Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"Cheek Time", "Session", Runt Star

Runt Star's keyboardist. Posted by Hello

How a rock band reacts when something goes wrong at a show says a lot about how good the band is.

With all those wires and electrical equipment on stage, with the jitters about playing in front of strangers, there’s bound to be some mess-up or another; but the best bands ignore the failure or even make it an added ingredient to spice up the performance. I wrote before about Tokyo rock band Plectrum's show in Seoul where that happened. Singer Taisuke Takata transformed a temporary moment of having a soundless sound system into a chance to lead the audience in a mass, unplugged sing-along. It's one of my personal great rock ‘n’ roll moments.

Last night, Plectrum was playing with bands named Runt Star and Gentouki at the Shibuya O-Nest. There was trouble during the last set of the night, Runt Star’s show – right at the introduction of one of the songs the guitar amp stopped working. The audience, mostly girls, was there to have fun and giggled as the guitarist fumbled with the wires and dials to try to restore the sound. To pass the time, the keyboard, bass and drums continued to play. They improvised a lounge jazz-like number. It was a nice, swinging tune (talent!).

"OK, it’s cheek time! Cheek dance with whoever is standing next to you," the guitarist said. More giggles. A technician ran on stage and replaced the amp. "What’s the matter, I don’t see you cheek dancing," the guitarist said to the tittering audience. The guitar’s sound returned, and played pop tunes to a crowd that just had a few minutes of unexpected fun.


Among Japanese people’s sins are a compulsion to want to abbreviate phrases and a predilection to using English words in ways that seem strange to a native speaker. "Cheek time" is an example of those two sins combined. It’s short for "cheek dance time", the slow song intervals at discos when couples are supposed to cheek dance. Another is "session", which is short for "jam session". Only in the case of Japanese bands, "jam session" at a live show appears to mean ‘one song that all the bands get up on stage together and play for an encore’. There was a "session" tonight – Runt Star, Gentouki and Plectrum played "Twist and Shout".

I'll leave it for another time to talk about WHY Japanese people are into shortening phrases and using English (and other foreign languages) in strange ways.

Twist & Shout Session Posted by Hello

Plectrum played the second show of the night. I hope they never quit. I need at least a monthly fix of Plectrum, one of Tokyo’s best live bands.

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