Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Vasallo Crab 75's So Many Colours Event Volume ?


When DJ Kamaage and I got into the Que for the Vasallo Crab 75 event "So Many Colours" after a couple of beers at the nearby Shimo-Kitazawa stand-up sake joint Yocchan, the first band was already playing, and at first I didn't recognize who they were. The singer looked different in one of those mini-beards that are ubiquitous these days, but then, gradually, I realized it was Condor 44, the 90's alternative-inspired trio I've seen from time to time for the last decade.

The singer said they were excited about the event so went into a rehearsal studio in the morning to practice one last time, but, because they were getting older, now in the evening they were tired out during the actual performance. A standard gag. But at the same time, it's pretty Japanese to follow the script diligently in terms of age roles, I'm not entirely sure why, probably a lot of it is Confucianism, but maybe there are other cultural things going on too.


The second band was called Frisco, a fabulous rocksteady outfit with a horn section and a pedal steel guitar guy, among others. It's amazing that there's a great rocksteady group playing in Shimo-Kitazawa, Tokyo, Japan, on the other side of the world from Jamaica. They've been around a long time too. The singer said when they did their first show at the Garage, they were so bad the club's manager said please don't come back again. A long way from there...





And Vasallo Crab 75 closed their event. I think I've been to a few of their So Many Colours, but I didn't pay that much attention to event names in the past, because I didn't know how much thought and emotion went into them. This one was started by the late Takayuki Fukumura, and they've been doing it for about ten years, and VC75 vocalist Daisuke Kudo told me that he'd lost count of how many they'd put on--fifteen, sixteen? In the meantime, their music has evolved from bedroom-recorded indie pop to a jazzy, funky, show-off, rocking pop. I've run out of ways to praise them--scroll back and read my past ovations if you please, in this journal that's also almost ten years old now, wow... seeing them just feels now like going to a favorite restaurant that never seems to get bad, run by a chef that never seems to turn old.  


Saturday, January 05, 2013

Munekyun Arpeggio At The Que


Happy New Year. It's taken me this long to find the time to write about a show on Nov. 25.

It was the ninth Munekyun Arpeggio, an annual event to remember the life of Takayuki Fukumura, the former guitarist for advantage Lucy and Vasallo Crab 75. I thought about birth at this show that came into being because of Fukumura's death.

New sounds were being born. The first band was Bertoia, led by a girl who calls herself Murmur. She'd been an advantage Lucy fan since high school, when she went to see the band in Osaka with her mom. Now she has her own shoegazer group, playing for a packed audience at the Que.

Up until I stepped into the club and heard Bertoia's first note, I was feeling a mental chill--maybe going to this gig was like trying to relive something that had already passed me by. But then the first chord sounded, and the warmth returned.

I'd seen Murmur on stage before, but I saw that she and her band had grown as performers. Once shy and appearing almost afraid, she now looked at the audience, so that she could better tell her story of music. And when I listened later to their album Modern Synthesis that I bought that night at the club, I remembered what they created on stage--emotions melted and shaped into music.



***

When advantage Lucy came on stage and vocalist Aiko introduced the band, she said there was one other person there--she was almost seven months pregnant. Tiring more easily because of the baby, she still sang beautifully old songs like "When I Sleep" and "Nico" that she once played together with Fukumura. Almost ten years since his departure, a new life was being created--it was sweet to think about the old times those songs evoked and the days that had passed.

The bands made a compilation album for the Munekyun Arpeggio event, and advantage Lucy contributed a song called "Stars". Aiko teared up, saying women in her state became emotional easily, while explaining the song: it's about all those people who are gone, but may be looking over us from the sky. And if the death of one person hurt so much, what must it have been like, after the earthquake, when more than 10,000 lives disappeared? That was the emotion that led to the song's conception.

***

Last up was Vasallo Crab 75, Fukumura's final band, which he formed with school-buddy Daisuke Kudo.

