Monday, April 04, 2011

Apollo 18's Tokyo Landing

Apollo 18 landed in Tokyo—and then crashed through the ground and got stuck in the Basement Bar.


Well, OK, the space mission is actually an alternative rock trio from Korea, and the hardcore cosmonauts were flying back not from the moon but from the U.S., where they were on a two-week tour, including gigs at South by Southwest and The Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival. On the way back they were playing at the Shibuya Kinoto and the Basement Bar in Shimokitazawa.

I found out about the show because a music blogging comrade from Korea, Shawn Despres, got in touch about it. They were voted "Rookie of the Year" at the 2010 Korean Music Awards, he said.

The performance was great—Apollo 18 was spirited, intense, musically proficient...and funny. The probably unintended joke of the evening was that Apollo 18 was playing to a crowd that most likely didn't listen much to their brand of hard core and metal meet post-rock. It wasn't quite the Blues Brothers doing 'Rawhide' behind chicken wire. But judging from the other bands and the fashion, the audience was one that favored the sort of introspective, sentimental alternative pop/rock that seems common in Shimokitazawa these days (album covers showing a sunset bordered by Tokyo buildings...that kind of thing).

To their credit, Apollo 18 got even this crowd going, triggering modest head swinging and foot tapping and shouts in basic Korean and Japanese. The guitarist guy said “Konbanwa (good evening)” at the start, and then in English apologized that unlike the other 'country' music bands tonight (I think that's what he said...), they just did rock 'n' roll, before plunging into an explosive set, he diving into the audience at one stage and doing a solo from the floor.

I would love to see them again in Tokyo, but maybe next time playing with groups like Asakusa Jinta or henrytennis, if that could be arranged.


This was my first show since the quake. Nightlife is gradually reviving, and the streets of Shimokitazawa were fairly crowded, though not as much as pre-quake weekends. On the walls of the Basement Bar were signs saying that shows may be canceled if there's big shaking, that the hall may become dark if there's a blackout and that they are limiting the use of air-con and lights to save electricity.


Speaking of Korea, my friends are going to be flying in to Seoul to play two weekend events on April 16-17. The bands will include Yuyake Lamp and Three Berry Icecream from Japan and Linus' Blanket of Korea. More on that later...

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