Saturday, November 26, 2016

Weekend (11.3 - 11.6): Grindfest 2016 and the Van Gogh-Gaugin Blackout

We had a random sandwich day -「文化の日」- a few Thursdays ago, and Jharrod declared that it would be "the best Culture Day ever", because he and Aaron and Jorge and Meika were going to be at Grindfest representing Kaala, selling craft beer and advertising a couple of other upcoming events (Death Metal Death Match and Rage Against Fascism).

Grindfest is held at a venue called Trinity B3, a small skate park and shop inside a warehouse in far northeastern Tokyo. For how obscure it sounded to us at first, it's actually closer to where we live and easier to get to than a pretty hefty portion of the rest of the city.

Here's the obligatory slap pole outside Ukimafunado Station

And here's what the large, lovely park there looks like, just as the leaves were starting to turn.

I was super excited to stumble upon this manhole cover, like some long-forgotten hunk of treasure or something, only to realise that it looked familiar because the ones in Hikarigaoka Park are the same. So, fuck. Oh well.

The "skate park" was easy to find because of all the people standing around in front and the occasional conspiciously-dressed people gravitating toward it from the station area. It was pretty warm and, having gotten there early, dragging several dozen cans of beer, Jharrod and Meika were especially toasty manning their table while facing the sun. Hannes and I got there a bit late and we both felt kind of blurfy, so we also ended up leaving fairly early.  

One of the bands we did see, luckily, was Carnation, a Belgian death metal outfit doing a mini tour in and visiting Japan for the first time. We ended up talking to their bassist Yarne for a while and he was super nice. Jonathan, one of the guitarists, also looks a lot like my first boyfriend, who also had long hair and played in a metal band, so that was pretty weird.

They seemed amazed by the fact that shows in Tokyo cost as much as one- or two-day festival tickets to see metric fucktons of bands in Europe and that, even charging so much and with very good turnouts, the promoters and venues never even seem to break even. 
We were like, "tell us about it". 

Pretty good, right? 

In addition to making inari-zushi and chicken curry to sell again, Daigo and his girlfriend brought these random free airplane bottles of tequila to get rid of "because it tastes really bad" lol.

The Vespera guy showed up to sell falafel, and everyone rejoiced and formed an extremely long line to have some! I hope everyone selling food and drink made money that day.

Went ahead and took a picture of these shirts because they were so outrageous

Interestingly, Cristophe Szpajdel, a professional calligrapher who now lives in Exeter and is known as the Lord of Logos, was also there, promoting his solo exhibition at Gallery HHH that I was genuinely interested in and considered going to, but didn't. 
You should really click on that first link and read about him, because the long and admittedly awkward chat ("What did you say I am? Very 'particular'?" "Yes, trust me, that's exactly the word you want.") we had centered almost exclusively around his down-to-a-science-but-difficult-and-bordering-on-compulsive working style, which includes but is not limited to charging $100 per logo straight up and not responding to e-mails or doing anything online at all unless he's sat down at a desktop PC and actively decided to do work stuff. Apparently people delete him and snub him on a regular basis for not responding to their messages more quickly, but he's like, alrighty, you can fuck off, don't care, I have a whole bunch of other people waiting and willing to be more patient.

You might be thinking, "Okay, random", just as I was, until he started telling me about when he first met Emperor when they were about 14 years old ("just children"), and how designing their logo in 1991 launched his career. Oh, shit. He's really legit.

I asked which logo was his favourite, which of his works he was most proud of, and his response was the one he did for Wolves in the Throne Room, because he especially digs their ethereal, ambient, "cult of nature" vibe or concept. Badass.

There was this episode in the middle of our conversation when we decided to finally get some falafel, since everyone else and their mother had already had some and the line wasn't impossibly long anymore, and I asked Daigo for one of his curry bowls so I could request all of the falafel items minus the pita bread. Special orders, as anyone who has spent any length of time in East Asia knows, do not usually go down very well in these parts, so I was really pleased when it didn't seem to be an issue.
But then Cristophe was like, "I'll have mine like that too".
I was like, "Er, are you also allergic to bread?" and he was like, "No, I just want it like that".
So I had to apologise and communicate a second special order, this time with blank stares twice as long. Like I said: just a little bit awkward. Pretty nice guy, though.

(A pic of him at the HHH Gallery exhibition from his Instagram, which is managed entirely by someone else)

Since Culture Day was a sandwich day we all went back to work Friday, but I had a class and an appointment not far from each other on the other side of town and with a gap inbetween, so I decided to walk around Shimbashi, the halfway point. I'd never been over there before and decided I wanted to see the Ghibli clock and some other stuff.

This time I did find a new one!
Or, okay, it's not completely new, but the square shape is!

