Last weekend I went to a two-day concert at Shin Kiba Studio Coast put on by Ynos/Hostess Club. They get a bunch of rising or popular indies acts together to promote and perform at varying big city venues on the main island. It’s a good chance to see acts that might not otherwise be able to perform in Japan on their own or find a new favorite jam/artist. This is the seventh run they’ve done, and with first day tickets sold out and second day nearly sold out, it looks like their formula is working well.
Sometime around New Years bought two day advance tickets upon learning that both the Warpaint and The National were going to participate. I discovered Warpaint a year ago and it was love at first listen. A couple of years before, I caught The National playing in Shibuya and since then I’d been anxiously waiting for the next time they’d come back. A chance to see two artists I love that wouldn’t normally have any reason to play together? Alright, count me in!
The nice thing about Hostess Club is that they’re great about promoting all of their acts on the radio, through making imported CDs available, or uploading news and clips on a variety of popular social networking sites. I had a lot of new music homework to do, and after giving a good listen to all the other performers, I bought the latest albums by CHVRCHES and Daughter and was feeling stoked about seeing them as well. I even went ahead and booked a proper hotel the next station over so I wouldn’t have to deal with lugging all my stuff to the concert and staying over at an internet cafe or being cramped at a capsule hotel.
January passed, and finally February was here. It’s almost the end of the fiscal/school year in Japan so work has been pretty busy, but I’d done my best to make sure I’d have nothing work-wise in the way of enjoying myself 2/15 and 2/16. Unfortunately the week leading up was like the week from hell. Heavy snow had thwarted getting much done and I was trying to squeeze in a nail appointment, packing, and Valentine’s Day baking without much luck.
The Saturday of went hilariously haywire. I ended up having to book my nail appointment that morning, and I’d coordinated these cute, new boots I hadn’t had an opportunity to rock out yet. I was running late on lack of sleep, and the new boots were stubborn going on. “Whatever I’ll put them on later,” I thought, so I slipped on a pair of the flats nearest to the door and threw the boots in my overnight bag so I wouldn’t miss the appointment. I get out of the appointment early feeling refreshed and good. I figure I’ve got some time to spare so I sit down on a nearby bench and give the boots another go; on second glance the flats really don’t match what I’m wearing and I don’t want to look awkward fussing with the boots on the train.
*triumphant fist* I finally get them on and they look great! OK let’s get moving! Wait, what the… why is there a bunch of grease on my ass? Cue having to make an emergency run to the coin laundry and launder my favorite pair of denim so they’re not ruined and I don’t look like a freak. No time to dry them or I won’t make it in time for Daughter, so a wet pair of pants on the go it is! Seriously what douchebag decided it would be a great idea to cover the entire bench in grease? Allow me to extend a middle finger in your general direction, sir.
Alright, so I’m finally off to the station, but bad weather in Kanagawa/Tokyo is causing train delays all over the place and the station attendant can’t guarantee the Keiyō Line to the hotel and the live house is going to be running once I arrive. The buckle strap on the right boot breaks and I almost trip myself on the shinkansen platform. I’m seriously about to have a good first world problems cry in front of the old grandpa tending the instant noodle stand, ya’ll.
But perhaps my luck is getting better! I get to Shin Kiba with 30 minutes to spare and there’s a few coin lockers still available to hold all my stuff. I’m starving so I stop in the curry stand right outside the gate for a quick bite, charge my phone for a few, and a chance to call the hotel and tell them I won’t be checking in until later than planned. The live house is pretty easy to find because I’ve already been there before, years back during my visual kei (visual/glam rock) bangya (band girl) days, but even if I hadn’t all I would have needed to do is follow the crowd of Japanese hipsters making their way towards the hall. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many hipsters in one place; everyone was walking the one snow-shoveled line towards the live house like pilgrims on the Oregon Trail.
Things seemed to be running a little late, so after getting re-oriented with the venue I wandered into the music hall and settled in wherever I could. There were a lot of tall people in front of me and I couldn’t see the singer’s face, but overall it wasn’t too crowded. I didn’t mind being far off to the side because Daughter wasn’t the kind of band that interacted a lot with the crowd during or between songs. It’s like they went into a trance while they played and their sound/beauty sucked you in with them. The guitarist attempted a few MCs, but overall they seemed somewhat nervous/uncomfortable being under the spotlight when they weren’t playing. So really, the only benefit to being closer was getting a better shot of the band because nobody was policing photography.
