Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I knew that would get your attention.

I took my guitar's virginity last night. And let me tell you, she was squealing when I played her.

The night began lost in Shibuya, wandering the streets almost aimlessly trying to find a bar called the Ruby Room. I ended up uniting with a Yale friend and together we were able to find the place, tucked away in an inconspicuous alleyway who's entrance was guarded by ever indistinguishable neon lights and Japanese signs.

Inside, the place was a cozy and smokey dive bar, complete with dim pinkish red lights, a few leather couches, a bar table, and not much more. The tiny stage was walled in by an impressive sound system powerful enough for a joint at least double the size. The bar was heliocentric, with everything revolving around a central disco ball that cast its fragments of light on us as we passed through on our orbits.

Tuesday nights are open mic at the Ruby Room. I signed up for an 11:30 slot, sat down at the bar with my friend, and ordered us a few drinks. Looking around, I saw that the room was half Gaijin and half Japanese, with the same ratio of musicians to non-musicians.

The first few acts were of typical open mic mediocrity, a few unimpressive bands and a guitar strummer, drama queens without much talent who still took their time setting up and complaining about the sound system.

As the night went on however, Gaijin began to leave one by one, and the place filled up with more Japanese. That's when the action began.

The first act that really impressed me with this guy, Hiroge, Hiroshi, Hiro? I can't remember his name but his guitar shredding is still vivid in my mind. He played his own version bluesy rock. To make up for a lack of American soul, his wild fingers injected a noisy and untamed freedom that from my perspective was distinctly Japanese. The grunge of his distorted electric guitar was mesmerizing. He ended his set with guitar fireworks and flashy runs.

Next up was Jerry (obviously not his real name, but that's how he introduced himself to me). His group was more informal, they had just met a few days earlier and wanted to jam together. I spent some time talking to his drummer, Keio, who used to DJ in Long Island. He also spins in Tokyo under the name DJ Smokiyo.

Last up on the bill was myself. I took the stage around midnight, plugged in, and played my own breed of rock and blues, my standard tunes for an event such as this. I threw in some Police, some John Mayer, and iced the cake with a little Weezer. The Japanese groups were toughs act to follow, but I held my own with my own American rock sensibilities. Excalibur seared the night away. Her pickups were hot, grungy, and dirty, much livelier on a fully amped stage than in the music shop that I bought her.

The Ruby Room was an awesome joint and definitely an 'in' for me into the Tokyo underground. All night long, groups were plugging their shows at other bars and clubs. Even the bartender was a DJ, DJ MeiMei. She even put my on the guest list for a Halloween party that she'll be spinning at in Shibuya on Friday.

I'll be returning next week. I think I've found my scene.

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