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The Opposite of A Laid Back Night at the Plastic Factory in Nagoya – and NOT to Have Been Missed!

October 9, 2016

plastic factory night club in Nagoya, Japan

plastic factory night club in Nagoya, Japan

NAGOYA, Japan – And then came one of those dream nights as I love them: A combination of a fabulous stage, a fabulous sound system, a fabulous crowd, a bunch of fabulous “other” musicians, and lots of fabulous people to talk to! That describes in a (fabulous) nutshell the evening I spent at the Plastic Factory last night in Nagoya. Any regular readers of this blog will know that I have been going to the Plastic Factory annually for a few years now, but I have to say I think that was one of the top two times I spent at this very cool, in-place in Imaike, owned and run by the fabulous Heinz Senn, of Switzerland.

I had to stay late at the racetrack, interview lots of people, pack in a few stories and organize my racing life. So I figured that I would not have the time to make it to the Plastic Factory, where Heinz told me that I was welcome to come, and maybe even if those who had booked the night allowed it, I would be able to play some songs. “Those” people being a group of musicians who meet at the Plastic Factory once a week, or once a month, or once in a while, to play a kind of open mic that actually consists of each of the musicians taking the stage for two or three songs and then handing it on to the next musician….
first at plastic factory

And so on until the early hours of the morning. And so it went last night, with a nice mix of expat musicians and some Japanese people in the crowd, and the wonderful Japanese harmonica player who accompanied me on “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” of Bob Dylan, and with some other musicians.
fourth at plastic factory

In any case, I had the most amazing time, and I was so glad that once again I proved to myself that I must never take “no” for an answer to myself. I realized as I got to the Nagoya station from the Shiroko station – near Suzuka – that if I ate a horrendous fast-food meal in the Nagoya station, and if I did not go back to my hotel to pick up my guitar, then I would make it to the Plastic Factory easily in time to see much of the show – and maybe even play.
second at plastic factory

And that’s what happened. The Plastic Factory is a fabulous venue with, as I said, a great stage and sound system, and on the first floor a space that is used sometimes as a gallery, sometimes for other things, and all together, it is a great meeting place for like-minded individuals looking for…great music, fun and chat.
third at plastic factory

What can I say. Just check it out. And check out the videos on this page to see the variety of musicians! They call their group, I believe – writing this from memory – “The Good ‘Ole Boys.” And indeed they were.

PS, and I almost forgot to mention! On the last weekend of the month, or something like that, they also have a real bona fide open mic at the Plastic Factory. So when in town and looking for an experience, or a place to play, check out the Plastic Factory.

Pandemonium at the Harmonium Parlour at the Plastic Factory at Nagoya

September 29, 2015

plastic factory nagoya japan

plastic factory nagoya japan

DUBAI – Just sitting half wiped out in the Dubai airport on my return flights from Japan to Paris, I’m still thinking about my last night in Nagoya, where I finally got to take part in the open mic of the Plastic Factory. I’ve played at the Plastic Factory a couple of times before, but I was never there on the last Sunday of the month when the official open mic takes place. This time I was, so I have something new to report.

The Plastic Factory is a bar, music and art venue run by a German-speaking Swiss, a longtime expat in Nagoya, and the place is about to celebrate its 11th year of its existence. I discovered it four or five years ago – I think! – and always wanted to try the open mic. But my timing to get from Suzuka to the edge of Nagoya, by way of my hotel to pick up my guitar, was tight, to say the least.

Brad Spurgeon and others jamming at the Plastic Factory in Nagoya.
So when I arrived, the evening was already well advanced, with a nice big crowd of spectators and musicians, lots of expats, but many Japanese as well. I love the mix at this place. On the other hand, I was in such a state having gulped down a fast food hamburger of a kind I don’t dare mention, and having stopped off and got my guitar, and arrived to find that my name had just been announced for me to play, but I’d missed the slot….

Third at the Plastic Factory
No problem! I was up next! So I took a beer, tuned my guitar, warmed up my voice and got on stage. Turned out that I hadn’t been there long enough to realize that the crowd can be quite talkative when there’s just some guy with an acoustic guitar and vocals, since this is really a very hot spot for socializing and meeting fellow expats.

Sixth at the Plastic Factory
So, OK, I sang my three songs to myself, and got off stage, took another beer, and watched as the evening got better and better. The talk would continue for most of the other acts, but bit by bit the stage took over as the center of interest of the room, and bit by bit it turned into a jam session with various of the musicians mixing together on stage.

Seventh at the Plastic Factory
That’s when I pumped up my courage again and after the MC of the evening went up with a woman on violin, another on bass guitar and a guy on washboard, I said to myself, “I want a bit of this action!” So I asked the MC if I could do a song with the band, and his guitar. He immediately agreed, and the other musicians agreed too, and so we leaped into “Mad World.” And it was mad. I had a great time, I think the other musicians enjoyed it, and the people who remained in the crowd weren’t talking so much anymore but whooping it up with the music.

