It’s been 20 years since I wrote a tour diary, but knowing how sleep deprived and overwhelmed I’d likely be on the other side of the world, I wanted to give it a shot again. I tend to forget everything I’m too dazed to document on tour. (I once forgot an entire road trip to Montreal, and that was while I was straight edge.)
Abraham from Road to Ruin Los Angeles proposed that we do a wknd in LA and Tijuana when we met him at Dead Rhythm Fest last year in Stockholm, and Hiro from Crew for Life invited us to Japan around the same time the west coast trip was coming together. Flying to Tokyo from LA made sense so we coordinated it all. Despite The CxA Curse, it happened like crazy:
Brooklyn, Glen Ridge, Philly: All Aboard
Janis and I are en route to NWK from Philly with his wife, Melissa, and her pop John, who served as foreman at the great vacuum-sealing-of-the-1lb-XXL-longsleeves. Snacks inventoried, and potential/eventual disasters pre-accepted, we hit the warpath (NJ Turnpike).
SFA and Damage were playing the CBGB in Newark Airport, and as you can see, the pit was on fire:
Daryl and I sat together on the plane & talked Mexican death metal between my watching Creed II [and baaarely welling up at all on several occasions, I’ll have you know] and Daryl watching On the Waterfront (cuz if he spills, his life ain’t worth a nickel). I can’t vouch for Janis and Joe’s flight, as they were seated towards the tail and had no access to Daryl, Ingrid Bergman, or me.
LA: Models in Burzum Shirts
Abraham from Road to Ruin LA picked us up with big foo energy to spare. The next portion of the night belonged to Leo’s Tacos al Pastor. Janis and Abraham’s stomachs had stomach, and all was right with the world.
GTA V Beach looked a lot like Venice Beach, and that about summed-up our Friday before we booked it to East LA to run through the set.
We cooled out w/some local punx at the rehearsal space, where we learned that Roger “friend of the crusties” Waters is a regular at the studio.
The Rec Center show was a trip. 9 Killer space, great sound, and a green room with a fairly limited number of ketamine-addled art punks! Entry murdered while some kid wheeled around a Niagara Falls barrel-sized tank of nitrous, passing out balloons to all the junior high drug aficionado boys and girls. Violencia straight pummeled.
We did a fair amount of raging with old and new friends (including my old friend Ryan Butler from Unruh and Landmine Marathon, whom I hadn’t seen since ‘97):
Frosty from Chain of Strength came out to support, and Max Bernstein, who Joe and Janis knew when he was the youngest kid in the Hell No crew, showed up. He now plays guitar for Taylor Swift, crazily enough. We ended up back in Inglewood at 3am or so.
Tijuana: Message in a Brothel
By 2pm, six of us wadded up our internal organs and found a place for them on the 3 hour drive to the border in Abraham’s pickup truck.
Traffic was mild and we elected to park in San Ysidro and cross the border on foot. It was a bit of a hike with the gear trudging through a series of Running Man-reminiscent, oppressively high fencing.
(A note from Janis: We crossed the world’s busiest and most problematic border on foot. By car, it is a multi-hour wait even at night and it’s is getting worse. Everyone on both sides complain about it. The Mexicans, of course, have it harder and feel more resentment. We met one celebrated Tijuanian, however, who refuses to cross with documents and gets by with guard whisperer-style magic.)
Abraham thoughtfully arranged for a friend over the border to grab our equipment so we didn’t have to lug it all over the city. We took a load off for a bit, huddled over tacos al pastor (and cactus tacos for your veg narrator) before trekking to the venue, which we were told was also a brothel. “____ from _____ spent like $1,500 when they were on tour!”—Abraham on ___ from ____. Our experience was more puerile than prurient, but I hope everything worked out for everyone involved with ____’s ____ ____.
Some Indios, and amiable billard hustling kept us company as an elderly, local gent crushed the juke box w/Creedence & Santana. By 10, the first band had showed up and by 11 we were semi-well underway!
Like all great concert venues, the stage was tiled.
Hong Kong Fuck You!, Balacera, Agonal, and Viewers Like You were all a blast. A combo amp and a couple heads succeeded in reducing bass drum sliding by upwards of 40%! During our set, local good dudes Juan Carlos, Froylan, & Albert all sat in front of my bass drum, tackling dummy-style, while the cymbal stands, snare & floor toms scurried in every direction on the tiles (which at this point were thoroughly lubricated with Indio™️). The drum stool sank whenever it had the chance, so by the end of every song my snare was at chest-level. I was the 5th drummer to play on this drum set/collection of Fantasia brooms, and by the end all 5 of us donated knuckle blood to the snare head. Most fun any of us have had at a show in a long time.
