Friday, 30 March 2007

a place in the sun vol.7 @ O-Nest 24 march

by craig

O-nest is an odd venue. For most shows, you arrive at the bar from the elevator on the 6th floor, then clamber down to the 5th floor via the fire exit out the back among the love hotel rooftops. For this show, bands were playing both on the 5th floor and in the bar on the 6th floor, so it meant there was a lot of clambering. All this clambering plus overlapping start times meant missing the start of sets or missing some bands altogether.
I'd been wanting to go to one of the events put on by the great a place blog and had been looking out for the chance to see some of these bands, so I was glad I could make it along to this show. Even though there were the festival-like hassles of dashing between bands and even though I arrived late. Unfashionably late, that is, because I came from work still wearing a tie. Loosening my tie, I really enjoyed the couple of songs I managed to catch from Cokiyu who was playing on the bar floor. She was short and fragile, quietly playing delicate sounds on her laptop and whispering. So quiet in fact, that I could barely hear her. I need to get my hearing checked and pick up her new album when it comes out in May. The only chance at the moment to hear Cokiyu's vocals is on one of the tracks on the excellent new album by aus, also beautiful, fragile electronica. Cokiyu plays toy piano in Shugo Tokumaru & The Magic Band. They'll be playing on april 29th, also at O-Nest. Details.
I found my friends downstairs waiting for Miaou. I'd seen Miaou once a couple of years before and kind of liked them but also kind of got bored. Since then they have greatly improved, and I'm also getting more into this guitar stuff again these days. They use intertwining guitars and bass building up and back down, breaking out into louder sections and settling back down again in classic post-rock style. The song that impressed me the most also sounded quite like one of my favourite Múm songs. I picked up Miaou's latest EP which I've since been enjoying.
Moving back upstairs where we spent most of the rest of the night, we caught the end of Lullatone who I was really disappointed to have missed. Child-like electronica complete with toys and soft vocals. I'll have to try to see them again. Next was the Australian indie-popster Alexis with her band The Motifs. Wow, so Melbourne! Lovely twee vocals, simple melodies and a bunch of guest musicians. Again it was too quiet for my poor ears to properly hear. More indie-pop was up next with 4 bonjour's parties, this time a bit louder. They move between indie-pop and Tortoise-like instrumentation with all kinds of instruments plus seven ever-so-cute members crowding the tiny corner acting as a stage.
Downstairs The Sun Calls Stars started off seeming interesting with 2 drummers and 2 mini-saxophone(?) players. But soon the repetitive trance-jazz squawking became tedious, so back upstairs (or downstairs? I'm lost..) for drinks.

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Thursday, 22 March 2007

03/19/07 - trace feast vol. 5 @ Shimokitazawa Club 251

by dokool

Music has the power to soothe many things - the body, the mind, the soul, and the ego, particularly after one has gone through a 2+ hour Japanese final on the same day.

It's with that mindset that I journeyed to CLUB251 on Monday night for an unusually inexpensive (1700 yen, incl. 1 drink) live show with an old favorite and some new surprises.

The Venue
CLUB251 is a basement livehouse located about a 5-10 minute's walk from the south entrance of Shimokitazawa Station, accessible via. the Keio Inokashira Line and the Odakyu Line. As with most livehouses, the bar (located just inside the main area) is the main chokepoint, but the band merchandise tables are in a square formation and are all pretty accessible.

It's a decently-sized place - much bigger than some of the dives I've been to and maybe a little below Shinjuku ACB Hall. I estimate there were 75-100 people there, with room for more. Video screens line the left wall (when facing the stage), and during intermissions they drop down a projector screen and show music videos of the bands that are performing. The stage is wide and has no guardrails, which means anyone can jump onstage (or jump offstage, for that matter). Crowd was definitely a mix of fans, mostly due to the varied lineup, but certainly skewed towards the night's headliner.

The Bands

The Bawdies - With their image (and musical stylings) inspired by the Fab Four (down to the matching suits and mop tops!) as well as other 50s-era doo-wop bands, these guys were the surprise act of the night for me. They performed a solid, energetic set that had their fan contingent (all female, many of them dressed to match the era) shimmying and shaking from start to finish. They even had their latest single printed on vinyl. Cheaper than the CD version, even! Gotta love it.


