When the venue makes the band -- Stellar Ballroom vs. Liquid Room
I kicked off 2010 by seeing two fierce, female-fronted bands I've wanted to see for a long time: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, on Jan. 16 at the Shinagawa Stellar Ballroom, and Gossip, at Liquid Room in Ebisu on Feb. 8.
I was really stoked to see both shows but man, the venues made for two totally different experiences, even though the two bands really have a lot in common. Karen O and Beth Ditto are lauded for their fashion sense and are both really refreshing and raw in the pop landscape of generic cookie-cutter types. Both bands' guitarists are great too, really cutting and unhinged.
The Stellar Ballroom seemed like a special place to see a band like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It has a standing capacity of about 1,800, which isn't too bad. But outside they were letting people in by ticket number, and moving very slowly at that. Crowds of people were still waiting to get in at the show start of 7:00pm, and it was freezing outside too!
The main floor was very flat, and it seemed like the stage was quite low, making it difficult for anyone stuck behind a tall person or not in the very front to see. Here's about my best view of it.
More gripes: only 2 lines open for booze or drinks (really long ones too!), no opener. I mean it was good seeing them and all -- they played a few tunes off their debut EP which I was happy to hear. But honestly? I kind of wish I had saved my money.
Gossip, however, were a different story! Liquid Room is about 900 capacity, and I think maybe my favorite venue in Tokyo. No opening act here either but WOW! Were they great! Beth Ditto sounds amazing live. I really think Rick Rubin overproduced their last album and really lost a lot of Ditto's vocal range. She sounded a lot more soulful at the gig, with growls and whispers and squeals. It seemed like members of Tokyo's gay community of all ages turned out for the show and it was a really nice crowd. She even came out into the audience after the show and took pictures with people.
Unfortunately I didn't get an iPhone cam shot of my view, but I found a real photo on the promoter Smash's magazine site. It's pretty much just as I saw it, from sort of midway/toward the back of the venue -- pretty great, huh?
I left that show feeling happy and hot and tipsy -- what a difference a venue makes!