Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Story & Photos by Paul Silver

I’ve been involved in the indie music scene for a long time. I’ve been going to shows for over 30 years and I’ve been writing for Jersey Beat for over 20 years. I was a radio DJ, first doing a punk show at a community radio station in Worcester, Massachusetts for a little more than a year, and then a free-form non-mainstream show at a college station in Chicago for over 11 years. I’ve started, stopped and restarted a DIY record label. And most recently I’ve gotten really into live band photography, even getting some photos used in record inserts and covers, and getting some published in a print zine. But one thing I’ve never done, in all these years, is to go on tour with a band.

Recently, my friends from Greenland, The Maxies, told me of their plans to do a brief tour of Japan with The Kingons, a Japanese band that had come to the US and played several shows in Southern California that stunned us all. Having some upcoming vacation time, I quickly invited myself along for the ride, planning to enjoy the shows, experience some Japanese culture, and get some more photos. When I told our fearless editor of my plans, his immediate reaction was, “I expect a tour diary!” Of course.

Now, gentle readers, one thing you need to know about me is that when I travel, I compulsively plan. I need to know where I’m going, what I’m doing, and where I’m staying – all before I even leave home. But, as the musicians among you know, that’s not how a tour works. You know where you need to be to play shows, but that’s about it. The rest gets made up along the way. Needless to say, as I began to understand the realities of what I had agreed to, I started to get a bit nervous. “Wait, we need sleeping bags?” I asked, in response to one band member’s Facebook request to borrow one. “We’re going to be sleeping on people’s floors, dude,” was the reply, in broken English, spoken with a heavy Greenlandic accent.

So here I am, now, on the plane with The Maxies, 39,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, without a clue of what’s about to happen. But, I guess I’ll be writing it all down. Over the next week or so, the novelty of my experiences will be yours for the reading.

Dumb Records

Atom Bomb Dome, Hiroshima

Wednesday 2/5/2014

Departure was “yesterday,” yet it’s still today. The International Date Line screws with your mind. We left California on Tuesday morning, but landed on Wednesday afternoon. We made it from the airport to Tokyo’s main train station easily enough, but finding our contact proved a challenge. The Tokyo train station is larger than some towns, a virtual city sprawling underground. There are tunnels and walkways leading in all directions, and more train lines intersecting here than anywhere I’ve ever encountered. After finally finding our friend, Rin, we made it to our hostel. I thought I was the oldest person staying there, until the next morning at breakfast, when I saw an older gentleman. But he might have just been stopping into the ground floor café. I’m starting to feel like a modern day Larry Livermore, always the oldest guy in the scene.

After a quick dinner at a noodle shop, it was time for sleep. Or to try to sleep, at least. A room full of large, sleeping, snoring Greendlanders can get loud and smelly. Tomorrow is another challenging travel day – we have to figure out how to take the trains down to Hiroshima, where the first show will be on Friday.

Kingons in Hiroshima

Thursday 2/6/2014

We made our way back to the main Tokyo train station, where we reunited with three more members of our adventure party who set out several hours behind us. More easily than I expected, we found the train to Osaka, where we needed to change for Hiroshima.

Three hours later, we reached Osaka. The train station kiosk on the platform for our train to Hiroshima was selling all sorts of unidentified snack foods and drinks, plus some that were identifiable. Maximum Maxie had been whining all this time about my not drinking anything, so I bought myself a Kirin tall boy, while one of the Maxies bought a can that had only Japanese Kanji and “10%” on it. Turns out it was cold sake, and it smelled pretty funky. We’ll soon reach Hiroshima, where we’ll hang out with Chiba, a friend of the Maxies, and the Kingons’ manager. Chiba loves to party.

Arriving in Hiroshima, we were greeted by snowfall and colder temperatures than we experienced in Tokyo. We met up with Chiba, and headed to the headquarters of Dumb Records, an amazing combination record store, record label, distro, and café. It’s run by Naoko Kigami and Ryohey Nasu, who also drums for So-Cho Pistons, a Hiroshima punk band that’s on tonight’s bill. We hung out for a while, and then went to dinner with Chiba. On the menu was a famous Hiroshima specialty: okonomiyaki. It’s kind of like a potato pancake on top with layers of vegetables and meat, with a Japanese barbecue sauce on top. I had a vegetarian version, and it was tasty.

After a bit more partying at Dumb Records, we headed out to the suburb of Iwakuna, where we had gotten a place to stay through Our host, Kenny, turns out to have been born and raised in LA, taught English in various former Soviet republics for the past 10 years, and is now living in Japan and will eventually take over his uncle’s real estate business. Sleeping bags unfurled on the padded floors of the tatami rooms, we got some much-needed sleep. The first show is tomorrow.

