A first-hand journal of The Reducers' Japan Tour 2004.

The Reducers at the El 'N Gee Club, New London, CT

Hugh Archives

Out of hibernation

Posted by Hugh

Sorry to take so long to make an entry. I slept for about twenty-four hours straight, and even then I was still a bit spaced out. Now I'm back among the living and trying to take stock of what we've just been through.

It all seems kind of dreamlike, except that I have evidence that I was really there - autographed copies of Firestrater/Teengenerate CDs, as well as sweaty clothes that smell like beer and cigarette smoke... and crystal clear memories of the beautiful Japanese countryside, the electrified cities, friendly Japanese faces, conversations with Japanese friends, and this ringing in my ears from the GREAT Rock and Roll I witnessed firsthand at Shelter, Pipe69, and Statto. This experience is burned permanently in my memory as one of the high points of my whole life. Thanks again to the people and circumstances that made it all possible.

Today I'm going to try to make a demo of a new song I'm working on, called "Rockin' on Tokyo Bay." Will post the demo if it comes out OK.

I'll also try to listen to all the CDs and 45s I brought home to prepare for tomorrow night's radio show which will feature many of the bands we played with, plus bands we talked about, bands that were recommended to us, and music that was in the air while we were in Japan. Hope you can tune in.

Looking forward to Sailfest gig on Saturday, so that we can display those cool banners that Coji made. What a knockout!

One more thank you to Jimbo and Fifi, and the rest of the crew. You are the BEST! Friends for life!


Posted by Hugh on July 06, 2004 at 08:30 AM EDT | Comments (2)

Bleary eyed Sunday

Posted by Hugh

5 hours sleep - gotta pack and hit the road in a couple of hours - utterly exhausted...

Lots of superlatives last night - subalashi! CHO KAKOY! (Fantistic, Really Cool). I think the place must have been sold out because you couldn't move an inch without stepping on someone's toes - literally shoulder to shoulder. First band was Pay Channel from Kanazawa about 6 hours drive away (past Kyoto). Great songs, cool guitars, very friendly guys, from a small town, just like us. I tried to hang in the audience for Firestarter but got too battered by frantic pogo dancing after half the set and had to retreat to the dressing room. Once again Firestarter rocked hard and fast, but we got cheated out of an encore, ostensibly because Fifi broke two strings.

We played a solid ninety minute set, including I don't know how many encores. They kept asking us back and we kept going. Highlights - a chaotic version of Hippy Shake with Fifi on guitar, and Peter on lead vocal. Steve and I figured out a little late in the game that Firestarter plays Hippy Shake in A, while we play it in E. A glorious cacaphony. Capital Radio with Shintaro on vocals again. This time we got it right. Ready Steady Go, In the City, Rockaway Beach...we pulled out all the stops....the crowd was insatiable, but we finally called it a night when I broke strings on both guitars.

The after party went from 10:00 till past 2:30 and was still going on when we took our cabs back to the hotel. Countless autographs and Photo ops. Many shouts of Kampai. I was told it was the biggest after party in memory.

(My apologies to Kazu for spelling his name with a "u" instead of an "a" in a previous entry. He explained that when spelled with a "u" it's pronounced KOOZOO and means "trash." Oops!)

This Wednesday I'm going to do a special on Japanese Rock and Roll on the Dead Air Show (6-pm to 9pm on WCNI of course)- accessible with Quicktime software through a link on the Reducers webpage.. We may have some Japanese listeners tuning in on the web, Thursday morning between 7 am and 10 am. Hands across the water.

Thanks to everyone here for giving us the time of our lives. Words cannot sufficiently express how grateful I am, how grateful we all are, for having this chance. Fifi, Fink, Jimbo and Sami - You ROCK! Tachi, Cogi, Cohe, and Tomi (Sp?) You ROCK! This experience has been a stupefyingly postive one from start to finish. Looking forward to seeing Japanese bands playing in our area sometime soon. I like Bill Dumas' idea of chartering a 747 for our next Japan tour - let the fans meet each other!

Masao, who interviewed me on line for Doll Magazine, has proposed releasing a single on his record label, with the Reducers covering a Firestarter song and Firestarter covering a Reducers song. Cool idea!

While this is the end of our tour, I sense that it might be the beginning of something cool...Who knows?

Sayonara...


