10.19.2010

The Tok

[our way to rock out. a lot too old. and a little bit too american.]

Sick of hearing about my trip? Too bad. I plan to draaaaaaaag this on as long as I possibly can. Because it's a bit more fun to write about instead of Sylvia pooping brown (instead of yellow!) for the first time in 2 weeks.

I knew I wanted to see a concert while we were there. So once we knew which nights were available I made a list of venues. I compiled them from our lonely planet book and online research. And Miles Hunt, of course. We are best friends forever on facebook now. Well, mostly. He just sort of doesn't know this yet.

Next I made a list of bands playing at each of these venues the nights we could go. And listened to them on Japan You Tube in the lobby where I ate a lot of brie for breakfast. I landed on Saboten. Japanese Punk Rock.

It was an excellent experience to say the least.

***

We venture into Love Hotel Hill in Tokyo. Directions are vague, so we have a slightly hard time finding the street. This is the only time during the whole trip Mike is not a homing pigeon guiding us directly to our destination. We stand in the rain eager to get to the box office early to get our tickets, uncertain where to turn. It is then a little orange and green light flicker; catching my eye. 7-11! In Tokyo! How fitting- convenient stores were such a life saver for me whenever I went to shows as a teenager (my middle name is 'I Get Lost Often'), surely they will help us! Sure enough, the cashier knows exactly where we need to go. We are half a block away.

There is some confusion as to which part of the building we should get our tickets. We stand in a line with an odd assortment of people. I think the cute girl with the leather jacket in front of me is a dead give-a-way we are in the right place. But the dull-dressed parents with the 10 year old seem a little out of place (more so than I!) for a punk show. Mike insists we need to find the correct line. I insist we are in the right place- look at her jacket! He follows some stairs that lead to a door: only for friends of the band. He returns to the line with me.

{Yes, he speak Japanese. No, he does not like confronting strangers. Me, I live for that sort of thing, but lack the ability to communicate.}

After a long time waiting for the world's slowest elevator, we finally get to the floor we think we need to be on. Stand in a short line while a lady calls out something. She is checking a list, giving the people something, and then the people leave with a paper in their hand. Tickets? I hear live piano music floating out of the door to our left. Flyers are stapled to the narrow hallway walls where we stand. This has to be right. Right? Mike whispers 'the lady is calling out phone numbers' and again insists we are in the wrong line. Finally I step forward and ask about the band and tickets. She thumbs through her list, pretending to have a conversation with me, and speaks back to me in Japanese. Mike leans forward and they converse. Turns out it was a line to use an internet cafe.

We find the right line around the corner in a connecting building and are among the first in the door after we purchase our tickets. We sit in the back waiting, eager to see what happens. The people that enter either have the band's shirt on or they promptly purchase one and put it on. Every single person went up some old stairs to put their things into coin operated lockers. Mike participates in this ritual and puts away the camera. My only regret of the trip. Along with T-shirts pinned to the wall, the bands are also selling long, skinny towels with the band name on them. Odd, I wonder who would ever buy that.

As more and more people arrive I notice they all have these thin towels around their neck (males and females alike). Many of them were a different band name and did not match the shirt they wore. It was like the size of a gym towel, but longer and thinner. A towel shape I have never seen before. What is it's purpose? Who thought of this first? And what is everyone going to do with their towels? Is it like the towels they use to clean their hands in Japan before eating at good restaurants and on the plane- will they clean their hands before the show begins? Will they spin them above their heads like helicopters? I am most curious.

We begin to see young men taking out their piercings and putting them in the lockers. Mike and I exchange looks. Oh? Could this get violent? One could not know. Like a cock fight, but with lean Japanese fans of punk rock music?

***

During much of my people watching while in Japan, I rarely saw a Japanese woman to be any larger than my six year old son. At this punk rock concert- 99% of the girls are super thick and heavy. I find this interesting. I love them immediately. Could they be at the public bath when I go one day? Then I would not feel the need to wear a headband above my naked body that would read 'I love to eat cheeseburgers' to explain my larger, more shapely stature.

***

The bands are full of energy- great performers! I even get a ska song out of Saboten! This is a treat. There is a bit of a mild mosh pit going on, but not a very violent one. More running and shoving in a circle, but no one comes out bloody. A few people crowd surf. They seem pretty happy to be in the air briefly; it isn't a big enough crowd for a true surf. The lighting is amazing for such a small venue and the sound is impeccable. The towels appear to be an accessory, I do not see a single person use one.

***

I loved seeing the energy of live music in another country. I enjoyed seeing a culture of people react to the music, pumping their little fists into the air and clapping to the beat of the base drum. I wish it could be my 'other' job to travel the world observing live music in various counties while photographing the people and writing about the experience. Jenks need to take that on and make a show of it.

Mike posted a little bit he recorded on his phone here of the opening band Four Get Me Not. I liked them better than Saboten. I wonder if the translation is 'Four' on purpose or if it's an error. They sang in Japanese, but their band names on the shirts were written in English.

This concert was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
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