A second show at the same venue a week later and this time the atmosphere is totally different.
The audience seem more lively instead of the subdued feeling the previous week and there is a far larger crowd.
I decided to do a kinda sandwich set of Quiet, Medium, Loud, Medium, Quiet.
This kicked off with the tune ‘Natural Disasters’. An old tune not dusted down for many years until it was requested at one of my final UK shows in Watford. I was a little rusty but muddled through and felt to open with it would be a bit of a personal curve ball. Added to which with newest number to the set ‘Alaskan Sky’ linked after.
This show was also the only time I played on this tour with the wonderful Goga.
A true looping genius and a good friend who has toured Japan and the UK with me in the past 🙂
I also got to catch one of his many other projects in a band called Owllights.
A sonically ridiculous band with triple electric guitar goodness!!!!!(five)
Also great to catch up with ‘Atelieddy’. A great Japanese duo of female fronted rock. (this now makes me beg the question of whether or not there is a front person in a band with only 2 members – but anyway)
The rest of the gig was fine – Shifted some vinyl and had one of those meals where various forms of snacks were being brought on little plates to your table. There were heaps of plates but also heaps of people. Then the race was to politely shuffle your chopsticks in the direction of your chosen dish whilst keeping a bowing ratio of every 2.6 seconds. That seemed to work anyway.
Returning to Anga was a true joy. Chisuzu and Naoshi always put on a great night and this was no different.
A part of what is always so special about the events they put on is the sense of community they have amongst the musicians on the scene. This has resulted in me sharing a stage with many awesome musicians and this evening was no different.
First to join me was Shinya Asakura on the Sitar. I have known Shinya since touring in New Zealand back in 2007 when we met at a show in Auckland. Then I bumped into him randomly in Chiba in 2010.
We played 3 tunes together one of which was an improvisation along with ‘A Watchful Eye’ and ‘Modern Life’. He tuned his Sitar to D so we were a little restricted on key in theory.
Shinya finding some time out of his crazy schedule was an honor for me and to have him along.
I then played a single song solo called ‘Alaskan Sky’ which made it’s live Debut only a couple of nights before.
And next up was my second guest Steve Marcotte. Steve had joined me once before onstage in Toppers back in 2011. This time we played a new selection of songs and I had a alot of fun looping and connecting Varit / Map of Shibuya / Time & Places together to fuse out 20 odd mins of music.
Steve worked in some of his own vibe wonderfully and didn’t stick strictly to what was on the record. I was a joy to hear his take on things.
Following this night I had 4 days with which to be a tourist before things got mega crazy.
Sometimes you just know a show is going to be less normal. And for whatever reason you go with it with no sense of disappointment or dissuasion. On this particular night I arrived at the venue to find myself sandwiched onto a billing with generally Avant Guarde and experimental musicians as well as a DJ.
So what with priding myself for a readyness to adapt to suit a vibe of an evening I looked into how and what to play songwise. Last time I was confronted with this situation in Kyoto a year prior; I decided to play a 30 min version of just one song called ‘Note That Says’. Loops twists and turns including guest musicians ensued.
This time however I decided to step outside my normal selection as my setlist molded into a very different collection of songs.
The song Because closes my Debut album from 2006 and had not been played live for over a year yet here it was opening the night. Following that was 5 mins of pure improv looping which segwayed into new tune ‘She Is Your Microscope‘ and this then ended with a series of glich noises which became another improv piece but this time with the spoken word lyrics of ‘Revisited’. Eventually this meandered it’s way into another new tune ‘Alaskan Sky’.
Now I know this may seem like a very boring description of tunes but you must understand that for me to even attempt one of these tunes in a set would be a little bit of a personal revelation given that at this time I was a long way from knowing any of the songs to perform comfortably due to a lack of rehearsal or simply due to not touching upon them for so long. However on this given night I decided to play nothing but these kind of tunes and leave out any comfort numbers.
One tune had not been played for at least a year; another only once or twice before; another was pure improv; another was basically a poem over noise (an English poem to a Japanese audience may I add); and finally a song which had never been performed live.
When on the Plane flying between Rome and Tokyo I was fortunate enough to be seated next to another musician. She goes by the name Cecilia Chailly and it a very well known and respected Harpist in Italy. Classically but also for taking the instrument forward into more modern music.
She was visiting Japan as a part of her touring and was performing in the Saitama Arena (where Radiohead played) as a part of the weekends performance.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to meet her and for her to make it to my performance was an honour. We swapped CD’s and I get the chance to talk to her about her music and how she is attempting to progress with her approach.
I also got the chance to hang out and have Sushi with a good friend Greg. We had been for a while but only through a mutual connection. This tour was a real good chance to make a good connection. This night was the first of many times hanging out with him. He has worked as a musician in Japan for many years as a member of the Blue man Group. However he has now returned to Tokyo to learn Japanese and find himself a chance to settle and live in Japan.