SoCho Pistons in Hiroshima

Friday 2/7/2014

Kenny is amazing! He made us a great breakfast of omelets, toasted bagels and coffee and tea, and then headed with us back to Hiroshima, where the first show would be. He went to work, and we took a tram over to the Atom Bomb Dome and Peace Park. The dome is the former prefecture building that was near ground zero of the first atomic bomb ever dropped, and partially survived the blast. It’s been left as a memorial and symbol, a reminder of what must never happen again. Sadly, as if in misplaced retribution, the place attacked Mad Maxie, causing him to twist his ankle. He’s been gimping ever since, having to perform in his bare feet.

We went back to Dumb Records to collect the band’s instruments and merch, had some lunch, and went to Hiroshima Club Border, where the first show would be. Tonight, the Kingons opened, followed by the Maxies and then So-Cho Pistons. The Kingons ripped through an awesome set – of course! The Maxies were very well received, with people really getting into the music, and even some people singing along! They knew the lyrics! Maximum Maxie was ever the perfect gentleman, engaging the crowd directly and very personally, conversing with them from the stage and even going out into the audience to dance with the pretty ladies and boys. So-Cho Pistons closed with one of the most incredible punk rock sets I’ve ever seen, playing rapid fire, powerful, Ramones-influenced songs. They’re a 3-piece, with guitar, bass and drums, but have a much bigger sound.

After the show, we rushed to catch the last train to Iwakuna, where we spent a second night with Kenny.

Wimpys in Kobe

The crowd in Kobe

The Maxies in Kobe

Kingons in Kobe

More pics from Thursday and Friday here...

Saturday 2/8/2014

Kenny provided another tasty breakfast and gave Mad Maxie and our gear a ride to the train station, while the rest of us hoofed it. We then headed to Kobe, where we have another place to stay and another show to play tonight.

After the 90 minute train ride, we hiked to the hotel that one of our party had booked for the next two nights, since the couchsurfing host didn’t have room for more than six people. Upon learning how reasonable the hotel rate was and how nice the hotel rooms are, a few others in our group (myself included) yielded to the allure of a real bed. We checked into our rooms and stowed some luggage, as the apartment the rest of the troupe would be staying at was just a couple of blocks away.

We arrived at Kobe Slope, the venue for tonight, in time to hear one of the bands doing a sound check. The excellent pop-punk turned out to be emanating from a band called Wimpy’s, who have a record on It’s Alive Records, the same label that the Maxies are on! We learned from them that what appeared at a lower altitude as a dusting of snow had been a pretty bad storm in higher altitudes to the north, and the opening band had to cancel, as the road was closed. The Kingons, driving from Hiroshima, also encountered problems and arrived late. So the planned four-band show turned into three. Well, as frequent readers may recall, three out of four ain’t bad!

We went exploring for a place to get some dinner, and went into a very Japanese style restaurant, with a menu loaded with fried seafood, chicken and pork. While some of the Maxies longed to try Kobe beef in its city of origin, it turns out that a tiny filet would run around $50, so it wasn’t to be. One of the Wimpy’s members ordered for those of us who spoke only English or Greenlandic, and I had some tasty vegetarian fried rice and sautéed mushrooms.

The show was another big success, with the crowd, again, really getting into the Maxies’ songs. Tonight’s crowd was heavy with giggly young ladies, including a pair dressed in matching red and white striped shirts with jean overalls. It turns out that it was also an all ages show, with someone bringing their young son and daughter, who were right up front enjoying the show. Maximum Maxie, always culturally sensitive, came out wearing a “Karate Kid” style headband, which he gifted to the young boy. Such a kind-hearted man.

After the Maxies’ set ended, we had another of the Maxies taken out of commission. The keyboard player, Pissy Chrissy Maxie, apparently had been stricken with food poisoning of some sort, and experienced severe chills and threw up. That’s two Maxies that have been attacked by Japan! What does Japan have against Greenlanders?

Maxies in Osaka

Kingons in Osaka

Kingons & Maxies in Osaka

More pics from Saturday here...

Sunday 2/9/2014

Ahhh, finally, I slept through the night! Awakening in a warm bed is something I will no longer take for granted!

After a quick, light breakfast at the hotel, we wandered around the area of Kobe near the hotel. There was a street filled with shops and restaurants. After spending some time in the local Starbucks to use the free Wi-Fi and catch up on Facebook, we began checking out places to grab some lunch. Each place had mysterious dishes, labeled only with photos and kanji. Nothing looked vegetarian. And even the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy turned its back on the three vegetarians in our group when we learned that the Japanese curry we intended to order (vegetable varieties listed in the menu) was made from either pork or beef. I ended up with a salad and a beer from 7-11.

