Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rogue Wave

This past Tuesday evening, I was signed up as staff for Rogue Wave, a one-time live music event held at Shindaita Fever. The show was organized by Tokyo music bigwigs Daniel Robson and Keith Cahoon. Four excellent bands were on the roster; veteran rockers GO!GO!7188, rock singer songwriter Natccu, hard rock band Molice, and the retro outfit Kinoco Hotel.

Starting the night off right was none other than GO!GO!7188. At this point, I've seen the group five times. Usually, GO!GO! can pack large concert halls and 1000-seat venues, but this time, it was awesome to see them fill a smaller, more intimate space. I was able to get right up to the stage and snap a few close photos, but the fervor of the audience forced me to retreat.

Right now, GO!GO!7188 is on fire promoting their latest album, Go!!GO!GO!Go!!, which is scheduled for release next week on June 2nd. Their new songs are energic and spunky as usual, but with an injection of thicker guitars, their sound has even more bite. I received a promo copy of the album after the show and I'll be sure to post a review sooner rather than later.

Next up was Natccu, playing her first show since returning from her recent tour of England. Her set at Rogue Wave was one of the best I've seen her do all year. It must be that she is still buzzing from her experience abroad. To my ears, her new songs sounded a bit more "English". The new tracks use some interesting synth riffs, complimenting her poppy indy rock feel. She too is prepping up for her new album which should be released soon.

Molice was up next. I had last seen them at Ruby Room's Bad Noise event back in late February. While I love Ruby Room to death, the band was much more in their element at Fever, a genuine rock club with a professional sound system. The full size stage and top notch gear gave them the chance to show their intensity. Too much intensity perhaps; I think the soundman could have turned them down one notch.

Finally, last on the roster was relatively new group, Kinoco Hotel, a band who is all about kitsch. Kinoco Hotel is a throwback to the era of Group Sounds, the time in Japanese pop music history when every rock band was a knock off of the Beatles. They marched on stage in matching Sgt. Pepper's uniforms and mop-top wigs, playing 60's surf riffs and hard psychedelic rock. I was standing next to Akko and Yuu from GO!GO! who were both rocking out, enthralled by the performance. It seemed like the seal of approval to me.

In order of appearance, GO!GO!, Natccu, Molice, and Kinoco Hotel:

Congratulations to Daniel and Keith for an excellent and successful event! The Werewolf is earnestly looking forward to the next one...

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Werewolf Wheels of Steel: Part II

Wednesday night's midnight DJ set was awesome. In fact, there weren't enough acts to fill the night, so the staff asked me to spin 2 more sets. I was nearly out of good tunes by the end of it!

Prince, The Time, Morris Day, Sheila E, Jesse Johnson, Zapp&Roger... buttocks' were bouncing the night away.

I've taken so much shit over the years for my obsession with Prince. The Haters just don't know how cool his stuff is. When I cue up Prince tracks, you wouldn't believe how hard people get down. I have to say that it is a pretty awesome feeling seeing people grooving to your favorite records. It's ironic when the uncool is just so cool. I think I feel the same about Japanese music sometimes too...

Anyway, here's me holding a delcious piece of vinyl while negotiating with the bartender in New York Jewish style.
[photo courtesy of Mimi's facebook, sorry if you're reading this :p]

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Werewolf Wheels of Steel

My DJ Set!
The Ruby Room, Shibuya

Get ready for a monstrous Tokyo Werewolf DJ set, coming up this Wednesday night at the Ruby Room. I'll be spinning super groovy funk and soul from the late 70's and early 80's.

This time, I'm definitely prepared. A few days ago, I stopped by Disc Jam in Shibuya's Udagawa-cho to pick up a pair of pro phonograph needles.

And speaking of vinyl pornography from my last couple of posts, here are my latest finds in my ongoing vinyl quest. Pornography might actually be the right characterization. Here are three sexy records that definitely cross the border into the realm of obscenity.

Do you remember this band, the Apollonia 6? Their song, "Sex Shooter", was featured in Prince's Purple Rain. A perfect mix of lacy undergarments and 80's synth funk.
And speaking of Prince...

Perhaps you remember Sheena Easton's "Sugar Walls"? The song was penned by Alexander Nevermind, one of Prince's many monikers. Tipper Gore ranked this song #2 on her "Filthy Fifteen", a list of songs that were guaranteed to corrupt the youth of America. Now in my hands, I'll be using this record to corrupt the youth of Japan.

...Blood races to your private spots, that lets me know there's a fire
You can't fight passion when passion is hot
Temperatures rise inside my sugar walls...


Finally, in the background of both photos you can see Prince's Black Album, the notorious unreleased collection of outtakes from his Sign O' the Times era. I found all three in the same 10 minute span at Shibuya's motherload of vinyl, Recofan. 3 very rare, and very sexy records.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Delicious Beer

This past Monday, I took a day trip to Enoshima and Kamakura, only an hour and a half south of Tokyo. Summer has been knocking at the door and I was overcome by an intense desire to see the ocean.

