As anyone who has ever read this blog knows, Las Vegas' Psyatics are one of my favorite local bands. Their mix of garage rock'n'roll with post-punk noise is unique yet catchy and their musicianship and songwriting is pretty damn exceptional. Damn nice guys too! So, when they got a chance to go to Japan for a short tour with the Heiz, I asked if they would like to do a diary for this blog and here it is! Hopefully, I'll keep the photos more or less in order and won't mess it up too much with my limited formatting within Blogger. Dig it!
3/26/16 ZHER THE ZOO: It was a beautiful, slightly overcast 46 degrees in Tokyo, Japan as we made our way from Akasaka Mitsuke to Zher The Zoo in Yoyogi for tonight’s show. All the local clubs seem to be basement bars, with soundproof doors reminiscent of a bank vault. Tickets for the shows were 2000 yen in advance, 2500 yen at the door (around $23), and the venues seem to hold around 50-60 people max. Prior to soundcheck, all the bands meet for an introduction and to show thanks for being there.
All the Tokyo clubs provide backline for ease of switching acts and the limitations of space to store equipment (full drum kit, Marshall stack, Ampeg bass cab and Hartke head). This club setup was unique from the others, as they had a secondary stage set up for bands to play the intermission during change over. Shows begin and end early, with tonight scheduled from 5:30p to 9P, 30 minute sets with 15 minute change-overs/sets on the secondary stage.
Charlie Brown and the Snoopys
5:45P- ‘Charlie Brown and The Snoopys’- the opening act was The Heiz (a GREAT Japanese rock and roll trio, as well as our hosts) backing pompadoured singer Charlie Brown, faithfully playing through a set of American Graffiti soundtrack tunes: Rock Around The Clock, 16 Candles, Joey Dee’s Peppermint Twist, Surfin’ Safari (complete with dance lessons that the crowd ate up!), Only You and At the Hop. Impressive playing with sweet dance moves by Charlie. Fun renditions and a great way to start off the night! The in-between sets ranged from acoustic acts to a full band banging out classic 50s tunes like Good Golly Miss Molly and Johnny B Goode. Most banter is in Japanese, but the happiness and love for the music is obvious!
6:40P- ‘Murock O’Clock’- A four man band with all originals, sung in Japanese. The group meshed genres, but predominantly had the feel of an 80s Sunset Strip rock and roll band, while holding slight hints of the Who, lots of rock guitar solos and a keyboard who’s patch lightened up the vibe- bringing some Hives into the mix. Devil horns were thrown and a good time was had by all.
7:35P- ‘The Psyatics’- We take the stage, playing a set consisting of songs from each of our two albums and a cover of “I Can’t Stand It’ by the Velvet Underground. A great response, and lots of fun to perform there.
8:30- ‘The Heiz’- these cats are the real deal! A 3 piece rock and roll trio steeped in Chuck Berry riffs, duck walking and infectious joy on stage as they rip through covers like Rock and Roll Music, Tooty Fruity and equally great originals like 16 Reasons, Black Pepper Girl, Dead (sung by Asako-bass player), Whole Lotta Pizza (sung by Kim Ramone-drummer) and Hurry Up Baby. Singer/guitar player Shak is in strong form, with stellar musicianship and their exuberance shining through in the performance! Tonight is also Asako’s birthday, and celebrations continue all night, culminating in an impromptu double kit drum jam with Jimmy from The Psyatics joining Kim to end the night! A great time to be out, and it wrapped up early enough to hit the bars before letting jet lag take us down. Thanks to all the bands, and Zher The Zoo for hosting the night.
3/27/16 SDR: Tonight we play a venue called SDR in Machida, about a 45 minute train ride away. The city seems a very accessible place with the help of a Pasmo card and a great rail system. This is another basement club, but the feel is more intimate, like a house party. This eve is loaded with stellar acts, so I’ll try to remember all (as I throw down some locally brewed Japanese IPAs).
The first thing I want to point out is how great these band meetings before gigs are! We all congregate in the center of the room, introduce ourselves, applaud and bow for each of tonight’s performers. The respect for sharing talent is inspiring. On a side note, it is an interesting to observe that EVERYBODY smokes here. In between bands, everyone congregates to the bar or the merch tables to chat and have a cigarette, although they are put out by the time the next band takes the stage, I only assume to respect and give attention to the performers.
