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Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Japan

October 10, 2014



My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Japan since I first started. At each subsequent Formula One race that I visit this year, I will add a new such page. Keep posted….

Worldwide Open Mic Thumbnail Guide: Japan Edition

October 15, 2013

Live House JapanOsaka, Japan – For my 14th city installment of my worldwide open mic guide today I am loading my Japan page. As a reminder, it all started with my now very popular Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, and due to that guide’s success, I decided this year to do a similar guide for each of the cities I travel to during my worldwide open mic tour.

A Slightly Different Approach in My Thumbnail Guide for Japan

I have decided to make Japan one of the exceptions on in my Worldwide Thumbnail Guide of open mics in that I will not focus only on one city, and I will name this after the country itself. I did the same with Monaco, when you think about it – and added Nice to that one – and I also did the same with Bahrain, as I only spoke of open mics in Manama, the capital city, but called it after the country. The point in Japan is that I have no single city with a wealth of open mics and open jams to list here, but I do have experience with three different cities in Japan, and they happen to be the three biggest cities: Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. It seems to me, therefore, that it will serve the reader much better if I do a guide with my findings for all of these cities, rather than just listing Nagoya, which is where I have spent the most time. So it is that I am going to list my findings in the three biggest cities in Japan, and hope that makes the page worthwhile for travelers to Japan.

UPDATE, 30 OCT. 2013: I noticed that unlike all my other open mic guides, the Japan guide was not receiving much traffic, and so I decided that I had made an error to change the system, and I have now today made three separate guides for Japan: a Thumbnail Open Mic Guide to Osaka, Thumbnail Open Mic Guide to Tokyo, Thumbnail Open Mic Guide to Nagoya. People search by city, not by country. So that is the end of that experiment – and please note the link at the beginning and end of this page will not work, as I got rid of the country guide all together.

Japan’s Open Mic Scene is Focused Around the So-Called “Live House”

The first thing to keep in mind when coming to Japan and looking for places to play music, is that while there are such things called open mics, there is another phenomenon that you must know about, and that is the ubiquitous “Live House.” Live Houses come in various forms, but generally what they are are bars with live music, or music venues that people can rent out by the time clock for a fee and then invite people to come and hear…and pay back the rental fee in their spendings. But Live Houses can also be places that hold open mics and open jams of the kind I focus on with my list. So aside from my limited list, the place to start looking for places to play in Japan is a Live House. Just find one, then see how they operate. They may have an open mic or an open jam – or you may want to rent the room for your half hour or so slot.

Worldwide Open Mic Guide Philosophy

The only guide I am really in a good position to update regularly is that of Paris, since I live there. But I decided to do guides to all the other 20 and more cities on my worldwide open mic tour in order to give the knowledge I have personally of each city’s open mics. The guide has links to sites I know of local guides that may be more up-to-date, but I have chosen to list the open mics or jam sessions that I have played in myself. There may be others that I know of, but if I have not played there, I will not include it on the list. That way, the user learns a little of my own impressions. But I cannot be as certain that the guide is up-to-date – so check before you go.

So here, now, in any case is the Thumbnail Guide to Japan Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. Please do help me whenever you have information to give me on venues.

In Tokyo, Ruby Room Surprise with One Bourbon One Beer

October 12, 2011

Last night in Shibuya at the Ruby Room open mic in Tokyo more than made up for all the missed opportunities and frustrations of previous evenings in my open mic searches. It was a multidimensional evening of interest, fun and – today – fatigue. One of the most amazing and amusing things to happen was that it turned out that I was not alone as a person from the Paris open mics to show up at the Ruby Room last night.

A band from Paris that has taken part in many of the open mics that I do in Paris has come to Japan to play gigs and develop music and live an adventure here for three months, and they showed up at the Ruby Room last night. That was the band called One Bourbon One Beer. They are a very cool blues, pop indie kind of band that met at the Pop ‘In open mic in Paris and got together to make their history.

I had played at the Ruby Room two years ago, and some how like a homing pigeon I managed to get off the Shibuya station metro last night and walk straight to the club amidst the bright lights, signs in Japanese, curling sidestreets, large neon movie, store, club and other morass of a city scape. I loved this open mic two years ago because it was a beautiful small room on a small street with a good ambience, neat bar, cool stage and sofas, little tables spotted about, including a separate kind of covered table off to the side. Something about the ambience of the place had reminded me two years ago of the Truskel bar in Paris, and so it was pretty amazing to meet up with One Bourbon One Beer, who it turns out, also were on the same flight as me from Paris to Japan last week!

