Kannai station is a stop on the Keihin-Tohoku line in Yokohama, about forty minutes away from Shinjuku station. Known as a sleazy part of town, once past the immediate vicinity of the station, visitors are treated to the typical roaring pachinko parlors, sketchy massage joints, overpriced hostess clubs, love hotels with dubious names like “Hotel Funny’s”, brothels, complete with pushers ready to shove the next poor excuse for humanity into one of these frightening places, and dark alleys reeking of piss and cheap ramen running between it all. The streets are filled with all manner of riffraff–chinpira, drunks, and hopeless salarymen–between the small number of straight folks. I was there for an Omokage Lucky Hole concert a few weeks back, and could not imagine a more appropriate place for them to perform.
Yes, between the jerk-off booths and izakaya are a couple of live houses, one of them being Friday. Tucked away on the third floor of a nondescript building, on top of a snack bar called “Hiroko”, Friday is a cozy little bar and grill with a section of space cleared away for bands to play their tunes–bands like Crazy Ken Band, Crystal King, and–my favorite–Omokage Lucky Hole. However, at this point in time they were not Omokage Lucky Hole but–in the manner of some famous singer–The Artist Formerly Known as Omokage Lucky Hole. See, a while back the band put out a call for fan submissions to replace their older “embarrassing” kira-kira name with a new one, the catch being that the new name must also be able to be abbreviated as OLH.
Back to Friday–it’s a really nice place. It looks like your typical American bar, complete with dark wood paneling and photographs of famous musicians on the wall. The menu is your usual bar menu, but with things like curry and kimchi pizza thrown in to cater to local taste. I got the kimchi pizza as a joke, but it was actually real deal pizza with real deal kimchi on it, and it tasted really good. The venue required one drink and one food order along with the price of admission, so I got the Heineken on draft.
The show was set to start at seven, and I got there at six thirty. People must have gotten there right when the doors opened thirty minutes prior, because the venue was already full when I got there. Since I had thirty minutes to kill, I decided to interact with some of the other human-beings around me. Seeing as I was anti-social and didn’t talk to anyone the last time I went to an OLH show, I was determined to make some friends. After all, we were all there because we like the same band. That’s the perfect ice-breaker! Right as the folks sitting behind me were trying to pronounce OLH’s temporary Prince-inspired name, I busted in with my beautiful native pronunciation.
“So wait, you like this band?”, a woman in the group asked.
“Love. From the bottom of my heart.”
It was a group of five, two women and three men. The man closest to me was new to the band–first time seeing them live, and only listened to whatever songs were on You Tube. The others in the group seemed to be knowledgeable about the band, but “the most perverted one of us,” said the guy next to me, “is that guy all the way at the end.”
The two of us were introduced–turns out Mr. Most Perverted was–as his nickname suggested–in the deepest of everyone in the group. A fan for seventeen years, he bought the group’s indies-released debut album when it first dropped back in 1996. However, he had only been going to shows as of recently, this being his second time. As such, he wasn’t around to get the band’s super-rare DVD of live footage, which I flaunted around in front of his face. I had brought it on the off-chance that there’d be a signing.
We exchanged idle chit-chat for the thirty minutes before the show was set to start. I was asked the typical “How long have you been here?” and all the other customary questions the locals like to ask gaijin. I asked how they got into the band (all thanks to Mr. Most Perverted, it would seem) and then continued on to the usual exchange of favorite band/group/artist names. Turns out the guy next to me liked Perfume, Crazy Ken Band and Shibuya-kei, so he was pretty cool.
At ten minutes past seven, right when everyone was wondering, “Where’s the band?”, the members ascended the staircase to lively applause. The show was divided into two parts, with an intermission in the middle. aCky made his first appearance boasting a classy white suit and hat, along with a frilled pink shirt and bow-tie. He donned a burgundy jacket over a flower-patterned pink shirt for the second round. I wish I dressed that cool.