If Bertoia and Lucy made me think of birth, VC75's music was about growth: from a duo that home-recorded guitar pop tunes a decade ago, VC75 had evolved and mutated into a funky six-piece ensemble that mashed together rock, soul, jazz and classical, always energizing the audience. But I felt that the sensibility hadn't changed, and Fukumura would have enjoyed seeing what the band had become.

 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Yuyake Lamp At Kibune Shrine


Tokyo is my true love. Kyoto is a temptress.

Walking Kyoto's mundane Japanese city streets, a temple or an old house emerges that gives a glimpse of a thousand years of history. Sitting pondering a sea of stone at Daitoku-temple, listening to the wind and cicadas, I lose track of time. The people walk more slowly, savoring their conversations, stretching out the vowels at the end of sentences.


I was in Kyoto see Yuyake Lamp play at Kibune Shrine up in the hills north of the city. Kibune means something like 'holy boat'--the tale is that a goddess took a boat up a river and left it in the shrine grounds. It's a shrine of engagement, marriage and birth. Somewhere in the grounds are two trees whose branches have joined together, a symbol of marriage.

Yuyake Lamp played on a wooden Noh stage overlooking a creek. Wearing yukata, they performed for an hour with keyboard, flute and cajon. The river's rustle below and the ringing cicadas were a harmony to their songs.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Vasallo Crab 75 At The 251


It felt like a while since I was last in Shimokitazawa.

Walking down the stair of the south exit, for the how-many-hundredth-time?, I went down the main street, past the cafe smelling of overheated coffee. Coming up were girls, and some guys, in yukata, headed for the Sumida-gawa fireworks festival. Did this street always have this many chains? My memory is uncertain, but two decades ago when I first visited, it seemed this town was all mom & pop shops.

It was a long time too since I'd been to the 251. My friends' bands had grown up, so they mostly play now upstairs at 440, the mellow cafe.

I used to go to the 251 a lot around 1999, when shows were a salad bar of melodic punk and Shibuya-kei pop groups. There was a night when Qypthone (Shibuya-kei) and House Plan (punk) were on the same bill, and Chinese-Japanese model Hana, a friend of Qypthone, was in the audience (both bands are now M.I.A.). Wearing an orange windbreaker, immediately recognizable at the time, Hana stood shyly in the corner. I found out later on TV that her hobby was to look at Buddhist sculpture--her term was she was 'meeting' the statues--and she teared up when she saw them.

There were tables and chairs at the club tonight, and family from a white-haired grandma to a little girl in a red T-shirt sat to watch their bands. Something was missing for me with the opening bands, a lack of originality and/or Japanese-ness, but then when Vasallo Crab 75 came on, exploding rock, funk and pop, all the ice that was there despite the summer melted.


Saturday, May 05, 2012

Guitar Pop Restaurant Volume 10


I've drifted from the music scene for a bit, for various reasons, going to only a few shows and not having any idea what events are coming up at the Que, the O-Nest and all the usual haunts. It's a situation I hope to change.

In the meantime, events like Guitar Pop Restaurant help me keep in touch with the good bands out there. Organized by a guy named Nakamura Kazumi, who as far as I can tell isn't a musician himself and is involved in this venture solely for the satisfaction of bringing together on stage bands he likes, the event has been held ten times now, which is an accomplishment. I remember seeing after one of the first shows a veteran musician scolding him about some problem with the event--he's come a long way.

Volume 10 was held at the small Shibuya Home, made more cramped by the chairs laid out at the front of the hall, and it was stuffy until the air-con kicked in. It was another eclectic Guitar Pop Restaurant pick of bands--advantage Lucy-inspired Humming Parlour; saccharine-sweet songstress Marino with her excellent backing jazz ensemble, the Teapot Orchestra; Ruby Chouette, a whispering pop singer getting her inspiration from Shibuya-kei; and a collaboration of Mayumi Ikemizu's Three Berry Icecream (photo above) and Hozaki Mayumi and Lepus from Osaka--friends of mine who make mellow, creative music with flute, viola, xylophone, piano, in addition to guitars and drums.