Posted by Hugh on July 03, 2004 at 08:38 PM EDT | Comments (2)

Last Full Day

Posted by Hugh

Not too much to add. Got some interesting records and plan to get more today. Took time off yesterday to relax, listen to my new CDs, change strings, work on new song, and eat at a charming French restaurant around the corner from our hotel.

Very psyched for the gig tonight. Not looking forward to the 12 hour flight back tomorrow, but very excited to be heading home after this extraordinary experience.

Looking forward to trying to get Firestarter and Rockbottom to tour in the U.S. sometime in the next year... A little disappointed that we never got to jam with any of them, but maybe next time. You never know...


Posted by Hugh on July 02, 2004 at 09:08 PM EDT | Comments (0)

The Morning After

Posted by Hugh

I should probably go back to bed, but the hotel's computer is free, so I'll try a quick entry. It's 9:30 (got to bed around 2:30), and the reason I'm not in bed is that I wanted to say goodbye to my good friend Hisashi, who came all the way down from Sendai to see the show last night.

Speaking of friends, it's getting so that I'm starting to recognize a lot of people at the shows who have been at previous shows - and they're all in bands! There's a great sense of camaraderie that makes us all feel pretty comfortable. And in a way, that's how I'd describe this gig. We felt comfortable enough to try out some of our newer songs, and to sneak in a few that had been relegated to the B List.

At 2:00, Kuzu (aka CHI) guided us to the club, which he said was in the country - I think he meant suburbs. We sound-checked, met my friend, Hisashi and one of his English students, Yuki, went out for curry, and got back to the club by 7:00.

For the first part of the night the vibe was somewhat subdued. Rockin' Enocky The One Man Band was quite entertaining - rockabilly and country western songs played on Telecaster, Hi-hat, Trixon Bass Drum and the occasional crash cymbal - songs like Crazy Arms, Let's Go, Let`s Go, Whole Lotta Shakin' among others sung with a Japanese accent, and played with wild abandon - almost like the Japanese answer to the Paul Brockett Show/Furors. The audience was appreciative and there was some back and forth in Japanese that I didn't quite get, but he's obviously a fixture on their scene.

The Refugees were more of a straight ahead punk/power pop band - young kids, with great attitude and some cool songs, plus a very capable girl drummer.

By now the small room, a little smaller than Shelter, was filling up with people and smoke.

(A quick aside about Japanese Rock clubs - consistently great equipment [Marshalls, Roland Jazz Chorus amps, decent drum kits], incredibly efficient use of space, cooperative and knowledgeable sound engineers, great music in between sets [Tonight Eddie Cochran and Captain Beefheart], cool lights, very clean - it's like they've turned this whole thing into a science.)

Right before the gig we met this American expat, named Detroit Jack. He came to the show and videotaped most of it. The only reason he came was because he knew Fifi and Fink, but he didn't know what to expect from us. By the end of the night I believe we had a convert. He said, "You guys were smokin!"

The stage was kind of like the one at the Bank Street Cafe, so we didn't have much space. The set went pretty well for the most part, the audience was quite supportive - polite on the newer numbers, more animated on the older ones. There was one crazy pogo dancer who threatened to clear the room with his aggressive antics - I almost took a microphone in the teeth - but he eventually settled down.

The best part of the night for me was toward the end. I don't remember the order of things exactly, we might have already been into the encores, but the audience started getting wilder and wilder for the pub rock numbers - like Dr. Feelgood. When we played Shake Some Action, it was one massive sing along. Very cool. The two highlights though were Can't Hardly Wait - I didn't know the Replacements were so huge here - frantic pogoing, fists punching air, raucous singing. And we ended the night with Rockaway Beach - again massive singalong, dancing. (We're going to rehearse Ready Steady Go and In the City for the final gig - by Shintaro's request, I believe.)

At the end of the night, the merchandise table was extremely busy. I autographed about seven or eight CDs and records, sat in on a dozen photo ops, and hung out with different groups of fans. God this is so weird! I can't get used to this.

The after party involved going to a restaurant (again sitting on the floor shoeless) being served massive amounts of food and beer, hanging out with a dozen or so fans and band members. It was a great scene that went on from 10:30 to about 12:30 - all part of the rock and roll culture here.

Today we might go see a baseball game in Yokohama.


