of "Mirrorball" was obscured by a monorail train (I think it's the Yurikamome connecting Shimashi to Odaiba if I'm not mistaken) and clips of cooks placing items onto the conveyer belt at a kaiten sushi restaurant. I presume that kaiten sushi is supposed to be a metaphor for the mechanical, krautrock element in nisennenmondai's music. That's 'clever' but I wish the audience could have seem more actual footage of the intense performance by the 3 girls in nisennemnondai. I almost cheered when uhnellys came on screen. hahaha. It's too bad that you could barely see Midi's face in the background and the focus was almost completely on Kim, his baritone gt and his fro. There were a lot of great viewpoints on what makes Tokyo's underground music scene so creative and interesting. They discussed the obvious influence occidental (Western) music has on Japanese music but how the Japanese love to tweak and improve on all things foreign to mutate it into something uniquely their own. They covered the 'nomura system' of bands having to pay $$$ to the livehouses just for the opportunity to perform such that losing money at each show is the norm for almost all bands.
He’s referring to the widely-disliked “noruma” system, which requires that each band meet a ticket sales quota or make up the difference in cash. It is not uncommon for a band to put their all into a performance only to find themselves afterwards scraping together upwards of 30,000 yen to pay for the privilege.
The movie is very informative and the footage of some of the more extreme/avant garde acts (eg Optrum, Makoto Oshiro) was eye-popping for most of the audience. Everyone seemed to get a kick out of d.v.d. and Sexy Sythesizer.
Lewis Rapkin et al did a truly excellent job of picking the bands for this film. In reality, Tokyo's underground scene overall is nowhere near as extreme but there are a ton of bands in Tokyo with ideas straight out of left field that will make you say WTF?!!! I hope people who see this film don't have expectations that Next Music from Tokyo will include bands with the same level of bizarreness. In choosing the bands for NMFT I aim for those with unique qualities that set them apart from what you might normally see in N America but I won't choose a band simply for shock value or just b/c they're weird. They need to be great performers on stage but even more important is the quality of the music in that it has to be very good and somewhat accessible to the casual yet open minded Canadian music fan. I don't want Canadians to think that Japanese indie/underground music has a lot of creativity in terms of stage presence and style but is lacking in terms of melody, composition and arrangement. I try to choose bands that are balanced in the abundance of quirkiness and talent. And sometimes I'll choose a band for no other reason than the fact that I like them and would like to bring them to Canada.
I HIGHLY recommend this film to anyone with an interest in music. It's only 79 min long but it's the closest you can get to immersing yourself in Tokyo's great undergound music scene without hopping on a plane and travelling there yourself.
I want to give a huge thanks to Susanne Tabata for all the advice she gave me on how I can improve on promotion and hopefully attract much larger crowds for both Vancouver and in general.
When Live from Tokyo gets released on DVD on July 26 by Good Charamel Records, please go and buy/order it. If you have a heart, you won't just wait to download it for free somewhere. But no matter how you decide to obtain it, give yourself a reward by watching this great film.