***

I changed the weblog layout. I liked the one before, but it was getting old, plus the comment service I used suddenly changed its system so that all my old comments appeared to be lost and the new ones were presented in an unsightly, expanded dialogue box, so I decided to ditch it and try a new layout. Maybe I'll change this one too, though I'm usually lackadaisical about that sort of thing...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Love And Hates At The Marz


Went to see Love and Hates, the indie breakbeat duo that includes Yuppa of Hazel Nuts Chocolate. The event started at 5 and went until around 10 at the Shinjuku Marz, though I only made it about half way into it, catching the Suzan, a New York-based girl rock band, beatboxer Afra, and Luvraw & BTB, a smooth funk/soul/city pop group from Yokohama featuring not one, but two vocoder players.

Luvraw & BTB

The two LAH girls ascended the stage wearing striped leotards and paper crowns, and danced, rapped and blew various whistles over DJ samples. They reminded me of whacky, hyper Japanese acts from the 80's and 90's, except that while the latter bands were seeking the Cool of their New Wave and punk influences, LAH's more going for Cute (the name of Hazel Nuts Chocolate's second album). Yuppa kept on talking about things being 'suteki'--meaning 'lovely' or 'wonderful'.

For fans of HNC's first two albums, Bewitched and Cute, those collections of darling, children's books in the form of songs (with titles like "Yuppa Goes to Space" and "Honey Lip Tarte Tatin"), the Yuppa unit's current direction might not necessarily satisfy. It's more Club than Cafe. You see a similar thing with Capsule, who once created lovely Shibuya-kei songs about things like spending the weekend in one's favorite room, but has turned itself into a unit heavily influenced by Daft Punk, composing electronic music ballads about life and death. Capsule's latest manifestation is growing on me--I'm crazy about songs like "Pleasure Ground"--but I wonder whether anyone's going to pick up where HNC and Capsule left off and make more songs about fashion and sweets and city living and innocent childlike fun etc.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Plectrum, Rockers, 30 Boys Turning 40

A band called Plectrum turned fifteen and held their birthday gig. I used to feature them a lot, this power pop group that worships Teenage Fanclub, when I started writing Japan Live seven years ago (suddenly it's half their age!). But I haven't kept up the coverage, partly because Plectrum hasn't played as much, but also because I haven't been to all their shows. Sometimes you need reminders that there really was something there.

Plectrum reminded me. Of that feeling when musicians are able to pull you and the crowd into the songs, making you forget everything else.





Plectrum has a song called '30 Boy', written when singer Taisuke Takata was 30, and he said on stage he's about to become a '40 boy' but he wants to continue at it, heartened by predecessors like Mick Jagger sempai and Keith Richards sempai. The way he sang '30 Boy' that night... it had the weight of all those years and feelings.

There's a line in '30 Boy' that says 'I'm still not used to Tokyo/ but I don't mind how I'm left alone (mada Tokyo ni naretawakejanai/ demo hottokareruno wa iyajanai)', and it came alive when Takata sang it. He's a rocker born down south in Saga prefecture, and he's one of the many people from other places who gather in Tokyo, where things happen because so many people are together. For example, shows like Plectrum's, somewhere every night in this city, that open your eyes and make you feel you're living.



Saturday, November 12, 2011

Waffles & advantage Lucy At Zher The Zoo

Advantage Lucy played at the Yoyogi Zher The Zoo after a six month absence from the live stage, and since they were opening for the Waffles, a band that vocalist Aiko said sings such sweet tunes, they also chose their sweetest numbers, including 'Sakuranbo', 'Kaze ni Azukete' and 'Memai' (and, fellow advantage Lucy fans, I'm sure you could appreciate what a delectable offering that was...).

The highlight for me was 'Hibikasete', that winter song, sung so beautifully it felt like the air around me shone. The last song on the mini-album Oolt Cloud, Aiko said its image was of winter in Hokkaido, icicles hanging. 'Hibiku' means to echo, reverberate, or just sound, so 'Hibikasete' could mean 'make (your voice) reverberate', in my imagination in a winter night in the north, the ground glowing white with snow, icicles on eaves.




