A little beat up from the events of day one (reference 10-hour flight, 16 hour time shift, and the hours-long ceremonial dragging of luggage through city streets) it took most of the day to find our feet in time to head out for our first show at Red Cloth in the Shinjuku neighborhood. This was our our first “live house” (what they call rock clubs in Japan).
Live Houses—What You Need to Know:
1. Live houses are essentially cement-encased basement bars two narrow flights underground, sealed off from the world above by a series of soundproofed meat locker doors. Edgar Allen Poe would have a field day.
2. Upon arrival you will be handed two pages of rules written in Japanese: Do not hurt or disrespect the stage or equipment; do not loiter in front of the club; etc. You will also be required to submit your set list for approval including the length in minutes and seconds of each song you intend to play.
3. Everybody in the venue will be chain smoking. The smoke has nowhere else to go, so it will flee into your eyes and hair.
4. Shows start promptly at 7 pm, and finish at 10:10 pm on the button. How many times have you been out on a Tuesday waiting for your friend’s band to go on at 1 a.m. NO MORE!
5. The sound is brazenly bright and loud. Wear earplugs or die. On the plus side, all that ear pain will distract you from the smoke.
6. In America, most opening bands are trying to be important. In Japan, most opening bands are just trying to be American. A refreshing change.
7. There are no drink tickets for the band. If you want a cup of tap water on stage, that will cost you almost 4 dollars. On the flip side, the club will look the other way on you bringing in jars of whisky and tallboys of Sapporo.
8. Upside: drums and amps are provided, and are virtually identical from one club to the next. At the end of the night, club staff will go after the drums like Native Americans on a downed buffalo, disassembling them down to their tiniest bits, individually wiping, packaging and carrying them off.
9. If there is a green room it is the size of a thimble. Even so, at least one of the Japanese bands will be in there all night changing in and out of their drag outfits for the stage.
10. The bathroom provides no hand towels or other means by which to dry your hands. The trash can in said bathroom would get roughed up in a fight with most Big Gulp cups.
11. They aren’t kidding about the loitering. If club staff see you standing out by the street, they will fasion their arms into an “x” and warn you about the “very angry gangster” living above the club.