EDIT: I just re-read this post and it’s a mess. Look at the pretty pictures!
When I moved to Kanazawa from the Tokyo vicinity three years ago, I rued the fact a bit that I hadn’t taken more advantage of the ample music scene there. Kanazawa, while being a decent sized city, is very much off the beaten path that mainstream US musicians travel when touring Japan.
So I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of music I’ve been able to see here, as well as the relative frequency. We don’t get many major artists coming through town. In fact the most famous person to come in recent memory was Brain Setzer. I skipped that one. Most of the people I’ve seen here recently are not people I had listened to much, if at all, before seeing them live. Neal Casal, Bruce Hughes, Matt the Electrician, The Resentments, Calexico, Iron & Wine — not the most jaw dropping names, but all very much worthy of the entry fee.
So last night, as I was sitting in our local ‘live house’ listening to Jim Bianco sing about cockroaches and stalkers, close enough to have to dodge his spittle, I realized that the shows I see here in po-dunk Kanazawa are the best I’ve ever seen. What they lack in star power, they more than make up for in intimacy and atmosphere. The best part though is the access to the musicians themselves allowed by such small venues. When the show is done, or in between sets, the musicians generally amble through the crowd and up to the bar, or outside for a cigarette, all the while chatting it up with whoever wanders by in search of a picture or to say hello.
The musician in me eats up the opportunity to see what musicians do, especially guitar players, from mere feet away. It’s also really cool to watch the interaction between band members while they play. The fanboy in me digs the chance to mingle with semi-celebrities and shoot the shit.
I saw Jim Bianco twice this week, on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday night was a place downtown which was cool, but Wednesday night took the cake. That show was smaller and on our home turf at Big Pink, which was celebrating it’s 20th year in operation. Totally unplugged, 20 or so people crammed into the cafe with the lights dimmed, cozy to the point of being able to feel the floor shake as Jim stomped on the floor during songs. Good stuff.
If you get a chance to see Jim Bianco live, I highly recommend it. He’s one of the most energetic performers I’ve seen, original tunes and generally entertaining dude.
So it’s been a great week so far, and tomorrow’s Friday. The one downside to all this live music is that I’ve fallen off the Kanji wagon in my Japanese study. So need to climb back on tonight while before the sleep gets me. Catch up this weekend perhaps.