About 15 months ago I launched my 3rd album at the Kansai Music Conference in Osaka.
During that time I became friends and collaborated with a local group called NolenNiu-de-Ossi .
We have since played many more shows together and band members Yasushi and Toruko have become great friends. They play a style of music that harks back to traditional Japan with old dialect and instruments a part of the equation. Shamisen & Accordion.
This time they were joined by Takashi Toshimori on Mandolin and they seemed stronger than ever with new material and as always a vibrant stage presence.
We also shared the stage for some of my set and it gave me the chance to play a song from my 3rd record that rarely gets an outing. The song `And That Doesn`t Happen` is just too plain solo and so to perform it with Toruko on Accordion gave it exactly what it needed for live.
The Venue was an English themed pub called the Wembley Crown.
So I try to ramble as best I can in Japanese and low and behold I don`t fuck up to much. Well at least when I do folks are more than understanding whilst they laugh at my poor pronunciation.
All in all an awesome evening with off stage jamming resounding into the night 🙂
Over the last couple of years Varit has become my favourite venue in Japan.
The staff are wonderful, The sound is great and I wrote one of my strongest new songs whilst sleeping in the venue a year back.
The manager Wax has become a good friend and he even stayed with me a while when touring the UK with his band in 2010.
My show was a nice mix of new and old and it was a real treat to have Yuske on the drums for final tune `You Know the Score`. His style and technique is one of a kind and his Rhythm has a jazz shuffle to it that I can`t get enough of.
Another thing that was interesting to the evening was that the headline band were using an instrument that at this point of typing is a one of a kind.
It`s called a Violafonand is being pushed for mass production in the next year.
I had a chance to play one back stage and found it very easy to adjust to. I`d love to invest in one if only I could afford it.Sponsorship anyone 🙂
After taking the overnight bus from Tokyo, and powering though for a day of seeing the sites. I was a little worse for wear as I arrived at the venue.
However all fatigue soon subsided as I caught the opening act for the night.
Cosmix is a mother and her two year old son. Also with an acoustic Guitarist/ Vocalist assisting. Their show was honestly one of the most beautiful things I have seen. The son is as much a part of the performance as his adult contemporaries. However there`s no scripted role for him on the stage. He is just given a mic and a toy guitar and allowed to rock out as and when he feels like it. He knows all the words and can match his mums voice in volume without even needing a mic. He will sometimes stop and ask his mum for milk mid song.
I honestly want to stress how wonderful this was to watch and not in the slightest exploitative.
The whole venue gushed 🙂
Next up was a solo show by Rieko Tanigawa. She played and sung wonderfully on the Accordion and was joined by a dancer. Very cool.
Finally the main support was a married couple called Kitune. Very sparse and ambitious writing with musicianship that is as much bound musically as the members are personally.
Finally it was my show to see the night out. My set was brave for me with the opening song being the closer to my first record `Autonomous Debut`. The song is called `Because` and is probably the slowest piece of music I have ever written. I hadn`t played it in many months but felt it was a fitting way to start the set.
Following this came some new songs and a request had been made for`Watching Paint`. So I was happy to oblige.
All in all a real joy of a show to play and I`m so grateful to all the performers and to Ryotaro at Urbanguild for helping me so much.
Gaijin (外人, [ɡaidʑiɴ]) is a Japanese word meaning “non-Japanese“, or “alien”. This word is a short form of gaikokujin (外国人), which literally means “person (or people) from outside of the country”.
So this was definitely a Gaijin show. Firstly Andrew Tyrone Rodgers from England (Who strangely I have many mutual friends with before the time of meeting) opens up the night. He is joined by American Drummer Daniel Karras (Who ends up joining all the musicians that night).
