It’s the start of the last week and we have just flown over the coast of Japan for the final shows of this trip. It’s been epic. Are we sick of it,? No. But are with sated with our lot? Yeah, we think so. It’s been incredible.
The week began in Seoul: two shows in the city and one at a festival on the island of Ganghwa.
The first show was a single bill performance, just us at the Hapjeong space of Mudaeruk, a two levelled cafe/exhibition/perfomance space that’s receptive to the more adventurous musicians around Seoul. It’s a small but super enthusiastic audience and feels like playing at party for friends. Kona, the venue proprietor, is very welcoming and offering us food and drink. She also invites us to taste-test her prototype kimchi fried rice. We think it works.
Something that has been really interesting to observe on this trip has been the frequency of connections women in the audience have made with Chrissie after the performances. During a show we witnessed their intense and attentive concentration on what Chrissie was doing and as soon as a show finished Chrissie would end up in big conversations as women asked questions and shared their own stories and aspirations.
Next up is a return to the Strange Fruits Seoul. We have played here before and had a great time and were very happy to return. It’s a four act evening. First up is Wifi Cellphone Kidz, a two-piece playing frantic and joyous pop music with rapid rapping over beats. 2nd is Maluihan. Beautiful melodic and expressive drumming with supports and communicates with the guitarist/singer. The songs are interesting, a brooding rock feel but composed using a local musical dialect that is particular to the singer’s cultural heritage. It’s an enthralling amalgamation. Next up GoryMurgy playing manic and frenetic tunes, high energy and antics and definitely uplifting. We round off the night and were entertained by the best interpretive dancing to our songs. Energy makes energy and one compels the other along. Following the show we go a few shops up the road, then down the stairs to complete the evening consuming kimchi and squash pancakes while downing copious quantities of the local alcohol and chewing over local politics.
A day off. Mostly we just crash. We’re both courting head colds and grumbly guts and the lack of sleep is taking its toll. Thankfully the schedule has room for a day like this.
After a large injection of sleep, we pile into our friend Ian-John’s car and make the two-hour trip up the road to the island of Gangwha to play at the Remember Love Camp Festival. The festival is located at a isolated location in the hills. It’s an annual festival, free to attend, promoted only by word-of-mouth and has a reputation for partying all night. It’s wide, all embracing line up of 40 acts of singer/songwriters, electronica, DJs, rock bands , noisy improv and bands playing well known classic Korea psychedelic songs. We play mid-evening and the party goes boom! A high dance party from kids to grand parents. It’s the first time we have ever had anyone breakdancing and twerking in the front row. Joyous!
Our friend Kaori from Tokyo is also playing. Her set is programmed as the last band before the DJ’s start. We spend the evening talking and drinking, watching the other acts and discussing the Tokyo leg of the tour. Kaori is the organiser of the Tokyo leg, produced a short split cd with us and her band Goofy18 will play with us on our last show. The evening rolls on. Staying awake seems less of a conscious choice and eyelids droop. Many are now sleeping in tents, we are in a hall sleeping on the stone floor. At 2 a.m we give in and get some sleep. Kaori is already there asleep. At 4am, we wake to the sound of Kaori’s roaring bass lines from the stage. We peel ourselves off the floor and head back to the field. And there is Kaori, lights, volume, dance moves, massive voice giving it her all prerecorded backing tracks. She rocks the small and engaged audience and we are totally impressed. It’s super exciting to see someone perform with such commitment and focus with so little sleep. It leaves us totally inspired! Such a powerhouse!
Returning to bed around 5 we rise soon after at 8am, and begin the journey back to Seoul to catch our outbound flight to Tokyo. In our heads, the journey will be a short one. The reality is less kind and we arrive at our accommodation just after 10pm.
To mark the beginning of these last three shows of the tour in Tokyo, we sit outside the Nakano backpackers, a cheap beer from the 7 Eleven across the road in our hands. This is the last week. The culmination of 14 months of preparation, planning, introductions, conversations, budgeting, problem-solving transport and connections. The city seems to breathe out with us. The sky flashes and roars, first with lightening then with thunder. There are intermittent-rising sirens of ambulances, or other emergency vehicles nearby. Slowly moisture tickles the skin and turns phone screens into prisms of rainbows. The flashes overhead continue. It’s humid and brooding. It’s quite lovely.
It’s great to return to Tokyo with a sense of familiarity. We reconnect with Kaori in Nakano, and catch a train to the first show at Club Doctor in Ogikubo. Four bands play, and it’s really nice to be in an environment where most of the performers are women. Two of the bands are new to us, the first called Height and the second named Channeling!!.
The final group is NA/DA. We played with them last time. In this cosy venue where the proximity of bands to audience is nearly nonexistent, their intimate performance captures the crowd.
One key feature of shows here is their early starts. It’s not unusual for a concert to begin at 6.30 and be finished by 10.30-11ish. Practical reasons influence timing. The need to catch a train home to some corner of this massive city.
Next day we meet with Kaori who wants to take us to Shinjuku, to the music shop that is carrying the split CD. It one shop in a seven floor building that is only music shops! One floor is avant-garde, another prog rock and another metal. So much music to thumb through! After that we gather our gear and head back to Nakano to Bar Aja for the second gig.
It’s our second time at Aja, and this is our penultimate show. A tiny venue in which 20 people would be a full house. The stage/music equipment area is greater than the audience floor space. So needless to say its a close, intimate and very friendly show in which all bands have two members only. Really nice as well to once again get to play with 5W1H.
The final day dawns and holds the final show. Today mirrors our last trip to Tokyo in which we play the pro-space of JAM in Nishiefuku. The line up is monster! Finally we get to see Kaori in Goofy 18, this time with a new drummer. Next is the mega awesome Electric Mongoose UFO Factory. Two kit drummers, a percussionist a tap-dancer plus bass, guitar and keys and sounds. A massive and impressive set, fantastic compositions, executed with significant skill.
HAIGAN the monster harsh noise/rock group came third. A new drummer gave the set a more of a rock feel rather than metal sound. Bombastic from the outset it is an unrelenting cascade of wall on wall of noise. 13 minutes into their set, one of the main singers, who at this point had been out in the audience writhing around, suddenly stops and appears distressed. Somehow in the swirl she has dislocated her right shoulder. The show pauses and rescue services swiftly arrive, from the Fire Department, and escort her to hospital.
The Devil and Libido explode onto stage refocusing the show after the previous singers public and painful experience. A duo of bass and drums playing complex hard rock tunes have the task of drawing folk back in. Mission accomplished.
Our turn arrives. Our full stop. It is a big, full sound on this impressive rig. The lights sparkle and all those still present are right there with us, 25 minutes of explosion and then its over! We loved that this was the show to finish on, that these people were here, that we felt among friends. We feel satisfied with our lot.
Farewells scatter out, some at the venue, and then others in ones and twos as people who travel back with us by train leave at different stations. We are left on our own at Nakano around midnight. Weary, but sated, we walk back to the backpackers with our gear. Our final navigation will be in a few hours first to the airport, then across airspace, and finally around the bays of our neighbourhood to our small home on a hill at the edge of our small city.
It’s over, and we’re back home in long sleeves and pants sitting by the fire. It sounds grandiose to say the last 12 weeks have been extraordinary, but it would be dishonest to call them anything else. We are left with some small artefacts collected along the way and a lot of photos. But most precious are the endearing memories of shared experiences of conversation, food, fluids and music. We are inspired by the energy and actions of many in their own environments working to make something happen, sometimes out of nothing. Everybody who has helped out and participated in any way, our deepest thanks and appreciation to you.
If you’re ever in Aotearoa New Zealand, hit us up!