Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Guevnna at Pit Bar

“Wake up,” someone yelled at me, before delivering a sharp kick to my ribs.  What god-damned monster would do this to me, I thought to myself, and why were they in my apartment?  What awful piece of shit would sneak into man’s home and wake him up when he’s in the throes of a king bastard of a hangover?  “Get up, god dammit!” the voice said again.  “Time to start the day.  Go get some beer, it’s beautiful outside.”  It was with some confusion that I realized I was on my floor, not my bed, and that it wasn’t even my floor, or my apartment for that matter.  I began to remember the previous night and realized with horror it was none other than my editor at Bloody Ears & Beer, Mr. Jim Broadly himself, kicking me in the ribs and telling me to get off his carpet.  

I rolled over and immediately regretted my decision to regain consciousness.  In fact I regretted everything I had ever done in my life, every single thing, because somehow that had all lead to me being here, now, on my editor's floor, still in my jeans and jacket and still shit-faced from the night before.  

I moaned pathetically.  “This is your fault,” I croaked.  “You rotten little shit, you did this to me.  Look, there’s vomit all over my Chuck Taylors.”  

All of these things were true.  It had been a big Saturday night.  It is very difficult for me to drink “too much” with other people around; whenever I’m out with my friends or co-workers and the spirit of the evening is one of indulgence, I’m never the one being carried home.  This could have something to do with my genetic makeup, since it’s a thing that people with light colored hair and eyes are typically better at synthesizing alcohol, or it could have something to do with the fact that I drink at least a bottle of wine every night and have done so for years.  There are people in this world that drink more than me, I know this to be true, but except for one or two obvious examples I don’t know who they are or what bars they hang out in.  But I do know that when I’m out with other people, I’m fighting in such a lower weight class that it’s more like babysitting.  

So when the dirty little prick told me Saturday night at Bar TKO that he was going to turn the tables and get me too drunk to walk, I laughed in his face and told him not to waste his money.  “You’ll get tired of spending money on shots long before I get tired of drinking them,” I warned him.  The bartender Candy looked on in amusement and I’m pretty sure he secretly agreed with me, since he had literally watched me carry the little bastard out the door and up the stairs like an angry, drunk potato sack on more than one occasion.  

Bar TKO is a pleasant basement bar in Higashi Shinjuku with a surprisingly larger interior than one would assume given the location.  Also surprising is the sophisticated wine selection, chosen specifically by Candy himself, whose full sleeve tattoos belie a mind that knows more about wine than anyone I’ve ever met in this country, westerners included.  All that knowledge about Italian reds and flavor profiles went unused on Saturday, though, because a horrid little man was feeding me the dirtiest cheapjack rotgut liquor he could find.  

We’ll never know if his plan was successful.  Certainly I blacked out; the next thing I remember is sitting on the toilet at Bar Big Time and puking violently onto the floor.  This is unfortunate because Bar Big Time, located on the border of Kabukicho and Okubo, is one of my favorite bars in all Tokyo -- they have friendly staff, cheap drinks, and the owner Tsune has a record collection of classic rock n’ roll going back all the way to the distant past when black people were making rock n’ roll.  I always encourage people to check this bar out whenever they’re in town.  Great music, great people, and heavy hands behind the bar.  Five hundred yen will get you a hell of a stiff drink at Big Time and I’m in there pretty frequently, which makes what I did to their bathroom all the more unfortunate.  

One of the bartenders, a cheerful and friendly young man named Taiyo, approached me about the bill.  I looked around for my editor, who had been paying for all the drinks thus far because I didn't have my wallet or any money, and realized the wicked little gunsel had ditched me.  Taiyo seemed to sense this because he gracefully ushered me out the door and up the stairs, but looking back I realized he probably just wanted the puke-stained drunk with the undone pants out of his bar.  I don't blame him; he had a monster of a cleaning job ahead of him. 

But whatever.  The shitheel that helps run this blog was nowhere in sight after I exited the horrorshow of a toilet and, because he had apparently given up long ago and I was still standing, I declared myself the winner before stumbling down the street to his apartment.  And now here he was the next morning, putting the boot to me and telling me I had to get up and go to a show.