The first band up was ‘Railroad Steel’- great rock and roll…hear shades of The Hellacopters and Jim Jones, with guitar riffs that echo “Bad To the Bone” and Motello’s “Jet Boy, Jet Girl”. A fun act that concludes with “Whole Lotta Shakin’” (the Japanese REALLY love that 50’s rock and roll)! The second act, roughly translated as ‘Summertime’, are a three piece punk band, playing catchy, sing-along (if they weren’t all sung in Japanese) songs that recall Rancid, Buzzcocks and Vice Squad. Talking with these young kids afterwords, they cite Ramones, Sex Pistols, Green Day and The Devil Dogs?! as influences. Whole lotta fun!!
Up next was the band ‘All OK’. Another 3 piece band, with a sound similar to a Sub Pop 90’s rock, then segway into an interesting mixture of Flea style slap bass against Blues Explosion guitar riffs. They effortlessly change course again for 50’s balladry and Stones grooves. The talent of these players is immense, and I dig the wide range of styles. Although it may come across as odd, it somehow works in the context.
I’m always psyched to watch ‘The Heiz’, especially on their own turf, and the never disappoint. Summertime Blues, 3-4-7, Keihin NO.3 and more are given a good beating, Kim pops up from behind the kit to sing Blitzkrieg Bop and ripping solos from Shak through Too Much Rock and Roll Business! Not only are their shows rocking, awe inspiring performances, but they make it seem so effortless. Worth the price of admission alone!!
The Midnight TV Programs
‘The Psyatics’ take the stage next, doing what we do best: making lots of noise! Our funnest night so far!! A group which I BELIEVE was called ‘Jello Kids’ were up next- with impressive country finger picking, Chet Atkins style over train beat percussion, while simultaneously referencing New York Dolls and T-Rex. Very enjoyable! ‘The Midnight TV Programs’ channeled that classic 50’s American rock and roll to great effect, playing tight, well-structured songs, great harmonies and capping it off with “Roll Over Beethoven”…genuine nice guys and just helluva musicians.
The final act tonight was at trio called the ‘Wasurete Motels’- translates roughly to the Please Forget Me Motels…one of my fave acts of the night, and hard to classify. Punk speed rock and roll, which ran a spectrum of sea chanty songs to the Specials ‘Monkey Man’ type rock and ska beats…songs at home on the Animal House soundtrack as well as Aladdin Sane. Fast rocking, fun, and amazing to watch- they had the crowd mesmerized until the last song was done. So in awe of the talent of these local, gigging musicians here, and I feel extremely lucky to be a part of it all.
3/28/16 Hearts+: Every day is a short train ride and transfer to another part of Japan, and today we travel to Otsuka to play Hearts+. Tonight is only four bands, with another touring act joining us from the UK. Doors open at 6P, with the first act being a young 3 piece punk band called ‘HANKs’. Playing harmony driven, punchy songs reminiscent of Ramones, Michelle Gun Elephant and Sex Pistols- they bang through a rocking 30 minute set, and crank up the energy in the room!
‘The Psyatics’ took the stage second, switching things around with the inclusion of Bad Man by the Oblivions and original Oncoming Train to great reception. ‘Another Eden’ from the UK played next, and out of all the music I heard on this trip, this was the only band that was not my cup of tea. 90’s rock, reminding me at times of Mad Season, Pearl Jam or Alice in Chains performed by a group of local backing musicians for hire, while the singer ran through numbers about Trump, Wiretapping and the virtues of his Sensei. It all gave the feel of a performance from Aldous Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Not my thing-
Luckily, ‘The Heiz’ brought the house back to rights with a damn fine set, filled with R&R done right, taken from the 50’s songbooks, improved upon and handed back to us ;) Originals like Hurry Up Baby, Dead End, Don’t Let Me Down and Wait Wait Wait sit right at home with classics like Rock and Roll Radio. Couldn’t think of a better way to end the night!!
Psyatics, Heiz, HANKs
This trip was a full-on blast, with plans to do a much more extended tour next year, travelling outside of the city to more remote areas already in the works. Next, we sightsee, enjoy the rest of our time in Japan and concentrate on the next album, reenergized and reinvigorated!
If you haven’t heard ‘The Heiz’, do yourself a favor and pick up the new album- a ‘best of’ collection released on the Vegas-based Squidhat Records label. Essential stuff!!!
And thanks to Rich for letting us spout out on his forum!
Best, Robt- The Psyatics