Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Suddenly Last Summer 2

Late September. Moving to a bigger city has given rise to many opportunities that I've long been waiting for. It was in this spirit that I finally saw my favorite Japanese band, Soul Flower Union in their hometown of Osaka.

Seeing them in the intimacy of Shinsaibashi's Club Quattro was the perfect choice. This place is well known as the Kansai stop for more alternative acts. But the faces in tonight's crowd looked like a good cross section of this working class city's working class. You know, the flared Aladdin-trouser and split-toed rubber boot set, raised on a strict diet of canned coffee, cigarettes, and combini box lunches. Some of these dudes were downright scary, all tats and towering baldness. But when the band came on, these guys boogied harder than the rest. There was no shortage of real characters in the room, like the girl whose frenzied pogo-ing never stopped, not even between songs, or two incredibly obese guys whose dance style consisted of a manic jiggling in perfect unison. During the faster numbers, the whole crowd began to jump up and down, causing all the lighting to sway. If there had been a strong quake that night, I never knew it.

What most struck me was that all these dancing thugs seemed to know all the words to every song. I don't blame them for mimicking frontman Nakagawa Takashi. I think if I were given the chance to have anybody's singing voice, it would be his, a strong blend of rough blues and sweet sentiment. The man himself seemed amused by all this. He'd strut and grimace in the ultimate rock star way, then suddenly burst into a huge ironic grin to show he wasn't caught up in all this posturing, that it's only the music and the message that matter. He constantly poked fun at himself and the band, telling self-degrading stories and acting the fool. My favorite part was when he asked the crowd if the local Tigers baseball team was winning, and somebody checked the score on their cell phone.

The band itself was a revolving door of musicians, coming on and off the stage, blazing away in their unique mix of trad-Japanese, Irish, Okinawan, Jewish, Chindon, rock, blues champloo. A weird, scary looking butoh dancer came on stage from time to time contorting his body and face to a rhythm that only he heard. This agony seems a personally expression of the cancer within his body, yet the spirit and energy he enthused will always exist.

The band and audience shared that spirit, the energy sustained for well over three hours. This had been great fun, my long overdue return to the rock and roll audience. It's been over 12 years since I saw a big rock show, the last being a series of Dead shows in Eugene, mid-94. But it made me feel a bit old when I noticed that most of tonite's crowd were now the same age as I was back then.

Sigh. Better to burn out than to fade away.

My my hey hey.

On the turntable: 登川誠仁 With ソウル・フラワー・ユニオン, "緑の沖縄"
On the nighttable: Eric Nisenson, "Ascension: John Coltrane and his Quest"

1 comment:

Nico said...

I'm going to have to go and hunt down their CD now... You've got me itching to hear their tunage now.