Posted by Hugh on July 01, 2004 at 09:13 PM EDT | Comments (1)

Thursday, July 1?

Posted by Hugh

My eyes popped open at 5:30, so I went with it. Did some Tai Chi in the park near our hotel, and walked around the neighborhood. I've got this silly song forming in my head - something about Tokyo Bay. We`ll see...

Yesterday was quite relaxing and enjoyable as the Reducers played tourist once again. We spent the afternoon tracking down the guitar store neighborhood - a must for any Reducer road trip. We found it and were suitably blown away by the vast variety and priciness of vintage guitars here. Visited about ten stores on the same block, although none matched the guitar store we visited in Osaka. That place was like a museum or more like a shrine to the guitar. He had his most expensive models in a glass case on display with bottles of very expensive looking whiskey - Gibsons, Gretsches, Zemaitises, Fenders, Martins - all prime stuff, some of them going for up to $40,000.00, but most in the under $10,000.00 range. Still too rich for the likes of us. But fun to look at, if you like that kind of thing.

I went off with my friend Hiroko for dinner. She was an intern at the Magnet School a few years ago. She took me to this incredibly fancy restaurant in the Omote-Sando area, which is like the Japanese version of the Champs Elysee/5th Avenue. Very upscale. The restaurant we went to is devoted to the art of cooking tofu, which was a little disconcerting at first, but it was actually quite fascinating, and some of it tasted quite good. We must have eaten about 30 dishes in succession, all served in this private dining room presided over by a young woman in traditional dress, who explained each dish and how to eat it in great detail, but of course in Japanese, so I was clueless. We had two kinds of tea, and more forms of tofu than I ever imagined possible, as well as rice garnished with pickled minnows, shu mai, beef boiled in tofu milk with sweet mustard, seaweed salads, some kind of smoky custard, a tamarind? sorbet, and a bunch of things I can't pronounce or even describe. I gamely tried each dish and Hiroko was very understanding when I didn't finish every bite. I also learned some more Japanese. For example, toh-te-moh oh-ee-shee, means it tastes good. Mostly it did. Anyway, it was good to catch up with Hiroko and have some more cross-cultural experiences. She's coming to the final show on Saturday.

Tonight we play at Statto, which has been described to us as a 'party style' club, whatever that means. I believe we're playing with "Rockin' Enocky" the one-man band. Should be interesting.

Tonight, my good friend, Hisashi, is coming down from Sendai, about 8 hours away, to see the show. Hoping for a good night.


Posted by Hugh on June 30, 2004 at 08:43 PM EDT | Comments (3)

The Big One

Posted by Hugh

I'm sure I won't do this justice, but perhaps with the viewpoints of all parties combined you will get a sense of what yesterday, and especially last night, was like.

Before I get into it, I want to mention something that has been implied in many entries, but perhaps not stated explicitly enough. The hospitality that our hosts have demonstrated time and again, in ways both large and small, has without a doubt, been the most moving aspect of this whole experience for me (and perhaps for all of us.) Fifi, Fink, Jimbo, and Sami, Tetsuya (aka Tachi), Cozy, Cohe, Shintaro, Masa, and many others whose names I would include here if I could remember how to pronounce them, have made us feel as if our well-being is the single most important thing in their lives right now. We have been guided with grace, understanding, humor and compassion through every step we take in this complex and exciting cross-cultural experience. I could go on, but I don't want to ramble too much.

Yesterday: I walked for an hour and a half this morning along this tree-shaded walkway that extends through the Tokyo neighborhood where we're staying (known as Hatagaya). I was listening to tapes and just taking in the daily routines of our Japanese neighbors. Very relaxing and enjoyable after being cooped up in a car all day yesterday. In the afternoon, we went up to the top of the Metropolitan Tower in Shinjuku (the central district). From there we could see Tokyo spread out forever in every direction - it never seems to end - with the outline of Mount Fuji presiding majestically over it all from a great distance. Breath-taking!...

Last night: Gig at The Fiddler - 3 sets at an authentic English Pub in the Heart of Tokyo!