Second at the Plastic Factory
A memorable night! My only regret is that I did not get a chance to take a look at the apparently wildly cool art exhibition on the upper floor. When I went up to check it out, it had just ended.

Fourth at the Plastic Factory
I hope that my date for a return trip to Japan – if there ever is one – will again coincide with the last Sunday of the month, and the so-called “Harmonium Parlour” open mic of the Plastic Factory in Nagoya. It’s a real happening.

First at the Plastic Factory

Fifth at the Plastic Factory

Eighth at the Plastic Factory

An Anniversary at the Amazing Plastic Factory, a Jam at the Fabulous Nanbanya – a Night to Remember in Nagoya

October 6, 2014

plastic factory night club in Nagoya, Japan

plastic factory night club in Nagoya, Japan

NAGOYA, Japan – It has been 10 years now that Heinz Senn and his Plastic Factory have been drawing people together for art shows, open mics, concerts, DJ dances, pole dances and just plain drinking at the bar. And on Saturday night, the Plastic Factory celebrated that decade of presence in the Imaike neighborhood of Nagoya with an all night party, pole dancers, a wild DJ and lots of dancing.

The great thing about the Plastic Factory for me, is that it has this absolutely perfect mix of Japanese people and foreigners from the U.S., Canada, England, Australia, Germany, Switzerland – Heinz’s nationality – and just about anywhere else you can imagine. But, yes, an expat venue that attracts local Japanese people as well.

I missed the open mic by a week, unfortunately, but it was an honor to be able to make it to the 10-year anniversary. To share a little bit of the feel, I did some videos of the pole dancers….

And from the Plastic Factory, off I went down the street to the Nanbanya jam

I had to work the next day, though, so there was no way I could stay very late at the fabulous Plastic Factory party. And yet, I knew that my walk back to the hotel would pass me by the entrance to the Nanbanya bar that is only about five minutes’ walk from the Plastic Factory.

I discovered Nanbanya two years ago and was unable to make it there last year. But I’m really glad I did this year. It was Saturday night jam night, but I arrived late enough that the music was not really in full swing anymore. The crowd had died out to a night comfortable 15 or so people maximum, and a handful of musicians. People were chatting, going to the stage area to play a bit, returning to chat, returning to play… it was a much more laid back experience musically, i.e., more acoustic than the usual more rock and blues kind of full band thing.

But at one point I had my guitar, vocals, a lead player, bass player and drummer playing along with me. It was bliss. I got to do a few songs with two different guys playing lead along with me, too. I love Nanbanya, because the people are very cool, there are some great musicians, the bar itself is underground, long, low, comfy, and the stage area is well lit, a good sound system, and lots of instruments available.

After leaving the party at the Plastic Factory in full raucous swing, it was great to cool down at the Nanbanya and relax and play some music before returning to the hotel and readying myself for the last, nearly tragic, day of work in Suzuka. (A French driver, Jules Bianchi, was seriously injure in a crash.)

Gigging at the Plastic Factory in Nagoya – 80s Theme

October 13, 2013

plastic factory nagoya japan

plastic factory nagoya japan

NAGOYA, Japan – It was not the first time, and I hope it is not the last time, that I get to play at the Plastic Factory, in Nagoya. After discovering this wonderful venue in the Imaike neighborhood of Nagoya two years ago, I got to take part in a concert night last year with a bunch of other musicians, and this year I was invited at the last minute to play a brief set in the gig of a duo that call themselves Zengo Kankai.

The only catch was that it was a night of 80s music, as these guys specialize in that sound, complete with synthesizer and vocals, and if I was going to fit in anywhere, it had to be with 1980s songs. So it was that I did a little bit of quick research and discovered much to my own surprise that three of the songs I sing regularly are from the 1980s: “Mad World,” “Wicked Game” and “I Won’t Back down.”

So I got invited to play and sing, and the band very kindly opened the stage to me for the beginning of the second set. In the meantime, I had met an Irishman who, it turned out, loves the song “Only Our Rivers Run Free.” I love to take any chance I can find to sing that song, so after singing the first two of my 80s songs, I decided to be a bit of a shit disturber, and I sang first, a song that I myself wrote in the 1980s – in 1980, to be exact – and then I finished my four-song set with “Only Our Rivers Run Free,” from 1966.

Yeah, well, what the heck.

The Plastic Factory is a wonderful venue that I recommend to anyone visiting or living in Nagoya, and it can have some amazing theme nights as well as open mics, and some more quiet affairs that are still worth absorbing the atmosphere over. It’s also a great chance to go out into a little quiet neighborhood of Nagoya where you might not otherwise think of setting foot. But it’s close enough to the downtown area to make it possible to walk back to a central hotel even if you stay all night at the Plastic Factory and miss a metro….