My set list for the show was all new material from the ‘Go Forth Bright Scenic’ Project. With the exception of ‘Watching Paint’ & ‘Headlights‘. Also the song ‘She Is Your Microscope’ made a rare appearance. It’s a a song I’m still nervous about playing live.
Jerry Mera has been a true pillar of support through out my 5 previous tours of Japan. I met him on one crazy night when I became friends with a whole bunch of musicians on only my second night in Tokyo back in 2009. We went to what is now an infamous jam night in Shibuya at a seedy joint called the Ruby Room.
Jerry frequented there weekly and would get up and jam with many of the musicians. I was lucky enough to be one of those and we became friends that night.
He’s one of those musicians that will stand by and support and help anyone he can who is putting themselves out there in that way. A true gent and a joy to know.
Tonight was a night Jerry had booked for me. Much needed help for a much confusing tour.
The evening was rammed and the audience were a wash of familiar faces and new folks. The stage was set everything was right. Now all I had to do was not play shit.
My set was again mainly new stuff but with a couple of oldies thrown in for good measure. ‘As Stubborn as a Sandfly‘ went down a treat with its beefy synth line looped with chimes. ‘You Know the Score‘ Was basically there for Jerry as I knew it was one of his personal faves.
The show was such a wash of positivity. I came off stage buzzing and had the pleasure of chilling to watch the many other wonderful bands including the Gypsy Singer with her band and Jerry Himself with Guest musicians Chaco and Harou Kubota who is a great Session guitarist who has played with Ryuichi Sakamoto. They put on an incredible show with literally no rehearsal.
You know when you’re about to go somewhere and you know it’s gonna be a while before you come back. So you know you must be packed fully. But no matter how much you go over the checklist and run through everything you need you cannot stop FREAKING-THE-FUCK-OUT about the possibility that you may have left your passport or guitar or clothes or effects pedals or leads or whatever at home.
So the trip out to Japan and even during my initial couple of days there was a nightmare. Completely baffling and it was only when I plugged in my gear and played this first show that a sense of relief came over me.
The atmosphere in the bar was wonderful and the audience were a perfect level of purely respectful and there to listen. But at the same time the occasional whoop came out when the loops got crazy – Occasional whooping – The Peak of rock N’ roll oh yes.
I felt free to play whatever I liked and I had a great time making the set up as I went along.
Starting with the tune ‘Results are Classified‘ turned out to be even more random as I never played the tune again on the following 22 shows of the tour.
Japan I have arrived!!! Now if you could just tell me how to get to Tokyo for tomorrow night that would be great 🙂
So in my Rickety old tour van I make one final Drive into London to play my final UK show of 2012.
It had been a long and drawn out process playing shows but not really touring so much whilst recording the 4 albums. And this show marked the end of this period of time for me.
As you can see from the Setlist above this show was my final one in the UK for 2012.
The next stop was Japan for 23 shows packed into a month. But first this final London date.
Playing London on the whole for me had become a drag of apathy on all sides. However when I arrived for the show in Kilburn I was met with warmth from the promoter Jon and I quickly found most of the other bands to be amenable and welcoming. Then to discover that the majority of the musicians had driven for many hours from the North West of England to the South East made me even more surprised in one respect that they were social at all. But on the other side it all made perfect sense.
When I have toured in the North West I’ve generally only had a positive experience playing shows with bands and have felt a friendly vibe most nights. Whilst London has tended to lean towards the opposite.
Anyway this show was run by Butter Bridge Records and was a joy to be a part of.
My set was mostly stuff off the new records and it seemed to go down well enough to feel like a send off of sorts.
The best thing about it for me was to catch up with an old friend in Dominique who I had known well but not seen for over a decade.
I very much enjoyed all the acts on the bill also including Fabian Holland, The Jungfraus and Proud Proud People. My thanks to Jon for having me into play.
The Final show in Italy for 2012 is back in Perugia at the Gingillo Cafe.
The place has a real modern feel but alot of the artwork on the walls hark back to classic holly wood movies of the 40s through to now.
This show was special to me because it was the first chance I had to perform the song ‘This College Year‘ Live with the musicians I wrote it with. They are Andrea and Franscesco who make up the electro pop duo ‘Zero Call’.
My set was a loud all out ballsy attack of noise. I would have joyous memories of looking to Luca who had been on the road with me for the past few days and by this time had become familiar with the material. He would give me the nod to say yes you’re playing the right tune or even a frown to suggest I think of another to suit the vibe.
I was also fortunate to have sold nearly all of the music I had taken with me. The final CD was shifted in that perfectly timed moment when the final person stopped me as I was leaving and asked if I had any left.
Also the Vinyl went down a storm 🙂
So all in all a great way to finish the tour.
And I owe so many thanks to so many awesome people for the help they have given with keeping me on the road and showing me the wonderful country.
Big thanks to Luca, Franscesco, Silvio and especially the king of fighting Mina for the long Drives – Andrea!!
PS – Mina means to be super tired. I learnt this from my tour 🙂