warning: this blog post was written under the influence of innumerable bottles of sake and the new beck album, which kicks ass.
I really dug Hamamatsu. The city didn't feel like Japan, it had this gritty world weary feel that transcended the provinciality that infects the Japanese archipeligo as far as Tokyo, where you get straight laced bartenders decked out in several hundred dollars worth of fashion, pouring out cocktails with a stone face to the Tokyo hordes, breaking down into pantomime English and Punch-and-Judy gestures once a white face walks in the door. Hamamatsu houses the largest Brazilian population in Japan, mostly factory families where dad does a twelve hour shift at the Honda plant doing quality control on brake pads. South of the station in Hamamatsu is Brazilian neighborhoods, groceries, and all night clubs where they dance with the desperation of graveryard shift workers on their one night off. Yamaha cranks out guitars, amps and pianos, flooding local music stores with some of the largest and cheapest stocks of musical equipment in the world. It was there I picked up an petite 80 watt bass amp that has served as my stereo (mono?) system for several years. What with all the moving around in the past few months, the amp got dropped off with a documentary filmmaker friend who teaches English to pay the bills.
My Indian chef next door neighbor has been taunting me with late night Bollywood rock outs, tugging at my soul to get a proper stereo outside of my headphones, something that can fill the room with Mahler while I cut vegetables. My friend had moved himself and my amp from the hardcore boondocks of Western Saitama to Shimokitazawa, which is just about the hippest neighborhood going in Tokyo, it is what Tribeca was about seven years ago, all caffeinated artists living on part time jobs and pure style. We rendevoused up at the grimy, gangstery, and decidedly unhip Ikebekuro district in Tokyo tonight, him passing off that heavy bastard of a box off to me before we stopped off at a traditional bar for a few drinks.
I truly love this guy, he's another Japan long termer, rounding out his fifth year, suffers through an English teaching job while shooting his two documentaries on Japanese hip-hop and the whole Japanese ex-pat experience. He has been there for last call at just about every dive in west Tokyo, has had his heart broken several times here, and has just about the most wicked sense of humor I've encountered on the archipeligo. Drinks were on me tonight to pay back for the few months of free storage. We knocked back a few bottles of regional sakes while a party of two thirty-ish aged couples next to us went from happy-drunk to rolling-on-the-tatami ecstasy with the help of some of Akita's finest.
The conversation is between him and me (you nosy bastards), I'm only writing to tell you about the pure pleasure I received from a few hours of good conversation and good sake. I tend to be a straight out and out beer guy, but something about the freaky warm t-shirt weather today with yellow clouds of spring pollen floating by parched my throat to the degree that only a good dry sake can relieve. What can I say, I'm a sophisticated motherfucking drinker. Don't even get me started on that food exhibition with all the free Belgian beer I went to last month.
I told you not to ask.
Anyway, it was another late night train ride back to Saitama, lugging a cardboard boxed amp back through your standard late night party people. I haven't bought an album in months, but the new Beck CD is being blasted out of every nook and cranny of the hip end of Tokyo, and after ten minutes on a listening station at a record store I broke down and bought the damn thing.
It makes my knees weak.
I grew up with this guy, and after the weak showing on the last two discs I'd given up on him, figured him as just another one of life's dissapointments, my generation's Lennon (or was that Andre 3000?) lost in the wasteland of fading pop stardom. But fuck me if this guy hasn't crafted another album of flawless late night anthems and 21st century blues tunes that he frankensteined out of every pop song you ever vaguely liked. Rebirth is possible. We live a dozen lives.
He made pulling a bulky ass bass practice amp through late night Tokyo rush hour just about the coolest experience on the planet, so much that I sung out in a raspy hay fever voice in spite of myself, just another wacked out gaijin on the last train out from Tokyo.