The Australian Singer Songwriter Sorcha Chisholm folks it out with assistance from Canadian vocalist Kelly Haavaldsrud. They performed a wonderful Indigo Girls song together and also undeniably random Cover of Mother by Danzig. Somehow it worked :S
Next up is the deep and gritty sounds Scotsman of Callum`s Whisky Tales. You may remember Callum from previous blogs. Here he`s again solo but donned with an electric guitar which really cuts the mustard. Energetic, emotive and wry.
And finally you have Englishman myself and another englishman Graham Taylor who joins me on Tenor Sax. Again you may remember Graham from previous blogs but this time he has made the trek all the way from Chiba to West Tokyo (About 2 hours) to join me. I am not worthy Graham.
As for the set itself it was as always a pleasure to share the stage with Graham and Daniel. But for me the big exception to the rule was the inclusion of a solo performance of `Dare We Claim Victory`. Not an easy feat for me to be honest. More of a big band number.
Club Goodman is a wonderful live space where the crew and the staff run a tight ship. The set up is always efficient and professional. Which is why once again Mr Punctual feels a deep sense of shame arriving at exactly the time soundcheck was ment to be finished. 😦 When will I learn?????
Anyway the other bands are very friendly and most of the acts feel the need to support one another as we take turns to perform.
Whilst watching the other bands play I was running through the possibilities for my set. With this I am often torn. On one hand. I want to sell records and logically thinking to play my strongest material of proven crowd pleasers is the way to do this. However I do have a number of new songs that are in need of further honing and by adding them to the live set I am hoping of progressing with them.
I choose on the whole with this occasion for the latter. (I would confess I haven`t always taken that route)
3 new songs and 2 from previous albums.
Following the show I find many albums do shift but most of the audience members are interested in picking up a copy of my new tune `As Stubborn as a Sandfly`. It`s a real confidence boost for me and a reminder to keep pushing my new material live. Even if I do only have a short time to play.
Cafe Mignon is frankly a wonderful place. Owned by a couple who are animal lovers/Musicians it is a pet salon and sanctuary during the day and a Cafe/Music venue at night.
I have played there many times whilst touring Japan and always feel so humbled by their openness and enthusiasm for me.
This time I am joined by a special guest playing support.
Callum Grant is a wonderful writer/guitarist/drummer/legend who has been working out in Tokyo for a few years now and is in the process of recording his debut album with Drummer Eric Gebow under the name Callum`s Whisky Tales. He plays a solo opening set which gives me a rare chance to hear the songs stripped down and intimate. He also busts out the Ukulele which can only be good.
Next I jump up and do my thing. I feel happy to bust out a few tunes not played in a while and `Cotton Mill Greys` gets it`s first airing live since my Thailand tour in March.
All in all a nice night to perform but sometimes the gig itself is not the point. Following the show we all head together for a late night meal of Yakitori. A few other friends join us that have been working late and once more I realise that 2 worlds are crossing that at least within my life have been separate until now. For me this evening was more about a meeting of minds and people that I belive come from the same ethos of thought and the music is just a backdrop.
There is little more of a pleasure than to be the link.
What a trudge the Tokyo Subway system can be. Not because of any fault of the system, just purely my own lame lack of knowledge and understanding.
After 2 and a half hours I complete my journey from Rural Chiba to the Camden Town of Tokyo. 1 bus and about 6 trains later. I`m about an hour late for soundcheck and although the staff at the venue seem very understanding and not at all agro. I feel a deep sense of shame that I`ve surpassed my normal average of half an hour late.
Then just as I finish my soundcheck the promoter puts it to me that myself and the other performers Kohei Shigihara and Hideki Kurosawa play a song together. At first I`m baffled as to what we play but when it seems the other performers are happy to join me for a number of my own I decide to give it a try and we rehearse Time and Places.
Then my good good friend Callum arrives and treats me to the best Sushi I`ve ever had (again).
Suddenly things seem great and I`m happy to big back in the big smoke.
The show seems to go well too Kohei and Hideki play great solo and with me. Also a few more good buddies show their faces and welcome me back to Tokyo.
From such a false start the night ends in full swing.