Live Report: Clammbon at Kaminari 5656 Kaikan in Asakusa, August 29–30, 2013

So I’ve been a Clammbon fan for 13 years, ever since my serendipitous encounter with their music on my first-ever visit to Japan. At some point they became my favorite band, and I started maintaining this fan site to spread the word about them 10 years ago. But except for a fleeting half hour or so that barely counts, until recently I had never managed to see them in concert. Somehow my nearly-annual trips to Japan just never seemed to line up with a Clammbon show.

Afraid that that might remain the case forever, after viewing one of my collection of Clammbon concert deeveedees I marched into the next room to make a declaration to my wife: “I am gonna see Clammbon play live someday before I die.” She took it in stride, casually suggesting that we wait until they announce dates for their next tour and then buy plane tickets.

All right. That was easier than I’d expected.

After a tense wait, Tokyo dates came out for the “Where Shall We Play Tour 2013”. On these tours, the band solicits ideas from their fans for unique and intimate venues where you wouldn’t normally go see a rock & roll show. A 1900s drama theater, the school that inspired the anime K-On, a former hostess club… the more unusual, the better. The shows I was aiming for were a pair of nights in Asakusa at a traditional theater in a community center, capacity 325. This is a band that these days can draw several thousand fans to an outdoor venue like Yomiuri Land East or the Ryougoku Kokugikan. Seeing them in such close quarters would be a treat indeed. It was too late to go through the byzantine process to join the fan club and get early ticket access, so I took my chances with the similarly byzantine public ticket lotteries… and somehow secured a ticket for each night. Twitter was crowded with people disappointed that they’d failed to get even one ticket, so I felt miraculously lucky.

Hop forward several months and I am in Tokyo, my three-week stay nearly at an end. I forgot to charge the wi-max receiver, so I had to navigate to Asakusa and to the theater without Internet access. Of course I got wildly lost and was almost late for showtime.

Kaminari 5656 Kaikan:
Kaminari 5656 Kaikan

Not a lot of people in front of me:
Not a lot of people in front of me

Not a lot of people behind me either:
Not a lot of people behind me either

When the curtain rose, we saw not Clammbon but this woman sitting in the middle of the stage in kimono, among all the rock & roll gear. She quickly assured us, “don’t worry, this is a Clammbon concert. But to get you into the Asakusa spirit, I’ll be playing you a few songs first.” It was Hirayama Yoshiko, a shamisen player. (Photo from Mito’s tweet.)

Yoshiko

After two lively shamisen songs, the band showed up on stage and I had my first really emotional moment. I was in the same room as Clammbon! It was real. I got a little misty.

August 29th Setlist 

(Image from Mito’s tweet)

29th

Intro by Hirayama Yoshiko

  1. Mizu no Fukasa
  2. Shinagawa Jinku
Main Set
  1. Hanasaku Iroha
  2. Good Time Music
  3. Lady Madonna
  4. Yobigoe
  5. U&I
  6. Odayaka na Kurashi
  7. Shiawase Negau Kanata kara
  8. Goldwrap
  9. Vital Sign
  10. Chicago
  11. Namiyosete
  12. KANADE Dance
Encore
  1. I’m Getting Ready
  2. Surround
  3. Re-Zansho
The banter started early, with Mito and Ikuko observing that Daisuke has been inserting unexpected drum breaks at dramatic moments in certain songs lately. But Daisuke clarified that usually it’s just because he dropped a stick.
 
On “Lady Madonna”, which has some incorrect lyrics on the album version (“feel” instead of “feet”, for instance), Ikuko sang the correct lyrics! She must have been clued in some time since the album was recorded.
 
Mito introduced “Goldwrap” as an exceptionally difficult song to play, especially on piano. Ikuko had to stand up from her seat to play it, and you could tell that it took all the fierce concentration she could summon. The song went very well, and at the end the audience applauded all the more for knowing what a challenge it was. She melodramatically basked in the response.
 
Much of first night’s set felt pretty mellow and straightforward, probably because of the gentle setlist flow, including a string of moderate-energy covers. People sat down for much of the first half. The people around me weren’t all that active, so I didn’t allow myself to get too carried away with dancing and singing along.
 