The place smelled dank and puky to use Tom's words. The bartender was an A**HOLE from New Zealand who set the tone by saying that since it was our first gig there, we wouldn't be getting paid. He looked sort of like Gene Simmons from Kiss, but without the make-up - ugly? You bet. I ordered the Shepherd's Pie but got the Poughman's Lunch. It figures. Oh yeah, the equipment was for sh*t. Mostly solid state Peavey stuff. But Richard and this kind Brit, named Julian, taped together something workable. But that's not what this is really about.

The gig: By 8:45 the room was close to full. (Richard used the leverage of the nearly full house (100 people?) to get some kind of concession about the pay from the barkeep- like, OK we'll pack up our gear and leave! Richard rules!)
At 9:02 we went on. Fifi and Tachi introduced us. It started as a slow boil - Heartbeat. The rest of the night is kind of a blur for me, but here are some highlights that have stayed with me.

Richard fixed my amp so that I could get some more volume after the first set. The first set was sort of like the other two gigs. Strong audience response. Lots or energy and support. Then, right before the second set, they took out some tables and stools and made a small dance floor. Immediately it was packed. We started the second set with Don't Mind Rockin' Tonight and the place erupted - I mean it ERUPTED! And it stayed that way for two more sets plus a number of encores (I lost count).

Fifi and Tachi were the instigators, and the crowd pogoed madly, veering drunkenly as a single entity from side to side, back and forth, onto the stage(!), singing on every chorus, knocking over microphones repeatedly(Peter and Steve both took one in the teeth), knocking guitars out of tune, ecstatic over every pub rock number, making requests for Clash and Hippy Shake. Shintaro came up and sang Capitol Radio with us. It definitely ranks as the single most intense Rock and Roll experience I've ever had - like the ElnGee in our heyday. but triple that. No, quadruple that! Before the second encore the whole crowd was chanting our individual names, each for about five minutes it seemed - Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom....Steve Steve Steve...., etc...) Mind-blowing! (And Richard captured most of it on video!)

After the show, Jimbo told us to go mingle with the crowd, because Japanese people are shy even though they really want to talk to you. I just walked over to tables and people were just incredibly friendly and gracious, thanking me for an unforgettable experience and a precious memory (I told them it was unforgettable for me too, and that's the truth).

I'll leave the commentary about what happened next to others who were closer to the action, but for me, what I've just told you is a brief sketch of what I'll always keep and cherish.

More later.


Posted by Hugh on June 29, 2004 at 09:00 PM EDT | Comments (4)

Things to remember

Posted by Hugh

Some things we learned by making mistakes:

Don't blow your nose in public, (Richard!) it's very rude.

Never pour your own drink. Let someone else do it.

In Osaka, for hello, it's mah-ay-doh. Thank you is oh-kee-nee. In Tokyo it's different.

Ee-kuh-zay means Let's Go in Japanese.

You count on your hand by putting fingers down (starting with your thumb) instead of putting them up.

Long haul back from Osaka, but we pulled in around 9 pm. Tonight we play three sets, mostly covers, at The Fiddlers in Tokyo, a British pub in the middle of Japan. Meanwhile we plan to go exploring.

More Later.


Posted by Hugh on June 28, 2004 at 08:08 PM EDT | Comments (3)

Osaka - Party Town

Posted by Hugh

After a peaceful night (for some) in Kyoto, I explored the Imperial Palace garden (now a public park), watched some factory teams play baseball, and found a hidden lagoon in one corner of the park.

We hit the road again at 10:00 am, with only a few members of the entourage feeling a bit hungover. In the early afternoon we were treated to a tour of a famous Buddhist Temple called the Kiyomizu-Dera. A chance to be inspired by the architectural and natural beauty of Japan, and more photo opportunities as well.

When we got to Osaka around 3:30, we were immersed in party central - St. Mark's Place to the tenth power - mobs of young people (college kids, school kids, freaks, rockers, every ethnicity, everyone on display) everywhere, more clothing shops than I've ever seen in one place, discos, clubs, fast food, cafes, record stores (Time Bomb Records - record collector's dream - wish I had more time and money to spend there), loud music, mostly techno, blasting from every storefront, everything drenched in neon. What a scene.

Our club, Pipe 69, was a little smaller than Shelter, but with a similar vibe. Our hotel was right around the corner.

The gig:

Almost capacity crowd again, maybe 150 people? Hot, in spite of the AC, smoky with not much ventilation. First band, Frantic Stuffs, loud and fast, just the way we like it. Guitar player had a Flying V. Second band was the Money Spyders, eccentric sixties sound with organ and heavy bass. They covered, Don`t You Just Know It, and California Sun. Room getting hotter.

