Shibuya O-WestApril second was tossed back and forth many times in my trip preparations many times. I would either stay the night in Okayama and head to Tokyo Saturday Morning or board the train for Tokyo on Friday evening to get some extra time in the city. In the end, it was decided that I needed more time in Tokyo and that my friend and I would leave Okayama around 1PM and get back to Tokyo at sunset.

My motives for this was so that I could be in time to see an Analogfish show at Shibuya O-West on Friday night. It coincided perfectly since I was also supposed to meet someone at Shibuya O-Nest, which was right next door. Analogfish was on my list of bands to see, many of which weren’t crossed off the list this trip and since I had a chance to catch one of their shows I was ecstatic.

Friday morning was spent hanging out at Tower Records Okayama, sanging goodbyes to Masako who had taken me and my friend around. At 1PM we boarded a Shinkansen due for Shinagawa station. My friend and I would head to the hotel and then I would go straight to the concert.

The train ride was more than 4 hours long and the grey sky looming over the train made it feel even longer. I was tired, restless, and a bit sad since this train ride ushered in the last leg of our trip to Japan as well as a goodbye to everyone we had met again the past week. We had a fantastic view of Mt. Fuji as the train made its way to Tokyo and the sun set in the distance:

Shibuya O-West

I was tired and the train from the hotel to Shibuya was cramped. I had forgotten I would be traveling during rush hour, something I was careful to avoid during my others day in Tokyo. My fatigue and impatient were sky high and felt even more concentrated with the amount of weight pressed against me as bodies pushed me back in forth as the train came to a stop at each station. Even after I exited Shibuya station the crowd didn’t let up until I had walked for a good 5 minutes in the direction I remember seeing Shibuya O-West in Google maps.

As I neared the venue, I could see many people outside eagerly awaiting shows at the other Shibuya O- venues or the nearby duo music exchange. I found O-West on the right, grabbed my ticket, and entered the club. Tonight was a two-man show, Analogfish and Tomovsky, and when the girl at the door asked what band I came to see, I proudly said the former and saw her place my ticket into Analog Fish’s box.

O-west was the largest venue I had been to in Japan so far. I wasn’t early, so a lot of people had already gathered in the club. The place was about twice the size of a lot of places I had been to, the stage was raised higher above the audience, and it was harder to get closer to the front. I found my place in a nice spot on the left side and waited until the lights dimmed.

Though unbeknownst to me at the time, Analogfish’s “Now” started playing on the PA system. The song’s refrain repeated over and over as the crowd waited in anticipation. Silence. Then, just as the band came in on the track, Analogfish started jamming on stage. It was a really powerful intro track, despite the repetitive lyrics, and was followed by their single, “Speed”.

On stage, Analogfish didn’t disappoint. Bassist Kentaro was the most energetic member of the group bouncing around the stage with his bass and when not doing so putting his all into singing his heart out on the microphone. By the time the setlist was done, his shirt was soaked in sweat. A support keyboardist joined the band on the left side of the stage where I was, adding an extra layer of sound to the otherwise usual lineup of guitar, bass, and drums. As a drummer myself, I was especially impressed by Shuchiro’s drumming for the band that night. His style was still subtle, but he had all these little patterns and fills he put in there that were just brilliant. Analogfish’s drumming has never been boring, but that night I was sure that Shuchiro had definitely improved his drumming, or else his drumming on their records was just not a great representation. Akira, on bass and vocals, was the centerpiece of the band, singing lead on most tracks. His vocals are a bit flat, but when Akira and Kentaro can get some really good harmonies going when joined together on vocals.

The band played a couple tracks from their new album, “Life is Harmony”(Now, Life goes on, Hello Goodbye) as well as some old favorites(Anthem, Speed, town). I didn’t get to hear my favorites “magic” or “Living in the City”, but I was pretty content with the songs they played. I would have liked to see them at a smaller venue as well but it was fantastic getting to see them this night, so I didn’t complain.

I grabbed a bottle of water while waiting for Tomovsky to come on. I really didn’t know what to expect from this guy. I had heard good things about him on the internet and I had listened to his best album before but his music never grew on me. That, and his discography is immense, so finding a good starting point was difficult. I knew he was a veteran in the music scene so, instead of ditching the live early, I ended up staying.

When Tomovsky and the band came up on stage I realized that no one was really here for Analogfish. The crowd was twice as energetic as they had been for them, but Tomovsky was different. He was a comedian and was always getting the crowd into manic laughter before and after his songs. His music took on a whole new character on stage too, sounding a lot more powerful and less mellow then the recordings I remember hearing from him. His music was of course not bad too, some really catchy stuff in there, and on stage the guy really worked up a sweat giving it his all in his singing. It was a pretty fantastic performance but like previous nights I was running on little sleep and hunger pangs plagued me, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have. Not to mention it was my first time hearing a lot of his material. I was glad to see him live though, because I’m sure I would never have given his music a second listen otherwise.

I left the live to meet a friend at O-nest, where Cokehead Hipsters and Coverhead Hipsters were holding a sort of “one-man” live that night. After hanging out at O-nest I high-tailed it back to my hotel. This time, as I came out onto the main road from O-nest, I decided to go the route that I had seen in Cosmic Airplane’s directions on youtube. I passed by this illuminated garden of crystals on the way into the station. The walk was long but since it was in a building connected to the station I didn’t have to endure the cold outside, the mob of people on the streets, and the weird people who would try to get me to go in their stores. Maybe it was even peaceful.

This was my last concert in Tokyo and probably the last Japanese bands I would see live for a long time but somehow, I didn’t look at it that way for a long time. By now I was so accustomed to seeing concerts that I felt that tomorrow would be another one and next week yet another concert to attend. It was hard to believe that in the next few days I would be back at home, wishing to be engulfed in smoke, for the smell of beer, and some fantastic music in a live house somewhere in Tokyo for one more night.

~hideki~