Sunday, November 9, 2014

Halloween 2014: Koiwa Bush Bash & Shinjuku Jam

Bit of a late post here. This past Halloween, Retch booked a night of double brutality: 2 shows across the city from each other. Pretty decent night, all told, though it took a turn for the boring near the end.

Starting at Bush Bash, we were the first act to perform on a pretty hellacious bill that also included Funeral Sutra, Crucem, Fra Hedensk Tid, and the almighty Satanic Warmaster on tour from Finland. Great sets from all bands, though unfortunately the photographer that was booked ended up having to cancel last minute, so no pictures from this particular set, unfortunately.

Bush Bash is an interesting venue that, at least for me, brings back memories of some community venues stateside. The venue area itself could probably pack in somewhere between 100-150, and is rigged with pretty standard Japanese live house gear - nothing special but it gets the job done. While "stageless" pretty much describes the setup, there is a very subtle height difference between the performance area and the floor. Pretty much unnecessary, but it is what it is.

But that's really not all that rare in underground venues. What is nice, and what is reminiscent of smaller DIY venues back in the states, is the cafe section. Just as large, if not larger, than the venue area itself, the cafe provides a space for hanging out before, during, and after the show fit with couches, tables & chairs, and a nice bar counter. They also serve a limited menu of vegetarian food, on which is featured some pretty decent curry. Of course, they've also got a full service bar. Having all these amenities in addition to the show itself, while not necessary, is a nice change of scenery - above all, with all of its of space, Bush Bash can seem more laid back than a whole lot of other venues. Hell, you might even be able to relax there.

So the show was good, but after an hour or so of shooting the shit with audience and band members, we had to be off to our next show. Onto the Sobu line, then the Oedo at Iidabashi, we got to Jam around 1AM, which gave us enough time to get some grub and a few more beers. We met up with Michael Holmes (of Michael Holmes Photo), trusted photographer, and ducked into one of Japan's many shokudo's for a smattering of fried food and Asahi Super Dry before going in to set up for our 2:15AM gig.

Now, I am completely aware that Halloween is a "big thing," especially in Tokyo. For fuck's sake, its celebrated for 2 weeks straight most years. So booking a Halloween event is, suffice to say, a gamble. The audience was sparse, which was something of a disappointment. With the lack of advertisement on the promoter's part, though, I can't help but question if that it was necessarily low turnout, but whatever.

Jam's something of a strange creature. They're a venue, and they've 5 studio practice spaces, 3 of which are in the adjacent building, and 2 are behind the soundboard in the venue. If you were to judge the place by the studio spaces alone, you would walk away disappointed. The upkeep on them is pretty lacking, but its still functional so it could be worse. Then again, they charge the same price per hour as other, much nicer studios, so its difficult to say that there is much reason to book a practice or recording session there unless you're unable to walk anywhere else.

The venue itself is kind of another story. Layout-wise, its more than acceptable, with decent sight lines from most of the venue, bar in the back, and a raised stage. The gear on stage seemed to be in better condition than in the practice studios, which was appreciated but only so much as there weren't so many people who'd be hearing us.

Honestly, I think Jam could be a whole lot better if their owners gave a fuck or 2 as it could probably be a rather nice venue. But poor maintenance, unjustly expensive prices, and weak promotional efforts doesn't leave the best taste in your mouth. At least we played for free, and got some pictures.

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