Iro (pronounced Eye-ro) - Quiet, mellow folk-type band that would not be out of place in GARAGE or even Shinjuku Live Freak, but seemed so in 251. To be fair, their low-energy set contrasted greatly with that of the Bawdies', so they had that going against them. The crowd seemed to dig it, which is the important thing in the end. I ended up trashing half of my photos of them because there was so little movement so as to make them all look the same. C'mon, guys, stage presence!


MOTORMUSTANG - Driving hard rock that verged at times on thrash metal. I couldn't tell you a single lyric that was sung over the course of the set, and you'd likely be hard-pressed to find someone in the audience who could. Oddly enough (given the makeup of the audience, see below) there wasn't a mosh pit at any time during the set. They chose the minimalist route for designing their stage lighting, which was incredibly frustrating for me as a photographer but I endured (mostly by taking very few photos - take that!).


マーガレットズロース (Margaret Drawers) - Strange, I think, is the word I'd use to describe this bass/guitar/drum trio, and the name only has a little to do with it. Solid musicianship by a band that at times took itself either too seriously or not seriously at all. The lead singer (as well as his bassist) both went into self-induced convulsions at the end of their final song that hinged on seizures. Quite odd, but quite entertaining as well. Worth a second listen, in my opinion.


The Cherry Coke$ - I first discovered TCC$ through someone's post to the Tokyo Japan LJ Community - I was not disappointed with them the first time I saw them (about two months ago at Shinjuku ACB Hall), nor was I on this night. TCC$ come from the same tradition as Flogging Molly, the Dropkick Murphys, and the Pogues (the latter is especially relevant - the liner notes for Rouse Up include a translated quotation from Pogues frontman Spider Stacy). All seven (!) members of the band are Japanese, but from their love of Guinness to their mastery of Celtic-inspired rock, you'd never know from simply listening to them. Excellent 10-song set that inspired the crowd to mosh and stage dive throughout, and after some encouragement the band came back on to perform their spirited version of Auld Lang Syne for an encore.


Awesome show overall, well worth the trip and one more venue to scratch off my ToDo list.


My FlickR set of the show
The Bawdies
The Cherry Coke$

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Monday, 12 March 2007

Sabot, emulsion, Muddy World, mania organ, Uhnellys at Motion

by craig

To tell you the truth, I wasn't really familiar with any of the bands at this show so I wasn't really planning to go. But seeing as one of the band members was nice enough to put me on the guestlist, and being only a short walk from work, I wandered down to Motion after clocking out.
Motion, on the fifth floor of a building in Kabukicho, is one of Tokyo's many tiny, tucked-away livehouses. Not long after I arrived, Uhnellys took the stage. A guy on bass with amazing control of his loop pedals was sampling his cool basslines and rhymes while a girl on drums kept everyone's heads nodding. The guy sometimes changed to guitar and miniature trumpet. They were kind of noisy groovy hip-hop. Definitely a band I'd like to see again.
The next band, Mania Organ, were another bass and drums two-piece. They basically entered the stage, turned the distortion pedals on full so there was constant feedback screeching, played as fast as they possibly could while screaming into the mic non-stop for their short set, then disappeared from the stage. I couldn't follow the songs. Maybe I'm getting old..
Muddy World were the only band of the night with the usual rock line-up of bass, drums and guitar and played mostly instrumental post-rock-shoegaze-jazz. They allowed us to chill-out a bit after Mania Organ's attack. I've been finding myself rediscovering post-rock again lately so I really enjoyed this trio. They are going to SXSW this year.
Next was emulsion who organised this gig. Keyboard, guitar, bass and drum machine. Some of the drum sounds sounded like actual pre-recorded drums. The best songs were the ones with dancable electro beats. The band was mostly intrumental, sometimes very post/math-rock, sometimes post-hardcore with screaming, sometimes even rather ambient.
SABOT consists of two Americans who live in the Czech republic. They've been playing the same kind of music since 1988. They cross between punk, progressive rock, jazz, groove and super-techical math-rock without really being easily defined into any genre. Pretty impressive for an instrumental bass and drum duo. They had a good rapport with the audience, looking at people and smiling throughout the performance and stopping to talk. They would have been amazing 15 years ago.
After the show I stopped for a curry that burned the top of my mouth and really didn't please my stomach..

Journey Into ライブ: Shimokitazawa Garage (03.06.07)

by dokool (the other dan)

Warning: Lots of Background Ahead

Two and a half years ago, I was but a wee lad, 18 and spending my Junior year abroad in Tokyo courtesy of the deliciously inexpensive state tuition at Temple University Japan. I'd decided to adapt a philosophy of exploration; I would not miss the opportunity to check out a new event or place, no matter how futile my battle with the language was.

