December, 2011: Fresh off two flights totaling 14 hours, I hit the streets of Tokyo. The thrilling all-female band TsushiMaMire had scheduled a one-off ahead of their big 2012 tour, at a stupidly named but promisingly chic Shibuya venue called clubasia. I'd met these riot grrrls at Santos Party House, and I was aching to catch them again on their home turf. So I did what any ballsy foreigner would do: I emailed them, including a brief message how we'd met in New York and that I'd be in town. Mari, the ballistically cute, ferocious singer/guitarist, immediately wrote me back, all excited. I was in.
Tickets to Tokyo rock shows cost up to 30 American smackers, which is likeTerminal 5 prices for a dude used to dropping $7 for an absolutely bonkers night at Death By Audio. But remember: this is Tokyo, where a Starbucks double espresso goes for $7. Luckily, most tickets factor in a one-drink pass, and drinking at Tokyo live music venues is good, from the smoothest draft beer to the surprisingly ubiquitous Zima.
Photography at shows is generally discouraged, and while you won't be ram-jammed for having your iPhone out, you also won't see people paying more attention to their smartphones than the band. What you can do is smoke cigarettes, so sensitive types should consider donning the ubiquitous "surgical" face-mask.
Locals can reserve tickets online via Lawson Ticket or EPlus and pick them up at their neighborhood 7-Eleven, which is awesome. But for us live-music freaks without local permanent addresses, that's a no-go. Bummer: after all those plane-hours getting stoked about bands, I wanted some guarantee that I'd get in. Good thing I'd sent that email.
On my way to the show, I traversed the rolling avenues of Love Hotel Hill in Dogenzaka, Shibuya. Picture gaudy-ass façades, pink neon and sex advertseverywhere. As Mari had reserved my ticket, I queued up opposite the physical-tickets group, which I noticed was assembled in "waves": like 1 to 4, similar to boarding an aircraft. Outside clubasia's stage room, I noted coin-lockers lining the corridor, where one could stash gear for a 300-yen fee. The importance of these lockers became very clear to me moments later, when the show erupted.
The floor was two-thirds the size of Music Hall of Williamsburg, including elevated stage, and everyone in the first three rows was decked in TsushiMaMire merch: t-shirts, multicolored scarf-towels, buttons, that jazz. I got to know my neighbors, like this reed-thin young dude who was stoked to see TsushiMaMire for the first time, these two cute girls, and this young salaryman-type, still wearing his suit and tie. Then TsushiMaMire ripped into their set…and I found myself slam-dancing. Yes: the front-row types were the hardcore fans, throwing up heavy metal horns in unison, hollering on cue to Mari's riffs, and moshing up a frenzy.
OK, I thought, boosting up the reed-thin dude so he could crowd surf, that'swhy the coin-lockers.
Image: courtesy the author