Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Keith Richards...J-Style

Do you remember when I first discovered the Ruby Room? I wrote about an extremely dynamic guitarist who left a strong impression on me, yet I couldn't remember his name.

"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."

His full name is Hiroki Uchiyama and he is without a doubt on my top three list of electric guitarists in Tokyo. He always opens his set with his own rendition of Bowie's "Space Oddity" and then cycles from there into his own spiral of guitar juice.

We had a chat before his set tonight and I showed him a few photos that I took of him in the previous weeks. He remarked that it was impressive that I play so many instruments and also do photography. He liked the pictures and wanted me to send them his way. I got a laugh when he wrote down his email name, "Hirokeith Uchards," an awkward combination of his name with the famous guitarist from the Stones. Those kinds of things are cool in Japan. I'm fascinated by the way they assimilate English culture here. For example, when Hiro introduces his bassist Mikki, he never does it in Japanese. He always screams, "ONU BASSU!! MIKKI!!" I've seen other Japanese bands introduce their players the same way.

I took the stage a few acts later. I have to say, I smoked through my first two songs. It was an excellent feeling. You know you are on fire when you can hear girls chatting in front, "Oo, I love this song!" I opened with Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason." It was the first time I had played the tune solo for an audience. Playing with a real amp and sound system was like driving down the same street in a sports car. You should have seen the smile on my face. If you've seen me play guitar on a good day, you might know what I'm talking about.

Hiroki on stage...

And here he is doing a little "Behind the Head" a la Hendrix...

I talked to Mikki for a bit too. It turns out she studied music at Berkeley in Boston.

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