Firestarter once again blazing through their set, adoring crowd went wild. Steve leaned over to me and shouted - These guys are a great band! Coming from Steve that means a lot coz he hates everything. Lots of young people in the audience. I get the sense that Firestarter are spearheading a renewed interest in Rock and Roll even among the techno generation. Impressive as hell!

Once again we tried to step up to the challenge. At least 100 degress F. on stage. Drenched in sweat after the first song. Exhausted by the third song. Running on fumes for the rest of the set, spurred on by the incredible energy of the crowd. Raucous, sometimes out of tune, sometimes sloppy playing, but the crowd still with us. First encore, didn't know if I could continue. Another song, staggering like a drunken man. Second encore, short of breath, but they still want more, demand more, I'm starting to see stars - we head for the dressing room, can't catch my breath, dehydrated big time. Thanks to Richard, I revive after fifteen minutes or so. What a night! Rest of the band heads out to a post gig party - I crash.

In the morning, Richard and I explored the neighborhood looking for this internet cafe (where I'm writing from right now) and discovered we were also in the middle of Osaka's red light district - ay ay ay. More Later.


Posted by Hugh on June 27, 2004 at 10:33 PM EDT | Comments (4)

Kyoto Sunday

Posted by Hugh

Some impressions since our arrival:

Many things are the opposite of what we know - like left side driving and walking, so it takes some getting used to.

Meals have many courses, lots of little dishes of things that everybody can try out.

The gig at Shelter:

Cozy from Rockbottom made two gigantic glossy banners with our name and logo on them to be displayed behind the stage. Way cool!

Jimbo from Firestarter setting up the aggressive marketing of Reducers/Firestarter/Rockbottom/Trio merchandise in the corner.

The sound engineers and stage managers were these two girls who were incredibly efficient and accommodating. Massive sound equipment for a room half the size of the ElnGee Club. A chest-high fence in front of the stage, which we didn't understand the need for, until later.

The first band was Trio - loud, angry, fast and exuberant. At first the crowd seemed kind of sedate. Standing in line for T shirts and CDs, polite applause, a few hoots, then utter silence. Is this a cultural thing?

Then Rockbottom came on - catchy melodies, Cheap Trick influence, Tetsuya on Rick Nielsen Hamer Guitar with great leaps and cool feedback between pickups. The Japanese answer to Keith Moon on drums - very complex and very fun to watch. The crowd getting more animated, the occasional pogo dancing - that's all there was room for in this packed space.

Finally, the band I've become a huge fan of - Firestarter! They virtually exploded onto the stage. From the moment they started to the moment they ended their well-deserved encore, the crowd went f*****ing crazy! Pogo dancing, moshing, swaying in time, singing along with every chorus, even stage diving. Certain songs - two of my favorites - She's Red, and I Don't Mind - brought shrieks of approval and more frenzied audience response. From where I was in the wings of the stage, I could see that this was a synergistic love fest. Amazing, unforgettable!

How were we supposed to follow this? But we did our best to step up, and Firestarter's crowd embraced us too. Incredible energy. Autographs and good wishes after the show. A great night. More later.


Posted by Hugh on June 26, 2004 at 08:33 PM EDT | Comments (2)

Safe Arrival!

Posted by Hugh

Hi,

We passed over the frozen tundra above Hudson Bay on our way East, I mean West. The movies sucked, the food was Ok and the flight attendant gave the boys two beers at a time. What's not to like?

First evening in Tokyo with members of Firestarter and Rockbottom. It was like discovering long lost brothers: "Oh you like Ducks Deluxe too? Great!"

After a fantastic meal without shoes and countless toasts of Kampai! we stumbled off to bed.

Last night we drink. Tonight we rock!


Posted by Hugh on June 24, 2004 at 08:36 PM EDT | Comments (2)

Packing

Posted by Hugh

It's 6:00 am as I groggily type in my first test entry. I'm almost packed, and ready. Just finishing up packaging some Dogbite CDs to bring as presents. I hardly slept last night. I guess I'll sleep on the plane.

Hasta luego,

Hugh


Posted by Hugh on June 23, 2004 at 06:03 AM EDT | Comments (2)


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