Once it came to “Vital Sign” and “Chicago”, though, the place seemed to really come alive. I found myself crying again now that I was witnessing such Clammbon classics in person. When Mito smashed his bass against the speaker cabinet at the climax of “Vital Sign”, I could see wood splintering off of it. The rest of the main set carried that energy onward and made me wish the whole show had been that way. For “Nami Yosete”, the band got everyone swaying and singing the chorus together.
 
After the break, the band members each came out in a differently-colored Clammbon shirt, drying off with a Clammbon towel. Ikuko completed the merchandise plug by pretending to answer a call on her phone, enrobed in a Clammbon iPhone case. I always knew it, but Mito imploring us to buy merch if we enjoyed the show and wishing that he could afford a really nice traditional Asakusa meal reminded me that that bands of this scale don’t make a ton of money.
 
For the encore, Mito gave us an extended lesson in gospel backup singing so that we could help out with “I’m Getting Ready”. He divided the audience into male and female singers, encouraging the males to “pretend to be about 20 kilograms heavier” in order to make up for the feminine bias of Clammbon fans. It felt a bit odd to be the one Westerner in the room, singing that English backup vocal with perfect pronunciation.
 
“Re-Zansho” was a special treat that the band broke out for the first time this tour, judging that it was about the right time to begin performing a song about lingering late-summer heat. And the emotional intensity of it was just right to finish off the show.
 
I made my way to the merch table for a shirt and iPhone case of my own. The prices (¥2500 and ¥3500) were of course kinda absurd, but I see it as more of a donation than a purchase. I’m quite willing to pay an extra pile of yens to a band that’s brought me this much happiness.

August 30th Setlist 

(Image from Mito’s tweet)

30th

Intro by Hirayama Yoshiko

  1. Kyou wa Ryougoku
  2. Shinagawa Jinku
Main Set
  1. The New Song
  2. Rough & Laugh
  3. Hanare Banare
  4. Desire -Jounetsu-
  5. U&I
  6. Shiawase Negau Kanata kara
  7. Tiny Pride
  8. Goldwrap
  9. Vital Sign
  10. KANADE Dance
  11. Surround
  12. Re-Zansho
Encore
  1. Chicago
  2. NOW!!!
  3. Summer Nude
On the second night it was just outrageously hot, and everyone was obviously feeling it. I got the sense that instead of trying to keep cool, the band and the audience both kinda just gave up and accepted that they’d be sweaty and gross anyway, and allowed themselves to rock out to the max.
 
Clammbon’s second night in Tokyo is a special moment of the tour. The band had gotten to sleep in their own homes for the first time in months. They could leave their equipment set up overnight, and didn’t have to worry so much about the sound setup or technical problems. So the feel of the show was more confident, more warmed-up, and more fun. The setlist had a more energetic and playful flow, too, with several pretty intense high points: “Tiny Pride”, “Re-Zansho”, and an ecstatic performance of “Summer Nude”.
 
I was in the very back row this time, allowing me to see the entire crowd and pick out all the most energetic people to relate to. The people around me, too, were more enthusiastic than my neighbors on the first night. This all made it easier for me to get really into the show. Two girls on my left were talking excitedly throughout the night, and spread out into the aisle so that everyone could dance. The guy on my right seemed like a typical suit-wearing salaryman on his own, reserved to the point that I wondered what he was even doing at a rock & roll show. But once the set started, he was as exuberant as anyone in the room, bouncing around and singing along and having the time of his life.
 
During her introduction, Hirayama Yoshiko apologized for playing one of the same songs from the previous night. She polled the audience for who had been there, and quite a few people responded. I had been worried that it might be frowned upon to get tickets to both nights and thus deprive somebody else, but apparently it’s not a big deal. (Besides, I’d waited 13 years for this!)
 
The most memorable banter was during “Desire”, when Ikuko encouraged the crowd to snap along with the beat. The song has a detached 80’s coolness to it, so she coached us in how to snap casually — turn to the side, put on a bored expression, and make your snaps just barely audible. I did my best, and the girls next to me took notice of my technique!
 