In the year since their last show, there had been some member changes. The band’s saxophonist, Kaori (who I’m pretty sure has been with the band since she was in high school), had gone away to New York, but she happened to be back in town for the show. She played along with the new saxophonist, Yui. I had only heard Kaori’s sax once, and upon hearing she had moved to New York, I was afraid I’d never be able to hear her play again, so naturally getting to hear her play again was awesome. Tet-chan, the main guitarist, who had been with the band for the better part of a decade, had gone, and in his place was a man called Hiromu, who was actually a former member, and played back in the band’s first professionally released album, Dairi Haha. One of the back-up singers changed to a woman who looked fresh out of the hostess club (but aCky assures that they didn’t find her in one) named Mayuko.
The band was in great form. aCky was really relaxed, knocking each performance out of the park, making good use of the stage, weaving his way through members of the audience and messing with them. The laid back and intimate nature of the venue made for an incredible night of (dirty) music.
The band put together a strong set of the best cuts from their professional releases, but naturally the otaku side of me wanted to hear the obscure stuff from their indies release like Love Volunteer and Honki tte Kaite Maji, or unreleased tracks like Hachi Kake Ichiman En and Shinitai Yatsu wa Shine.
But I’m not complaining or anything, it was a great set:
As far highlights go, Kurumaisu opened the first part of the show with large amounts of fanfare, stretching out the song’s intro to get people revved up and toe-tappin’. Iconic numbers like Sugamo and Beer were, as always, great to hear live. The band did a version of Kanarazu Onaji Tokoro De closer to the rendition of the song on their indies album Melo, with a sexy sax solo by Kaori and a bad-ass trombone solo by Sasuke thrown in for good measure. It was my first time hearing that song live, and being able to hear in its original extended length was super cool. The band also treated us to the poignant, jazzed up, extended version of Tagalog-go, with Mayuko delivering the song’s female vocals in a smooth, velvety voice reminiscent of classic Japanese jazz tunes. The final number, Tokyo, had a funny false start. There had been an issue with Hiromu’s guitar’s volume throughout the show, and they fixed it for the last song. It was difficult to tell exactly what had happened, but I think they were adjusting the sound during the song’s intro, things ended up sounding weird, and aCky exclaimed, “Okay, okay! We get it! We’ll start over!” As always, Tokyo is a great song to end on (every single OLH show I’ve been to has ended with this song), but this time aCky didn’t stuff his underwear up his butt during his strip routine that he does along with the song.
As is typical with OLH shows, the MC was quite good, but given my limited language skills and the high level of the jokes, about half of it flew over my head, with me just laughing along with everyone else. There were a few good things that I did pick out, like a deprecating jab to both the band and the audience about how “everyone in this room is a minority” and how they band can’t sell CDs with just our support. There was also a good bit about women with small boobs wearing bras too big for them, how and aCky enjoys the specific Japanese word that refers to that phenomenon. I unfortunately have since forgotten what it is, though.
Afterwards, I went out for dinner and drinks with my new friends at a little hole-in-the-wall Chinese place that specialized in lamb skewers. Right as we were talking about the show, I received a call from the live house, informing me that I had forgot something at my seat. As I wasn’t sure of the way back, one of my new friends (Mr. Pervert) went with me. Right as we were ascending the stairs back up to the venue, I noticed a man in a pink hat and pink scarf–it was none other than aCky! My memory isn’t clear, but I’m pretty sure I yelled, “Yooooo.”
He then called me by my full name–he must have remembered it from the times I submitted my name to be webmaster for the band’s site and when I submitted a potential new name for the band. He asked me what I was doing in Japan, and then me and the guy I was with took some hot two-shots with him. While overrun with ecstasy that I met the vocalist from my favorite band and he took an interest in me, I skipped up the stairs, collected my stuff, then skipped back down, passing by aCky again, this time bidding him farewell.
Suffice it to say, it wasn’t a bad night.