Friday 19 February 2010

When the venue makes the band -- Stellar Ballroom vs. Liquid Room

by liza

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!

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Anonymous Colin said...

I went to the YYY show. Actually I seemingly was standing RIGHT beisde you.The venue was a bit rubbish I thought. The band did well dealing with the rather strange sound at the start and the early start time too. Good gig over all, the entrance by ticket number was the MOST RIDICULOUS THING I HAVE EVER SEEN IN JAPAN. It was soooo cold and really badly organized.. Gigs in Japan are just not easy or straight forward.. I do think the YYY concert was sooo pricey and I felt a little short changed leaving that venue as did everyone else I think but obviously no one complains and people still pay ridiculous ammounts of money to see international acts.

No photography, expensive tickets, over staffed and unorganized, stupid drink fees, boring crowds and strick rules, unsuitable venues (Joanna Newsom), early start times, no supports, expensive beer..

No wonder the attendance of foreigners at Japanese shows are so small!

3:28 pm, February 20, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for this blog,
its great to give folks some info about the venues. some of the venues have good sound, some dont-possibly due to the engineers. regardless, it can be a very disappointing venture to an anticipated show and it turns out bland.
when i have free nights sometimes i go to a random club ive never been to just to see how it is. some good times can be stumbled upon. however:

"expensive tickets, over staffed and unorganized, stupid drink fees, boring crowds and strick rules, unsuitable venues, early start times, no supports, expensive beer.."

cant agree more. after time one can get used to paying to see a small band at back home rolling stones prices, but the expectations understandably are higher.

8:22 pm, March 11, 2010  
Blogger liza said...

I wish there was something that could be done about some of these things, but I suppose these big promoters are the only ones able to bring bigger bands over. I understand it must be expensive to bring a band all the way out to Japan, but how hard would it be to add a couple of supports (surely plenty of local bands would love the exposure) and do some proper research into the venue? At least let people feel like they've gotten value.

In other big show news, I saw The Get Up Kids last Sunday at Akasaka Blitz and I thought it was a really good venue. Capacity is about 1,500 I think. The view is good from anywhere you stand and booze was easily accessible for 500 yen a pop -- oh, and there was an opener. Ticket was FREAKIN EXPENSIVE and I felt sort of lame going to such a corporate place, but at least they weren't shouting at you. I wish the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had played there instead!

6:31 pm, March 12, 2010  

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