After arriving in Japan, it didn’t take long for my boyfriend and I to visit our spiritual home – a hipster den in a grotty part of town, hosting a gig of five local bands for not very much money. And so, last Monday night we headed to the Shinjuku Marble to get our fix of live music.
The Marble is a quirky venue with a bright cartoonesque theme, which we had to walk through Kabukicho, a red-light district, to get to. We mainly went to see Gaba, whose guitarist my boyfriend knows from his time at Leeds College of Music, funnily enough, but stayed for 4 out of 5 bands. I enjoyed the atmospheric openers Amanosagume, a heavy rock band fronted by a girl with impressive pink dip dyes and a lot of feelings. Picaro and GiGi both had an enjoyable but more conventional J-Rock style, and, interestingly, both had endearingly geeky stage presences with awkward audience chit chat about the weather.
Musically, I can say without bias that Gaba were the strongest act we saw, with tight harmonies and technically slick guitar solos, even though their Beatles inspired rock with English lyrics made me feel like Hermione in muggle studies class.
What can I say, Leeds people are taking over the world.
So, with my extensive experience of precisely one Japanese gig I felt qualified to write a comparison on how British and Japanese gigs compare.
- It’s more expensive. You know what I said about ‘not very much money?’ Less true here. Last Monday night cost us ¥3,000, which my phone tells me is £16.26 (the yen is unusually weak at the moment). In the UK I would expect to get the same thing for less than a tenner and would push for around a fiver if I could. In Japan, you generally get one drink included in the entry fee. My boyfriend tells me that music is generally more expensive in Japan but that he thinks this goes with an attitude of valuing it more – illegal downloading, for example is rarer here. If this attitude and the higher price goes with paying the bands and sound engineers more I’m happy to pay extra, but I’m not sure that it does…
2. They smoke. Having come to gig-going age at around the time of of the UK smoking ban, smoking in a music venue seems very scandalous to me. So many people at this gig were lighting up that the basement was vaguely smoggy without needing a smoke machine.
3. They’re on their phones less. Japanese concert goers seem to side with my heroine Kate Bush in the battle between transcendence vs smartphones. I approve, but it made me guilty when I sneakily got these snaps in.
4. Less dancing, but also less dickheads. Although Japan lifted it’s bizarre ban on dancing after midnight last year, it seems that dancing at gigs is less common here. This is a shame because I enjoy throwing my body around vaguely in time to the bands but I have to admit less dancing came with less dickheads. Last Monday night was pretty dickhead free – no hairy 6’2 dude pushing me into the mosh pit whether I want to or not, or grinding up against me.
5. Lots of applause but no cheering. Without fail, there is applause when the bands come on and after every song, regardless of quality. However there is no ‘woo-ing’ or heckling. I am a prolific woo-er so it was difficult to reign it in, and I may have forgotten I was in Rome and let a small woo slip at my most enthusiastic moment.
6. Interesting toilet art. To be fair this may be unique to the Marble, but I was fascinated by the visual offering when I went for a pee. The toilet wall was plastered with fan artwork, set lists, lyrics and reviews of the bands who have played here. Including these scantily clad young ladies…
Tomorrow I am going to see the incredible Mushifuru Yoru Ni. Check back here for to see if my opinion on Japanese gigs drastically changes! (Spoiler alert: it probably won’t).