To be honest, the nightlife in Shanghai is pretty good. The music scene ebbs and flows, but in general, I’m pretty content and get to see a lot of good stuff here.
But sweet baby Jesus on a bicycle, if I lived in Tokyo I would never go home. I would never see the inside of my flat in that city, first of all because most apartments are tiny and you’re probably just waiting to be crushed to death when it collapses on you in the trice-daily earthquakes anyway, but also because there is just so much music going on at all times in all places all at once. And thinking of that just reminds me that in fact, Shanghai is still dragging its limbs (THX CHINA AND UR STOOPID VISA REGULATIONS) when it comes to music. Because the fact is, Japan is totally and completely open and can support not only local musicians but tons of touring musicians from around the world, while China just denied James Blake a visa because he probably participated in a pro-Tibet concert a couple of years ago. Whatever, China. What. Ever.
Point is, Tokyo’s pretty sweet, and Shanghai has a long way to go before they can even compete. I went to a mini-festival called Hostess Club Weekender, which, while it sounds like some kind of awesome, filthy weekend with people you probably have to pay to have sex with you, is in fact an awesome mini-music festival Hostess Entertainment Unlimited puts on every couple of months. And the sex is possibly free? Not sure on all the details.
So this Weekender saw Temples, Delorean, Okkervil River, Sebadoh, Deerhunter, Four Tet, Juana Molina, Omar Souleyman, Austra, and of course, Neutral Milk Hotel. Fairly awesome line up, and all packed into two days. I only went the first day, because it was my first time in Japan and I really love music but also, stuff to see! But I’m already devising how I can manage another trip over there in February for the next Weekender when The National, Chvrches, Youth Lagoon and a few others are slated to play.
The venue was this place called Yebisu Garden Hall, which was in one of these purpose built recreation spaces with restaurants, shops, cafes, ridiculous fountains and Roman columns, etc. But the concert venue was decent and probably held about 800+ people; sound was really good, as was the lighting and visuals. There was also a small balcony that I wasn’t allowed to go up to, as was told to me ever so politely when I tried. Next Weekender — press pass and balcony, for sure.
Also, all the band photos in this post are from Kazumichi Kokei and come from the Hostess Weekender roundup. I haven’t seriously upped my camera phone photo game — these are what real photos look like.
First band up was Temples, from England. Sort of indie/psychedelic rock. They were definitely decent but to be honest, their hair was probably cooler than they were. I’ve noticed this thing about indie bands and hair: hair (and by extension, image) can actually go pretty far to make up for a lack of something else. Image is definitely important, but a lot of new bands & musicians start off roughly 50% image and 50% actual substance. And I’d like to say that only the ones who develop substance go on to make anything of themselves but I’m pretty sure Ke$ha disproves that theory. Aw, Ke$ha slam! That was uncalled for. All of this sounds pretty harsh against Temples, because I actually liked them a lot. Nothing terribly original but I think that’s because they’re still in the hair phase of their development. But they were pretty banging:
Next was Delorean, an indie dance band from Spain. Guitars, synthesizer, keyboard, drummer. It was okay. I honestly couldn’t remember too much about them and I went to look at my notes and all I’d written was “meh.” So, uh, there you go. I guess I just think if you’re gonna call yourselves Delorean at least one member of your group should be wearing a jumpsuit at all times. Maybe just not my style. Oh, but they got kidnapped in 2013 in Mexico City and the kidnappers tried to get money from their relatives before the police finally rescued them!! That is some crazy shit and possibly the most interesting thing about them.
Sebadoh played, and I have to admit that at this point I went into the lobby to get some more beer and a delicious sausage. The food was actually pretty good at the venue. In fact, they had a nice setup altogether for the food/drink/merch area, plus a big outside balcony for smokers and/or people seeking quiet time. Sold out of Neutral Milk Hotel t-shirts within about two minutes and then people started ripping the advertising posters off the wall as souvenirs. Savages. Sebadoh sounded fine from the lobby, but as I’d just seen them a couple of days prior I knew what their deal was. But to be fair, a friend actually just recommended a particular Sebadoh album to me, and she’s pretty solid when it comes to music, so I’ve resolved to listen and give them another chance.
Okkervil River is an Austin, TX band that I’ve been listening to for a while, so I was excited I would finally get to hear them live. As expected, they were solid. Good folksy, indie rock and pretty low key, but with the occasional pop flourish. I actually think they sound pretty 80s (like in a good, John-Hughes-soundtrack kind of way). They’re one of these bands that have just been plugging along for years and years with little fanfare and still doing their thing. That’s cool. Although, the guitarist was having some major issues through a lot of the set and to be honest, I did not notice a bit of difference between when she was playing and when she wasn’t playing, and I thought, “Well, that’s one person they could cut.” But then again, whenever I see bands with more than 4 members I ALWAYS think, “Cull the herd. There’s no way you’re ever gonna make any money doing this.”
Obviously, though, most people were there for Neutral Milk Hotel, as they well should’ve been, and once again, so fantastic. I thought the newness would have worn off a bit since I’d just seen them a couple of days prior, but when they came out and started to play, it was like hearing it for the first time.
No photos, but here’s a picture of their set list. That’ll have to do you.
As for Neutral Milk Hotel, I feel like the show in Taipei was better (you can read the detailed review here), but only because of the audience and venue. Tokyo was crowded (very crowded) and some dicks in the audience were pushing against each other causing a ripple effect as people were packed in pretty tightly, so everyone was periodically stumbling and being shoved into others. So irritating, rude and at this capacity, dangerous. I was gripping the front railing the entire show so as not to be a dick to the people around me when the inevitable pushes came. Annoying, and frankly, it took away from the show. Jesus, I sound like OLDEST PERSON IN THE WORLD, but come on, quit pushing, okay? Hopefully it was just a problem closer to the front, though, where people were pushing to get in closer. But Neutral Milk Hotel put on another amazing show and it was so totally worth it all over again.
Overall, Japan was pretty flawless when it came to their music offerings. Tons and tons of clubs and concert halls and small venues and loads of music and then this guy, just walking his cat on a leash.
Or this. What is this???!! It looks like a giant golden turd on top of a building.
Or the fact that Eric Clapton is coming for a show (I would make an inappropriate spelling pun there but my mom reads this blog).
Anyway, Japan is banging and Tokyo is ace, but I still like Shanghai. There’s a nice lawlessness about it. Also, Tokyo’s got shit like this: