Saturday, July 28, 2007

Abe Sada tour of Japan June/July 2007

Here some more rant about our recent gigs in Japan.

Most of the Tokyo shows were organised by Sawada-san. He's a nice bloke who plays drums in a cool Japanese band Marble Sheep. While we were over there Sawada was also running a small club called Penguin House, but I believe he's moved on now. So, quite often he organises gigs for touring bands.

26 June @ Em Seven, Koiwa

I Believe Koiwa is not even part of Tokyo (it belongs in Chiba prefecture), but here was our first gig and it was a good start of the tour. I must say that the whole thing would be much more difficult for all involved, especially me, if it wasn't for my wife Atsuko, who helped with finding our way around, getting the tickets for train, communicating with the venues' staff and lot more.

So, Atsuko and me met Cat Hope and her partner (and fellow Abe Sada member) KFord at Minami Senju station. Then we took a couple of trains and we arrived to Koiwa. We found the venue and met the guy who came to deliver the amps - we had to hire 3 bas amps, as most venues in Japan have only one bas amp for bands to use. He already unloaded all the gear, we paid him and went upstairs.

Now, most of the venues we played are in buildings and often on 2nd or 5th floor or something like that. It's rather unusual, at least in Australia, to see venues like that. My first concern was noise restrictions, but that was not a problem at all, as every single venue was sound-proof somehow.

KFord outside Em Seven

We met Dylan - a young Perth guy who joined us for a few gigs in Japan. He came with his friends Janelle and Jesse - all three of them are rather nice folks. We all went to the venue and met the staff. They asked us where we want the amps and we decided to spread them around. Now, that was not hard as the venue was rather small (I'd say 70 people is a maximum capacity). We tried the amps, had a short soundcheck and we were happy with it.

As we finished we met Sawada-san and all of us went in search of some food. We found a nice izakaya-style restaurant nearby (izakaya is a really cool style of restaurant where you can order many small dishes to share - it's tasty and bloody cheap). For next hour or so we pigged out and drank a lot of beer. For next few gigs that would be our routine: get to the venue, have a soundcheck, go and eat/drink a lot.

After a huge meal we went back to the venue. The shows in Japan start early - around 6.30 - 7pm. It's because people need to have enough time to catch a train home, which is cool. The first band on was Ulysses. It a 2-piece with girl on guitar/vocals and guy on drums. At moments it reminded me of Afrirampo with a bit of shoegaze stuff. Not bad in any case.


Then there was this computer/visuals noise guy, who I had to miss as I was catching up with my friends outside. Apparently it was really good.

Next band was Deadstock, really cool 3 piece noise-punk stuff. I talked to them after the gig and we exchanged the CDs.

It was Abe Sada's turn now and we took the stage or rather we took a corner each and started making noise. It was very enjoyable, even though I couldn't hear my bass much. People seemed to like it and some punters came to talk to us after the gig.

Abe Sada @ Em Seven

The last band Kurucrew was the highlight of the night! Awesome, awesome band with drums (and what a drummer he was!), bas, guitar and sax. Very mesmerizing loud stuff. Cat got their CD - I must get her to burn me a copy.

After them we hanged around for another beer, took some photos with lots of people and went to catch the train.

28 June @ Motion, Shinjuku

Met with Cat and KFord at Shinjuku train station around 3pm and we headed towards the venue. Three of us no-Japanese guys were overwhelmed with the number of people we saw on the streets there - they were everywhere! KFord stopped at some music shop to buy the soft case for his bass and we were off to the Motion.

The venue is on the fifth floor of this building. We met some staff at the door, they gave us our passes, Atsuko filled all the required forms and we hopped inside for a soundcheck. But we decided not to have one, as the nature of Abe Sada is to do improv gigs, so it was not necessary. We opted for spreading around the venue again, except for me who got the spot on the stage.

After leaving all our gig at the venue we went music shopping. KFord bought Boss Loop Station twin pedal for more than twice cheaper than in Perth. He looked happy for sure. Then it was time for some record shopping. I bought two records by Serbian jazz trumpeter Dusko Gojkovic who was coming to play in Tokyo, so I wanted to get him to sign it for me. Good luck finding his stuff in Australia, but in Japan all you need to do is go to first record/CD shop and ask for it - they have plenty of his stuff.

