Sometimes finding a place to play in a new city one has never been to before requires a little more than just an Internet search or randomly wandering the streets. Last night before I set out to randomly wander the streets of Osaka, where I have never been before and where I found no open mics or jams on my Internet search, I decided to contact a friend of mine whom I know in Paris and who frequently plays in Japan. It turned out that this friend, who calls himself LadiesDi, is actually right now doing his tour of Japan clubs. He was unavailable on Facebook or anywhere else – I still haven’t heard from him! – but I noticed the name on his site of an intriguing looking venue in Osaka where he played last week.
So it was that I decided to set out in search of the Club Mercury and see if it was possible for me to play there. Located near the Hard Rock Cafe, I thought I had that landmark to use as a guiding point in a culture where I find it extremely difficult to navigate. But I am getting better and better after several visits to Japan, and this trip has been my biggest breakthrough so far in terms of understanding signs and streets and other cultural marks.
So to my complete and utter shock and surprise and a sense of pride, I arrived directly at the Club Mercury, making no big errors as I went. At the door I found there was a 20-euro cover charge, but some very nice people who did all they could to understand what I was looking for. I asked them if I could play music there, and they said that there was already another band. They then inquired within and said I should come back later if I wanted to play.
So I went across the street and had a sumptuous pizza with cream sauce instead of tomato sauce, and then I returned to the Club Mercury, and went in to find that the show had ended for the evening, but that the owner manager was aware of my desire to play. He asked me what date I was free, and I told him I was leaving Japan on Wednesday.
“Do you have a guitar now?”
I said I did, and he invited me on the stage to play. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. The place had around 25 people there to listen, the stage was sizable and very cool, this kind of bauhausian feel to it, and complete with spotlights, a curtain and a great monitor system. The room was very small, and on the curtain in front of the stage when there was no performance, old movies are projected.
I played a few songs with all spectators listening quietly, and applauding with warm appreciation. I spoke to most of them afterwards, while I ate the noodle soup I had been offered in gratitude and payment for my set. In short, it was all very bloody amazing!!!
I was also told, by the way, that Osaka is full of such neat music venues, hidden, off the main roads, in basements, in places you would never find them if you didn’t know. The Club Mercury has existed for eight years. It has a regular stream of local bands and musicians playing there, and is well worth the visit for the cool atmosphere and people alone.
After I left, I decided to flex my new found navigational muscles and dared myself to walk all the way across town back to my hotel rather than take a subway train. Along the way I met a young band, called The LaQ, sitting in the covered mews thing that traverses the center of town. They gave me their CD, which I have not been able to play yet, as I have no CD player in my hotel or on my computer. I put the CD with that of one of the musicians I met at the Club Mercury, called Side Slow, and I look forward to listening.
As I neared my hotel, I passed a bar and some people within saw that I had a guitar and gestured me to come in and play. There was nothing going on musically, but it looked like a fun group of people in a small, comfortable, corner neighborhood bar. So I went in, played a song and took a beer.
That was the beginning of a long end to the evening playing music myself in the bar, and listening to one of the other people at the bar, a guitarist named Gil, whom I have recorded on video here, which makes up partially for the lack of videos from the Club Mercury, aside from the panoramic. But I truly regret not having heard any of the music from the other musicians at the Club Mercury, and I should never have gone for the pizza – except it was great.
Talk about a great start to two nights in Osaka!