Band Blog

Japan Tour Managers Blog – Part 2

Wednesday 23rd dawned bright and sunny, and I headed off to meet two of the band’s publishers who had come over from the UK, Andy Graham & Lisa Cullington. Meeting them in the confusing warrens of Tokyo Station took a flurry of phonecalls but eventually we hooked up and took the local Yamanote line round to Shibuya, where they were staying in a very cool boutique hotel called the Granbell ( notable for it’s 24-hour bar/restaurant which for some reason is called “Plate Of Pie.Pop”. We headed out for lunch – this time at a 30th floor restaurant – where this time the possible view of Fuji was thwarted by smog and haze. We bumped into Jez who was foraging for guitar strings in the local music shops, and generally helped them get their bearings in Shibuya.

I then headed off to the band’s hotel where we had an interview for Beat Scratch magazine with some very switched-on people who asked a lot of great questions. Observing that it was now the height of rush hour in Tokyo, I deduced that it was probably the worst idea in the world to try to get the equipment to the HMV instore by train, and so put most of the band in a cab whilst Jez and I went by train. Compared with the last HMV instore we did, this one was potentially shambolic as for some reason nobody from HMV seemed able to operate the store’s PA. Luckily we were helped out by Nobu’s friend Ozaki-san who also lent us a great second acoustic guitar and general ly saved the day. A certain amount of managerial arsiness was required to keep things on an even keel, due to mild irritations like nobody at the store thinking to turn off the irritating J-Pop from the store’s speakers before the performance started. A good crowd turned up – the band played 6 songs, with Dana improvising a snare drum from a cardboard box – and then dutifully queued up after the performance to get their CDs signed. Afterwards, everybody trooped up the Dogenzawa Hill to a restaurant I know well – Gonpachi – for a huge dinner with about 16 people in total. Sadly, the sheer number of people and the barrage of food and beer orders from every angle of the table sent the waitresses into a tailspin. I watched dolefully as favourite dishes I had ordered disappeared up the other end of the huge table, but eventually succeeded in wrestling some food onto my plate. Not that I’m a dreadful control freak or anything.

Afterwards, Andrew Michelle and I took the semi-comatose Dana back to the hotel whilst Jez and the rest of the party decamped – or in some cases, camped – to the upstairs bar for a few more “liveners”. I am told that certain people may possibly have fallen off their bar stools later that evening, but as they say “what happens in Tokyo, stays in Tokyo”.

Thursday 24th. I awoke with some relief that the “tour proper” was about to start ( I was a tad “over” Tokyo by that point, having been there for a week ), and enjoyed the Toyoko Inn’s breakfast of rice cakes, miso soup, pickles and green tea. It’s actually a great way to start the day. I then hooked up with Andy, Lisa and June for a great lunch in a famous “tonkatsu” restaurant ( fried pork in breadcrumbs ) and showed them around for a few hours. Unusually, the Tokyo show was the first show of the tour ( it’s normally the last ) and we had plenty of guests to sort out. The club was somewhere we had never played before – Shelter, in the Shimokitazawa district, which is one of the new “cool” areas in Tokyo. We were mildly concerned that the venue seemed to be quite a way out of town, but soon relaxed as the soundcheck went fantastically well, assisted by the excellent sound engineer Tont ( I hope that’s how you spell it ). In Japan, support bands are not the norm so Farrah took to the stage around 7.20 ( just after Andrew had finished editing and burning the new intro CD in the dressing room ) and generally rocked the joint to a great response from a packed crowd. One highlight was Michelle and Jez’s version of “Things We Shouldn’t Say” from “Cut Out & Keep”, but in general everything worked well, although the band felt maybe the set was few songs too long.

After the show – as is normal – the band went into the crowd to meet friends, sign CDs and shirts, and generally say thanks to the audience. After that, most went off the the “British Pavilion” night at the Hub bar in Shibuya where famous Japanese DJ “Terry” ( yes, he plays it ) was spinning some quality UK guitar pop. I bailed and went for several large cigars to calm my jangling nerves.

You have to see a Japanese audience in action to truly understand their uniqueness – they go crazy during the songs, sing along to the words, but then listen quietly to the stage patter between songs, and after the show just bombard the band with general affection, little presents, and beer. It’s very gratifying and many of the fans in Japan have become friends of the band in the process. I think one reason is because the band genuinely enjoy hanging out after the show with these lovely people. When people from the UK see the reaction, they are amazed, as it is so far removed from a typical London audience who I often think could do with a little “cattle prod action” to liven them up. I think a lot of this is due to the different attitude to life of the Japanese people. They seem quite content, and determined to enjoy life and work hard without any of the cynicism and barely-repressed aggression we see in the West. I am told that in Japan people genuinely believe that society is more important than the individual. I’m not sure if that’s true, but they certainly seem very focused on oiling the wheels of everyday life to make it as pleasant as possible. You rarely hear car horns or people shouting at each other, or see any anti-social behaviour. Basically – people are nice to each other. So you find yourself – despite being a somewhat curmudgeonly old Westerner – following suit.