KJM‘s Shuya Okino played some damn cool tunes, yesterday at Metro…

But seriously, what’s with the rockstar entourage thing?

Staff rushing to fetch the official record-bag carrier when Mr. Okino decided to head for the exit, half a dozen groupies in tow?!

Guys, this is broken-beat/jazz house, not 1980s arena rock… Sure, he is good, but still only a couple steps removed from what your grandma listens to on 94.2 Smooth Jazz FM.

I should preface this somewhat-less-than-glowing review of Sonic Mania (aka Summer Sonic for people who dance at night) by mentioning one important detail:

I don’t really like music festivals.

More exactly, I don’t like a certain kind of music festivals (that kind). I think I have spent enough of my youth, dancing half-naked on Californian beaches or through Black Rock Desert that I don’t need to defend my record of appreciation for spontaneous music-oriented gatherings. I just still can’t figure the draw with mainstream music festivals: horrible acoustics, quantity-over-quality line-ups and uninspiring settings.

If I wanted to dance in the middle of stadiums, I’d be a football cheerleader.

Acts at major music festivals fall into two categories: bands that were cool 20 years ago (and whose sole surviving member badly needs to pay his taxes) and up-and-coming bands you will hear a 100 times better at a smaller, more targeted venue. The packaging of the two together, along with laundry-detergent levels of sales/marketing based more on PR momentum than musical coherence (complete with nonsensical stage schedules) are what make music festivals such a profitable deal for major industry players and a miserably pointless experience for everybody else.

Sonic Mania certainly followed that pattern. In fact, every other headliner on the line-up could accurately be summed-up as: “That guy you’ve never heard of, with ties to that band you definitely knew [and perhaps liked], back in the 2000s/1990s/1980s”…

Considering how much whining is liable to follow, I should add I had a perfectly OK night, fun even. But my enjoyment of the event was entirely down to being with a cool group of people and, most importantly, being comped and not having paid 10,000 of my hard-earned yens to attend that semi-debacle of a festival night. I feel I kinda owe it to the poor saps that paid out of pocket to let the world know what passes for top-yen-worthy festival in Japan these days…

10pm-ish: Arrival, Primal Scream

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Kicking off Obon holidays with Aya-chan at Canal Café. Later heading out to Sonic Mania with some guestlist love. Life has been worse.

You know you are at a Japanese free party when…

  • … everybody is smiling, having a good time and randomly engaging in friendly conversations.
  • … people you’ve never met spontaneously come up to you and offer you a beer (or a swig off whatever bottle of alcohol they are drinking from).
  • … asking for a light gets you not only that, but also a brand new mini portable-ashtray as a gift (to you and surrounding Nature).
  • … little kids and grandpas, dancing along with the rest of the hippie club kids, is the most natural sight in the world.
  • … you are standing over the Kamogawa, surrounded by cherry blossoms, dancing to some of the funkiest, jazziest, house beats you’ve heard in a long while…

What a nice and unexpected way to cap a lovely hanami/easter picnic on a Sunday afternoon…

The end keeps nearing. Last weekend in Berlin. Feeling ever so slightly gloomy, for all sorts of reasons. Luckily I have the thought of warm Spring days ahead, plus many exciting plans for the months to come, to keep me from thinking about it too much. Also: it is about time that I resume working on that thing they call a PhD.

As usual, way behind in the note-keeping business, but a few random tidbits instead:

  • Gotta love a city where catching an afternoon performance of Mahler’s Third by the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim (brilliantly filling in for James Levine), is as simple as: picking Nino fresh off her plane at Alexanderplatz, walking over to Staatsoper and buying three (very cheap) last minute-tickets.
  • Used the excuse of miscellaneous out-of-town visitors to check a few of the more touristy items off my Berlin list.
  • For an artist squat long past its underground heydays and part of even the most casual touristic tours of Berlin, Tacheles was still surprisingly fresh and unassuming: with some cool art, a relaxed atmosphere and a funky bar to grab a drink at in the middle of the night. You can also buy “Kultur kann man nicht kaufen” postcards for 1.30€ there.
  • I apparently look very fetching in a tiara. A comforting thought, in case I finally quit research to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a pretty princess.
  • Only major piece left missing to our Berlin nightclub collection, Berghain was actually sort of a letdown: not bad, but definitely nowhere near what the legend gave it as. Perhaps just that particular night. Had fun anyway.
  • Also caught Jazzanova (or a two people subset thereof) at Icon. Rather unimpressive DJing skills (at least before the 5th Vodka mit Red Bull), but some damn awesome blend of everything Latin, Jazzy and Danceable (from Calypso to Cumbia, with your fair share of random house beats in the middle). Funnily enough, threw the same Led Zep nod as Theo Parrish at Yellow, a couple years back: except they played Whole Lotta Love, not Kashmir

It eventually happened.

It took a while, but I think I finally know how it feels to be the ancient one, sitting helplessly while the younger ones try to operate antiquated machinery from another era… say, a turntable.

Picture if you will: a standard Berlin bar, two cheerful yet terminally hopeless barmaids, a pair of standard-issue decks, a [presumably rather cheesy German] record to be played…

It went a little bit like this:

  1. Barmaid places record on deck, tries to play it for 2 minutes before realising said deck has no needle (stylus or cartridge, for that matter).
  2. Barmaid repeatedly tries to spot the beginning of some track she is presumably looking for, using a lighter for sole light source. Gets ever so slightly pissy when yours truly points [as gently as possible] toward the button to enable the dedicated target light that comes standard on all SL-1200.
  3. Barmaid #2 [unsuccessfully] tries to fit a raw stylus into the standard needle connector, apparently oblivious to the obvious size/shape difference.
  4. Barmaids have stroke of genius and finally decide to switch the entire deck with the other deck (changing cables and all), yet again failing to notice that simply switching the cartridge, would have been a considerably easier endeavour.
  5. After finally plugging the new deck in, barmaids enter long struggle to figure the on/off dial on the new deck. Get increasingly pissy at any attempt to point them in the right direction… Finally give up in frustration and put a CD instead.

Seriously: now I know exactly how old-timers feel, when they see condescending-yet-clueless youngsters trying to operate a 1930s radio… and miserably failing at it, as if it was some alien technology.