Last month your head editor here went on a glorious three-week bender in Japan and you’ve guessed it – saw lots of awesome music. We’ll spend the next week dipping our toes into the various scenes brewing in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto – hope you enjoy!
One of the things I kept hearing about Osaka at every turn, besides being a food junkie’s dream come true, was its friendlessness. You see, besides the Technicolor mayhem of Namba and Dotombori, Osaka is very much a walk in the park compared to Tokyo. More laid back, more old school, with the perfect amount of grit (relatively that is), Osaka doesn’t particularly try to be as hip or fashionable as Tokyo and that makes it all the more relatable and the people there that much friendlier. My host in Osaka was none other than musician Go Tsushima, who you might recognize from our Nasty Wizard Recordings catalogue – a most generous fellow, with a heart of gold, Go was all to kind to take my wife and I in his humble abode, and give me the 101 on the underground scene in Osaka.
Plus, I got to sit in on his new band’s – Baika Panik – rehearsal, which was pretty friggin rad. A most solid dude – highly recommend reading fellow Beijinger and contemporary art researcher Edward Sanderson’s just released interview with Go Tsushima which gives a more insightful window into the underground scene in Osaka. Anywho – Go had some friends from Korea playing in Osaka Monday night, so after a hearty filling of Takoyaki (delicious, oh so delicious octopus balls) and home-made curry with our host and some fellow musicians (including the Chicago-raised artist The Last King of Poland) we set off to Amerika-Mura and found our way into the venue Hokage, a dinky, hole in the ground, whose rug was the only classy article, and where some of Osaka’s more offbeat bands and characters were set to perform.
However, a very strong sense of deja-vu set in as I was immediately bombarded by the harsh noises and epileptic blinding techno of Klaus Legal – a Mali-based noise artist who wouldn’t you know it – happened to swing through Beijing in early December alongside his also present tour buddy Octopoulpe, based out of Korea, and another artist who managed to wow me back in Beijing.
The two of them where on a whirlwind tour through Japan and I couldn’t be happier to get their two cents on what they thought of China. Plus, they simply rock.
On the local side of things, we were treated firstly to Harenchi, an aggressive bass drum duo who describe themselves as a ‘noise and groove unit’. Dig it. Pure, unfiltered hard hitting singles that feels both rigid and unfastened, menacing and loose.
A barreling down the hill, momentum heavy mentality that’s easy to get wrapped up in. The bands been circulating through members since 2010 but in their present incarnation, seem nice and focused.
Closing out the evening was the riotous, massive, boot-n-rally punk outfit Nora Ichimi – whose take no prisoners’ blitzkrieg of metal tainted (with an acoustic thrown in for good ol fun) old school punk rock and roll was just too infectious. Their singer is a definite showman, and the audience was lapping it up. Nothing ground breaking, but good compact fun all around. These cats would fit right in at School Bar.
Compared to Tokyo, Hokage was as cheap as they come – with 12 RMB shots of Tequila and 20 RMB beers by the bottle. So yeah, let’s just say the night did not end well for everyone forcing us to venture back to Baika by (gasp!) taxi – a big no-no in Japan. A classy night in Osaka for sure – this was probably the place I felt most at home. Onwards to Kyoto!!!