I'm not sure about the names of all bands we played with that night. The first one was kind of indie rock one, not bad, but didn't grab me too much.

Clean of Core were next and they were brilliant! Instrumental, almost prog rock, but not cheesy at all. Drums, bass and guitar/keys guy, very intense and almost danceable.

Tiecup were next, cool dub rock with chick on drums. Great Blue Hearts cover too. Bought two copies of their CD - one for us, one for a friend who would like it.

Tiecup in dub action

I introduced Abe Sada to a massive applause from the crowd and we took off. I got to say this was one of those great live Abe Sada shows and I totally enjoyed it. Punters were going from a player to another and checking our stuff, except for me who was isolated on stage, damn! We finished, went backstage and met both venue manager and owner, who were impressed and invited us back for another show - hopefully it will happen next year.

Bassta! Pex says this is the best way to play bass!

@ Motion

Last two bands I can't remember the names of... I was too high on adrenaline after our show to enjoy them anyway.

29 June @ ERA, Shimokitazawa

As usual, we met with Cat and KFord at the station and went to the venue. Again, the venue was on 5th floor and I had not so comfortable feeling when we got there. The sound guy assured us the venue will be packed tonight, so we decided to set up on stage for a change. During the soundcheck Atsuko eavesdropped on some guys from other bands who were talking crap about us. Like, "look at these guys who can't even play their basses". Arseholes!

After dinner we got back to the venue. This time we were joined on 4th bass by Hatake - a friend of Atsuko and a really cool guy. I had something like million of my friends who came and I had to catch up with them, so didn't bother to check the other bands.

When we took the stage pretty much the only audience were my and Atsuko's friends, as well as couple of Aussie guys, which made total number of punters 15 or so. So much for the "packed venue". Cat introduced the band and dedicated our set to "all the real musicians in the audience". We played well though, but I don't think I'll ever bother to play at that venue.

After the gig: KFord, Bassta! Pex, Cat, Hatake, Sawada-san hiding in the background

2 July @ UFO, Higashi-Koenji

This was the last and probably best show for me. I've heard of this venue before and liked it from the moment we stepped inside. This time the venue was in the basement of the building.

We met Tabata (of Zeni Ggeva) who were our 4th player tonite. Nice guy and a great player. We did a soundcheck, again set up on stage, went for huge dinner and lots of drinking and got back to the venue.

First band was Praha Depart - a combination of new wave, kraut and noise with drums, guitar and female vox. Really cool.

Praha Depart

Then it was the crazy Bariken guys. Drummer and guitarist/vocalist who play noise punk that reminded me a bit of early Melt Banana. Totally crazy stuff, awesome performance. Both of them would jump in the crowd in the middle of the song, do some weird dance and jump back on stage in time to finish the song. Met them after the gig and got a copy of their demo CD.

Bariken rule!
Alan Smithee something-something were next. Two drummers, bass, guitar, a bit of prog, bit of psych and totally cool.

I introduced us again and we were off. I don't want to crap so much about how good we were, but we were good. I loved it. The crowd loved it too.

At the end we had the best band on the night - Geltz. Drummer and bassist with something like 50 pedals. Awesome, awesome band, but no CD yet...

Then we said our goodbyes and pissed off. KFord and Cat continued for a few more shows on Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka...

And just a few things at the end. Japanese bands deserve more fucking respect! Especially in their own country. Being in a couple of bands in Australia I realize how easy it's for us here. We do some practicing, book a show and usually get the money, even if it's just $40 or so. With Bamodi we don't pay for rehearsal room as we practice at our drummer's workplace for free. So the only costs we have are usual ones: guitar strings, equipment, petrol... We play a few gigs and we can save enough money for recording. Fuckin easy, right?

In Japan bands pay heaps for rehearsal rooms and then in most cases they have to pay to play. Usually the system is that punters say at the door which band they came to see. So if our band has certain number of people who came to see it you get some money, but not much. The reason for this is that all venues have a lot of staff. So it's good for bands because the venue looks after you - all bands get soundcheck, which means great sound, everything is organised and all you need to do is make sure you're in tune and plug in your guitar and play. Venues supply drumkit, amps and PA. But no money.

So, I'm seeing all these Japanese bands and they all rock, they are all super tight and they have to pay to play. Not many people buy CDs over there, same as here, so there's no other income for bands. But they still rock. Good on you guys.