We hopped a train to Osaka for tonight’s show at a club called Fandango. It turns out that this place has been open since 1987! It was definitely the most punk place we’ve seen so far, with walls covered in flyers, graffiti and murals, exposed pipes all over, and a cool post apocalyptic industrial feel. The show had been billed on flyers as The Kingons, The Maxies and more, but it turned out to be just the two bands. Start time was early, at just after 6pm, and to help keep the show going, The Maxies played what was perhaps the longest set I’ve ever seen from them, at about 35-40 minutes! I didn’t know they knew that many songs!

After a brief intermission, The Kingons played an extended set, as well, clocking in around an hour or so of music and antics. And one thing finally registered tonight, while watching their fans. They are a punk rock boy band! The vast majority of the crowd at this show and the last were women, who seemed to be very excited by their presence. And, well, they are a cute band, too. On their last song, they invited the Maxies to join them on stage for their song, “She’s a Mod.” KJ Monmon asked Maximum Maxie for a ginger beer, which he chugged – and KJ is a small guy! He got, as the Greenlanders call it, “hammer fucked drunk,” and we started calling him “All The Way KJ,” a reference to The Maxies’ lead guitarist, All the Way Jay Maxie, who likes to get way too drunk and pass out.

After the show we headed back to Kobe for one more night’s rest. Tomorrow we go to Nagoya.

Sex Machines in Nagoya

Village Mans Store in Nagoya

Maxies in Nagoya

More pics from Sunday here...

Monday 2/10/2014

After working our way back to the train station, we rode to Nagoya, about halfway between Tokyo and Osaka. Tonight’s show is at a place called Huck Finn, which has been operating since 1981. Upon arrival, once again, most of us decided to stay at a hotel instead of on someone’s floor. The hotel turned out to be in one of Nagoya’s red light districts, and there were strip clubs up and down the street. When we arrived back after the show and the “after party,” the street was jammed with cars and people.

The show was another great one. There are apparently no bad bands in Japan! When we first met the Kingons in the US, we thought they were something out of the ordinary, something especially good. And they are. But so is every band we’ve encountered in Japan. Opening was Sex Machine, featuring a front man who performed in his underwear, a la Joe Dana of Pu$$y Cow. They played energetic, tight and poppy music, and will be on the Tuesday night bill in Tokyo, as well. Village Man’s Store came next, with more of a rootsy rock feel – again, just fantastic in both skill and performance. The best part for the Maxies show? They were wearing red suits!

The Maxies were, again, enthusiastically received by the crowd that was again made up of 90% young women. I think it’s not just the Kingons. I think the whole pop-punk scene must be something that appeals more to the ladies in Japan for some reason. They go crazy over the cute boy punk bands, in nearly the same way as the teenybopper crowd in the west goes for bands like New Direction, but on a smaller scale.

After the show, there was an “after party” at a restaurant near the club, attended by the Maxies, some members of Village Man’s Store, Eisuke Kurosaki, the manager/sound man at Huck Finn, The Kingons’ manager, Chiba, and a few others. Kurosaki-san is the self-proclaimed “last samurai of Japan,” and he proved it by downing more beer in a shorter period of time than anyone else. When he learned how old I am, he got really funny, treating me with undue respect and trying to get me to drink less beer. The after-party was a fantastic end to the night. We ate some awesome Japanese food (including some tasty items for the vegetarians among us), drank way too much beer, and made some new friends.

By the time we got back to the hotel it was about 3:30am, but for a couple of people in our group, the night wasn’t over. Remember, we were staying in an area filled with strip clubs and ladies of the night. But, as they say, what happens in Nagoya stays in Nagoya.

Kingons in Nagoya

After-Party in Nagoya

More pics from Monday here...

Tuesday 2/11/2014

After crashing so late, we still had to be out of the hotel for a 10am checkout time, so it was rush mode at 9am for everyone to hit the shower and get dressed. After hitting up the local Starbucks for some breakfast, we trained it back up to Tokyo, where tonight The Maxies will perform with The Kingons and Sex Machine again. It will be the last night of the tour for the Kingons, so another, bigger “after party” is planned.

After arriving in Tokyo, we found and checked into our very Japanese style hotel, booked for us by Chiba. We had two tatami rooms, four to a room. Once we settled in, we headed back out to the club, Koenji High. It’s a great (literally) underground space with a ground floor level that had the lighting, a “green room” and dressing room. The lighting was crazy massive, as it has been with all of the clubs. As we arrived, I had another realization about how carefully choreographed these bands’ sets are, for the most part. Especially the Kingons, who were working out some sound and lighting cues with the soundman during their sound check.

The doors opened at 6:30pm (all of the shows start way earlier in Japan than we’re used to, and end by around 10:00 or 10:30pm, when the opening band in US shows is just finishing up), and the usual crowd of women filtered in. Some of these ladies have attended all of the shows on the tour, and even said they were coming to the Maxies’ show the next night.

