Joe Bataan Tokyo Show Poster
The next morning we were up early to get ready for the show. By then, my internal clock was all messed up, having to adapt to Japan time followed by staying up until 7 am then having to go to bed early for Sunday’s show. Shin’s company is a record label but from time to time he serves as a promoter. The venue was a big empty room. There was no sound system or stage and all had to be constructed before sound check. Joanna and I used this time to walk around Asakusa, another part of Tokyo, were the venue is located. The club, Super Dry Hall, is inside the Ashai Beer Building that is famous for it’s Philippe Starck sculpture on top of the building. It is supposed to look like golden beer foam coming out on top of the building that is shaped like a pint glass. Almost everyone that looks at the sculpture thinks of the same thing, “ is that a piece of poop on top of that building?” The Japanese has given it a nickname, kin no unchi, which translate into “The golden poop” The building is now know by locals as unchi biru (the poop building)
Joe Bataan (center) & Willie-San (left) at soundcheck
We returned to the venue and everything was up and running. I’m always amazed by the efficiency of Japanese workers. In less than a few hours they had constructed a stage, set up lights, a sound system and were already sound checking the band. Having worked for sound companies in the past, I know how long a job like that should take and it was pretty impressive they did it so quickly. We said hello to Joe and his wife Yvonne, as well as Willie-San, getting ready to shred on his timbales. The hired band from Japan wasn’t well prepared. They were sloppy and forgetting parts. You could see the frustration in Joe’s face. Other than Willie-San and a few other musicians, the band lacked the swing that most of Joe’s backing bands have. It looked like a potential disaster waiting to happen. At the end of sound check, Willie-San took all the members of the group backstage and had a half-time style meeting with them.
Gomez With A Japanese Lowrider
Motomix had the Lowrider set down! He could easily kill it at any Lowrider show in the states. I liked how he mixed in some non-traditional Lowrider jams and made it work. He played Los Amigos Invisibles “Mentiras” a song on its own I wasn’t too crazy about but worked well with all the Zapp and Gangster Hip-Hop tracks he played. It was one of those sets that you start subtracting in your head all the bangers that you can’t play because he got to them first. At this point, I didn’t know what to play. His entire crew is dancing around the DJ booth as people start to pour in.
It didn’t matter. People were there to have a good time. The crowd kept moving and the Lowriders high-fived me anytime I played a song they liked. Random people came by to thank me or to check out what I was playing. It was a pretty easy going set. Shin came up a played a few bangers as well before the show started. A group of Japanese Salseras did a choreographed dance to Joe Bataan’s “Subway Joe” just before Shin played an advertisement for his up coming releases on the video screen. I was happy to hear that the loudest response came when they played a Chicano Batman song and album cover came on the video screen.
Joe Bataan hit the stage and immediately you could tell that the band was on fire. Whatever nerves or forgotten parts the band members had were now long gone. They started off with “Gypsy Women” and played all his biggest hits like “Subway Joe, “Afro-Filipino” “When Sunny Gets Blue” “Mestizo” and many others. Joe was part James Brown, part Sinatra crooner, part Fania/Salsoul legend and all Joe. The band swung hard as well, with Willie-San leading the charge on percussion. All in all, the band blew the doors off the poop building.
Joe Bataan, Gomez Comes Alive, Joanna, Yvonne & Records!
After the set was complete, I went back on the turntables while Joe signed autographs. As the line formed, I also signed a few autographs of my own and took some pictures with the Lowriders. I was happy that people bought some copies of my new mix CD, as well as some of my past releases. After my set, Motomix took over and I got in line to get my Joe Bataan singles autographed and to take pictures with Joe. After we were done, we drove back to Shibuya to drop of Joe & Yvonne, who were leaving the next day. I also had another after party to play. By then, everyone was beat, including myself. Joanna left with Miho back to Chofu and I stuck around with Shin.
We met up with Shunsuke, who catered the Joe Bataan show and whose restaurant was hosting the after party. At the Joe Bataan show, Shunsuke made his version of a taco, made from a Brazilian chorizo sausage with guacamole in a tortilla. It wasn’t the prettiest dish. It looked like a weenie inside of a tortilla with some green sauce. But to my surprise, was quite tasty. His spot, Yagi Ni Kiku wasn’t as swinging as Friday’s event. It was more of “kickback” with couches and a laid back vibe. Some of the Japanese Lowriders came by but soon all of us were all drained of energy and fading fast. I was expected to play until early morning but there was no way I was going to make it. To top it off, Shin was staying in Shibuya to take Joe back to the airport. That meant after my set, I would have to wait until the 5am train to make my way back to Chofu. Lucky for me, Willie-San was there and lived near Chofu. He offered me a ride back. He had the smallest car and it was full of percussion instruments, but there was just enough room for my records and me. I played a short set before a one-man reggae dub artist went on. He had a drum machine, an organ and tons of delay petals. I left as a sea of echo hit my ears.
I can’t remember what Willie and I were talking about. It was a tripped out conversation. I was so tired and Willie-San English was limited. We drove around the empty streets of Shibuya looking for the expressway back to Chofu. It seemed like Willie-San was lost. There were many police out and Willie-San seemed nervous, which made me nervous. Willie-San does not drink so he was fine on that front. Perhaps he had that same nervousness I have when I see cops in Los Angeles. The feeling that even though you are legal and not intoxicated that they still will find something to harass you. Even though I had only been in Japan a few days, until that moment, I had forgotten how it was to feel that way. In Japan I felt free. I felt appreciated and free from some of the everyday fears some of us have living in Los Angeles. In my head I was telling Willie all this, but the words never came out. I was too tired to talk.
By the time Willie-San found the expressway I was out. I slept until we got to Shin’s office, a mile or so from his place. He dropped me off there and I walked the rest of the way home, records in tow. As I walked next to the river/ reservoir that went through Chofu, I could hear the birds’ dive-bombing into the water to get the unsuspecting fish. It was an odd sound because it was so dark that I couldn’t see the birds but could hear them. There wasn’t a single person out except for me. It felt like the whole world was asleep. Soon, I crept into Shin’s place. I took off my shoes at the door and tried not to make too much noise. I didn’t want to disturb the sleeping world. I only wanted to join them.
Joanna and I would like to thank the following people for making our trip so great. Shin Miyata and Miho for bringing our hosts in Japan Joe Bataan and Yvonne for letting me open for their show. Thanks to the great Willie-San, for being awesome and giving me a ride back to Chofu. Thanks to Sundaland Café and Yagi Ni Kiku for throwing the after parties and Hajime Oishi (El Parrandero) and Shunsuke for hosting them. Thanks to all the great DJ’s I played with in Japan. Thanks to The Esmeralda Car Club of Sapporo and the lovely Chise, Sanae and Catane for helping us at the Joe Bataan show. See you next year Japan!
The Japan Crew!