Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Tokyo Copy Band Festival

Peppermint Patty's Ms. Kawai. Posted by Hello

Dr. I, a friend who is a psychiatrist by day and rock ‘n’ roll nut by night, invited me to a "copy band festival" that was held over the weekend. Six bands were to play at a rehearsal studio in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, well known for its concentration of electric gadget stores of all sizes, but recently also growing in fame (notoriety?) as a Mecca for otakus, those young Japanese introverts obsessed with animation, idol singers, plastic models, etc.

Having been away from the U.S. for so long, I’m not sure anymore if a "copy band" is an actual term to describe amateur musicians who get together and play music of their favorite rock groups, though I know people do this outside of Japan. But here in Japan, it seems that forming a copy band is normal group hobby activity, like playing in a softball team over the weekend or joining the neighborhood choir. And, Japanese being Japanese, the copy bands take their hobby very seriously. They are such perfectionists about copying their favorite musicians exactly that it wouldn’t be surprising if some copy bands are actually better than the originals.

My friend Dr. I was to perform in two bands: one that copied advantage Lucy and another that played songs by a band I wasn’t familiar with called LR. The event sounded like fun, and there was also the post-event uchiage drinking party to look forward to.

Peppermint Patty live at Akihabara Laox Gakkikan Studio G. Posted by Hello

The rehearsal studio was a big one set aside especially for amateur bands who want to play to an audience, and the about fifty people who came to see the event were all able to fit into the room. There was even a sound mixer guy at the back.

The six bands were:

1. The Gi’z. This trio named themselves this because all three musicians have surnames that end with the phrase Gi, as in Takagi.

2. Peppermint Patty. This was the advantage Lucy copy band in which Dr. I played the guitar. Why Peppermint Patty? Their heroes, advantage Lucy, was originally called Lucy van Pelt, as in Linus’ sister in the Peanuts cartoon strip. Peppermint Patty’s leader (I think), Mr. Ito, initially proposed that their band be called "adventure Lucy", but this was voted down by the other members, and they settled on Peppermint Patty (who I have very little recollection of... was she the one who had a crush on Charlie Brown?).

Their performance – very good. The singer, Kawai-san, who brought a Lucy van Pelt doll to the stage, sounded a little like Lucy’s actual singer, Aiko, and, eerily, even had some of the same stage mannerism as Aiko, swinging her arm slightly as she sang, for example. She said she’d been copying Lucy’s music since she was seventeen.

I found myself strangely moved as Peppermint Patty played their second song, "Kaze ni Azukete", one of Lucy’s classics. Like me, at some point Peppermint Patty’s five were knocked out by how good the song is, and now here they were playing it in front of an audience, and well too. (During the show Dr. I invited all to go on January 22 to the show of the real advantage Lucy, which he said was "30 billion times better" than Peppermint Patty.)

3. Golden Colas. A hard rocking quartet, these guys were good. Technical proficiency-wise, I thought they were just as good as many of the bands who played at real rock clubs, though of course the GC's played others’ songs. One Golden Cola looked a lot like Bill Gates.

4. markte. This was a four-eye quartet that played songs by the Japanese band Super Car. The singer could have benefitted from more practice in wild stage action. He nearly tripped trying to jump on to a speaker. He lost his glasses spinning around later in the set. And within the first few seconds of the performance, as the singer jumped wildly, his brand new shining blue Fender went dead, never to return to the world of live copy bands. The audience held an impromptu auction for the dead Fender, with the closing price of 38,000 yen.

5. Sugorokku. This band, whose name is a pun meaning both a table game and "really great rock music", played songs by Spitz. By this time, after about three hours of listening to amateur bands, my back was starting to hurt from sitting on a plastic stool. My back pain would get worse at the uchiage party, held in an izakaya bistro, where we sat on floor mats.

6. Neko no Kubiwa II. Dr. I’s other copy band, their name means "cat collar 2", which I guess is a reference to some song or phrase in a song by the band they copied, LR. I was starting to feel Copy Band Fatigue at this stage, but even so I enjoyed this band and Sugorokku.

And with the Nekos ended the four-hour copy band festival. It was a good way to spend a cold Tokyo winter afternoon. It made me think, maybe I could form a very incompetent advantage Lucy copy band, and call it Pig Pen or something.

Golden Colas Posted by Hello

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