Wednesday, June 02, 2004

An Introduction

This is a journal about Tokyo's rock music scene. It begins on a good night as any to embark on this project: the evening before a show at the Shinjuku Red Cloth, featuring the Japanese pop bands advantage Lucy, Lost in Found, Snow Ball and Sloppy Joe. Your guide, you see, is a devoted Lucy fan. Their shows are always a major event for me, a time to see brilliant musicians in person, hear them play the songs that have become personal favorites, and listen to their new music that takes them in fresh and unexpected directions. But for a band that I think is one of the best in Japan, advantage Lucy plays in modest settings, usually basement clubs in Tokyo that house a couple of hundred people at most, about once a month. More on them later. Tomorrow, I'll walk through Kabukichou, Tokyo's biggest red light district, to get to Red Cloth, a relatively new rock club, pay 2,500 yen for the door charge, buy beer, and settle back in one corner of the club to take in great music.

That's what I've been doing a lot of for about a year now -- I often go to two or three shows a week in this city that is an Asian rock 'n' roll center. How big og a scene is this? Just buy a copy of the Weekly Pia entertainment magazine, open the live pop music section, and there in front of you are pages after pages in small print of names of bands (some of which are totally weird, including 'Hotbitchis Marie', 'Baby Juice', 'Bo-Peep' and 'CIPHER BREAKA') who are scheduled to play in the more well-known clubs. There are hundreds of other smaller clubs, bars, and performance spaces that aren't listed in the magazine, where the music that's performed is sometimes as compelling as that at the bigger venues. After work and on weekend nights, I set out to catch shows at entertainment centers in Tokyo like Shibuya, Shimokitazawa and Shinjuku.

There are also vast assortments of record and music software stores, guitar and musical instrument shops, music book and magazine stores, and even a guidebook to tell you what's where. A trip to Tokyo is a pilgrimage to the great sites of J-pop (Japanese pop). One Grand Temple is Tower Records Shibuya, a seven-story yellow monster of a building containing music of all major genres from all over the world. There, in the independent music section of the J-pop floor (the 2nd floor), I discovered unforgettable bands like advantage Lucy, Orange Plankton, Art-School, Burger Nuds, Moga The 5 Yen and many others. Going to see these groups play live has also been a chance to watch shows of other good bands on the same billing. I want to tell you about these musicians in this journal.

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