Run by a couple who are both active musicians and who have a deep love for western music. I feel so fortunate to have found this place and for the staff to welcome me whenever I come back.
What I also feel fortunate for is the generous time devoted by some of the local musicians who bring their instruments down and join me onstage.
Graham Taylor (Tenor Sax) and Eiji Hayashi (Keys) have shared a stage with me so many times now it`s gone beyond the point of intuition guiding us from A to B. These guys now know the songs and have even created their own parts that were not there before.
The show which was split into two sets stretched over 2 hours in length and to be honest I felt like I could have played on for another hour.
With this being only a couple of days into my time in Japan I was beginning to feel extreme fatigue from the 20+ hours of flight in recent days. My show at Tsuki was probably the worst things got as I felt groggy from soundcheck onwards and must confess a part of me really wished I just had the time to rest.
However I found enthusiasm from watching a wonderful set by `Little Birds`. Wonderful musicianship from the players Tsutomu and vocals from Hiroyuki served as the perfect wake up call before my set.
Seeing as I was feeling so shakey the set was alarmingly brave for me. 3 new songs plus an old Leon Camfield penned My Pet Junkie number sat amongst two album tracks rarely played so much nowadays.
Ever old Regular `Designed To Stop` had a ridiculous Improvised middle section that involved me looping sections of the drum kit to create a wall of noise.
One Audience member who had seen me play the night before said he really felt this to be my most soulful performance.
I guess sometimes when you`re feeling downtrodden. The best thing to do is go all out.
I managed to arrive at soundcheck good and early (Not like me at all :P) and got prepped for what I thought would be a solo first show of my 5th Japanese tour.
However didn`t work that way at all. My good friend Shinya turned out to be the opening act playing Solo Sitar and it only seemed fitting that having known each other for 4 years now we should share a stage together.
So the opening song was a still unreleased song (Despite being a set regular since 2006) called `Modern Life`. Accompanied by Shinya on Sitar. I felt he played wonderfully accompanying me and he even retuned his Sitar from C# to D. That`s 20+ odd strings to go through.
Next I played a couple of songs solo before being joined by Graham Taylor on Tenor Sax and Eiji Hayashi on keys. I had played a bunch of times with them on previous tours however this time they were thrown very much in the deep end with the performance of a new song `Varit`.
A strange thing did happen during this show.
Just as I was starting Varit I suddenly heard a crash and bang from the audience. What with Japan being the polite and pleasant place it is; it seemed so strange that there could be a fight breaking out. What it turned out had happened was that a guy had got so drunk that he had fallen asleep on a tall stall and then lost his balance. He awoke as he was hurtling towards the ground and in that moment tried to save himself by grabbing the nearest thing to him (a tall table). Unfortunately the table didn`t stop his fall but instead joined him on the way down and with it a large number of drinks.
Any reader of the last blog will know my positive feelings about the experiences of touring with Sanday Agency.
But of the shows themselves well….
2/11/11 Shamrock, Perugia
My first show was a little weird due to the last min cancellation of a Rome date (Due to venue legality issues). The Sanday guys lined me up something last min at an Irish themed Italian bar. The vibe was mellow and relaxed and it gave me the chance to play pressure free and to check everything worked ok equipment wise (When touring Japan I discovered many power issues with my pedals).
Luckily everything worked fine and the tour kicked off in a relaxed way which was perfect as I felt alot of pressure to impress the Sanday guys and to know they hadn`t gambled on a shit musician. They seemed to like it which helped me relax.
3/11/11 – Truttamundo Cafe, Perugia
One of those hussle and bussle kinda places. Truttamundo was heaving and energetic as I stepped to the stage. Normally only hosting jazz bands I immediately went the other way opening with a loop freanzy psychedelia. This seemed to work to focus the crowd and soon it had a nice gig underway with the exception of one guy who literally was MAD!!!. He kept standing directly in front of me whilst talking to himself on the phone (Which was in fact his hand).
But all in all a great fun gig. Some lovely brits in the audience too which was nice as they laughed at my rambles.
4/11/11 – Magazzino, Orvieto
This show literally has to be one of my shows of the year. The audience were great, The venue was great, and the Cd`s flew off the merch stand.
I played for nearly 2 hours strait and relished it. Following the show I was interviewed for radio which can be heard here.
I also got to check out the sites.
