I don't know what we were thinking but at some point while crossing over the Pacific we turned into total Rock hams. Looking back at the pictures I'm almost embarrassed.

I guess you can take dorks out of dorky bands but they're still dorks...






Our second show was the East West Thrash Blast at Club 20,000V. Twelve completely amazing bands in a small club in one night. The show was so packed that if you weren’t in the back of the club by the door you were pretty much stuck in the show the entire time. I wanted to see most of the bands so I found a spot on stage and stayed there (as if I had a choice). Did I mention how everyone in Japan smokes? I don’t mean ‘most people’ – I pretty much mean ‘everyone.’ I would say 97% of the people we know smoke. This meant that everybody in the club was smoking, It was so smoky and crowded in the club that eventually you couldn’t light a cigarette because there wasn’t enough oxygen. So people went outside to light their smokes and then came back inside. Dawn was stuck at the merch table and I was stuck on stage while the rest of our camp - unable to cope with the smoke - stayed outside. At the time SAIGON TERROR, UG-MEN, and JELLYROLL ROCKHEADS were well worth the unpleasantness of the smoke but when I wound up with smoke poisoning the next day I wasn’t so sure anymore.

This is the phase before my skin turned an greyish-blue. At least here my eyesockets are raw and therefore add some color to my otherwise sickly pale skin.

Between all our luggage and equipment and our ridiculously ample merch (stuffed into cheap luggage with wheels that didn’t roll) we were each responsible for carrying about 200 lbs. Us four dudes were bitching and moaning about how carting all our shit for an hour and a half through the rain was akin to dragging dead bodies uphill through mud. Dawn and Karoline on the other hand were quietly, dutifully, and complainlessly hauling just as much stuff. Considering they didn't have the outlet of jumping around on stage every night like us they were real troopers. Super hats off to them.

Many years ago a guy named Yum showed up randomly on Devon's doorstep. The Franklin House, as it is called, is more or less a punk hostel. It is not unusual to have punkers from all over the world show up randomly. So Yum, fresh from who-knows-where, was invited in, spent a week sleeping on the floor and winning the hearts of everyone who lived/visited there, then disappeared as stealthily as he arrived. Never heard from again.
Fast forward to this afternoon and Yum's the one picking us up from the train station, only he doesn't know who he's picking up and we don't know it's him picking us up. It was pure coincidence (well, outside of the fact that we're all part of this same worldwide underground community) that we should meet many years later, many leagues from home. The friendship was instantaneous and he took us back to his home for two days of semi-dangerous pandemonium and character-bashing. Listen.

The show with IDOL PUNCH was such a success their guitar player felt obliged to "present himself" to us as a gift.

Two months ago we got this email:

> Hi Max.
> How's everything with you?

> It's a little already.
> I t isn't possible to finish waiting.

> In the station arrival time, does it understand?
> Teaching if understanding.
> Because,it is because it gous to the greeting.
> It teaches my carrying telephone number.

> 121-5555-3761

> PS I can speak only a little English.
> It thinks that it's above the imagination of Max.
> I'm sory....................................
> However,the feelings are well-informed.

> Take care.

Granted, if I had to write a letter in Japanese it would surely be as laughable as a firm tickling. These word combinations were impossible to make up, and only slightly less difficult to understand. I wasn't sure if the sender was saying Max was an idiot – he knows, from personal experience ("the feelings are well-informed") or if he was saying he was already waiting for us at the train station but could wait no longer ("I t isn't possible to finish waiting.") At the very least we knew he had a working knowledge of Zen philosophy ("Teaching if understanding.")


The highlight of this trip so far has been traveling to the north island of Hokkaido. Mitch met us at the Sapporo train station and was instantly recognizable as one of those genuine-friend-for-life kind of guys. Despite the language barrier he was warm and helpful and funny. He took us to a grocery store on the way to his house and refused to let us pay. Dawn translated him saying, "In case you didn’t notice – I am very rich." If his home was any indication he probably was doing pretty well for himself. His house was the size of every place we’ve stayed so far combined (which actually isn’t saying much). In the couple days we stayed there he and his wife consistently prepared delicious and healthy meals for us while entertaining us and adamantly refusing to let us so much as bring a used fork back into the kitchen. (Guest etiquette forbade us from pushing issues like this so we just cut down our eating and dish-using.) We also spent a lot of time playing with their son and watching videos of old Sapporo bands (our collective favorite being SPITFIRE).

(psst, that's them...)

My guess is that this massage parlor offers "full release."

Of course, the show in Sapporo was just as fantastic. Everybody was so friendly and on-the-level. The whole attitude of folks in Sapporo was undeniably different. Noticably less pretentious and fashion-oriented than the rest of Japan. The thing I noticed most was that everybody smiled. People on the street were friendlier than even a lot of people we’d meet at shows in cities likeTokyo or Nagoya. All the bands were totally rocking, including FACE OF CHANGE and YOUTH ENRAGE. We left Sapporo thinking we could come back and tour just Sapporo and be happy with it.

I created a mock-profile at eMode Matchmaking under the name Hot Cocket. I used these as my profile pics. For Eyes I put "none," for Occupation I put "Sunday School Teacher," for Hobbies I put "fluffing" and for Salary I put "minus $35,000." Interestingly, I got many responses including ones from a Mormon biker, a Sunday school teacher from San Jose, and a large woman that looked like Martin Lawrence when he dressed as ShaNene. She wrote me and said "Let's face it, you're sexy." I'm guessing it is my suggestive oral abilities in picture 1, the "Wfwooo...these pits stink" face in picture 2, the mid-hump stance of picture 3, and the crotch-shot in picture 4 that won me that compliment.

The smoke poisoning is starting to really break down my body. My skin has turned a pallor grey and I am having trouble talking without erupting into a cacophony of coughs and wheezes. My mouth is breaking out in canker sores and my hair hurts. But the bands we’re playing with… the condition of my health is in direct contrast to the quality of bands we’re experiencing. Got-damn, Japanese bands can kick some ass. For instance, MAMA SNAKE were skate rock (with a standup bass) more reminiscent of ALL YOU CAN EAT and YOUR MOTHER than WHN? Turns out they were huge AYCE/YM fans. I’m not saying they were good because they liked our bands, but since our bands were the kind of music I grew up playing I have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of that style of music.

SENSELESS APOCALYPSE played exactly enough sweeping arpeggiated solos that I blew out my voice yelling for them to play more. The same night those two bands played a traditional Japanese crust band called RAID also played. After shellacking Robert’s new (and absurd) mohawk into place the RAID bass player was really on our team, whereas I got the impression his gaggle of toothless, spikey-haired miscreant friends were the type to beat us up just for being American. At the end of their set the singer threw his mic right into the face of an enthusiastic young fan, breaking his nose and sending him out in a pool of blood. Their guitar player was not stoked to be socializing with us and seemed to frown whenever I tried to engage with him. I eventually gave up trying because I got this feeling he wanted to punch me. Really. As we were setting up he stood right next to the amp I was using with his arms folded and his eyes glaring at me. I think it was his amp so I prayed none of us got anywhere close to damaging it during the show. Much to my surprise the guy started headbanging and playing air guitar and screaming at me to play "More more more!" as soon as we started playing. Was I vindicated through my guitar playing or was I just a bad judge of character? We played a Deathside cover and he and the bass player sang it. The rest of the night was spent in total camaraderie. They didn't speak English and we spoke only useless Japanese but the language of Goofing Off was well understood on both sides. After the show we walked by the bass player who was passed out at the wheel of a running car.


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