Grand Old Shinjuku Loft. That legendary Tokyo live house where Southern All Stars and Judy and Mary once played. I always get lost getting to it. Maybe I get distracted trying to steer clear of the colorful Kabukicho street people near the club—touts, Japanese and foreign, hosts in shining suits and mullets, and, sometimes, gangsters. The Loft is in the basement of an incredible building that is otherwise filled with adult entertainment establishments.
After walking down the stairs and paying at its caged ticket booth, you enter one of the ideal live houses of Tokyo. Mysterious vents and pipes crisscross its ceiling and unlikely pieces of Americana cover its walls (is my memory false, or was there a Miller Lite sign somewhere?). There's a bar with food separated from the live music area. And everything in it is stained with the memory of ten thousand rock shows.
Hearing that Risette will hold its 15 year anniversary gig at the Loft surprised me a bit because they seemed more of a Shibuya or Shimokitazawa act, but when I got there it made sense. A veteran band like Risette shines in an old club like the Loft. The music, the act and the atmosphere come together to create something you can only feel in that space.
One of the bands that Risette invited to play that night was a group that's been around for two decades called Yes, Mama OK. I'd heard of them and even own a tribute album for them but this was the first time for me to see them live and listen to their music. Instant conversion. Catchy rock tunes, abundant stage action, and general silliness—one of the members is a sax/harmonica player who chugged a bottle of wine during the songs where he had nothing to play. The vocalist and guitarist, Takeshi Kongochi, is also an actor, TV personality and the fourth best air guitar player at a Finland world championship, according to Wiki...
Risette itself played both an acoustic and an amplified set. Its singer Yu Tokiwa has a clear, sparkling voice that advantage Lucy's Aiko once said she wished she could put into her throat like a cartridge to sing with, and it mingles perfectly with the two, dueling lead guitars. Ex-Cymbals Reiji Okii guest-bassed for some of the songs. Not showmen like Yes, Mama OK that preceded them, Risette nevertheless charmed with the beauty of their melodies and the intensity of their performance. Not great orators on stage either, when they said simple thanks to the audience and the other bands, and Tokiwa said “Ureshiidesu (I'm happy)”, it felt like the most genuine appreciation I'd heard in a long time.