“Fuck you!  There’s no way I’m going to any show tonight,” I snarled at him while crawling to the balcony.  I had to admit, he was right about the weather.  It was goddam beautiful outside.  Pleasantly warm and not a cloud in the sky.  Stretching out under the sun was putting me in a better mood.  The hand of God's justice finds those that deserve it, I mused, and Jim Broadly would eventually get the punishment he deserved.  

“Your hands are shaking pretty bad, mister,” he told me.  “Better have a beer to settle ‘em down.”  I accepted this wisdom and joined him in some daytime drinking.  Before heading out to Pit Bar we spent the afternoon in Okubo, drinking on the street and getting some kebabs from a place down the way from the Family Mart near Shin-Okubo station.  I like the place a lot and the guy that usually runs it knows me from back when I was dating someone that lived in the area.  He’d see me most Sunday afternoons smelling like booze and sex and he’d always give me extra meat and spice.  I appreciate that sort of personal touch and I hope I treat him better than I treated the poor bartenders at Big Time.  

After some kebabs we met up with Retch drummer (and occasional contributor to Bloody Ears & Beer) Thom Skuld and together we went to a nearby AEON and grabbed some Chimay, which I’m given to understand is a beer brewed by trappist monks somewhere in Belgium.  The beer was definitely high quality, but it was wasted on my layman’s palate.  But Thom, who doesn’t smoke and thus still has both a functioning sense of smell and some taste buds, seemed to be impressed with the monk’s brew.  After a few of those we headed out to Nishi-Ogikubo and GUEVNNA.  

When I was told that the show was in Nishi Ogikubo, my interest was piqued because there’s been some buzz about that place as an up-and-coming hotspot for the underground scene and I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet.  Also, it was close enough for me to reach by foot from my apartment.  But what sold me on going to the show, aside from his generous offer to pay for both it and the drinks, was hearing GUEVNNA’s name (vocalist Ryo insists on GUEVNNA being written in all-caps, which I was unable to do in Japan Times because of formatting issues but am free to do now.  They deserve it.  They’re not “Guevnna”, they’re GUEVNNA).  

I’ve previously described Ryo as the answer to the question “what if Nick Cave gave up on heroin in favor of red meat and beer?”, which I think might be the nicest thing I’ve ever said about anyone.  GUEVNNA might possibly be my favorite act to see in Tokyo aside from Intestine Baalism, who play so infrequently that GUEVNNA has had a chance to usurp them as my favorite Tokyo band.  And Sunday’s show was made all the more exciting because Shusuke of Zothique was joining them on guitar (unfortunately he’s just filling in for GUEVNNA’s momentarily-absent guitarist and not joining the band full-time).  Zothique is busy writing and recording their newest album, so until they release it we’ll have to settle for seeing Shusuke rock out with GUEVNNA.  

And holy shit does GUEVNNA rock the fuck out.  It’s the heaviest rock n’ roll in Tokyo.  Somehow they’ve taken all the best parts of the sort of Death/Doom Ryo had been performing as the frontman for Coffins -- all the hard-hitting breakdowns, the sweetest riffs, the tortured vocals -- and turned it into a 70s inspired brand of something that I wouldn’t describe as “metal” so much as just plain rock n’ roll.  Heavy, certainly, brutal even, but it’s definitely rock n’ roll.  Doom rock.  Acid Doom Rock.  Heavy Acid Doom Rock.  

There were some good acts that night, but GUEVNNA blew them all away.  The Little Bastards are a powerful 3-piece and appropriately political, and both they and Crucial Section have high-energy sets that make you move, but no one got the crowd out on the floor like GUEVNNA did.  If you like Black Sabbath, if you like Granicus, you’ll get a huge kick out of this band.  And if you don't like those bands you're a giant piece of shit and deserve to be mauled by dogs.  

Ryo noticed immediately upon seeing me that I was on a two-day drunk, probably because I hadn’t brushed my teeth since vomiting all over my Chucks, or showered, or in any way made an attempt to look like anything other than a homeless drunk.  He had enough grace to not make fun of me for it, or to tell me that I smelled terrible, which I’m positive I did.  The dude’s a class act.

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