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
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.
Atom Bomb Dome, Hiroshima
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
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 couchsurfing.org. 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
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...
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
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
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...
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
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...
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
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
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...
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...
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
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
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 couchsurfing.org 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.
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