5/11/11 – Siesta Del Alcalde, Perugia
Remember remember the 5th of November. So strange that just the day before this I met the artist for the V for Vendetta comics.
Anyway…. My show was a pleasure once again with support from Local group Ace of Skin.
I made alot of noise and people clapped. an Ideal gig on the whole. And I was fed some of the finest Italian food ever – fact!!
6/11/11 – Al Casellino, Gubbio
My final show of the italy tour and I kinda lost the plot. I honestly don`t know why. Maybe it was the fact I`d had too much coffee. Maybe it was the fact I`d been surprised by the arrival of some good friends (Who drove for 5 hours to see me); or maybe I just go mental from time to time. But whatever it was it made for a good show.
I was taking on other characters and pretending to have a deep connection with my shakey egg ( as you do). During `Watching Paint` I invited other audience members to put their own input into my loops.
Times were crazy, but why shouldn`t they be?
So that was kinda it. My final day was spent chilling and jamming with local players I had become friends with and then it was a long drive to Rome and a long sleepless couple of flights to Tokyo.
My thanks again to Sanday Agency and to all the wonderful people I`ve met along the way.
When I landed in Perugia for my tour of Italy I was definitely feeling the fear of leaping into the unknown.
Not only was I touring a country for the first time; but I was visiting a country for the first time; and (most importantly) I was trusting the bookings and organisation of others for the first time.
I wont go into too much detail but over the 5+ years I`ve been on the road I have never had much luck with booking agencies. Too many promises and too few results. (Truth be told the only reason I was going ahead with this was because they had done a good job of working with a Japanese band I have played with in Yokohama.)
Sanday Agency is a grass roots community of musicians and enthusiasts who are not only in it for the right reasons but also know the importance of being true to their word.
I was met at the airport by Silvio, Andrea and Francesco who are the 3 individuals at the core of the operations. They were wonderful friendly people who over the course of my week stay did everything in their power to ensure I was always comfortable, fed and busy with the focus of music. They are also very much a part of their local music community and along with them is a large base of musicians who also helped to assist me on my travels.
I would strongly recommend any musicians feeling ready to hit the road in Italy to contact them.
OK so with this being my 5th time touring in the land of the rising sun you would think that I would have a full grasp of the basics here now.
But well, quite frankly. I`m still as confused as ever about some things.
On a night off in Chiba I went drinking with some friends and after a couple of beers I politely made my excuses and trotted off to spend a yen.
I was however confronted with mega confusion as the two toilets were labeled only with Kanji 男 and 女.
What with the polite factor in Japan being up to 11; I decided to take a guess at one toilet with the hope of making a quick job of it and then getting out without the hope of anyone seeing me potentially depart from the wrong door.
Luckily for me it was only a number 1 stop and so having finished the job I hoped to exit as soon as I had flushed. Which brings me to my next problem.
Toilets in Japan are the most advanced in the world. You can have some life affirming experiences whilst pressing the vitreous. Spray can come at you in ways you never imagined whilst electronic voices speak to you in a language you don`t understand.
This can mean finding a simple flush mechanism to be a challenge. What with the uncertainty of even being in the right toilet creating a crystal maze style time limit to the whole conundrum I eventually decided the only solution was to panic and get out.
If only Richard O`Brien was there to tell me how much time I had left maybe I wouldn`t have panicked so. I`m just sorry for who-ever was next.
It turned out I was in the right place (Well it was 50/50).
And as traumatic as the experience was at least I didn`t have to deal with the traditional style.
PS – this post by NO means suggests I would like to share a toilet with Richard O`Brien!!
It`s always something that had baffled me how most high street places always had a generic playlist of tunes that shadowed what you saw/heard on mainstream TV/radio.
So it gives me great pleasure and with a little surprise in my voice to be able to say that for the next couple of months at least, various tunes of mine will be played as a part of the day to day playlist in the various Tinderbox Coffee Shops up and down the UK.
This all came about as a result of a Tinderbox member of staff catching one of my performances up in Glasgow during the Scotland leg of my UK tour in May; and after picking up a CD, forwarded it`s folky proggy delights to others within the company which made it`s way into approval for playlist inclusion.
Being just a one man entity and not a part of some corporate empire it`s very rare to see this kinda thing happen. But gives me faith that there are still some avenues for people hearing me other than a show.