Sunday, November 11, 2007

Indie Event "Closer Vol. 2" In Shinjuku

A tearful Tokyo evening: at Shibuya station a high school girl was consoling her weeping friend; further down a bawling tot was tugging at her mom's hand; at the platform was a poster of a TV drama featuring two girls and a guy, all moist-eyed; flashing on the Yamanote line's in-train TV was a commercial showing a woman shedding tears at a bar, and a chivalrous man sliding a chocolate across the bar to her, to help lift her spirits.

In the background to all this was an unending, chilly autumn drizzle: was that getting everyone down?

But in spite of the miserable weather, or maybe to escape it, indie music fans flocked to Shinjuku Marz and Motion to an event called Closer Vol. 2 that featured eleven bands. The performances were split up between the two live houses, and you could go back and forth between them, stopping off outside to get a bite to eat or buy cheaper drinks at nearby convenience stores if you desired. That's an improvement on the Tokyo live house convention whereby you can't re-enter the club once you leave, meaning you are stuck there until you see the act you came to see.

I ended up watching the uhnellys and henrytennis at the Marz, and Yucca at Motion.

Unnellys was a girl on drums and a long curly-haired guy on bass and mini-trumpet, both of which he looped with a pedal to create dense dub phrases, over which he rapped in rapid-fired Japanese. He had a lot of stage presence, and the two really got the crowd going with their funky jazz-rock-hip hop—a wool-capped girl in front of me began swinging her head up and down like a charmed cobra at one point.


Henrytennis, after them, kept up the momentum. The septet call themselves a tribal, new wave prog ensemble, and to me a lot of their music sounds like free jazz, except composed and with pre-planned structure (is that paradoxical...?). Once they started they didn't stop until the end, going from quiet to over-the-top, and in one climactic fermata the female keyboardist sustained a jarring, dissonant chord for a long moment that never seemed to end, as the others jammed like the world was coming to a close, and the crazed audience members all got naked and spun around a bonfire lit up in the middle of the live house...

Well, not quite, but that's what it felt like.


Yucca played at the Motion, and between songs explained what the event Closer was all about: there's a lot of great indie music in Tokyo, but too few events where all these groups are showcased, in an atmosphere of freedom; they therefore got together and organized this event, and hoped more like this would follow. Remarkably, considering the usual quietness of Tokyo audiences, the fans cheered and yelled out encouragements as Yucca spoke. It was moving to be at an event where everyone was indie, and proud to be so.

A congrats to Shinada-san, Yucca's drummer, who played for the first time in eleven months after fracturing her back and going through rehabilitation. She led the band (who call themselves children of Sonic Youth and Stereolab) in a rocking performance, and the packed house loved them. During one song break, she told everyone that this was her comeback gig after her injury and thanked everyone for watching, but on this tearful Tokyo evening, she was dry-eyed, with dignity, as she said this.

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