Because I couldn’t see much, I focused on other details like how great the lighting was. When I listen to Daughter, I feel like the pace of their music like slows and quickens like a heartbeat, and the lighting director did a good job of using the beat to their advantage without coming off as intrusive to the atmosphere. I normally never notice the lighting at concerts, but the person backstage continued to do an ace job both days. Their setlist:
My favorites of the set were “Candles”, “Youth”, and “Home”. I don’t think a lot of people were familiar with them before they went on because they were mostly met with awkward silence during MCs, but their music definitely left an impression. During the interlude that followed there was a rush to buy albums and merch, and I’m still sad I didn’t buy one of the pins they had out when I had the chance because it promptly sold out. I would definitely love to see them live again and hope they eventually make the rounds here sometime in the future. I hear from April they’re touring with The National on a few legs of their American tour, so definitely check them out if you get the chance.
While I was waiting for a set change I decided to get a drink and have another look around the venue. It was crowded, but the club was doing a good job of getting drinks out fast. Most standing live houses in Japan charge you a 500 yen fare upon entry for a drink ticket, and Studio Coast is no exception. Usually options are limited to soft drinks and beer, but they had a whole range of cocktails and wine so that was a nice surprise. There were food trucks set up outside for a quick bite since all the restaurants in the area were near or on the other side of the station facing the bay and the merch stalls were coordinated with HMV and a few other big name record retailers. I was surprised at how smooth and organized everything ran, and was impressed with how these events provided a lot of different outlets business they might not normally get.
So anywho, CHVRCHES was up next. I made sure I got a slightly better spot. I think the placement of CHVRCHES after Daughter was a good move, since Daughter kind of leaves you feeling raw, emotional, and self-reflective. While that’s not a bad thing, it’s not the kind of atmosphere that could have carried the whole night’s show. So CHVRCHES got everyone up and grooving, albeit in that hipster head bobbing kind of way.
I don’t know if they were just jet lagged, but their MCs didn’t fare much better than Daughter’s. Still, a couple of Tokyo radio stations had been power playing “The Mother We Share” leading up to the event so they didn’t have to work too hard for a warm reception. The guy next to me was really rocking out in his personal space bubble and the girl beside me was a little too enthusiastic and hugged me from behind at some point, despite the fact we didn’t even share one word the whole set.
Going in I’d been listening to more Daughter than CHVRCHES, but seeing almost all of the tracks on The Bones of What You Believe played live, it’s now my new work commute jam. My favorites are “The Mother We Share” and “Guns”, but really I’m pressed to find a song I feel like skipping over when I listen. Song order:
- We Sink
- Night Sky
- Strong Hand
- By the Throat
- The Mother We Share
I stuck around to get a stick of kushikatsu from one of the trucks but that was about it. I was eager to get back to the hotel and get some rest. I’d also promised to call a friend and listen to her relationship woes over this new guy she’s been seeing. Unfortunately my mind went derp and in my haste to catch the next train out, I ended up forgetting about my overnight bag in the station coin locker and had to go back out for it later that night. Oh well, at that point it didn’t really surprise me, what with how the day had been going so far. I bought a mini sewing set from one of the station kiosks and later that night fixed up my boots good as new, too.
I’d read a mix of reviews on the hotel I’d booked, the APA Hotel in Shiomi, but was very pleased with my single. It was small, though no smaller than your average business hotel set-up in Japan. It was also better furnished with modern, minimalist space saving decor. There’s a Lawson’s convenience store annexed to it for anything you could possibly forget or want during your stay, and a restaurant downstairs that offers buffet style meals. Check-in was a breeze and when I got to my room they’d turned the heater on in anticipation of my arrival so it was nice and toasty. The shower pressure was great with a real shower curtain, a decent amount of TV channels, free and stable wi-fi, and I much enjoyed the free bathhouse on the second floor. Most of the other guests were Disneyland weekenders, and it’s definitely competitively priced for being so close by. They’ve got my recommendation, so if you ever find yourself in that area and need some accommodation check them out.
My stay left me feeling refreshed for the second day. I’d been debating whether or not to catch Buke & Gase because I was only sort of half in love with some of what I’d heard from them so far, but I figured why not. Plus I’d already extended my checkout once and didn’t feel like paying more to hang around. I headed back to Studio Coast and was pleased to find the snow had melted and it was even less crowded than the day before. With some extra time on my hands I bought what things I’d wanted to get the day before but had passed on, including Warpaint’s latest album (as of writing this it’s not yet available on iTunes Japan). Then I staked out a nice spot about 10 rows back from the stage.
