Monday, August 10, 2015

Imaike GO NOW @ 今池 名古屋 2015/03/28

I was at a loss of what do on the Saturday between the Oomori Seiko show and Suiyoubi no Campanella's Liquid Room gig in Tokyo until Hayden, a fellow member of a Japanese indie community, directed me to an all day event with a massive lineup - in both the quality and sheer number of bands performing - being held in Nagoya. The event fit perfectly in my schedule - I was already in Nagoya to see Oomori Seiko they day before - and the lineup had a ton of really fantastic looking bands on it. A lot of these bands could have easily held solo concerts to a sold out crowd and some might argue that experiencing a band's music is better this way as opposed to the shorter set lists that have to accompany huge events like this one, but given that most of these bands were only relatively familiar to me in name and sound meant that the short and sweet set lists at this event would be just enough for me to enjoy them without feeling lost in a two hour long concert. It was a perfect opportunity to get a taste of a number of great artists, both staples in the scene and upcoming talent.Unfortunately I was still fighting my cold and my hotel reservation was messed up. I had to get booted from my room in the morning and I spent a good part of it wandering around the Sakae downtown area, exploring the area around the science museum - it's hard to miss a giant orb among the skycrapers. It was strange seeing an area so bustling with life at 2AM that morning suddenly transformed into a tranquil, mundane neighborhood once the sun came up.

The event, Imaike Go Now, was a sort of mini-music festival that took place in the Imaike neighborhood of Nagoya (imaike is a homophone - it's both a place name and can be translated into English as go now, hence the event name!), where there was a large concentration of live houses all relatively walking distance from one another. The event kicked off at 12PM and lasted until evening, with band's playing at around 10 live houses simultaneously. With a lineup of so many bands worth seeing, it was definitely going to be difficult to carve out a schedule in which I got to see all the groups I wanted to. Take a look at the lineup:

The first task was deciding between Bonobos and Homecomings, the first two acts opening the event. I heard nothing of Homecomings at the time, but I knew they were getting a lot of exposure and I had a feeling I would enjoy them (after I got back from my trip I couldn't take their album out of my stereo!), but I opted to see the indie/reggae outfit bonobos instead...most likely because they were conveniently playing at the large venue where the event required you to get your wristband anyways.

I hadn't kept up with bonobos since their album "Gold" many, many years ago, but I tuned in again with their album "Ultra," a fantastic updated take on their sound, and the group played some fantastic songs off of there as the crowd trickled in. Bottom line, the event's home base and the largest live house with the most popular acts, was packed: bonobos were obviously really popular, and they closed on a high note with their classic, "Gold". Their set was enjoyable but I found myself yearning for the songs I had known from them before.
It wasn't until people were shuffling out of the live house that i realized the first concert I had been to in Japan was bonobos playing in Okinawa in 2009 and I was only seeing them again six years later. Both the band and myself had changed a lot since then, an epiphany that would probably lead to some emotions welling up in me during their set but thankfully I only realized this after they performed. Crisis averted.

Afterwards I took off to see a band I listened to a few times when their debut EP came out, the post-rock trio palitextdestroy. I briskly walked down the street to Valentine Drive and as I walked down into the basement of the building where the club was the attendant urged me to squeeze in as best I could to the center of the room. Inside, the band was playing in the center with a small crowd strewn in front of them. There couldn't have been more than 30 people inside and I hadn't moved an inch from the door in my attempt to squeeze in. They were closing out their set, the drummer beating the life out of the set and the keyboard player going nuts as well. palitextdestroy were energetic, that's for sure, and despite them lacking a certain depth in their sound, their stage presence and energy was great and benefited from Valentine Drive's miniscule size and minimal stage setup.

I walked back to Bottom Line to check out the ska band Zainichi funk, managing to groove in place despite the crowd being packed in the place as tight as ever. These guys were great: definitely a staple at something like a big, outdoor music festival.