When it was done, I thought I might exchange some impressions with some of my neighbors, or at least a knowing, satisfied look. But the girls simply agreed to each other, “I’m full!” and disappeared, while the guy put on his jacket, transformed back into an ordinary salaryman, and scurried out. If I have one major regret about this whole concert experience, it’s that I didn’t get to make any personal connections to anyone. It could be partially because Japanese culture isn’t big on connecting to strangers. It could be partially because Clammbon fans in particular are kinda nerdy and shy. And it could be because I’m a foreigner and thus difficult to approach. In retrospect maybe I should have broken the ice by joining in with the fans who spontaneously started singing “Bass, Bass, Bass” in the merch line.
 
In any case, it was an experience that will stay with me forever, that permanently connects me to my favorite band in an even more meaningful way, and that was well worth the wait.

En subtitles drafted

Hi friends! This project went way faster than the tayu tau subtitling, fueled by my excitement about getting to go see Clammbon in Tokyo this summer. Every scene of En has been subtitled, with just a few difficult lines left unfinished. There are probably bugs and such, but if you are in a hurry to give it a try, here is the file! Let me know if you run into any problems.

En subtitles alpha version

Yomiuri

En subtitling status report

I am about 50% done subtitling En, the second Clammbon documentary! It’s so very fun to watch the band interact, rehearse, and dream up new versions of our old favorite songs.

En preview 2

Excitement about going to two concerts this August is propelling me forward. There was actually another Tokyo show announced, at this bizare-looking joint, but it’s for the day after I leave! Oh well, I certainly can’t complain that I only get to see two shows.

Asakusa ticket GET!!

Update: Even more against all odds, I also won the Hot Stuff Promotion lottery via Pia for the Friday show, so I am going to see Clammbon at Asakusa two nights in a row!! My heart and my brain just about can’t take it.

Somehow, against all odds, I secured a ticket to the August 29 show at Kaminari 5656 Kaikan in Asakusa, Tokyo. It’s a tiny, cozy 325-seat venue, and I’ll be sitting in the 7th row, right about where this photo was taken:

5 6F

My first real Clammbon show, after 13 years of being a fan, and 10 years of running this site. I’m about as happy as I’ve ever been about anything. It’s making me want to finally write down how I got into the band and what it’s been like to follow them from afar for all this time.

In between work and finishing grad school, I have started funneling some of that excitement into subtitling En. There is quite a lot of casual mumbling between longtime friends, captured from just outside easy earshot, so it will be a challenge. Many scenes seem to be meant not to expose the content of conversations, but simply to portray relationships. I am committed to translating and timing as much of it as I can make out!

En preview

Livestream report and new release impressions

Tuesday at 20:00 Japan time (4:00 Pacific time), Clammbon appeared on Nico Video for their live performance and interview. I dragged myself out of bed, of course, to join in the audience of 40,000. After an hour of classic Clammbon music videos, the band appeared and the performance began. It was tremendous fun to be a part of the enthusiastic crowd scrolling their messages across the screen about everything from their own Clammbon memories to what kind of beverages they were enjoying.

The band played three songs, interspersed with interview segments: U&I by Houkago Teatime, Shiawase Negau Kanata Kara by Izumi Kanata, and… a third song that I can’t remember because it was five in the dang morning! The video for Shiawase Negau Kanata Kara was also shown. (Prepare to weep if you haven’t seen it yet.)

The interview discussed how the band decided to do another cover album, how they chose the songs, and the story behind the new documentary En. It was pretty excellent to watch the band react to the flood of comments, especially the “8888888888”s that represent applause on Nico Video.

Particularly interesting were the conversations with guests related to Shiawase Negau Kanata Kara, the lead song for Lover Album 2. Yukisada Isao, the director of the video, met Mito via Facebook when they both realized they were big fans of each other. Kousaki Satoru, a well-regarded anime composer responsible for the Lucky Star music, discussed how he and Mito geek out together about anime and comics (including my own beloved Five Star Stories!)

Performance
Interview

I’ve had a couple of days to listen to Lover Album 2, and it is shaping up to be just as charming and genuine a love letter to music as the first. I particularly appreciate the energy of Lady Madonna and Desire.