Abraham was as... awake as I’ve ever seen anyone on the drive back to LA, and since I took on passenger side duty, I did my best to loudly philosophize along with him as the others slept (occasionally waking to overhear a nugget of manic, 3am wisdom).
After a couple hours sleep, we dragged ourselves to LAX, and a smooth, 11-hour flight later, we were met by Hiro from Crucial Section/Crew for Life Records, and Masuda, who booked the tour and will be our guide this coming week.
They own Pit Bar together and throw about 20 shows a month. Hiro was kind enough to drop off our gear at the bar while Masuda helped us check in to our home for the next two nights: a capsule hotel.
From the outside, it looked small and non-descript, but it was fascinating and nice as hell inside. It took us a while to get the hang of the system: enter and put your shoes in a locker, take that key to the front desk and get your all-access key (to the showers/sauna, sleeping capsules, dining area, etc…), leave your luggage when you check in, and lock anything you’ll be using at the hotel in a separate locker. The sleeping pods were about 3X7 and offered amenities galore.
None of us had slept more than a handful of hours over the course of the past two days, so we planned on getting dinner and crashing, but after some amazing curry we stopped at an izakaya for one drink. Three hours later, several pints and several friends kept us there ‘til the capsules took us.
The next day (don’t ask me which, but I woke up and it was light out, so I assume it was the next one) was rainy, but we went exploring anyway.
Masuda led us on a few treks via subway, which Janis was excited about. (One thing you’ll learn about Janis is that he’s always interested in local history. He’s a good one to travel with because he pays attention and has a point of view about the where and how.) The Edo-Tokyo Museum took us through the history of the shogunate through WWII. Fascinating and heavy.
Next up was a record shop called Diskunion. Unsurprisingly, it was impeccably well-organized. Each floor of the maybe 10X15 building featured a different genre.
Moments after we walked into the punk floor’s shop, the manager put on the CxA discography that Crew for Life just put out. Surreal and sweet. The boys and I sat down for ramen, but there was nothing vegetarian for me. I was cool with eating later, but the ever-generous Masuda offered to take me somewhere else while the others slurped. I found some protein bars and returned to Daryl offering me the rest of his beer. Whatta prince.
The rain had mostly dissipated by this point and the city was humid and about 70. The walk back was long, but pleasant.
Back at Pit Bar, Hiro and I inventoried shirts and the bands soundchecked. It was dope to meet the rest of Crucial Section and see The fellas from Forward again after playing Dead Rhythm Fest with Death Side in Stockholm last year. Pit Bar’s max capacity is 150, but it felt packed with 50 when the doors opened. Before anyone played we met folks from Paris, Bordeaux, Stockholm, North Carolina, Texas and Philly. Most remarkably, Daryl reunited with Tetsuya from the original lineup of Taste of Fear, whom he hadn’t seen in 25+ years. What a warm, convivial guy. Later, I learned that the wildman whose predator dreads were visible from all corners of the pit (and the Pit) was Naoki Sakamoto, also a two+ decade reunion for Mr. Kahan, Joe and Janis.
Forward and Crucial Section both ripped in distinct ways and Joe and I rapped about how we dig them both a lot, between Ishiya’s charisma and Hiro’s fastcore hustle. Our set was a major blast. We played 90% of every song CxA had ever written, so when an encore was requested, the only thing left was Youth of Today’s "Expectations," which CxA covered before I was in the band. I hadn’t heard it since I was a kid. The vibe of the show must have imbued Daryl with punk rock abandon, as his solution to me not knowing the drum parts was for him to drum and me to sing it. Ridiculous idea, so we did it.
I’m thinking today is Wednesday, so I’m switching tenses... We’re a couple hours from Okayama with around 9 behind us, and the drive is mountainous with tons of tunnels and some monkey crossing signs. One of the rest stops had a ferris wheel and a radio station broadcasting out of an all-glass trailer. None of us were surprised.
As soon as we pulled into town, I noticed that the sidewalks were teeming with bicycles ridden by Okayama University students, so we had to stay sharp lest they whoosh through us. Actually, that’s not quite true. The flow in Okayama, as with everywhere else we’d been in Japan, more closely resembled (as Janis offered) "a school of fish"— weaving and jetting, but never touching. We all found it vastly more civilized than the indiscriminate, human sidewalk shrapnel we’re used to in the States. Even when these kids were riding at a good clip, there was a flow that was at once assertive and deferential. My sense is that I almost got nailed several times, but if I didn’t dodge, this demure force field would have likely adjusted its Ju no Ri like it was nothin.