Sex Machine opened things up with the same energetic, frenetic set of pop music they played the night before, and The Maxies performed to a crowd of fist pumping, pogoing women. The Kingons played their usual well-honed set, and then invited both bands on stage for an encore of sorts, plus an act they worked out with Maximum Maxie in which he gave KJ Monmon something to drink – some ginger beer, a repeat of the improvisation from Fandango in Osaka.

After the show, the club remained busy with ladies purchasing merch and snapping photos with band members. After a time, when all the public had left, the club hosted the after party, with all the bands hanging out, drinking and talking and having a good time. Around 1am, we all finally left and went back to the hotel to crash. Tomorrow is the last show, but before that, we plan to find one of the famous cat cafes and get some quality feline cuddling in!

Sex Machines in Tokyo

Maxies In Tokyo

Cat Cafe, Tokyo

More pics from Tuesday here...

Wednesday 2/12/2014

We slept in for the first time! We were already in Tokyo and didn’t need to be at the venue until 6pm – though Maximum Maxie wanted to be there at 5:30 to have time to set up merch before the doors opened at 6pm. We had made arrangements with a new friend we met in Hiroshima, Rika, to meet up at Shinjuku Station to go visit a cat café. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s a bare bones basic café, but populated with cats! One can visit with the cats, cuddle with them, play with them, or feed them, and we did all the above. I quickly learned, however, that these cats (like most) are just in it for the food. Without the promise of something to eat, they’re not terribly interested in socializing.

Next on the list of things to do was having a meal at a real sushi place. Rika referred to it as the “sushi train,” because all of the dishes made their way around the seating area. When you see something you like, you just grab it off the conveyer belt and eat! When you’re done, they just count up the number of plates you’ve accumulated and charge based on that.

We went back to the hotel to grab the band’s gear and headed over to the venue, Zone B. This show was much more like the shows I’m used to in the US, with a mixed crowd of men and women, and more of a focus on pop-punk bordering on power-pop in some cases. Also, at this show, I saw businessmen in business suits. Carrying their brief cases. I guess, because shows start so early in Japan, people don’t have time to go home and change clothes before going out.

Tonight’s bill had a full five bands, the biggest of the entire tour! The first band up was The Sneeze, a four-piece with an old school punk sound and tons of energy. Everyone but the drummer took turns getting off stage into the crowd, playing their instrument or singing, and jumping around like crazy. Next was Pelotan, another four-piece, playing an incredible surf-pop-punk, with amazing multi-part harmonies and great melodies. They were so awesomely good! Then came The Well Wells, an insanely crazy band playing adrenaline-fueled pop-punk that’s among the best there is. The power-pop sounds of the Hum Hums was next, a three-piece with nice jangly guitar sounds. The Maxies closed the show and their tour in style, and this crowd was even more into the band than the others. This was, more than any other show, a real pop-punk crowd that knew the Maxies. There was crowd surfing aplenty, and the show ended with Maximum inviting the crowd up onto the stage to sing together.

Another after party occurred in the bar portion of the club, with all the shochu (alcoholic beverage) we could drink and all the teppanyaki we could eat for the equivalent of $10. The bands mixed and got to know each other, and more friendships were formed.

Then it was back to the hotel for one more night’s sleep. The next day will bring packing and traveling back home.

The Sneeze in Tokyo

Pelotan in Tokyo

The Hum Hums

The Maxies in Tokyo

More pics from Wednesday here...

Seven Things I Learned On Tour

1. You never know when you’re going to have time to eat. So when you do, no matter what time it is, take advantage. Because you may not get another chance for hours. I’m pretty sure I lost weight on this tour.

2. I really love the laws passed in various states to ban indoor smoking, and will never take them for granted again. The venues in Japan were consistently smoky.

3. While Japan, and especially Tokyo, can be expensive if you let it, you can also do Japan for a lot less money than you think. Between and quite reasonably priced budget hotels, accommodation can be had for not a lot of money. And, while there are plenty of fancy restaurants with matching prices, there’s tons of good, cheap food to be found all over.

4. There’s no such thing as a bad Japanese band, no matter what people tell you. At least, that was my experience.

5. Japan has way more varieties of Kit Kat bars than we do. They have some really interesting flavors, like Tokyo Rum Raisin, Orange, Strawberry, Green Tea, and Japanese Hot Pepper. And no one store has all of them – you have to hunt to find them all!

6. Go with the flow. For planning types like me, this can be difficult, but if you don’t do it, you will end up frustrated and nervous. I’m working on it.

7. Going on tour is a lot of hard work, even if you’re not in the band and just along for the ride. There’s a lot of lugging around gear and luggage, and lots of waiting around. But, ultimately, it’s very rewarding, because I got to see lots of good bands, spend time with good friends, and make lots of new friends.

back to l back to top is an independently published music fanzine covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming bands and a resource for all those interested in rock and roll.

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