Such circumstance brought me to a little hole-in-the-wall called Shimokitazawa GARAGE (page in Japanese), where after explaining that no, I hadn't signed up for an advanced ticket, I paid whatever I paid at the time, got a nice little bundle of fliers and アンケト, and opened the door into the performance space.

I was immediately homed in on by Tama-san, who seemed all-too-eager to talk to me and introduce me to his band, ザ☆ムーズムズ. Undoubtedly my presence was a glitch in their Matrix - how many foreigners are aware of the alternative garage band scene, much less make the effort to attend such a show?

In any case, the night was an eye-opening experience for me - 4 or 5 bands played, but Tama and his group won me over as they seemed to be the only group who cared more about getting the audience into it than about musicianship. Not to say that they didn't care about the music - indeed, they were quite talented, but they didn't forget that music was about having fun first and foremost. I would become good friends with the band, seeing them several times over the course of my year at TUJ and seeing dozens of other bands along the way.

Though it took me a year and a half to get back to Tokyo in a permanent state, little had changed - ザ☆ムーズムズ was now known as はちばな, with a couple new members to boot. All my favorite haunts (Garage, Hot Shot, ACB Hall) were still standing and rocking as always. And the music was always good stuff.

The Venue
GARAGE is a 5-10 minute walk from Shimokitazawa Station's North Exit, accessible via. the Odakyu line and the Keio Inokashira Line. It's a small place - I imagine it could fit maybe 50 people comfortably, 60-70 decidedly less so. As with all other live houses in the city, there's a bar with 500-yen drinks, and smoking is allowed. The stage is reasonably-sized, allowing for 5-6 piece bands to have space (though usually 3 or 4 piece bands perform). Great lighting system, good sound. The acts that tend to play at GARAGE skew towards alternative rock - if your tastes gravitate more toward punk I suggest another venue like ACB Hall.

On the plus side, GARAGE's website offers enough English navigation to both find out who's playing *and* reserve tickets - this reservation usually means a couple hundred yen off the day-of price, which is convenient.

The Show
I came to Shimokitazawa straight from my school in Shibuya, stopping to get a bite to eat at the Lawson's near the live house. There I ran into Hachimaru-san (はちばな Bass/Chorus) and we stood outside, chatting about my Japanese studies and all manner of things. The show was to start at 6:30, so at about 6:20 we went downstairs so I could buy my ticket. The conversation went like this (in Japanese, of course, but translated for convenience):

Ticket Lady: That will be 2,500 yen.
Me: Okay... wait, I never signed up for advanced tickets.
Ticket Lady: That's okay, I remember you.

Right about then I realized I'd gone to GARAGE too many times. I recognize that I am in effect the Token Gaijin - I come to the shows, I watch, I buy whatever CDs the bands are offering, I chat if people approach me. My relationship with the はちばな guys is unique in that I've known them for so long; I can only hope that as my Japanese skills develop I'll get more similar relationships.

In any case, the bands:

コアレスボタン (Coreless Button) had people nodding their heads and tapping their feet the entire set, with a vocalist who seemed almost unusually comfortable onstage and a guitarist who was definitely enjoying the moment. Mostly slow-to-mid-tempo songs with a shift halfway through the set that made me a believer. Perhaps not the most danceable of music,
but along the same vein of, say, Mr. Children. They sold a 4-song EP for 500 yen - mostly their mid-tempo stuff, but still enjoyable to listen to.

pal - A 3-piece band with a lead vocalist who rolled his syllables in a way very reminiscent of The Pillows, and you can tell that's where a lot of their inspiration comes from. Incredibly enjoyable music, but the crowd maybe wasn't totally into them, which was a shame. I should mention that the crowd around this time was pretty young - a decent amount of high school girls in uniform sipping on cans of Nat-chan instead of beer. In any case, definitely my dark horse favorite of the night. 3-song EP for 500 yen, all of it gold.


ダイナマイトオランゲ (Dynamite Orange) - Around now I started to panic - this was a third band in a row that wasn't "serious." These guys were also significantly older than the first two bands, mid-to-late 20s instead of college-age (although their drummer looked significantly younger). The musical style seemed markedly older - more 90s than 00s, and even included a harmonica. 3-song EP for 500 yen, not bad at all.