Pepperland was a really cool, well-run venue that a hip, elderly couple have owned since ‘74. 26 Their son does sound, and a rad young woman named Ayaka works the door, tends bar, and holds down all the logistical action. We soundchecked with a sick local band called Till Ewing, and I was amazed to see that their drummer was wearing a 97a shirt. I told him that they sounded tight and blazing as hell, and mentioned that I drummed for them 20 years ago. We talked about his work as a brewer for Kirin beer as both bands strolled and looked for dinner.
The 3rd early-'90s reunion of the tour so far went down as an old friend of Daryl’s and ABC No Rio regular named Taka (singer of the long-running Kannsai, Hyogo-based Meaning of Life) rolled up wearing a Bad Trip shirt! Taka ruled, as did every band that played. The venue and scene had been around for 40+ years, but the local bands were comprised of hardcore kids in their early 20s. Ilska pummeled in a Fall Silent kinda way, while Dance My Dunce and Till Ewing were masters of turn-of-the-century fastcore.
We all stayed at Massa from Till Ewing’s apartment and shared sandwiches (that he made) and beers until early morning, when Joe, Janis, and I took a peaceful walk in search of coffee.
Kochi: Enjoy Much Kampai
We were greeted at Chaotic Noise record shop, label, and venue by a sign above a staircase that looked as if it would lead down into a nutty secret subway station.
Holy shit, did this place rule. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the dozens of shirt designs proclaiming an obsession with raw, unmusical HC and playfully brash exclamations about said much noise.
It was gorgeous out, and perfect for a walk to Kochi Castle (est. 1611). We ate at Hirome Fish Market and enjoyed some further, sunburnt exploring, thanks to Wada, Hiro, and Takeshi.
Three bands played before us and none of them stopped for a single second between songs. Dan-Doh, who founded Chaotic Noise in ‘06, played guitar in Speed!! Noise!! Hell!! I took some slo-mo vids of their drummer, who was a methy octopus at full speed. I hadn’t seen that kind of urgency and heart in forever. Dynamite, posi show all-around.
Hiro warmed us more than a few times not to drink with the Kochi punks, unless we could commit to a long night of protracted sake-ing (a warning only Wada and Takeshi heeded).
Amazingly, we got our own, personal, tiny rooms that night, and the next thing I remember I was ignoring my burning toast at the hotel’s breakfast as the owner all but held my elbow while I tottered from the coffee to the bread.
Osaka: A Reason to Believe:
The relatively brief drive to Osaka was characterized by dozens of tunnels that opened to lush, mountainous, bamboo forests.
Ryo from Tone Deaf met us in town and took us for burritos. This was our 1st indication that Osaka was a less traditional Japanese city in a few ways. There were noticeably more funky characters (particularly among local teens and young adults) and tattoos were more common. Record shopping-wise, Revenge Records was where it was at for metal and punk.
I marveled at some rare Lip Cream and SOB records that Daryl picked up, and wished I had more room in my suitcase.
Bears was a dope, underground space with a crazy manga collection in the green room.
A dude from New Zealand, who we met in Kochi, widened his eyes after noticing that Ferocious X we’re playing. “I wouldn’t wanna follow them. Holy shit, man!” Some of us checked out the bands we’d be playing with, and I was pumped that the Bears show looked to be diverse as hell. Tone Deaf were fast and melodic, at times- like a higher octane Verbal Assault. They covered Dag Nasty’s "I’ve Heard," which instantly ramped up my mood for the night. We also met legendary punk artist, Sugi, who drew the lettering for our Japan tour shirts. Ferocious X absolutely mutilated. Ryo and others looked out for me as the sole vegetarian, bringing me veg stir fries and other treats at our post-show dinner. So friggin thoughtful.
That night we stay at Ryo’s folks’ place, where we all crashed hard and woke up to a breakfast feast served by an ebullient Ryomom. I’m happy to announce that I’m backing her candidacy for international punk rock mom of the year.
Hiro took over driving duties for Takishi, who wasn’t feeling so hot, though thankfully he soon returned to his goofy, unassuming self. I believe we all napped for a bit between stopping for snacks &, in my case, some ultra cute, two-toed whale socks for my wife. Eight bands are playing this show, but it’s a matinee, so that’ll work out for Hiro, who has to return to Tokyo to coach his son’s baseball game. The proud dad showed us a clip of his boy pitching and the dude’s got a hell of an arm.
