Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Calexico with Iron And Wine

by dan

Calexico have been touring Japan with Iron And Wine. The Tokyo gig was last Saturday in Shibuya, so off I went to Club Quattro, which it turns out is on the fifth floor of a department store. It's like going to a gig in Debenhams. Once you get round that little bit of cognitive dissonance, the venue was pretty good. It reminded me a bit of Whelan's in Dublin, and you won't go far wrong if you're even a tiny bit like Whelan's.
Iron And Wine did their thing first - Sam Bean is the main man with his sister Sarah on hand for harmony singing. Sam is a very hairy man - my first thought was Wow! Alan Moore's picked up a guitar! It was a good folky set, with various members of Calexico wandering on and off to provide backing on some of the songs, and left me thinking maybe I should give the CDs a chance.
This was the first time I'd seen Calexico in about three years. The last time, I'd just gone along out of curiosity, and ended up blown away. This time around, my hopes were a lot higher going into the gig, but any worries that expectancy might prove to be the thief of pleasure were unfounded. Calexico are just one of the best live bands you'll ever see. They are great musicians, can play almost anything - at alternate times during the gig I was reminded of Miles Davis or Black Flag - as well as the country / mariachi hybrid they're known for. The more guitar based songs off the new album generally got a rocking three guitar treatment, a courtesy extended to a scorching version of "Not Even Stevie Nicks", while the older stuff from "Feast Of Wire" and beyond was full of trumpets, stand up bass, and pedal steel. Man, I love the sound of a pedal steel guitar. They play a fine version of usual set closer "The Crystal Frontier", and then Iron And Wine come back on to join them for a few more tunes, including a gorgeously slow and haunting "Wild Horses". It being the last night of the tour, the encore saw them bring them on their legendary-in-Japanese-country-circles promoter, Hiroshi Asada, who sang Gram Parson's "Streets Of Baltimore" with them. Almost three hours of top music, and I was back out on the street by 9.45.When those Japanese tickets say "7pm start", they mean it...

[thanks to Craig for letting me post this here]

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Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Become a Tokyo Gig Guide Blog team member!

by craig

I received a great suggestion from Dan over at Bug Powder Dust that I should open this blog up to anyone who has something appropriate to post here.
So, any readers out there who would like to post a gig review here, or anything else related like a record review, photos or info about Japanese music, please let me know and I'll make you a guest so you can post entries here yourself.
It could be a one-off post, or beter still, it could be a regular contribution.
What you'll need to do first, is to make a blogger profile, but that's quick, easy and free.
Then let me know your email address by commenting here or sending me an email, I'll email you an invite, you accept, and voila, you'll be the newest Tokyo Gig Guide Blog Team member!

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Yo La Tengo & Sonic Youth

by craig

This time I'm determined not to miss Yo La Tengo. I always seem to miss them every time they tour.
And alas, on this tour they're playing on Monday the 19th and Tuesday the 20th of February, 2 days that i work late! aargh!
So I was quite excited when I found out the excellent Japanese band Clammbon were planning a show on Sunday night (the 18th) and that Yo La Tengo would also be on the bill! I finish at 6:10 on Sundays.
But after further inspection, I realised the doors will open at 5:00 and it will start at 6:00. Plus it's on at Studio Coast so it would take me forever to get out to Shin-Kiba. So I'd miss the first band which apparently will be Yo La Tengo! aargh!
I'm going to have to try to change shifts or something..

Another indie-rock band I've loved since high school, Sonic Youth, are also coming to Japan soon. And they're playing with Vooredoms! But at Y6800 I think I may give it a miss. I've seen Sonic Youth quite a few times before.
Anyway, f you're a Sonic Youth fan, you have to see this YouTube video.
An elderly choir performing 'Schizophrenia.'