The other thing that is cool about the Ruby Room is the mixture of Japanese and Westerners. There were Brits, New Zealanders, Americans, everything. And the Japanese. In fact, before One Bourbon One Beer showed up and as I waited on the staircase outside for the doors to open and the sign-up to begin, I struck up a conversation with the leader of what would turn out to be the coolest Japanese band of the evening, a band called D.O.G.S. Koji, the leader, spoke perfect English, thanks to his former girlfriend from Canada.

D.O.G.S., it turned out, are going on a tour of Seattle in about 10 days, and they showed up at the Ruby Room to warm up in front of an audience before they leave for the United States. So I interviewed Koji for my open mic film, and then later interviewed One Bourbon, One Beer. I mean, what a wonderful example of the open mic zeitgeist: This young band from Paris travels to Japan to learn its chops in a different culture, while this young band from Japan – same age basically – travels to the U.S. to learn its chops – actually both bands have a little tour organized – and here they are both showing up at the same open mic in Tokyo….

There were some weird and cool acts last night, but it was quite different to two years ago, when there were a lot more acoustic Japanese bands. Last night I played four songs, and had to use my guitar without its pick-up, thanks to the butcher job done by Guitar Garage in Paris, that worked on repairing the damaged wood – after the guitar was destroyed by Emirates on the way to Singapore – and in working on the wood they destroyed the electronic pick up. (Now they don’t respond to my emails asking desperately if they have an idea how I can fix the pick up myself.) New! Edit this video

But my thing went over well, and I felt in good shape. I thoroughly enjoyed it, got the crowd clapping along – well, no, they just did it – and the evening was immensely wonderful. I just had to forfeit sleep as I travelled today to Seoul, South Korea, from Tokyo….

P.S., it was only two of the three performers from One Bourbon One Beer: Genji Kuno (guitar/vocal) and
Thibault Delacour. The drummer did not come on the trip.

The Places in Tokyo Where I Did Not Play Last Night, and Why

October 11, 2011

bauhaus music bar in Tokyo

bauhaus music bar in Tokyo

It is such a cliche to say the Internet has transformed our lives. But in the context of my open mic journey around the world, it really has made it possible to arrive in a country or a city and stay there only a few days and to find an open mic or jam session, producing it out of the blue, thanks to postings and lists and other forms of communication on the Internet about where to play and when. On the other hand, sincce the Internet is not a professionally run listing either, there are occasionally pitfalls and traps.

Yesterday arriving in Tokyo for two days, I decided to see if there were any open mics on Mondays. I know of one on Tuesday, but I decided to see if I could hit two on this short stay. Eureka! I found a listing all over the place for an open mic on Mondays in Tokyo in a place in the Roppongi neighborhood called Rock Factory. I tried to confirm it was still hosting the open mic by going to its web site, but several of the web site addresses I had for the place did not work, and another was in Japanese.

There seemed no reason for it not to still exist, though, since I found so many traces of it. In any case, I saw also that it was just around the corner from a bar called Bauhaus, where I had sung two years ago with the cover band that allows anyone to go up and sing along. Bauhaus is a very cool place that has been running since 1981 with the same band, more or less. It is not strictly speaking an open mic, but I thought at least I would have a place to play if there was a problem at the Rock Factory.

Problem there was. The place was closed down and looking like it had not been open for months. It also looked as if it must have been a very cool place. But I was very pissed off, since I had traversed the city in the metro and spent more than an hour trying to find my way around the metro and to the Rock Factory. Only to find, as I say, something that looked once very cool indeed.

I will put up a little video segment of me discovering the place, but the weak of heart and mind should not watch the video as I use so many expletives in a very short period of time that I now understand how bad that can sound…. But it is authentic! I came all the way to Tokyo to play an open mic, and it was closed.

No, okay, I exaggerate. I only really thought I’d do the Tuesday one, and I still had the Bauhaus.

But when I went to the Bauhaus, I noticed on my way up that there was a cover charge for the music of around 28 euros! I figured I would not get out it of there for less than 40 euros once I got a beer or two, and that although I had the time of my life there two years ago, the place would be absolutely useless for my film, and worse, my guitar amplification no longer works thanks to a luthier in Paris that killed a contact somewhere inside the guitar when working on the wood outside…. So I decided to call it an early night, eat in a Korean barbecue and put all my open mic eggs in the basket of the Ruby Room tonight.

PS, Going to the Bauhaus web page just now for the link above, I notice that they have a part they call “open mic.” So I shot myself in the foot by once again failing to heed my own personal inner call to not sit on your laurels and always go the extra step as you never know what you will find. Still, 40 euros is a lot of cash! (Not to mention the cost of a taxi after that when I would leave too late for the metro.)

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