CAM Hall has been an indie venue since ‘87 and man is it a tight ship. Best sound we’ve had so far and being hit with air conditioning for the first time (on an 89° day) was a huge relief, since I’ve been ringing out my shirts every night and haven’t done laundry in a few days. We just watched Dieaude, who opened the show tearing through a set of fast hardcore with a lot of melodic guitar leads. Their singer wouldn’t take money for their shirt, so I traded him a bunch of CxA merch.
We watched all seven opening bands, including: Attack SS, Gyro, Acute, and SystemFucker, but sadly, I missed Lo Card de la Morte while getting in some solitary time in the garden behind the club. I discerned that my timing was off after I returned to Janis and Joe raving about them. Gyro were a joy to watch, and we buddied-up to them over the course of the night. Their singer, Dai, sang "Serve and Protect" with us, which was fun as hell to see from the back of the stage.
Later, I met Hisahiro Naitin, the drummer from CFDL (who, insanely, was at a show I played in Albany, NY in ‘99). After the show, we took tons of photos with some lovely folks and communicated our respect for all the bands’ musicianship and passion.
In the daze of posi vibes, I forgot that we had a 2-3 hr drive ahead of us before we stopped to crash at Jose from Crucial Section’s place in Yokohama.
Tokyo II: Earthdom Zoo
A few hrs on bamboo mats, and short drive to Koreatown (Shinjuku-Ku) found us at the venue that was to host our final show of the tour. Earthdom was the biggest venue of the lot and had everything a band could ask for. Killer sound/stage crew, and super accommodating staff all-around. We watched GO and Rocky and the Sweden sound check and cooled-out until the doors opened at 6:30. The reunions continued, as Max Ward (Spazz, Plutocracy, Cap Casualties) rolled up and chatted with us about his research into radical movements in Tokyo and our mutual appreciation for a wide variety of local bands.
Several other old friends of Daryl’s came out, and I chatted with a number of folks, a couple of whom were in Japanese bands I saw in NYC in the 90’s! Five friends from Philly, who were in town for a wedding, showed up later that night, too. We were psyched as hell on all the bands, with the legendary Slang just completely smoking through an astonishingly tight, powerful set. Their drummer, Kohey, was one of the best I’d ever seen.
The after party at Earthdom’s bar was a many splendored thing.
A totally sloshed dude approached me, bought me shots, and stressed how he appreciated that my drumming was “fast and hard, but with much feelings” (probably the best compliment on my playing I’ve ever gotten) and it turned out it was Kohey.
Bittersweet as it was to leave Earthdom, we desperately needed rest, and the capsule hotel was less than a mile away. New York Podcore for two more nights. We gathered on the 4th floor of the hotel to sum up our day, figure our money stuff, and share 2am microwaved vending machine fries and miso soup on tap before podding down.
Tetsuo and Naoki met us mid-day and took us to Asakusa and Kaminarimon Temple. The temple was quite a spectacle, and the general area was touristy. This worked out for Joe, Janis and Daryl, who bought gifts for their families at a five-story Don Quijote shopping center. Everyone was fading at this point, so we stopped for some coffee and wasabi fries at a little diner before taking the Tokyo Metro about an hour back to Shinjuko City to rest. Unfortunately, the capsule hotel wouldn’t let non-guests up on the 4th floor dining/bar area, so we couldn’t have one last drink with Tetsuya and Naoki (who Joe noted took us from one end of the city to the other to take us to the Temple). Incredible, especially since Tetsuo was up late at work the night before and our tour was over. Naoki couldn’t have been more patient and selfless as well. I can’t get over how amazing our hosts have been on this entire tour.
Midnight laundry, post-tour musings on how to process what just happened and how to carry the spirit of it with us, and more microwaved vending machine fries led us to early morning, at which point we dutifully filled our capsules with our [collectively] 186-year-old-bodies.
The band flew from Tokyo to LA together and then split down the middle to NWK and PHL, respectively. I stopped writing at this point, but after 19 hours of traveling and a couple hours sleep, I recall having no problem discerning when was back in Philly, as I got yelled at by multiple airport staff between baggage and the door.
Unending thanks to Hiroyuki ‘Hiro’ Murase, for inviting us, and for doing a massive amount of behind the scenes work in concert with Chikanori Masuda, Takeshi, and Wada.
Derik and CxA
As a small gesture to all the brilliant bands we played with, here are links to their music, or whatever internet presence they have. (Viewers Like You will be recording soon, so head’s up.)
Tagged: citizens arrest