The Waffles were celebrating a pre-10th year anniversary (it's next year), and they played a few nice songs from an album to be released in January called Tenpo, as well as oldies. What I liked was that from where I stood I could see a few fans in the front mouthing the lyrics to the old songs--these were a part of their lives. Toward the end they performed one of their best songs, 'Tsugi no Hikari', which means 'the next light'. I think it's about hopes of understanding another person (a lover) in spite of the obstacles of time and changes. The Waffles have been at it for nine years now, and many of their fans must have followed them all that time (I'm basically one of those). Wonder if they, we, have discovered the next light?

For the encore, the Waffles invited advantage Lucy back on stage, saying they are huge fans, and they did Lucy's 'Goodbye'--that classic--with the Waffles' Kyoko Ono singing the first part and Aiko taking over on the next. If you like both Lucy and the Waffles, you can imagine what a treat it was to listen to those two gorgeous voices singing together that brilliant tune. During the first verse, Aiko mouthed the words away from the mike. It was sweet to see.



Saturday, September 24, 2011

Caraway, Reminding Me Of The Old Days


Once in a while there's a show that reminds me why I became so crazy about guitar pop around 2003, almost a decade ago now, when I sometimes went to several events in a week. This time it was Caraway, themselves playing for the first time in three years as a band. They're led by Swinging Popsicle's Osamu Shimada, the Beach Boys-loving guitarist that reminds me a little bit of Buddy Holly because of his spectacles and wholesome looks. Off stage, he is down to earth and polite, with just a hint of a charming mischievousness. On stage he's different, giving it his all, connecting with the crowd with his sound and humor.

The event was Guitar Shop Restaurant at the Nishi-Ogikubo Waver, and the flier for it featured a girl in a white dress, floating in the clouds holding a bunny and a kitten. Over drinks one night before the show, my friend DJ Kamaage and I chatted about this picture, which maybe reflected how a younger generation thought of guitar pop, but didn't feel right to us. Guitar pop isn't just sweet and gentle music. Some of us fans think it's a successor to the original punk rock, trying new things, with a Do It Yourself attitude. Or, as twee.net says, "Pop Kids everywhere know that the true spirit of Punk Rock lives on not in the mass-marketed "alternative" scene, or the sub-metal caterwauling of testosterone-poisoned grunge-rockers, but in the simple and pure efforts of kids banging out sweet delicious songs on cheap guitars. "

A certain feeling of being on edge can be seen in the live shows of bands like Caraway. In a different way, another group on the set that night, Three Berry Icecream, shows the true guitar pop spirit, creating beautiful, short tunes with accordion, viola, xylophone, just because those are the instruments that band leader Mayumi Ikemizu wants to use to create sounds.

This was a 'sold out' event, at a tiny venue I'd never been to before. Fortunately, and unusually for a Tokyo show, the audience could exit and re-enter the venue freely, which was good, because the place was packed. There's a relationship between how much you love a show and how much discomfort you are willing to put up with, and these days in my case the love really has to be there to stay at an uncomfortable event, whereas Tokyo audiences seem to be able to put up better with the lack of space, or maybe they just love the music more. Or, I might just be turning into an old grouch. It was good, though, to be able to go outside and walk around in Nishi-Ogikubo at night, a dense neighborhood of eateries and bars, including a huge yakitori joint called Ebisu that occupied multiple storefronts in one block.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Asakusa Jinta & OldFashion At The Kurawood

The Kurawood in Asakusa is such a nice live house, with a friendly vibe. I recommend it highly for any music-loving visitor to Tokyo, since you won't want to miss Asakusa in any case (and for that matter, anyone who lives in Tokyo should go too).

Kurawood's bar sells, in addition to the usual beer and cocktails, several types of shochu, sake, Denki Bran--'electric brandy'--that specialty of Kamiya Bar in Asakusa, a liquor that tastes like sugar and herbs dunked into brandy, and bar food, including oden for 300 yen, which is a good deal.

Hung from the ceiling of the stage area are paper lanterns that darken when shows start. They're inscribed with the characters for Sanjya festival, a big annual event in Asakusa.

