Saturday, October 01, 2005
Acid Mothers Temple at Richards on Richards
Sumimasen, Kawabata-san... Chotto abunai shitsumon... Omoshiroi kuki ga arimasu -- totemo omoshiroi no... "Tour" wa zenbu daijobu? Kuki ikaga?
Which translates as, roughly, "Excuse me, Mr. Kawabata, but I have a slightly dangerous question. There are these really interesting/funny cookies -- really interesting ones. As for the tour, is everything okay? How about cookies...?"
Kawabata has what I think of as very Japanese teeth; they are small and brown and suggest a complete indifference to dentistry. His manner is polite and gentle and friendly. He laughs, his eyes glittering a bit, and says everything is okay, they have everything they need (perhaps the fact that the tour immediately proceeds into the United States after this gig has something to do with his refusal; Kawabata will announce on stage that several of their concerts had to be cancelled because the American government doesn't like the Acid Mothers Temple, and gave them a hard time about getting work permits). He doesn't remark at all on my speaking in Japanese, which I guess either isn't that much of a surprise, or just isn't very impressive, because of my rusty delivery -- I don't practice much and I've never before ventured into such waters with the language. Anyhow, he laughs, I laugh, I try to say in broken but polite Japanese that I just thought I would ask, in case it was of interest, and I wander away, grinning at what I'd just attempted.
Walking through the crowd at Richards on Richards, everyone I run into seems to be in a band. Ole of the Creaking Planks (no website for them that I can see but here's Rowan's livejournal, including a bit of writing about the Zombiewalk gig), Harlow of Sistrenatus, and Scott and Dan of G42 (the latter being the reason I know these people). Scott has just gotten back from a visit to Japan and we chat briefly about his trip; he managed, apparently, to try a few onsen resorts there, which is pretty essential stuff, but it sounds like he didn't shop at any Disk Unions (I'd hoped to live vicariously through him by directing him to the one in Shinjuku, which is my favourite CD store anywhere). Afterwards, I'm telling Dan about my cookie conversation, when I realize that there's a pretty damn cool Acid Mothers Temple colour poster on the Ladies Room door immediately behind me. I promptly take it off, peel off the tape, and consider what to do.
Well, why not? I've already broken the ice, and the band are still sitting around the merch table. It has a very small smattering of CDs (customs make it too expensive to bring a lot of merch, Kawabata later tells us), a couple of t-shirts, and a guitar neck, broken onstage, which Kawabata is selling for $150. I'm broke, so nothing can be purchased, but a signed poster would be an excellent souvenir. I return and in my bad Japanese say to Kawabata, "Sorry, it's me again. Would you guys sign this poster?"
Kawabata smiles and produces a pen. He scribbles his name (he has a signature in English; assumedly if I were Japanese he'd sign in kanji) and draws an eye on the central image; I somewhat goofily explain that I have Otomo Yoshihide's signature, too. The rest of the band pass around the poster. Tabata Mitsuru, the bassist for the new lineup, has also played with Zeni Geva and the Boredoms (perhaps having been with the Boredoms on their 1999 tour, when I saw them at the same venue; he looked quite familiar. Apparently he has a solo album out there too). He gives the funkiest of signatures; a stylized black dot, visible on the O in Iao, above. Well, no language problems there -- the black dot is as universal as it gets. He's on singing duty, I will later discover, and has an extremely likeable onstage manner. I thank the band for their signatures and spend the rest of the evening protecting my poster, trying not to get it too wrinkled.
The band are fun to listen to, but it turns out that after the above interactions with them, and the delight I feel at having claimed a good anecdote for myself, the gig occurs in shades of anticlimax. They sound just like the Acid Mothers should, with a good balance between groovin' repeated mantraesque riffs and exploration/soloing/noise; they restrain themselves from kicking out too many jams, in the manner of High Rise or such, tho' they have a couple of brief outbursts. Higashi Hiroshi, the keyboardist and member-with-the-coolest-hair (pictured here) has some equipment issues, and a couple of times I did a doubletake at how-like-a-rock-god some of Kawabata's poses were (all that was missing was dry ice and the audience holding up lighters -- there's something I've noticed about how faithfully even cool Japanese bands sometimes seem to be self-consciously adopting the forms of their idols, an image-consciousness that is both endearing and a bit odd), but generally they aim to please and hit their mark, and Kawabata's two guitars (one mounted, so he can play both simultaneously, which is pretty damned interesting) sound great, generating swirling fields of mind murk. Songs like "Pink Lady Lemonade" are catchy enough you can dance to them, and many people do; I even undulated a little. It was fun. I've never been an overwhelming Acid Mothers fan, but I'm glad to have seen them.
But then I had to come home. Work the next day, and the necessity of doing a little marking, made it imperative I sleep, and I disappeared around 11:45. Who at work will I tell my cookie anecdote to, I wonder?
Well, really, it's not a conversation for the workplace. And no one knows who the Acid Mothers are, anyhow, really. So no one, I guess... Unless they read about it here...