I stopped at the Tamiya Plamodel Factory, which I guess is famous for what it is, but wasn't that great. Pretty pricey too, considering you also have to buy the paint.

The huge animated clock, though, designed by none other than Hayao Miyazaki, was totally worth seeing as it struck 3 P.M. (in this particular case). It's the largest animated clock in the world and is delightfully whimsical and steampunk at the same time, reminding many people of Howl's Moving Castle, which Studio Ghibli did a wonderful job of adapting from the book, unlike whatever the fuck it is they did with Tales From Earthsea. There are videos of it all over the Interwebs, but this one here is mine. Before leaving Tokyo I want to take Hannes to see it at night, because that looks even more magical, if you can believe it.

Finally, on Sunday, there was a group of people - one or two of which Rejon had met before, but most of whom we didn't know at all - meeting at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in an effort to assemble a gaggle large enough to get a discount on admission. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing, but once I found out both NiQui and Rejon were going, I rushed out there, too. I'd never been to Ueno Park or any of the several museums and other attractions it houses, and there was the added bonus of the event being ordained a "blackout", where everyone was encouraged to wear all black and basically be as artsy fartsy as possible. Yaaassss.

As Hannes said, "Wow, you all really look like you just escaped from art school".

I thought I was the last person there, after rushing to get dressed and everything, but the event organiser on the far left there was a solid two hours late, as was the really nice chick in the middle next to NiQui. Don't ask me why we waited. He was also hilarious and fun, as you can probably guess from his delightfully diva-licious pose, but that's a hell of a long time to wait for anyone, especially when you were planning on being home at like 5 and didn't even know any of the people.

We stood around and chatted and waited in the extremely long Starbucks line for coffee (because holy shit, I can afford that trash right now) when we realised there were no vending machines or anything around, and we finally made it into the crowded, multi-level exhibition, an astonishing 11 people short of what was required to get a discount. But we were stylish as fuck and knew pretty early on that 20 people weren't going to show up anyway and didn't care.

The exhibition focused on the relationship between Van Gogh and Gaugin, as, it claimed, no other in Japan had ever done before. There were also various other impressionistic and post-impressionistic works on display in the.. I think it was four floors? of the satisfyingly large gallery, including a number of Monets, but the Van Goghs were by far the most vibrant and interesting. I don't think I'd ever seen any in person before, and unless I'm forgetting a couple inbetween, I think it'd been about 14 years since I'd seen any Monet up close.

Some of the more memorable and famous Van Goghs on display were:

(Self Portrait With Pipe, 1886)

(Self Portrait, 1888, a.k.a. "I look totally bitchin' and not wonky or goofy at all in this hat")

(Portrait of the postman Joseph Roulin and his fabulous beard, 1889)

The gift shop at the end contained a number of unique gems that were equally memorable, as superficial and vacuous as that probably sounds, including Pom-Pom Purin (a dog character that looks like flan) versions of Van Gogh and Gaugin that were almost insufferably cute, and moisturising Van Gogh face masks. 

I almost got one so I could dress up as Hannes, but he later said that would have been terrifying and it was better that I didn't. They were flying off the shelves, though, and I definitely want to make Hannes into this handsome mofo next Halloween.

After having gone through the exhibit our group split up at the edge of the park, because we all wanted to get something to eat but Japanese food is not Courtney-friendly.

Rejon found a 100% vegetarian South Indian restaurant around the corner from Okachimachi station, and we browsed a bead and gem store next to it for about 15 minutes as we waited for it to open for dinner. Speaking repeatedly of gems, this place is also one, and I really want to go back. 
You might remember my mentioning that I have money again, for the time being?
Well, we feasted like lords.

The starter was this delightful cinnamonny tomato soup with creamy, almost cheese-like fried tofu and papad.

NiQui got a samosa and I ordered medu vada, feeling extravagant as I mentioned and thinking they looked intriguing. They're these unusual savoury "doughnuts", very substantial and filling. The white stuff is a coconut sauce and I thought the other thing was going to be sauce too, but as it turned out, it was extremely spicy soup.

Would recommend these, but maybe not the soup. 
We almost couldn't finish it because it was so hot.

And then, boom! Glorious!

We got rice with dried fruits, nuts and veggies in it, Rejon got a spinach naan, and all of our curries were totally unexpected, interesting, and new. Mine was bitter and tangy like lemongrass and yogurt, but I'm not sure it even contained either of those things. There are a lot of vegan items on the menu, too; not all of the curries contain dairy. And the other people eating there were Indian, so we were pretty pleased with the legitimacy of our choice and left totally stuffed and ready for bed.

10/10 would re-recommend everything I just recommended.

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