A few months before leaving to Japan I started to compile a list of concerts I would be interested in. The list slowly populated itself as the day of my departure drew near. Bands updated their web pages with new tour dates and live house’s posted their monthly schedule of gigs. In weeks time the list went from being one show each day to some days having around 3 possible gigs to attend all around the Tokyo area and in between. My final decisions were hard to make but I ended up not regretting my choices at all, as tough as they had been to make. However, amidst the mess of the computer based text document and calendar on my wall there was one date that remained unchanged for the entire ordeal, bearing simply this name and venue: 3/27 Winnie @Shimokitazawa Shelter.

I wouldn’t call myself a dedicated, die hard fan of winnie, but compared to the other artists I was slated to see in Japan I was more familiar with winnie’s music. The band didn’t have a huge catalog of Best Of’s, B-sides on 3 inch singles, and ridiculously rare, indies-era demo cd’s. Instead, winnie proudly released their first full-length albuma few months before I was in Japan and had a few EPs under their belt. It wasn’t very hard to familiarize myself with more of their material prior to watching the concert, which was a relief.

Already familiar with the streets outside Shimokitazawa’s South exit, I walked briskly on the narrow sidewalk and made my way along the streets drawn on my map. A line had already formed outside the club and people were lining up. I was so glad the band had made their ticket available for reservation through their home page(which I stalked for a couple of weeks straight, praying the tickets wouldn’t sell out immediately). I stayed in the back of the line as I watched the people in front disappear into the basement of Shelter as an attendant called out their ticket numbers. As I neared the entrance I gasped at what I saw(and was even more thankful I was able to reserve my ticket early):

Iori from winnie pointing at the Sold Out sign outside of ShelterSince the show had sold out I was sure the club was going to be a tight fit. As I got in I made sure to secure myself a spot as soon as I could and made my way towards the dead center, not too far from the front. As the lights dimmed I noticed that the people were even standing on the stairs to the right to get a better glimpse of the concert.

As soon as winnie got on stage they started with their opening number, “who’s dreaming deep” and transitioned into one of my favorites, “brightness”. Throughout the set they played a mixed bag of songs from their first indies EP(“Ruby red tail”, “everlasting girl”) to their latest album(“grace in december”, “end over end”) and everything in between(“celebration lays on me”, “starlike stereo”). Winnie usually plays small sets of less than 10 songs, so being able to here a lot of these songs live was great considering some don’t usually get played at their usual shows. The polka dot Flying-V guitar from the music video for “winner” even made an appearance for a few songs(winner obviously included) delivered by the Demon God himself(who I think winnie’s blog mentioned was just a member of the band Tribal Chair). After the amazing set, they played an encore of two song, included one of my favorites off their “The Darkest Eternal Lights” EP, “suck my brain”.

When the concert was over, I had a good opportunity to take a picture of winnie’s stage setup:

The stage covered in the band's white polka dotsThe signature “Shimokitaza Shelter” sign was replaced by a polka dotted banner, the bass drum had white polka dots too, and a specially made box of some sort lay on the stage. Not to mention that everyone in audience either had a winnie shirt or towel on them, a jacket or shirt with a polka dot pattern, or both. Of course, yours truly ended up finding a polka dot jacket two days after this concert, so I probably didn’t look very dedicated.

I grabbed a soda at the bar with my drink ticket while waiting for the line to disperse for the goods table and a chance to see the band.  I grabbed a shirt, pins, and one of their sold-out CD’s after the line got shorter. I met some guys who spoke English as I was lining up to get in and one of them introduced me to a girl standing towards the back. She was from Hokkaido and came to see winnie with the guitarist from Starboard, a band I’ve heard of but was not quite into. After chatting with her for awhile The entire band came out onto the floor people flooded them with requests to sign CD’s. I left the club with the friends I made and we grabbed a quick bite to eat before heading back on the train. We each would have to leave our separate ways eventually, but thankfully some of them were headed in my direction. I didn’t want to get on the wrong train like I did the previous night.

Myself and winnie after the showWinnie wasn’t a “live” band like Karen had been for me the night before. There wasn’t a lot lost in winnie’s recordings but that was perfectly fine. Iori’s vocals sounded great live and the dual vocals in “starlike stereo” and “who’s dreaming deep” with guitarist Okuji were perfectly executed. It’s not that winnie isn’t a “live” band, their brand of music is just great live and recorded.
They also had every right to put on a fantastic performance: this was what I believe is their first One Man Show(or from what I heard later, but can’t confirm, the first in a very long time).

At the end of the night I was glad I came to the winnie concert and even more happy that I was able to meet people who shared the same interests as me. I thought of something I read once about going to concerts in Japan, something like “Don’t be shy to talk to someone next to you when you’re at a concert. Besides, you two both came to the venue to listen to good music, so you at least share that one thing in common”. Even if I wasn’t too sure about it when I left, I guess there are people out there who don’t mind chatting with a guy who speaks horrible Japanese and is from a island half of their friends have been to on vacation.

~hideki~