Buke & Gase
I really wanted to come away liking them better, but honestly found my mind wandering during most of their set. They have a great DIY element going on with their fused instruments (baritone ukelele/buke & guitar bass/gase), and all that foot percussion they do as they play certainly shows talent. But it’s almost like since they had to focus so much on what they were doing with their hands and feet, almost all of their songs sounded too similar to stand out; it was like half of their setlist was filler for the more upbeat numbers scattered in between. Even if you could come to fancy an album like that, something new still needs to happen to keep people hooked for a subsequent releases. Buke & Gase have a lot of musical time/tempo switch-ups, which isn’t a revolutionary concept, but something that takes skill to do seamlessly. A fair amount of the time they accomplished the task perfectly, but other times it was like two different songs were warring for the same spotlight. I find the latter an interesting concept, but I don’t think it was an intentional one.
Most people didn’t seem to be feeling it overall, either. The part of their MC where they asked the audience if they’d like the two of them to play in Tokyo again was met with only a polite, reserved response. It think they have a lot of potential, but I probably wouldn’t go see them live again unless they were playing with another band I wanted to see. I want them to improve and succeed, though. They have the kind of raw talent many bands could only wish for. Their set:
Afterward my plans were to grab a drink and a bite to eat because I didn’t have any interest in King Krule or Youth Lagoon. (Apologies if anyone reading is a fan of either.) A girl chatted me up while standing in the drink line and we hit it off well. We nursed our drinks for awhile, shooting the bird while music videos promoting other indies acts played in the background and then combined our search for food outside the venue. Our results were rather unimpressive, as we only ended up at the Subway near the station, but man did a roast chicken avocado sandwich really hit the spot. The restaurant was quiet, the staff friendly, and it was a nice lunch.
Headed back and caught the last half of the Youth Lagoon set so we’d be ready to move up rows for Warpaint once they finished. At many standing Japanese concerts, people move up front for their favorite artist, but give up their spot to others afterward because it’s not considered polite to hog the front. It was nice to be in a spot where I could actually see everyone on stage.
Their set was very mellow, and Emily did a great job of getting the crowd moving. Lighting again definitely made the music come to life. I like that their new album sets a different tone than previous releases, but that they’re still able to keep their own signature sound as they expand. I was hoping they’d either play “Stars” or “Elephants”, and they didn’t disappoint. Set:
- Keep It Healthy
- Love is to Die
- Disco Very
- No Way Out
The whole set was like the band having their own good time on stage, where the audience was at times a voyeur and at other times a participant. They seemed very comfortable with each other and if someone wanted to rock out at the end of a song, the other members were encouraging and went along with it. While watching them I felt like this is what a real artist is- someone who can create something wonderful not only through practice, but even in spontaneity. Everything about their set was marvelous and I can’t wait to catch another show of theirs.
Right before the end of Warpaint’s set, my new friend said she wasn’t feeling so hot and went to get a drink and chill outside. I told her I’d save her spot but my god, ya’ll… the minute Warpaint finished the crowd totally rushed for front row spots. I ended up about 4 rows back center left, too squished to escape. It was hot and sweaty and I had to wiggle over to the center of the stage just for some breathing room. Even then, I felt like shedding every single piece of clothing I was wearing. The 40 minute set change wait was like pure torture.
The set itself, though? Brilliant! Back in Shibuya they were a lot more active on stage, promoting their recently released High Violet at the time. This time everything was much more mellow, except Matt’s tendency to pace the stage or random bursts of lyrical yells. It felt much like the the calm before a storm, leading up to their final numbers where Matt jumped down from the stage during their encore, joined the crowd, and had a good jam together with everyone. You know, albeit being squished and swayed every which way by people trying to get closer/a photo. At one point I had to hold on to my glasses or risk losing them in the whirlpool of people. It was all crazy fun in a good way.
- Don’t Swallow the Cap
- I Should Live In Salt
- Blood Buzz Ohio
- Sea of Love
- Hard to Find
- I’m Afraid of Everyone
- Squalor Victoria
- I Need My Girl
- This is The Last Time
- Slow Show
- Pink Rabbits
- About Today
- Fake Empire
- Mr. November
- Terrible Love
- Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
And with that the festival was suddenly over and it was back to reality. My feet felt numb from standing/getting stepped on, and I slowly trudged back to the station to take the train to Tokyo and board my shinkansen back home. Got home, kissed Mr. J, had a nice hot shower, and the two of us retired to bed for a good nights sleep. I even got a foot massage out of the deal. Life couldn’t be better, right? 😀
Amazing experience all around. There’s another Weekender event in June and I’ll definitely be keeping tabs on the upcoming artist list, and recommend that if you’re into indies music that you do, too!