I headed to Kurawood from Asakusa station, and the evening was autumnal, with a cool breeze swinging the branches of a willow tree next to an old restaurant with a black-tiled roof. The night's show was organized by Asakusa Jinta, so I knew it would be good.

The first group I saw was called OldFashion, an energetic, swinging outfit with three sax players, a wood bass, two guitars and a drummer. Nattily dressed in jackets and ties, OldFashion was one of those groups that was inspired by old jazz and pop. They reminded me a bit of Ego-Wrappin and Crazy Ken Band, and I liked them a lot.



Next up was a funny band led by the 'Mick Jagger of Adachi ward', and these guys really learned their stage show from Rolling Stones 101, complete with a lead guitar with Keith Richards mannerisms.

Then Asakusa Jinta came on, and the floor erupted into joyful dancing. An especially excited kid turned around and apologized when he bumped into me, and I felt bad because his hops and swinging dance and arm pumps were what I felt too, inside. Though by about the middle of the show, the music was so powerful, I jettisoned my inhibitions and joined him and the other fans in dancing.

One of the things that makes Asakusa Jinta great is that they've made music that sounds both retro and new, mixing western and Japanese styles. Others have tried this too, but I don't think as successfully. And they're master performers, fun and engaging to watch. It's a stupid miracle that you can still see these guys right up close at a little place like the Kurawood.



Saturday, June 25, 2011

This & That Volume 4 In Roppongi


Photo by Daniel H. Rosen


This & That Cafe is a neat event that a Tokyo-based artist named Daniel Rosen holds every two months or so at the Super Deluxe in Roppongi. First off, it's free, leaving you with more money to consume beverages including Tokyo Ale. Secondly, it features an eclectic mix of performances, which, when I stopped by a few weeks ago, comprised Yuyake Lamp, my beloved piano pop band, the Watanabes, a gaijin ensemble from Ehime Prefecture, another female vocalist and a flamenco group, a live painting, and animation projected on the stage wall. It's an ideal way to spend a Friday night, listening to good music at a place with a free feel.

The Watanabes, who started with a fun song about living in Ehime as foreigners, are based close to Yuyake Lamp vocalist Yunn's hometown in the western Japan prefecture, by coincidence. I wonder what it's like to be a foreigner band in a place like Ehime...



Photo by Tomohide Kimura





Saturday, May 28, 2011

Terayama Shuji Music Festival



I heard about Shuji Terayama a long time ago, but in one those things you never quite get around to, I'd never really read any of his plays or poems and other works of this avant garde writer. So, when I saw that there was going to be a 'Terayama Shuji Music Festival' at the Hatsudai The Doors club, and Asakusa Jinta was playing, I was interested. Plus, as a bonus, Panta, the singer of the legendary left-wing 70's rock band Zunou Keisatsu, or Brain Police, was also on the bill.

Terayama was active in the 60's and 70's, and a lot of the crowd in the small Doors club seemed to be about the age that they probably saw Terayama plays when they first came out. They were a quiet audience, with gray, fuzzy hair. Maybe they were once radicals, protesting, attending Brain Police shows, taking in Terayama's literary experiments. Maybe, to an extent, they are still radical, which is harder to be than, say, in your 20's.

It probably wasn't an easy crowd for Asakusa Jinta, accustomed more to playing for young punk fans, but they pulled it off, helped along by a few diehard fans in the audience who had come to see them, and getting polite applause from the Terayama followers.

MCing the event were a playwright named Ei Takatori, who had collaborated with Terayama and whose background is also interesting, with 'manga criticism' listed in his resume, and an idol singer named Mika Hashimoto, who is the 'chairwoman' of the School Uniform Advancement Committee, which is how I guess I'd translate an idol group called Seifuku Koujou Iinkai. I missed SKI's set, but they appear to be a group of about a dozen schoolgirl singers who motto is to be “pure, upright and beautiful,” according to their website. The special guest was the actress Hitomi Takahashi, a tall, somewhat fox-like beauty, who had been scouted by Terayama when she went to see one of his plays as a student in her school uniform.