The local beers brewed in the area are delicious. One of the brews, simply named "Enoshima Beer," is one of the most flavorful beers I've ever had in Japan. I strongly recommend picking some up if you are ever in the area.

In the middle is an empty bottle of Enoshima Beer. For decoration in the background are two items from my "Communist Liquor Cabinet," The bottle on the left is sochu and the one on the right is a wheaty beer, both brewed in North Korea. I picked them up my last time in Seoul.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

GO!GO!7188 - Acoustic Live

This past evening, I was invited to see GO!GO!7188's very first acoustic live at the Kudanshita Kaikan right behind the Budokan.

With dim theatrical lighting, an assortment of stringed instruments, and atmospheric percussion, I think they were going for a golden age MTV unplugged-type atmosphere. I'm not sure if the medium was a great match for their punky energetic sound, but seeing GO!GO! play a toned down set definitely afforded an opportunity to hear the intricacies of the group's songwriting. The interaction of Akko and Yu's well rehearsed vocal harmonies was definitely a personal highlight for me.

The group began their much demanded encore with an acoustic version of Kinkyori no Renai, (Short Distance Love), one of my all time favorite GO!GO! songs.

At this point, I've been hanging around long enough that the members and managers know me pretty well. Bassist Akko came right at me with a handshake. Upon my exit, both managers shouted to me, "Goodbye Eeesan!"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chatmonchy at the Ruby Room

This past Sunday evening, I was in Yurakucho hanging out with one of the bartenders from the Ruby Room. She had the midnight shift, so we decided to drop by for a drink around 11:30PM.

When we walked into the dimly lit bar, the place was all but empty. The sole customer was a young blonde haired Japanese woman sitting at the bar table talking with Akko, Ruby's booking manager. Playing on the sound system was the new album by Chatmonchy, one of Japan's most popular rock bands. I said my hellos and took a seat.

Something felt out of place. As awesome as Chatmonchy is, it wasn't the type of music that Ruby typically spins. There was also something vaguely familiar about the blonde woman. I had heard rumors that members of Chatmonchy were known to drop by Ruby on occasion. Could it be? There was only one way to find out.

I introduced myself. The woman's name was also Akko. Easy to remember, I remarked. One bar, four people, two Akkos. She greeted me with passable English and I complimented her on her accent. She then told me that her band had recently been on tour in the States and she was trying to practice English more. "This is my group," she said, pointing to the speakers. My suspicions were confirmed. I was officially sitting next to the bassist from Chatmonchy, one of the hottest Japanese rock groups on the scene today. I've been following their music for over a year now and I've been dying to see them play live. But don't think for a second that the Werewolf was frozen with starry eyes; I was on my best behavior, trying hard to contain my excitement.

We actually struck up a good conversation. Akko was surprisingly friendly and candid about her band's story. Perhaps she was happy to meet a foreigner who was genuinely interested in her music. We talked about our favorite rock bands, the best Japanese musicians, and mutual friends in the Tokyo music scene. As it turns out, Akko is drinking buddies with Akko from GO!GO!7188 (I know, too many Akko's in this story.) That would be a party that I would love to crash sometime. Chatmonchy is also under the same division of Sony Records as Prague, so Akko also knew all of the people in their crew.

I was especially curious about the band's recent experience playing at Austin's South By Southwest. Chatmonchy's first American tour was also the first time that the girls in the group had been to the States. They managed to play shows in San Francisco, LA, New York, as well as other major stops. Akko seemed totally overwhelmed by the positive response they got from American audiences. I was genuinely happy to hear it. I always had a hunch that something about the band's unique character would be able to cross cultural and geographic barriers.

Akko then pulled out her iPhone and cycled through pictures of various venues, restaurants, and tourist spots the girls stopped at while on tour. Something inside me was happy to see that even the members of a well-respected band could be typical Japanese tourists at times.

Later in the night, a group of foreign guys came into the place, sat down, and ordered drinks. Bartender Akko pointed to Chatmonchy bassist Akko and mentioned that her band was the one playing on the speakers right now. The guys managed to show a bit of interest, but I could tell that they didn't know what was really going on.

My favorite bar, my favorite band, and my drink of choice in hand; could it have been a better night?

Here is a video of the band playing one of my favorite songs, 風吹けば恋 (roughly meaning, "Love in the Wind.") You can see Akko rocking the bass on the left side. I think this song does well to capture the band's essence. Essentially, Chatmonchy is able to tie together crunching guitars and hard rock with more feminine vocals and lyrics. To me, vocalist Eriko's high pitched voice seems to convey the emotions of the young girl deep inside every woman. Is that too lame a characterization? Why don't you just listen for yourself:

For more information, check out this recent posting from Spin Magazine.