Tonight I got a chance to watch En, and it’s a marvelously joyful document of the band’s adventures putting together two very special shows. The film interweaves footage from rehearsals at the studio in Kobuchizawa, where they dreamt up unique new arrangements for songs, and the two-night acoustic and electric sets at Yomiuri Land. The finale is one of the happiest, most gratifying scenes of Clammbon footage ever shot. Subtitling all the mumbly studio talk is going to be a huge challenge, but I intend to give it my best just like I did for Tayu Tau.

Meanwhile, I am doing my best to secure tickets to one of the two Clammbon shows at the tiny, 325-seat 5656 Kaikan in Asakusa, Tokyo this August. The lottery system used for ticket sales is stressful and frustrating, especially when you are trying to plan international travel around concerts! My father-in-law has been calling around to try to find me some tickets, and the folks at Hot Stuff told him it shouldn’t be too hard to get ahold of some via the lotteries — I find that hard to believe considering there are only 650 seats to go around for the entire Clammbon fandom of Tokyo. I am now signed up for several different mailing lists in order to try as many lotteries as I can. If those all fail, there’s always rushing to click faster than everyone else in the general sale, and then there’s always Yahoo Auctions. What a Byzantine system.

Niconico Events; Lover Album 2 previews

Another big update at the official Clammbon site today. There are to be two special Clammbon events on the video site Niconico Douga!

On May 18, 21:00-25:00 Japan time (got to love that Japanese time notation) will be the Yomiuri Land concert from 2010 and the Kokugikan show from 2011, followed by the debut of the music video for “Shiawase Negau Kanata kara”, directed by Yukisada Isao.

On May 21, 20:00-23:00 will be a live performance and talk show! It sounds like it is going to be a pretty special program so if you can make it, be sure to tune in! The whole live show system seems quite complex, though, with reserved “seating” and priority given to premium members. I will probably buy a premium account so I can re-watch the event for a week and hopefully find a way to record it, but posting it for you would be very much against the rules. Perhaps Clammbon will decide to sell the video in some other form, like other musicians have done with their Niconico shows.

Lastly, 44-second previews of every song on Lover Album 2 are now available in two archaic formats at the Columbia Clammbon page. The Windows Media samples do seem to work fine if you paste their addresses into VLC’s “Open Network” command.

Columbia page updated!

Columbia has updated their Clammbon page with info on Lover Album 2 and En, including cover art. Yes, the art for Lover Album 2 is just as brilliant as its predecessor, sure to make your friends do a double-take at its artistry. The page also includes a video of the acoustic version of “tiny pride” with a string section, certain to give you chills. You can also check out a randomly-selected segment of “Shiawase Negau Kanata kara”. Huzzah!!

Lover Album 2 tracklist; En trailer!!

If you want to be happy enough to weep all day, watch the En trailer:

The Lover Album 2 track list is out. If you like the band’s Soft Machine cover, there’s a version of “O Caroline” by Matching Mole, Robert Wyatt’s post-Softs project. There’s a song from Kako to Katsumi, a duo comprised of Mito’s parents. And there’s even a cover of a song by Houkago Teatime, the fictional band in the anime K-On.

New cover album and documentary film!

Aha, the record that Clammbon recently finished recording is LOVER ALBUM 2, another cover album in the tradition of their first in 2006. The track list has yet to be released. Not an album of brand-new Clammbon songs, but after the charm of the first Lover Album it’s hard to complain!

The other major announcement is of En, a documentary film about the band’s two big shows at Yomiuri Land last year. It includes footage from the studio in Kobuchizawa, rehearsals, and of course both the acoustic and electric sets. Perhaps I’ll provide subtitles like I did for tayu tau.

Both items go on sale May 22.

(Also, concert dates for this year’s tour are going up; fingers crossed that I’ll be able to make it to one!)

“Where Shall We Play?” 2013

As has become their tradition, Clammbon announced their “Where Shall We Play?” Tour for 2013. Fans are invited to suggest venues that the band should consider, and anything goes: “even your own house, as long as it’ll hold 200-300 people!”

