Sunday, January 22, 2006

Take Care, Naoki Kishihara, Bassist, Plectrum

Naoki Kishihara

Saturday was a rare snowy day in Tokyo, the streets slippery with ice, but even so fans of Tokyo pop band Plectrum showed up en masse at the Shimokitazawa Club Que to see the band—the place was packed. And seemingly everyone who is anyone in the Tokyo indie pop scene was there. The bassist of Swinging Popsicle. The singer of advantage Lucy. Members of Cellophane, the Castanets and Gomes the Hitman. Everyone was there because this was a special event: it was Plectrum’s last show with Naoki Kishihara on bass, and we all wanted to see his final show as a Plectrum.

The departure of Kishihara, or ‘Kitchon’ as he’s affectionately called by everyone, came after ten years in the band. He was moving to another city to start a new job. It was the end of a career that began when he became a college roommate of Taisuke Takata, Plectrum’s leader. Kitchon, three years Takata’s junior, moved into the college dorm carrying a guitar. When Takata heard Kitchon play some blues licks, he invited Kitchon to join his band, but as a bassist rather than a guitarist because that was what they were looking for. So guitarist Kitchon joined Plectrum as a bassist.

Kitchon was the Mellow One in Plectrum. While singer Takata and lead guitarist Akira Fujita set the stage on fire, Kitchon usually stood to the side, enjoying the show, but staying cool. I found him to be the most approachable Plectrum at the beginning, and we became friends. Like many people that went to the Que on Saturday night, I just had to see this show.

It was a great performance, lasting two and a half hours, including two encores. Plectrum played all their classics from their decade of existence. Until about the end the band didn’t talk about the fact that this was Kitchon’s last show, but most of the audience knew, and many gathered in front of him below the stage and took pictures. When Kitchon walked on stage at the first encore, someone gave him a bouquet of flowers.

Then, in the dressing room between the first and second encores, something snapped for Kitchon, and when he came back on stage his eyes were bloodshot and watery. The band played one last song, a new tune that they recorded in a mini-album, Sweet Memories, that they made for this show, and in the middle Kitchon could no longer hold back his tears, and turned his back to the audience and faced the amp.

At the end of that second encore, almost the entire crowd stood in place, silent, not clapping for more songs, but not wanting to leave either. I’ve never seen anything like it. This was an audience that knew that two encores were about the limit and that the club usually wants everyone out by 10PM, and so at first they didn’t ask for a third encore, but neither were they ready to leave. So, we all stood, quiet, emotional. After a few minutes, some people in the front started to clap. Soon, the rest of the audience joined in the applause, very quietly.

Plectrum came on stage one last time to thank the crowd, and Kitchon also said thanks, we should all be able to meet again. Which must be true, as long we’re all here in this world.

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