Brain Police's Panta played as a duo with another guitarist. A 61-year old rocker with still-long hair wearing black clothes, Panta did an acoustic set, and the highlight was a song whose message confused me. It was a song that was ostensibly about a baseball team, and its nine players, but in reality it was about the nine hijackers of ANA's Yodo-go plane in 1970, the baseball theme invented to prevent the song from being banned. It seemed weird...I only have wiki-level knowledge of the Yodo-go incident, but the gist is a group of radicals took over the plane and had it fly to North Korea, where the nine would be able to join their comrades. It wasn't a critical song. If anything, it seemed to glorify them. Maybe the song made sense in certain circles at the time it was written, but, in 2011, it seems strange. I'm curious what Panta's take is on all this.

For the encore, all the performers got together and sang a famous song that Terayama wrote called , “Sensou wa Shiranai”, a beautiful, if somewhat sentimental song about a girl getting married whose father she doesn't remember died in the war. The title means, literally, 'I don't know war', but I guess the 'know' in this case means more than just knowledge or experience, and is talking about lives where war is no longer something that exists, at least not in Japan, for now.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

2011, From Here


2011, From Here was an earthquake charity event at the Club Que featuring a three-band roster that was hard to beat if you're into Japanese guitar pop: Harqua, the husband-and-wife collaboration of Harco and Quinka, with a Yawn, Kuki Kodan and advantage Lucy. Ticket proceeds, donations and sales of buttons made by artists (showing the prefectural birds of the quake-affected areas) went to a quake relief fund.

More than 200 people crammed into the Que, and the event ended up raising over 500,000 yen, about $6,000.

Highlights of the event for me included:

Harqua's performance. I'm a huge Quinka far, and chose her Field Recordings album as my favorite for 2008. I also like Harqua's CD a lot—I don't think there are many married duos that sing as beautifully together—and this was my first time see them on stage. One of their best songs is “Thank You”, the first tune on their album, and Quinka said that when she wrote it, the message was that you shouldn't miss the opportunity to thank loved ones closest to you, but after the quake, the message became bigger, and now it's also a song to thank people from far away, strangers with a heart. Enamored of the song to begin with, and thinking about its newfound significance, I was emotionally overcome during its performance.



Kuki Kodan's lyrics. Vocalist Yamazaki Yukari writes with everyday words that mysteriously turn into sung poetry that's hard to forget. I could see several fans mouthing those words that mean a lot to them. Yukari sits the side edge of the stage, singing as if she's alone in a living room, and then sometimes looking up, surprised she's on a stage in front of a crowd.



Advantage Lucy. The organizers of the show, whose intention was written on their website (and take a guess who translated it into English :) ). What can we do in this situation? We can start helping, from now, each in his or her own way—that was the philosophy.

But when vocalist Aiko first tried to address the audience, and saw how many had shown up, she was overwhelmed and covered her eyes with a towel. The words eventually came out, and they did a fantastic set of their new material, but for the encore, when they did “Kaze ni Azukete”, and she sang that line, one of my favorite of all Lucy lyrics, because it's so real:

Kimi kara koe ga todoitara nandaka

When your words reach me

Onaka ga suitekita

I start to become hungry


she choked up again. Maybe, I think, because we were there, the fans and musicians, and our voice, of support and agreement, did reach her. (And we did go grab a bite afterwards!)




Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pop Planet Nights In Seoul

One of the discoveries I made during a weekend of pop shows in Korea was a Japanese band—the Fishmans.

I knew about the 90's reggae-pop group, and owned two of their CDs, but it wasn't until I heard their music booming in a Seoul club called Kuchu Camp—itself the name of a Fishmans album—that it clicked. Now, back in Tokyo, I don't know how many times I've listened to songs like “Night Cruising” and “Shiawasemono (Happy Guy)”, bewitched by the high-voiced, yearning vocals.

