We experienced a near-perfectly-coordinated Saturday when a small art exhibition I wanted to see at Takashi Murakami's gallery spaces in Nakano Broadway came into celestial alignment with the last installment of Matt's Blood Rite concert series before he returned to the States after several years in Japan, at Moonstep, just a shortish walk away from the famous pop culture shopping arcade.
Taking the bus to Nakano from where we live is the easiest and cheapest option, and I grabbed a couple of these for the ride because of the Halloween label and freebie attached
The exhibition I wanted to see was that of a long-time SF Bay area street artist called GATS, or Graffiti Against the System. Before going I read this interesting interview that explains his history and what these shamanistic bearded dudes represent, which is something like a universal image of humanity that celebrates how we're all basically the same and should probably stop fucking each others' shit up.
Murakami and his Kaikai Kiki school/company (that I was like really into at its height a decade ago) rent a number of different spaces on different floors of the Broadway, and I really want to go back because Mark Ryden is showing there right now. But anyway, this particular space is just a mural on an outer wall plus another contained within sort of a glass display case. You can't go in or anything.
Here's the main gallery. It was all totally free, too.
And that one. That red skateboard. Is totally Bart Simpson.
GATS also (read that interview and see more pics of the other exhibition it links to) uses objects found in and around the Bay to create dioramas, driftwood art, and so on.
Since Hannes used to be into skating I thought he'd enjoy this too, and he did for sure.
Oz Zingaro, yet another tiny Murakami gallery space in Nakano Broadway, was showing something totally different called the Pragmata Collection that consisted mostly of ceramic art.
It had a very sunken-Spanish-galleon-long-lost-treasures-of-Atlantis kind of feel.
Pretty postapocalyptic, right? Approved.
Right across from Oz Zingaro is this very anime-like cluster of tiny bars and snack places, but you need a key card or something to get it, so I guess it's only for curators, artists, special guests, and other people who aren't us.
Oh, and there was also a moderately terrifying old fashioned doll store that has nothing to do with anything I just talked about. o_o;
Shark fin soup
I insisted on stopping for a pic of this great pipe even though it was raining. Hannes is so patient. Leif says the stylised, splatter-painted "G" stickers might be by the Juicy Fatz guy, and I once found the guy who does the サンリオじいさん (a pun like "Sanrio-grandpa") ones online but can't now lol. Pretty confident that the snarky old merman is his doing.
Hannes and I both agree that, after Earthdom, Moonstep is probably our favourite venue, which I guess also sounds like the right logical progression. There aren't any Mars or star or galaxy ones or anything, though, in case you're wondering.
I've only been there twice, and if you remember, the last time also involved a really fantastic, drunken, multicultural, artistic experience as opposed to just another straightforward show. A lot of people, Japanese and not, showed up to both, this time because it was Matt's goodbye gig, as I mentioned. He had a going away do after that, but it was unfortunately when we were in Hiroshima.
Daigo of GO-ZEN and now of a new goregrind project he's doing with Jharrod was selling inari zushi together with his girlfriend, because, as he told me, he's "so poor".
Obviously being well aware of how that is, I was his first customer, and he was pretty adorable about setting up a trash bag and offering me tissues if I needed any (because the fried tofu exterior is always oily). Matt and Jharrod both posted this on Instagram and collected a bunch of "awww"s; these two were just like kids with a lemonade stand and plan to do more catering in the future. It reminded me of the simple, cheap, vegan Indonesian/Malay food I'd had at Moonstep 6 months before.
Interestingly, Crucem played without their keyboardist, and everyone agreed they were a lot better off that way, even though he also had all their merch and no one was sure what happened to him. I mean, he's probably okay. Right?
I enjoyed their set, but I enjoyed SSORC's even more. They play even better, more solid, old school black metal. Their front man is the hooded Crucem guitarist you can see in the foreground of the other pics.
It doesn't get much blacker. This guitarist you can see with the bloody-looking fabric hanging down was wearing an elaborate studded leather face mask and crown that made him look like one of the long-dead kings from The Lord of the Rings.
Hannes isn't really into Begräbnis, but I was pretty excited about seeing them yet again, even though they always play the same set/do the same ritual burial.
The sound wasn't the best for them at Moonstep, which they commented on afterwards, but it was still a great show.
The headliner was Funeral Sutra, who had just released a new album, and I was kind of disappointed. I can't really explain what fell flat, but I was completely unimpressed and uninterested right away, even though I'd been looking forward to their set. When I tried to put my finger on why later Jharrod offered the counterargument that the inconsistencies in their sound and the just-too-long-enough-to-be-awkward-and-kill-the-momentum-between-songs pauses actually do make them interesting, but I can't say I agree.
All said and done, though, it was a most excellent night of metal of the blackest variety.
I also noticed this series of stickers on a doorjamb next to the bar, and like, I need to know who made them. Because they're, like, adorable.
Shamelessly stole this from.. Harima I think?
The guy from Begräbnis on the right. He's super nice.
And speaking of super nice, Fumika gave me a CD when I bought their last black patch after I attempted to explain that I would've bought one but it's been a long time since I've owned a CD player. Also, the rest of the swag from earlier that day. Thank you!
It's too bad everyone got way too drunk to take the group picture I suggested at one point, but I guess it's better that we didn't bother anyway, because the air conditioner was broken (which is usually just another way to say "not on even though everyone's sweating their balls off") and the air was hot, smoke-filled, toxic, and deader than Fumika's ghostly stage presence. I didn't drink much and stopped a while before everyone else because I was so hot and sweaty and sick to my stomach from it. I don't know how anyone deals with these nasty swampy Asian climates.
A good time was had by all of the people crammed in there up to the rafters regardless, though, and I also had an unexpected chat with an artist based in Brooklyn who had spent several weeks camping out / living in the woods in Gunma prefecture while carving and sculpting a space for people to "discover themselves in" that I imagined as a sort of gazebo based on his limited description. The weird thing about him was that, at first glance, I thought he was Jordan, and then found out that he's also from Minnesota originally, so like, idk, maybe they're long-lost brothers. Coincidence?! Probably.
The next day Jharrod told me that he may have slapped his small delicate new pupper of a roommate Griffin in the face really hard, but he wasn't really sure, but he apologised profusely, and then they had deep profound talks on the balcony until 7 in the morning. If that gives you an idea of how much everyone drank that night. It was a big success for all involved (except the missing keyboardist I guess), and I really hope I get to enjoy at least one more artsy, chatty, international, homemade food-y show at this venue before leaving Tokyo.