Saturday, June 04, 2005

AuroraNote; Live House Vs. Club

AuroraNote at the Shimokitazawa Garage. Posted by Hello

For the sake of simplicity I’ve often written that I went to see this or that band at a CLUB, when in reality I saw the band at what is called in Japan a LIVE HOUSE. There’s a difference between the two for the Japanese. A live house is a (usually) small hall with a stage and sound system, where the audience stands and listens to live music. A club, on the hand, is a space for people to dance to DJ-ed music.

Friday night I got to go to both a live house and a club in a single evening, and found out I’m a live house guy rather than a clubber.

The live house was the Garage in Shimokitazawa, and I went there to see the bands AuroraNote and Winnie. My friend Hironobu Hirata, the bassist for Swinging Popsicle, also plays for AuroraNote. In his thirties, Hirata is about ten years older than the other three members of the band, and it seems he plays the role of a sage in the band, a veteran of the music scene who was behind the success of Swinging Popsicle, one of Japan’s great guitar pop bands.

As with most live house shows, the Garage show started around 7PM with an opening band, and then Winnie was up next and played a good show. AuroraNote was the third and final act, and when I looked around at the remaining audience I saw that, without exaggeration, I was about the only guy in the crowd of about fifty people.

They are a good-looking band, probably partly explaining their appeal to the womenfolk. But they also play energetic and soulful music, a sort of blues-y American rock that reminds me a bit of another Japanese band, the Triceratops. AuroraNote has just released their first album, Sekai no Shikumi [‘The Way the World Works’, my translation], and they are about to go on a national tour. It was a satisfying, rocking show—I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t become popular with the guys too.

Another shot of AuroraNote. Posted by Hello

After the Garage show, I headed from the hippie-ish Shimokitazawa neighborhood to the trendy Nishi-Azabu area to catch an all-night show at the Yellow club.

I’m NOT a clubber so I didn’t know this until that evening, but the Yellow has apparently been around for more than a decade. In the stairs leading down to the club was a line of people waiting to get in, a scene you see outside of discos everywhere in the world. I had an invitation so cut in front of the line to get into the club.

Once inside, I was tempted to leave immediately. The club, divided into a bar and dance floor, was packed, with people rushing to and fro busily. Wearing a dress shirt I felt overdressed, and the bag I carried with me was out of place in a venue meant for dancing (and I’m not a dancer).

The dance floor was as crowded as Tokyo trains in the morning rush hour, except here people moved around and bumped into you more. As I watched the dancing crowd, I got the feeling I often get listening to big DJ-ed events: aren’t these people reacting excessively positively to pretty minor DJ techniques? The DJ changes the music to a song everyone knows, and the crowd goes wild. I almost hoped these young dancers were on drugs.

The band I had come to see was a sort of fusion-jazz unit called I-Dep. They seemed good, but I have to confess I had a strong urge get out of the place after a couple of songs, and that’s what I did. Again, the crowd seemed to cheer the band way in excess of what the band played called for, and all through the performance, wild-eyed groups of men pushed through the crowd to head for wherever they were headed, a big distraction.

Later, I thought about the possibility that maybe by skipping most of the show, I was missing music that was NEW. When jazz in the 20’s and rock in the 50’s were fresh and about to bloom, people danced to the music. It was only after the music became more established that people listened to the music sitting down. Maybe the music being played to the seemingly mindless crowd was something that would similarly be performed in concert halls down the line. If that is the case, I guess I will have to miss the next big thing—I want to listen to my music in peace in a live house.

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