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Wednesday, 24 January 2007

deerhoof & ooioo at shinjuku loft 20 jan

by craig

I had only seen OOIOO once, and that was years ago opening for Stereolab at Liquid Room when it used to be in Kabukicho. On Saturday night they played just around the corner at Loft which, despite the name, and like most clubs in Tokyo, is in a basement. Also, like most clubs in Tokyo, Loft isn't very big, so the show was sold out.
When Yoshimi (from Boredoms) and co came on stage, the crowd started whooping and cheering. The girls launched straight into an almost non-stop set of psychedelic guitars, pounding and screaming. Brilliant! Like Boredoms, OOIOO are becoming more rhythm-based, and it's the two drummers who drive the band and excite the crowd. The vocals are wild and undecipherable, sometimes screaming, chanting and yelping. One friend noted that they sometimes reminded him of Mongolian throat-singing. How does Yoshimi do it? It sounds just like on their cds. The guitars are less harsh than I had expected, and allow some repetitive, overlapping melodies to come through. Most songs were of course from the new album 'Taiga,' which is great by the way.
Because I was fairly blown away by OOIOO, Deerhoof were going to have a hard time impressing me. This is also because I've seen Deerhoof quite a few times. They often take trips to Japan and I try to go to all of their shows. I love Deerhoof, but to be honest, I preferred them as a 4-piece and think 'Milk Man' is their best album. Anyway, of course they were still great, switching between noise and cuteness. Unlike OOIOO's constant, building rhythms, Deerhoof have you jumping and twitching all over the place, stopping, starting, fast, slow, changing timings. John, who's concentration can be seen by his ever-changing facial expressions, somehow keeps his guitar under control, even managing to fill out the songs which originally had two guitars. Tight as ever.
Satomi's soft girlie vocals (I love the songs about dogs and pandas) and funny poses were not the only cute parts of the performance. Perhaps the cutest were Greg's trips from his minimal drumkit to the front of the stage to try to speak Japanese into the mic between songs. His broken Japanese delighted the girls in the crowd no end. I remember the first time I saw Deerhoof, between every song he would dive to the front of the stage, say 'thankyou,' and dive back to the drums in time for the nest song to start.
We wanted to hang out in the bar after the show but everyone was kicked out after we'd only had one drink.

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Sunday, 14 January 2007

hazel nuts chocolate, harco, golf at que

by craig

On Friday night I went down to Club Que in Shimokitazawa to see Hazel Nuts Chocolate, Harco and Golf.

Hazel Nuts Chocolate put on a bit of a different show than usual. The singer, Yuppa, was looking a lot more serious than usual and the band seemed to have decided they were a rock band. Still incredibly cute of course, but it seems as if cuteness is becoming less of a part of their style. Their last album, 'Cute', apart from having the most fitting title of all time, had some great silly ditties and crazy Plus-Tech Squeeze Box-like moments. One of my favourite things is how Yuppa tries to fit too many words in a line in her sped-up child-like voice. Anyway, on Friday night it seemed to be all about the guitars and funny rock poses. Definitely the band of the evening. I was grinning like an over-supportive mother throughout the whole performance.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

All the young girls who were up the front worshipping Yuppa during Hazel Nuts Chocolate moved back to let the older ladies move up to grin at handsome Harco. I have one of his CDs around somewhere that I bought years ago and liked during my late-90s preppy Japanese pop phase. I've also been listing his shows on Tokyo Gig Guide since it started but had never actually seen him play live. On Friday night he sounded like Hideki Kaji if Hideki Kaji were a kinda boring keyboard-playing singer. Funnily, the best song was one that Harco co-wrote with Kaji. I know Harco is an important Tokyo indie-pop scene veteran but I wasn't really in the mood on Friday night. Not cute enough.

I had been really looking forward to seeing Golf. I really liked their mini-album 'The Gift.' Interesting, quiet, experimental pop. I wanted to see how they would be live, however since they recorded 'The Gift' it seems like they've become more.. just pop. Live, and with their latest mini-album, 'Yellow', the singer has become more confident and his great voice is what leads the band and what could actually make them popular commercially. Seriously, his voice is quite beautiful. But for me, the best thing about them are the sublime moments with trumpets and melodica, or when they incorporate electronic sounds and beats. The rest of the time it's fairly standard guitar pop/rock. They were a tight live band and a friendly-looking bunch of guys and girls. They seemed to be good friends plus a bit nervous so were always looking at each other and smiling and giggling. cute!

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Friday, 12 January 2007

ome pool

by craig

a few days ago i really wanted to get out of the city. so i jumped on a train from ochanomizu and headed to the end of the line which was ome. i scrambled to the top of some hills, picked out some interesting-looking places in the valley below and tried to find my way down to them. one of the places i found was an empty swimming pool. i love how places which are usually busy or fun like amusement parks or markets look eerie and lonely when there are no people there.

empty pool 1

empty pool 2

empty pool 3

more on flickr.

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Saturday, 6 January 2007


by craig

although myspace has a lot of obvious faults, it has become a good way to find new music.
so if you want to see some profiles and hear some samples of japanese bands, have a look at the friends of the tokyo gig guide myspace.

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