4 years on from the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, and as my recent blog on Ishinomaki highlighted, there is still a lot of support and development required in the town, and many other tsunami-stricken areas of Tohoku region. While the Japanese government is investing in other economic stimulation projects, it has seemingly lost some focus on what should still be a top-priority issue – the social, economic and developmental support that Tohoku requires. As Prime Minister Abe and Co. lick their lips at the prospect of the 2020 Olympic Games, the machine that sucks extra taxes out of the locals, yet provides financial gain and entertainment for the corporate/political elite and very few else, residents and businesses in towns like Ishinomaki remain displaced, with families and business owners living/working in temporary structures that should have been long vacated.
Charity campaigners are still out on the streets of Tokyo, collecting money the stricken population of the region; for cats of Fukushima; ownerless pets of Tohoku… My band, The Cinders, believe that if the area is to move on and see a future of prosperity and happiness, priority needs to be given to the children, offering hope and the opportunity to progress successfully in life after such a harsh start. For this reason, we decided to host a music event with the aim of raising funds for the Ishinomaki Town Academic Fund for Orphans.
It was the first time for us to host such an event – our first aim to secure a live venue for a Saturday night as close as possible to the anniversary date of March 11th. Thankfully, an art and live space by the name of Gamuso Chroma, just 10 minute’s train ride from Shinjuku, was obliging enough to allow us to hold our event for free. This was a huge relief, considering that most live venues will allow only 5 bands to play in an evening, each paying up to 30,000 for 30 minutes of stage time!
Next was the task of finding a number of bands willing to join us for the evening. Having been on the fringes of the Tokyo music scene for a couple of years now, as a spectator or performer, I was able to find a range of bands that would hopefully make the evening a memorable one. Hearteningly, of the 8 acts that the proposal was put to, 6 agreed enthusiastically to take part. Then came to inevitable wave of questions – how many amps? what brand and serial numbers? the intricacies of the PA system? could we provide for a VJ? how many mics? what keyboard was available? could equipment be brought by car to the venue entrance? any chance of an avant-garde dancer being able to perform…?
Surprisingly though, it wasn’t too much of a challenge to satisfy the artists’ thirst for minutae. Oh, but then came the request from the venue manager – no use of wooden drumsticks, but instead, special noise-reduction sticks that help maintain the balance of sound being produced. Surely this would cause some disquiet among our rock bands, but no, not one squeak of dissent. After all, I presumed, we were playing for free, and the real important focus was to get donations flowing into the children’s fund. I believe everyone was equally attuned to our aim.
Next up, some marketing. Our bassist, Justin, got to work on placing ads in Tokyo’s most widely-distributed English-language magazine, Metropolis (metropolis japan.com). I similarly found some Tokyo-based social/music event websites to post on and the rest was down to word of Facebook mouth, and relying on our musical guests to invite their friends and family.
And so to the morning of the event. Even though each band would only be performing for 30 minutes each, they of course needed to rehearse, set up their equipment and have their volumes, reverbs, distortion levels and microphones adjusted accordingly. After 4 hours of greeting musicians, putting up posters, rearranging amps and microphones, chairs and tables; connecting, disconnecting and unravelling twisted cables (subsequently inducing occasional cable rage!) and trying to breathe amongst the haze of cigarette smoke (it seems that Japanese musicians can only breathe if nicotine intake is high), we were finally ready to plug in and play.
There was, however, always the lingering fear that nobody would come to watch, which grew ever stronger as we approached the start of the opening band’s set. To great relief, people started pouring through the doors at 6pm, and I am thrilled to say that after a night of folk guitar, nineties and noughties cover versions, Japanese indie rock, 80’s US rock covers, Japan female punk pop, UK indie rock originals, Stevie Wonder and Queen covers on piano, and Melodic UK folk rock, that we managed to raise 82,000yen for charity. New friends had been made, music and laughter had been shared, and we had managed to do our little bit to support the ongoing struggles in Tohoku.
For those interested in hearing some of the great indie acts that participated, please check out their music by clicking on the following links:
The Cinders (UK/Japanese Indie Rock):
theaterbootlegs (Japanese Punk Pop):
The Watanabes (UK indie folk/pop/rock):
Ruber Rosa (US Rock Covers):
mcrana galle (Japanese piano soloist, Queen, Stevie Wonder covers):
Barely Regal (UK/US Rock covers):
Losing My Silent Doors (Japanese Indie Rock):