I’m tempted to ask them to come to Seattle, but it seems like I should be able to take on the burden of organizing the logistics of such a thing myself before casually suggesting it!

Harada Ikuko’s personal site opens

Everyone celebrate: Harada Ikuko now has her own site. Everything about it is infused with her quiet, soulful style. There’s quite a lot to see and do, with photos, videos, and links to projects she’s involved with.

http://ooo195ooo.cc

And if you haven’t yet, check out the site for her cafe/shop/restaurant/live-space in Tokyo, called Kichimu. Has anyone visited yet? It seems like the perfect place for a little Clammbon fan pilgrimage.

http://www.kichimu.la

Foreign fans represented on Ryougoku DVD!

I’ve been so busy that I didn’t even get a chance to watch the Ryougoku Kokugikan concert until this week. It was exciting to see that after the encore break, Mito and Ikuko asked if anyone in the audience had come from very far away. They heard from some of the most distant parts of Japan, like Fukuoka and Hokkaidou. But then, someone from Taiwan chimed in! Mito asked if anyone came from farther than Taiwan, and this fellow turned out to be from the UK!

IMG 0344

What a happy thing it is to have a native English-speaking fan acknowledged on an official Clammbon recording. Thanks to the band for giving him such a warm welcome, and thanks to you, Super Tall British Guy, for representing us foreign fans!

The whole concert is a purely joyful celebration of the sort you’ve probably come to expect from the band by now. One of these years my Japan trip will match up with a big Clammbon show! It must!

Again & Again

Sounds like the Again & Again concerts at Yomiuri Land went well. Clammbon did one acoustic show and one normal show. Mito has been posting photos, and retweeting famous folks who were in attendance (such as Shinohara Tomoe!).

Here are some photos from Mito’s Twitter feed. Somedaw I will see Clammbon at one of these outdoor shows!

657159068
657159556
657851692657713699

Rough & Laugh

As just announced at the Tower Records site, clammbon is releasing a new Tower-exclusive single on November 21! The title is Rough & Laugh, and the song will serve as the new opening theme for the surreal comedy anime Polar Bear Cafe. The disc is expected to have four tracks, and there will be a limited edition with a DVD of the anime opening sequence sans titles.

3peace2 and Ryougoku Kokugikan live DVD!

Today clammbon announced two new live recordings. 3peace2 is a 2-disc live album recorded on last year’s “Where Shall We Go?” tour, to be released on March 21. The other is a two-disc super-premium limited-edition live DVD box set, from their show at Ryoukoku Kokugikan on November 3, 2011.

Also! I picked up a few clammbon items of varying rarity on my trip to Tokyo last month, which I will be adding to the site. The Aru Kodou and Hana Saku Iroha singles, the limited-edition Aru Kodou DVD, three issues of Hibiku, the official clammbon magazine, and three clammbon t-shirts! I need to figure out the best way to add the magazines; maybe some brief reviews and a previews of a few pages would be appropriate. Not sure I have the endurance to translate whole articles any time soon!

Best albums, new official site, Mito albums, Twitter, comments

Hi! Just a few things.

The two new best compilations are out as of April 20th. Both have limited editions that come with live DVDs. And if you buy both, you can send away the included slips to get a bonus CD with the songs Eiketsu no Asa Shou and Tasogare. But you’ll probably need to provide a Japanese address, and you’ll have to postmark it by May 31st.

The official clammbon site has been totally refreshed! It is more modern, more fun, and more clammbon. Check it out!

Mito is coming out with a fourth solo project album. The title is DAWNS and will be released under the name Mito, unlike his previous efforts which each had unique artist names. Also, there will be a two-disc set of songs from various musicians that Mito has written, produced, remixed, or otherwise worked on over the years: Mito archive 1999-2010. Watch for both of these May 18th.

Miss Ikuko has started using Twitter, and almost every tweet is like a little poem. She’s @ooo195ooo. Also, if you haven’t been following Mito, he’s @micromicrophone.

One last thing: I dug up my old Akismet key and deleted the 2,000 spam comments in the queue, and now comments are back on. We’ll see how it goes!

Thanks for your support.