Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quinka, With A Yawn At Rain On The Roof

I almost got lost for a second time in a row going to a cafe called Rain On The Roof in Sangenjyaya because, well, the place IS a challenge to find. It's in a narrow alley and there's a tiny sign in front of the entrance that you wouldn't see if you weren't looking for it. But this is at least an interesting neighborhood to get lost in. It's filled with little dining bars that have only a few seats each, places looking like time's stopped in the 1960's, where the 'mama' mixes scotch and water for long-time regulars and that you'd feel strange about dropping by unless you yourself are a regular or are introduced by someone who is. In a side-street off of Route 246 is an old movie theater, Sangenjyaya Central Theater, with big signs in Showa-era font and, its most distinctive feature, on the facade a kappa couple, the male kappa blue and the female kappa pink (kappa are human-like creatures that live in ponds, and drag children into the water and drown them. Watch out for them if traveling with little kids near ponds...).

Rain On The Roof, named after a Lovin' Spoonful song, is a cafe on the 2nd floor of an old building with great wooden ceiling with beams. It has comfy sofas and smells of curry rice, which is supposed to be good. The cafe appears to have been created by a company called Renovation Planning, which transforms old stores and homes into cafes. Here's an up-close picture of the ceiling:

I was there to see an event called 'Waikiki-philia and Cafe Rock', the fifth installment of an event organized every couple of months or by the band Elekibass. It ran from 2:30 in the afternoon to 8:40 in the evening, though I only stayed during the daytime part of the event. The standout act for me was Quinka, With a Yawn, the unit of the female vocalist/keyboardist Michiko Aoki and whoever else she invites to perform together. At this show her side-kick was guitarist Taisuke Takata of Plectrum. I'm a big fan of Quinka—the Quinka album Field Recordings was my favorite CD of 2008—but I'd forgotten until this Sangenjyaya show what a good performer Aoki is. Her singing is unhurried, natural, and she has a way of creating musical space by staying silent and then coming in with her voice, a quirky, normal-person voice that nevertheless has a lot of presence. Quinka played all covers: The Stone Roses' “Ten Storey Love Song”, Unicorn's “Jitensha Dorobou (Bicycle Thief)”, Spitz's “J'taime” and the La's “There She Goes” (a very popular tune in the Tokyo indie pop scene), as well as, a cover of sorts, a song called “Thank You” that she wrote together with her husband Harco for their two-person unit Harqua. Plectrum's Takata teased her, saying she's cheating on Harco by performing the song with him, and she replied that he's also being untrue to his just-married wife by doing this duet, but, joking aside, it was a truly beautiful tune performed by two talented musicians that made me a bit tearful. Harqua...I better check them out.

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