はちばな (Hachibana) - I'll admit some bias, these are my peeps and I gotta represent, or whatever you kids call it these days. Where other bands would get the audience clapping, these guys will go into the audience and bring them closer to the stage. Guitarist Sukuhoku-san (formerly of the band スクナギ, who broke up this past Spring) recently invested in a wireless transmitter for his guitar, giving him that much more freedom to showboat - him and Tama-san are cut from the same cloth of showmanship, and they make for a good duo. 6-song set which included their old hit 「魚」 and their current big song 「花火」- their musical style often reminds me of surfer music (not surprising, given that they're from Chiba), kind of a Beach Boys feel. It's all very catchy and Tama-san is so enthusiastic that you can't help but join him. A textbook great performance by the guys, and they were giving away a two-song single as well as selling another for 300 yen.


THE WATER BUGS - Surprisingly punkish for the venue (in the vein of Blink 182 and New Found Glory). Surprisingly young-looking too, but that didn't stop them from bringing the house down. The vocalist sounded young too, but he grew on me quickly. I was surprised at the level of polish they had, and their 7-song set (and 3-song, 300yen single) made me a fan. Their guitarist also wore a shirt with a llama on it, how cool is that?


Overall, this was probably one of the better shows I've been to at GARAGE - it's a venue near and dear to me, and if you're looking for a good time, I highly recommend checking out their website, picking a show based on whatever criteria you please, and reserving tickets. Well worth it if you're a music fan in this city.

My FlickR set of the show

コアレスボタン (Coreless Button)
ダイナマイトオレンジ (Dynamite Orange)
はちばな (Hachibana)

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New site design!

by craig

So, finally TokyoGigGuide has had a much-needed upgrade. Hopefully it's now easier to use and better-looking.
It's largely thanks to the guys over at Asoboo. All shows I list on TokyoGigGuide will also appear on the Asoboo events section. Asoboo is a newish international social network site focussing on creative people and Japan.
So feel free to give me any suggestions or comments about the new design. Also, if you email me details of a gig, it would be helpful if you could include a link to a picture..

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Friday, 9 March 2007

Fuji Rock Festival Line-up

by craig

Fuji Rock Festival (27/28/29 July) Line-up announced!
So far we have:

Blonde Redhead!!
Ash, The Ataris, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Fountains Of Wayne, Grace Potter, Iggy & The Stoogies, John Butler Trio, Jonathan Richman, Justice, Kaiser Cheifs, KEMURI, Less Than Jake, The Shins, Simian Mobile Disco

But at Y39,800, plus the train fare, time off work, food, drink, somewhere to stay (probably have to buy a tent), etc, it becomes a ridiculously expensive 3 days..

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Tuesday, 6 March 2007

J Mascis, Liquid Room

by dan

My first Dinosaur Jr experience was the Reading festival in 1991. I remember a sunny afternoon laying on my back in a field, listening to J send those ragged glory solos up to the skies. After that, I picked up a few of the records, but never saw him live again until now. This isn't a gig as such, but a piece of promo for the soon come new Dinosaur Jr album. So first off, we stand around for an hour listening to a playback of the record. The playback environment is always a bit strange. There's a crowd of people standing looking an empty stage, listening to a set of songs they probably haven't heard before, and clapping and cheering at the end of each one. Who are they applauding? That stage is still empty. I still get confused when people clap and whistle at the end of a movie, so this is double freaky to me. Weirdness aside, the record sounds pretty good. If you never got on with Dinosaur, this isn't going to win you over, but if, like me, you always had a soft spot for them, you'll be happy.

The J Mascis who comes on stage at the Liquid Room looks a lot different from my festival memories. The hair is still long and straight, but all over grey now. He's a bit podgier in the face, and wearing the kind of owlish glasses last seen on Jonathan King, as well as an Adidas tracksuit jacket over a Discharge t-shirt. Not a combo likely to be repeated on your average high street anytime soon. But he can still play guitar. I was a bit dubious that this was billed as an acoustic show, because, well, you know, what's the point of Dinosaur Jr unplugged?

Maybe J had the same worries. I can't see his feet, but he must have an army of effects pedals down there. There's loops, echos, delays, and massive, massive distortion, all coming from this middle aged man sat on a plastic chair with a wooden guitar. He doesn't speak much to the audience (did he ever?), but just rifles through his catalogue, playing the likes of "Thumb", "The Wagon", and "Freak Scene", with a ferocity and volume that give the lie to the visual impression of some old hippy campfire session. It's great.

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