At the Kuchu Camp, on the wall behind the stage is a famous photo of the late Shinji Sato, the Fishmans' singer, with eyes that are playful, challenging, penetrating. His image watches over every show at Kuchu Camp. Right now, somewhere there must be someone listening to his lines, from “Shiawasemono”:

Kanojyo no koto dake wo yoku shitteru

I only know a lot about my girl

Soshite ongaku ga mune no naka de itsumo natteru

And music is always playing in my heart

Kanojyo no koto dake wo yoku shitteru

I only know a lot about my girl

Soshite itsu datte yume no naka made oikaketekuru

And she always follows me into my dreams

***

On Saturday night, at Club Ta, decorated with a Middle Eastern feel with cloth on the walls, I remembered what a great audience Koreans are, clapping in rhythm spontaneously to songs, and cheering groups they were seeing for the first time (as well as excellent local bands, like my co-conspirator Wonyul's blues-rock ensemble One Trick Ponies and the veteran, sweet pop unit Linus' Blanket).

Yuyake Lamp translated one of their songs into Korean, and the pronunciation must have been rocky because vocalist Yunn doesn't speak the language. But despite that, after, and even during the song, there was a roar of approval. Yunn blogged—when she was memorizing the Korean words, it felt like learning magical spells, but when she actually sang them on stage, they were like a real magic spell that brought the audience closer.



***

I loved the casual elegance of my Korean friends' daily moves, the way they put a hand over the heart as they poured a drink for you, or placed a hand over a forearm as they received a drink. We're friends so pour my drink with one hand rather than two, don't be overly formal, said one friend. There were a lot more hugs, handshakes and pats than I was used to back in Japan.

After a few nights that went by so fast of music by great bands—Ninon, Kounotori, Three Berry Icecream, Yuyake Lamp and the vocalist Mayumi Hozaki from Japan and Do-Lu, One Trick Ponies and Linus' Blanket from Korea—and drinks, laughter and talk with new friends until dawn, we from Tokyo and Osaka were all smitten by Seoul, wanted to stay longer and return again soon—as I knew would happen.


Friday, April 08, 2011

Seoul! Pop Planet - April 16-17!


Seven years ago (but just yesterday!), I went to Seoul with a bunch of musicians—advantage Lucy, Plectrum, Lost in Found and Miniskirt—to attend a music event called Melody Go Round. It was one of the best trips of my life—getting to know my favorite artists in person, making new friends, and witnessing moving scenes of the musicians of two neighboring but very faraway countries creating beautiful sounds together. Seoul became a special place for me.

Now, some of us are returning. Bands from Japan will be performing together with Korean musicians at a two-night event called “Pop Planet” next weekend. On Saturday, April 16, they will play at Club TA, and on the 17th at Kuchu Camp, both in Hongdae. If you're in Seoul, come join us!

The bands are:

Linus' Blanket, a wonderful Seoul indie pop group influenced by bossa nova, French pop and Bacharach;

One Trick Ponies of Seoul, a cool blues rock band from Seoul, led by my friend Wonyul;

Do-Lu at the Kuchu Camp show, a charming trilingual (K-J-E) staff band of the Seoul club;

Three Berry Icecream from Tokyo, the brilliant indie pop unit of vocalist and accordionist Mayumi Ikemizu, a central character of the Shibuya-kei scene, who was a member of Bridge;

Yuyake Lamp, one of my favorite Tokyo bands, the unit of nature-loving, world music-embracing, high-voiced singing wonder Yunn;

Hozaki Mayumi from Osaka, the gorgeous voiced pop vocalist, formerly with a unit called Margarets Hope;

And, two Osaka groups associated with Minsung Kang, formerly of Linus' Blanket and the organizer of the Melody Go Round event mentioned above: Kounotori and Ninon. I haven't listened to them, but being Minsung's groups, I have no doubt they're excellent.

***

Minsung wants to do another Melody Go Round event in Seoul later in the year—its idea is to bring musicians of different countries together, going from one country to another—and this event shares his vision and features some great bands from both Korea and Japan. I can't wait for the evenings of music, friendship, soju and Korean food!