Saturday, August 25, 2012

Yuyake Lamp At Kibune Shrine

Tokyo is my true love. Kyoto is a temptress.

Walking Kyoto's mundane Japanese city streets, a temple or an old house emerges that gives a glimpse of a thousand years of history. Sitting pondering a sea of stone at Daitoku-temple, listening to the wind and cicadas, I lose track of time. The people walk more slowly, savoring their conversations, stretching out the vowels at the end of sentences.

I was in Kyoto see Yuyake Lamp play at Kibune Shrine up in the hills north of the city. Kibune means something like 'holy boat'--the tale is that a goddess took a boat up a river and left it in the shrine grounds. It's a shrine of engagement, marriage and birth. Somewhere in the grounds are two trees whose branches have joined together, a symbol of marriage.

Yuyake Lamp played on a wooden Noh stage overlooking a creek. Wearing yukata, they performed for an hour with keyboard, flute and cajon. The river's rustle below and the ringing cicadas were a harmony to their songs.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Vasallo Crab 75 At The 251

It felt like a while since I was last in Shimokitazawa.

Walking down the stair of the south exit, for the how-many-hundredth-time?, I went down the main street, past the cafe smelling of overheated coffee. Coming up were girls, and some guys, in yukata, headed for the Sumida-gawa fireworks festival. Did this street always have this many chains? My memory is uncertain, but two decades ago when I first visited, it seemed this town was all mom & pop shops.

It was a long time too since I'd been to the 251. My friends' bands had grown up, so they mostly play now upstairs at 440, the mellow cafe.

I used to go to the 251 a lot around 1999, when shows were a salad bar of melodic punk and Shibuya-kei pop groups. There was a night when Qypthone (Shibuya-kei) and House Plan (punk) were on the same bill, and Chinese-Japanese model Hana, a friend of Qypthone, was in the audience (both bands are now M.I.A.). Wearing an orange windbreaker, immediately recognizable at the time, Hana stood shyly in the corner. I found out later on TV that her hobby was to look at Buddhist sculpture--her term was she was 'meeting' the statues--and she teared up when she saw them.

There were tables and chairs at the club tonight, and family from a white-haired grandma to a little girl in a red T-shirt sat to watch their bands. Something was missing for me with the opening bands, a lack of originality and/or Japanese-ness, but then when Vasallo Crab 75 came on, exploding rock, funk and pop, all the ice that was there despite the summer melted.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Guitar Pop Restaurant Volume 10

I've drifted from the music scene for a bit, for various reasons, going to only a few shows and not having any idea what events are coming up at the Que, the O-Nest and all the usual haunts. It's a situation I hope to change.

In the meantime, events like Guitar Pop Restaurant help me keep in touch with the good bands out there. Organized by a guy named Nakamura Kazumi, who as far as I can tell isn't a musician himself and is involved in this venture solely for the satisfaction of bringing together on stage bands he likes, the event has been held ten times now, which is an accomplishment. I remember seeing after one of the first shows a veteran musician scolding him about some problem with the event--he's come a long way.

Volume 10 was held at the small Shibuya Home, made more cramped by the chairs laid out at the front of the hall, and it was stuffy until the air-con kicked in. It was another eclectic Guitar Pop Restaurant pick of bands--advantage Lucy-inspired Humming Parlour; saccharine-sweet songstress Marino with her excellent backing jazz ensemble, the Teapot Orchestra; Ruby Chouette, a whispering pop singer getting her inspiration from Shibuya-kei; and a collaboration of Mayumi Ikemizu's Three Berry Icecream (photo above) and Hozaki Mayumi and Lepus from Osaka--friends of mine who make mellow, creative music with flute, viola, xylophone, piano, in addition to guitars and drums.


I changed the weblog layout. I liked the one before, but it was getting old, plus the comment service I used suddenly changed its system so that all my old comments appeared to be lost and the new ones were presented in an unsightly, expanded dialogue box, so I decided to ditch it and try a new layout. Maybe I'll change this one too, though I'm usually lackadaisical about that sort of thing...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Love And Hates At The Marz

Went to see Love and Hates, the indie breakbeat duo that includes Yuppa of Hazel Nuts Chocolate. The event started at 5 and went until around 10 at the Shinjuku Marz, though I only made it about half way into it, catching the Suzan, a New York-based girl rock band, beatboxer Afra, and Luvraw & BTB, a smooth funk/soul/city pop group from Yokohama featuring not one, but two vocoder players.

Luvraw & BTB

The two LAH girls ascended the stage wearing striped leotards and paper crowns, and danced, rapped and blew various whistles over DJ samples. They reminded me of whacky, hyper Japanese acts from the 80's and 90's, except that while the latter bands were seeking the Cool of their New Wave and punk influences, LAH's more going for Cute (the name of Hazel Nuts Chocolate's second album). Yuppa kept on talking about things being 'suteki'--meaning 'lovely' or 'wonderful'.

For fans of HNC's first two albums, Bewitched and Cute, those collections of darling, children's books in the form of songs (with titles like "Yuppa Goes to Space" and "Honey Lip Tarte Tatin"), the Yuppa unit's current direction might not necessarily satisfy. It's more Club than Cafe. You see a similar thing with Capsule, who once created lovely Shibuya-kei songs about things like spending the weekend in one's favorite room, but has turned itself into a unit heavily influenced by Daft Punk, composing electronic music ballads about life and death. Capsule's latest manifestation is growing on me--I'm crazy about songs like "Pleasure Ground"--but I wonder whether anyone's going to pick up where HNC and Capsule left off and make more songs about fashion and sweets and city living and innocent childlike fun etc.