The Heathens, the band I play bass in, went to Japan. Here is part two of my tour diary. Part three is being optioned for Hollywood as “The Hangover IV.”
December 1, 2013
Three (or four?) swigs of Suntory from Al's flask and I was ready to go. This time, I decided to leave the mask at home, although I did get an amazing picture of me wearing one in front of a large Christmas tree at the mall. If I was the type of guy to send Christmas cards, the photo after the jump would definitely be it.
Gabe opened the show by asking the crowd to move forward, which I despise because I've never once seen a professional band do this. If you are legit, people will want to be close. If you aren't, their distance is all you need to know about how little they care about you.
Except — WAIT — they actually did it! Five seconds prior, there was a 12-foot gap between me and the crowd and thanks to Gabe there was a cute Japanese girl less than six inches away. No matter what happened from this point on, I knew I owed him for this one.
There were an estimated 30,000 people at Pacifico Yokohama and about 600 of them were watching us, which was by far the largest crowd I've played to. I've heard plenty of people say how nervous they get in front of crowds — not me. It's individuals that freak me out. Whether I'm playing bass, singing karaoke or reading poetry, the more people in front of me, the better my performance. Off stage, I have zero self esteem, I stutter, I look like a nerd and I attend weekly therapy sessions to convince myself I'm not a 34-year-old fuck-up. But give me a microphone and I become James Brown, Elvis, Andy Kaufman and Chris Rock rolled into one.
Again we tried the elongated “Rumble Riot Riot” intro and again it failed. We are nothing if not consistent. “Throw Me a Rope” was next. I looked up, noticed a sea of people staring at me and without warning I became Gene Simmons, which is ironic because I hate KISS. But there I was, flailing my arms and pounding my bass like a bat-winged, fire-breathing, long-tongued, blood-dripping rock star because in that moment, I was a rock star. It was a feeling I could get used to.
Before “Rock Yokohama,” I looked around and noticed many people taking pictures and videos. I felt like that kid from One Direction — you know, the one who looks all smug and shit? That kid. I wanted to tell the crowd, “You're damn right. Take pictures cuz I'm famous.” Sadly, I am not famous. Please do not tell the Japanese that.
With so much video being taken, I decided to actually, you know, play “Rock Yokohama” rather than jump around and pound my instrument. Turns out, when I'm not hopping and making Pete Townshend windmills, I can actually play bass. Who knew?
“Oakland '67” is our power ballad, but not tonight it wasn't. Craig counted off the hi-hat intro on time, but Gabe was pushing. Hard. That's ok. The Ramones played all their songs much faster live and anything good enough for the Ramones is definitely good enough for the Heathens. Except maybe those haircuts.
The sped-up “Oakland '67” found us catching our groove. My Suntory buzz had mellowed and I was focused, which was good because “Not My Problem,” a song with a very busy bass line, was next. What idiot put all those notes in this song, anyway?
At home, the four-song mark is when crowds leave to get drinks or use the bathroom. So, when I looked up before “January,” I was expecting to see a half-empty dance floor. Instead, it appeared as if more people were watching than when we started.
Feeling like Mick Jagger on steroids, I thought now might be a good time to address the crowd. Luckily, a co-worker taught me a few Japanese sayings. But none of that boring stuff like, “How are you?” Instead, I asked the audience, “Where's the party?” and got nothing. Then I asked, “Where's the bar?” Nada. Maybe this isn't a festive crowd, I thought. Time to switch to something more congenial. Sadly, my rendition of “It's nice to meet you” belly-flopped like a Sumo onto a bed of nails.
Rather than force-feed my Japanese-speaking prowess on the audience, I decided to shut up and play. I spent the remainder of the set moving around, making moronic faces and hitting my bass as hard as possible. By the end of set closer “Teenager,” I had ripped open my wrist and my hand was cramped. Rock 'n' fucking roll.
Once I shut off the amp, I gave away a few CDs to people up front, which was probably a stupid move seeing as how they might have paid for our record. But I was riding a natural high and I wanted to repay the people for making me feel special. The Heathens' record (Splittin' Lanes, Takin' Names — available now) will last only as long as CD players are still produced (two, three more years?), but the memory I have of standing on stage and having people linger to say hi will last a lifetime.
I walked to our merch booth and the love continued. People told me how much they liked the show and for once, I didn't think it was the obligatory “great job, man” your friends have to say.
At the merch booth, fans wanted us to sign CDs and posters and to take pictures. I can't stand taking pictures, but I obliged because, I assumed, that's what celebrities do.
Once Heathensmania was over, I walked around the convention center and people stopped me. As a guy with no self esteem, being recognized for anything is a nice feeling. But being 5,000 miles from home and having a cute Japanese girl in American flag tights point and say “bass player” is exactly how I want to live the rest of my life.