Saturday, January 08, 2005
Orange Plankton Plays Okinawa (Restaurant)
Orange Plankton live at Naniyatteru Bar.
Japanese pop band Orange Plankton played the first show of the year in an unusual venue: an Okinawan food bar in Shimbashi, the area in central Tokyo where Japanese businessmen get drunk after work in one of hundreds of bistros and bars and gripe about their bosses, co-workers and clients.
By coincidence, Orange Plankton had just done a few year-end gigs in the island of Okinawa itself, and now tonight they played at an Okinawan bar that served awamori, the island’s distilled liquor, and Okinawa foods such as goya champul, stir-fried bitter melon.
I’m not sure how they booked a show there, but it was a good choice. Okinawa, far south of the main islands of Japan, is a laid-back tropical land (as the excellent travel guide Gateway To Japan says the island has a different ethnic personality, "Slower, warmer, less compulsively punctual and punctilious") that produces musicians with the best sense of rhythm in Japan. It also has its own distinct culture, a fusion of Japanese, Chinese and southeast Asian influences with its own quirks mixed in. Similarly, Orange Plankton are four relaxed, friendly musicians with a great sense of groove, and their style is like no other Japanese band: to a swinging piano-bass-drums accompaniment, singer Yumi sings on topics such as the beginnings of the planet Earth, how the brain works, the fields of Mongolia, as well as more conventional pop music themes such as love problems and longing.
Tonight they played two sets to a bar crowd of about twenty people, and in both they performed a new song called "Yoru no Sukima (An Opening in the Night)", a nice lounge jazz-like number.
Orange Plankton, in front of bottles of awamori.