The progressive jazz band jizue was next on my agenda and I walked further to Tokuzo, a club on the second floor of a building along a side street after popping into a convenience store for a beer(and waiting in vain for 20minutes for the bathroom to free up). Seeing plenty of young, energetic people walking about the neighborhood in band T-shirts made for a really inviting atmosphere. Other peopel were waiting outside the club, located on a second floor, and I joined them while sipping a cold one and sitting on the pavement. It was rather roomy when I went up and by the time I arrived the room was already filled to the back with a lively crowd (who made constant remarks of how cute the keyboard player was, she blushed and thanked them). They arrived to enthusiastic applause and put on a fantastic set. Jizue's style is both jazzy and progressive, relaxing and intense. It's something you can leisurely enjoy but also admire for each members virtuosity. I play the drums so the coolest part of the gig was seeing their drummer effortlessly destroy during his solo. They played a cover of "When you wish upon a star" that they had recently recorded for a Disney covers compilation, so even if this was the first time I heard them there was small familiarity. With all the jazz-like improvisation jizue did and how they captivated the audience, familiarity isn't exactly necessary to enjoy them at all.

I didn't know any of the other bands playing at the time and the only name that was even relatively familiar to me was Turntable Films, so I marched to 3Star Imaike, where they were playing, and stayed for a majority of their set before Wuja Bin Bin. For some reason I thought they had been a shoegaze band(I was laughed at for this, maybe their name just gave that vibe?) so I was surprised when their music turned out to be a lot more folky than I had thought. They were decent - I wasn't familiar with their work at all - but by this time the hunger and crankiness was setting in. I hadn't eaten since lunch and the combination of hunger pangs, being slightly sick, and the creeping annoying feeling that was permeating since the annoying kids at the day before's Oomori Seiko concert made me feel pretty gross.

Wuja Bin Bin and grou_inou were both performing at Club Upset, and according the map it would be quite a walk. When I finally got there, I was greeted by a small entrance to a tall building with Upset on the 6th floor. The elevator had a big X marked on it and a sign directing the groaning patrons to use the stairs.

I walked in (probably sweating, panting, and tired) just as they were playing the single of their last album "Safe driving." Their lineup is a massive chimera of veteran musicians playing a wide variety of instruments, kind of like a mini orchestra without a conductor. The band can get pretty abrasive and just as easily come back down to earth for some soft jazz.

I had to get back to Upset for group_inou but in the meantime I went back to Bottom Line to see Humbert Humbert, a singer/songwriter folk duo I had listened to a few times in the past. Most people by this time seemed less interested in who was playing than trying to relax and a lot of people on the first and second floor were sitting on the ground trying to recover. I found a space on the second floor and managed to relax a bit while listening to the two play a cover of the theme song to Kiki's Delivery Service as well as some original songs. Everyone else seemed to appreciate the soft acoustic melodies after a long day of wailing electric guitars and pounding drums.

Teen Runnings sounded familiar to me as well and after the short rest (both physical and aural) of Humbert Humbert I went down the street to Second Vision to give them a listen.

Cool indie rock, and I got to take some nice pictures at that. I purchased their album and made the long trek back to Second Vision to see group_inou.

People were getting shoved into the club and the warnings not to the block the aisle were all but ignored after a certain point. A ton of people were wasted already and bumping into people obnoxiously while the crowd waited for the duo to come on. Impatience was at its limit when it mixed with the fact that I had walked up those stairs(again!) and hadn't eaten any solid food since lunch, but when group_inou came on and got the crowd jumping everything momentarily faded. Their unique style of electronic music meets hip-hop worked great in the club setting and I had only wished I had been closer to the front to experience it...and the room had been less cramped so I could get out my camera for some pictures.

A lot of the bands closing out the event at each live house were familiar to me and sure to be good, but I was too tired to decide who to see. The closest live house was Bottom line on the way back from Second Vision - so I decided to check out Ogre You Asshole. The band was a far from cry from what I remember them sounding like, and they built up some great, almost post-rock-esque walls of noise during their set, the kind that engulfs the crowd and immerses them in the sound. I can't call myself a fan yet - I never was before, either - but I probably should check out how they've changed.

It was a long day but full of a ton of great music. Events like this are always a great way to cover a lot of ground when traveling to Japan. Being here for a short time it's a great and inexpensive way to check out a bunch of bands all at once and this kind of live house hopping event, even if it doesn't happen often, had the variety of a festival minus the insane price tags and bloated capacity of stadiums and fields that can often destroy the intimacy created at a live house. Even if these events don't happen often, Imaike Go Now is a good example of what to look out for if you want to sample a lot of music in Japan with little time on your hands...although, you do need to clear up an entire day and get a great pair of jogging shoes for it! 


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