How the Typhoon Fed My Gig at the Plastic Factory, Nagoya

October 6, 2012

The Plastic Factory is a very cool venue in Nagoya, Japan, with a stage and bar area on the ground floor, and a gallery on the upper floor. It is the baby of a Swiss sitar player, a longtime expat living in Japan, named Heniz Senn. On the last Sunday of every month, it is the location of one of the best open mics in Nagoya, a city not known for a particularly vibrant cultural life. Like Heinz, most of the people who attend and perform at the Plastic Factory are expats. But it also has its healthy share of local Japanese.

The open mic is organized by a group called Semi-On, and one of its particularities is that running in conjunction with the open mic is always an exhibition of an artist’s work in the gallery above. I had shown up last year for some event that was announced at the last minute, and it turned out there were only about two other people aside from me. But Heinz let me go up on stage and play a few of my songs – as I desperately wanted to play some music, and couldn’t do it properly in my hotel.

We stayed in touch, and this year, Heinz, having heard my music, invited me to feature on a special evening at the Plastic Factory while I was in Nagoya. It turned out that the open mic that was supposed to take place the previous weekend was literally a wash out, because it had been cancelled thanks to the typhoon. That meant that Heniz had the brilliant idea of telling all his regulars that he would hold a special acoustic night last night as a kind of replacement of the open mic that never happened. And he invited me to play as the featured guest.

What better way to get a crowd to come and see me play than to invite them to come and play themselves if they want! There was a great crowd of maybe 40 people at the highest point, and lots of interesting musicians. In fact, after Semi-On took to the stage to open the evening, I thought about make a run for it … I did NOT want to go up right after this cool band, with its charismatic singer, Bryony, and it’s nice and relaxed stage presence.

I need not have worried. There were plenty of other performers to go up before I did, and I had a great time watching, listening, meeting people, and then finally going up and doing my gig when it felt like the perfect time. Everyone was sufficiently warmed up, and ready for some dancing, clapping and singing along. So I did a mixture of my own songs – three – and cover songs – four. It was a great feeling to have everyone dancing along and singing along to “What’s Up!” And I finally left walking on air myself.

Any amazing venue, and I highly recommend it to anyone in Nagoya.

Playing at the Plastic Factory in Nagoya, and the Sleepers at McDonald’s

October 9, 2011

plastic factory night club in Nagoya, Japan

plastic factory night club in Nagoya, Japan

I discovered the Plastic Factory night club, event space and art gallery through an open mic internet search that revealed it is the local of an open mic on the last Sunday of the month in Nagoya. It was one of three or four open mics that take place once or twice a month on days of the week in which I am in Nagoya, but without being on the precise days when I am here! That is a common hasard of this open mic adventure. But what suddenly became interesting when I visited the Plastic Factory web site was that they announced that last night there would be an open stage for musicians and DJs. So I decided to take my guitar and take the subway two stops from my hotel and join in.

Well, joining in turned out to be not entirely the accurate word. Dominate would be better, as I ended up as the only musician present. Having said that, I played my heart out to a small but cosy, kind and interesting audience, including Heinz Senn, the owner of the Plastic Factory, who comes from German-speaking Switzerland.

Moreoever, after I played Heinz asked me about whether I’d ever recorded my music, and I produced a CD with the four songs on it that I recorded last year. He promptly put it on the turntable and piped it through the massive sound system very loud. I have never heard it in a club situation coming that loud through speakers, and it was very cool and inspiring!

So was the Plastic Factory, this is clearly a hip and comfortable joint, and no wonder it has lasted seven years. I think Heinz is putting on a party next week to mark the seven years of the place’s existence. The web site gives clear instructions on how to find the place, but the small hallway entrance is still difficult to notice from the street. You follow it down a long corridor until you come to the bright yellow/green entrance door, enter the room and you feel like you’re in a cool, private loft. There is a nice stage with a big DJ set up on it, but room also to play music in front of that, with a screen above the stage for projections.

Heiz said his Harmonium Parlour open mic is the biggest and most successful in the city and that they have 80 to 90 spectators and up to 24 musicians every month. And given the vibe of the place, I can believe it. And he may be of European origin, but he said the clientele at the open mic is very much a mixture of Japanese and foreigners. So was last night’s clientele, by the way.

This morning as I stopped in at McDonald’s in Sakae to have my daily dose of pancakes and egg McMuffin – in order to avoid the rice, fish and vegetable “breakfast” at the hotel – I saw once again the same scene I have noticed in this McDonald’s every day: Revellers or workers taking a morning nap on the tables of the restaurant. Is their lifestyle so tightly and overworked that they take every minute available to sleep? Just when I thought the McDonalds was a center for crashing out, a journalist colleague of mine in Formula One, told me that this morning he had seen them sleeping in the 7 Eleven store too….

The video I took this morning shows far fewer than the usual number of sleepers, but it was after 9 AM, and it was a Sunday – there are more on the weekdays. I just had to get a shot of it for the blog….

I also put up a couple of videos of my songs being piped through the sound system at the Plastic Factory, with a segment of “Except Her Heart” and a segment of “Since You Left Me,” which I also sang live.

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