Saturday, May 28, 2011

Terayama Shuji Music Festival

I heard about Shuji Terayama a long time ago, but in one those things you never quite get around to, I'd never really read any of his plays or poems and other works of this avant garde writer. So, when I saw that there was going to be a 'Terayama Shuji Music Festival' at the Hatsudai The Doors club, and Asakusa Jinta was playing, I was interested. Plus, as a bonus, Panta, the singer of the legendary left-wing 70's rock band Zunou Keisatsu, or Brain Police, was also on the bill.

Terayama was active in the 60's and 70's, and a lot of the crowd in the small Doors club seemed to be about the age that they probably saw Terayama plays when they first came out. They were a quiet audience, with gray, fuzzy hair. Maybe they were once radicals, protesting, attending Brain Police shows, taking in Terayama's literary experiments. Maybe, to an extent, they are still radical, which is harder to be than, say, in your 20's.

It probably wasn't an easy crowd for Asakusa Jinta, accustomed more to playing for young punk fans, but they pulled it off, helped along by a few diehard fans in the audience who had come to see them, and getting polite applause from the Terayama followers.

MCing the event were a playwright named Ei Takatori, who had collaborated with Terayama and whose background is also interesting, with 'manga criticism' listed in his resume, and an idol singer named Mika Hashimoto, who is the 'chairwoman' of the School Uniform Advancement Committee, which is how I guess I'd translate an idol group called Seifuku Koujou Iinkai. I missed SKI's set, but they appear to be a group of about a dozen schoolgirl singers who motto is to be “pure, upright and beautiful,” according to their website. The special guest was the actress Hitomi Takahashi, a tall, somewhat fox-like beauty, who had been scouted by Terayama when she went to see one of his plays as a student in her school uniform.

Brain Police's Panta played as a duo with another guitarist. A 61-year old rocker with still-long hair wearing black clothes, Panta did an acoustic set, and the highlight was a song whose message confused me. It was a song that was ostensibly about a baseball team, and its nine players, but in reality it was about the nine hijackers of ANA's Yodo-go plane in 1970, the baseball theme invented to prevent the song from being banned. It seemed weird...I only have wiki-level knowledge of the Yodo-go incident, but the gist is a group of radicals took over the plane and had it fly to North Korea, where the nine would be able to join their comrades. It wasn't a critical song. If anything, it seemed to glorify them. Maybe the song made sense in certain circles at the time it was written, but, in 2011, it seems strange. I'm curious what Panta's take is on all this.

For the encore, all the performers got together and sang a famous song that Terayama wrote called , “Sensou wa Shiranai”, a beautiful, if somewhat sentimental song about a girl getting married whose father she doesn't remember died in the war. The title means, literally, 'I don't know war', but I guess the 'know' in this case means more than just knowledge or experience, and is talking about lives where war is no longer something that exists, at least not in Japan, for now.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

2011, From Here

2011, From Here was an earthquake charity event at the Club Que featuring a three-band roster that was hard to beat if you're into Japanese guitar pop: Harqua, the husband-and-wife collaboration of Harco and Quinka, with a Yawn, Kuki Kodan and advantage Lucy. Ticket proceeds, donations and sales of buttons made by artists (showing the prefectural birds of the quake-affected areas) went to a quake relief fund.

More than 200 people crammed into the Que, and the event ended up raising over 500,000 yen, about $6,000.

Highlights of the event for me included:

Harqua's performance. I'm a huge Quinka far, and chose her Field Recordings album as my favorite for 2008. I also like Harqua's CD a lot—I don't think there are many married duos that sing as beautifully together—and this was my first time see them on stage. One of their best songs is “Thank You”, the first tune on their album, and Quinka said that when she wrote it, the message was that you shouldn't miss the opportunity to thank loved ones closest to you, but after the quake, the message became bigger, and now it's also a song to thank people from far away, strangers with a heart. Enamored of the song to begin with, and thinking about its newfound significance, I was emotionally overcome during its performance.

Kuki Kodan's lyrics. Vocalist Yamazaki Yukari writes with everyday words that mysteriously turn into sung poetry that's hard to forget. I could see several fans mouthing those words that mean a lot to them. Yukari sits the side edge of the stage, singing as if she's alone in a living room, and then sometimes looking up, surprised she's on a stage in front of a crowd.

Advantage Lucy. The organizers of the show, whose intention was written on their website (and take a guess who translated it into English :) ). What can we do in this situation? We can start helping, from now, each in his or her own way—that was the philosophy.

But when vocalist Aiko first tried to address the audience, and saw how many had shown up, she was overwhelmed and covered her eyes with a towel. The words eventually came out, and they did a fantastic set of their new material, but for the encore, when they did “Kaze ni Azukete”, and she sang that line, one of my favorite of all Lucy lyrics, because it's so real:

Kimi kara koe ga todoitara nandaka

When your words reach me

Onaka ga suitekita

I start to become hungry

she choked up again. Maybe, I think, because we were there, the fans and musicians, and our voice, of support and agreement, did reach her. (And we did go grab a bite afterwards!)