The Heathens, a quartet I play bass in, recently performed in Japan. You are probably asking yourself one important question: “Why?”
Yes, it's true, the Heathens can't draw 15 people in the band's native region of Orange County, but we've been at this for nearly a decade (with about a seven-year gap when I wasn't in the band) and when you hit the 10-year anniversary you are allowed to do whatever you want, regardless of how financially irresponsible the idea seems.
More specifically, we went to Japan to play the 22nd Annual Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show 2013, sponsored by Mooneyes. We were offered free hotel rooms, which is pretty much all an unknown band needs to get on an 11-hour flight. Naturally, we said yes, even though the plane ticket money probably should have gone to my student loans. If that ain't rock 'n' roll, I don't know what is.
With common sense lost in the couch cushions at our Santa Ana rehearsal space, singer/guitarist Gabe Griffin, guitarist Al “Function” James, drummer Craig Waters and I boarded planes (Gabe flew separately) to Narita International Airport for four shows in Yokohama and the hope that maybe we could pick up a few more in Tokyo.
November 29, 2013
Shouldn't someone have told me tonight's show was canceled before I got on the plane? Ah, fuck it. I've been up for more than 24 hours and a bed sounds nicer than a stage. Besides, I just play bass — what do I care?
Mooneyes has me, Al and Craig in a room at the New Otani Inn while Gabe is at a nicer hotel. Fucking lead singers. That said, our room has a bathroom complete with a heated toilet seat, a bidet and the rarely-found-but-life-altering bidet spray. I just “went,” which prompted me to get on Facebook to announce, “America will never be the greatest country in the world until we get heated toilet seats and bidets in every hotel room.” Yes, I just talked about pooping on Facebook. All hail social media.
Our room has a view of a massive Ferris wheel, which we our now referring to as a “big fucking wheel” because of our Japanese friend Dice's difficulty pronouncing an “R” sound. The big fucking wheel lights up and at one point displays something way too similar to a swastika.
We went to a bar called Motown, where a shaved-headed Japanese man slangs booze and spins soul records all night. On vinyl. Dude has a collection larger than most record stores. Whatever he's spinning, he puts the cover on display so all can see. At first he was playing what I imagine Teddy Pendergrass sounds like, but soon enough we got the Temptations and James Brown. If my sole sweatshirt didn't smell like cigarettes, I might say this is the best bar I've ever been to. A Japanese girl or three would be nice too.
November 30, 2013
Al and I wandered the mall while Craig shopped at H&M. I thought I heard the theme song to the Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade on the overhead. I know this because years ago I bought that CD. Don't ask why. Anyway, we paused so I could tell Al what I thought I was hearing. And, yes, it was the Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade theme song. On the PA. At the mall. In Japan.
(If you think this is strange, consider this: I heard the song twice more over the course of the next three days.)
The mall was as quiet as a library. Except for the Pokemon store, where a sea of Japanese parents and children swarmed like the mosh pit at a Circle Jerks show. Before we left, I took a picture next to a boy outside the store. It was creepy. Perhaps I am onto something…
Show No. 1 was a Mooneyes pre-party for tomorrow's vendors. About 300 people showed up and ate free hamburgers, fried chicken and French fries. As a vegan, this did nothing for me. Luckily, there was alcohol.
Five minutes before we went on, I called an audible backstage: “I'm gonna draw out the intro to 'Rumble Riot Riot.' Craig, you come in soon. Then Al, you come in and we jam. Gabe, you wait a few minutes, really let us get the crowd warmed up and don't come in until they are ready to explode.”
Was it the Chu-Hi that caused me not to explain myself properly or was the crowd not feeling it? Probably both. Either way, my idea of an epic intro kinda/sorta flopped and instead of looking like bad-asses, we looked like dudes who didn't know what we are doing. Which, in all honestly, was partially true seeing as how this was only the third time we had played with Craig and two of those were practices in Santa Ana.
Earlier this morning, I went for a solo walk around town and bought a seven-day package of those flu masks that are oh-so-popular in Japan. Naturally, I had to wear one on stage. I came out figuring I'd get a good laugh or I would offend the locals. I got neither. So, fuck it — I'm singing “Rumble Riot Riot” through a flu mask. Deal with it.
The crowd appeared to be into the songs, but it's not so easy to tell when they are 30 feet away. Granted, if you gave me a free veggie burger and an open bar, I probably wouldn't care much for live music either.
Four songs in, I saw a guy to my left on the side of the stage. I've seen this hover before. It's the “Hey, are you almost done?” look. I pretended not to notice because I was slightly drunk and we were finally settling into our songs. We played another tune or two before the guy (his name was Steve…very good dude) got Gabe's attention. Last song it is. We end with “Teenager,” a fast one that usually ends with the repeated line, “Fuck the cops.” However, for this show, we sang, “Shige rocks.” Shige is the name of the person in charge of the event. He's also the man paying for our bidet room. So, yes, Shige rocks and I have no qualms changing the lyrics. In fact, my butthole is still so clean, I might never go back to “fuck the cops.”