Friday, October 22, 2010

tokyo travel log photos from tokyo and atoms for peace at fuji rocks

Le Baron, Tokyo Aug 29

I am always surprised by the universality of nightclubs; the top shelf drinks they sell, the songs the DJs play, the style of clothes the cool kids wear, even the haircuts they all have. They usually look and dress the same regardless of race or ethnicity, just slightly different versions of people you know in other cities. Each town always has it’s own version of the Cobrasnake.

With the instantaneous spread of the cultural memes through the internet, it’s now like the underground is one massive scene with a different clique in each city. You no longer need to live in London to be able to listen to an Erol Alkan set. You can download it and then download of the all the individual tracks he played in the comfort of your dorm room and play them out at our local club the next night.

That being said it’s always a little surprising to see actually familiar faces in foreign countries. It was nice to see Andrew from MGMT, and Mike and Tyler from Classixx at hanging out at Le Baron. Our DJ gig was unannounced, and they just happened to be at the club. I had just seen both of them less than a week ago at the MGMT aftershow in Hollywood.

The DJ before us was playing 80s new wave hits. I opened up with Desdemona by John’s Childern and played it into Dominique Young Unique. I had no idea what a Tokyo audience would want to hear, but they seemed to be happy with every song I played which was a great feeling.

After a short set Thom and Nigel went on and DJed. The crowd went bananas. You could see people immediately began to twitter that Thom and Nigel were playing as soon as they stepped into the booth.

It’s always great to watch Nigel and Thom DJ together, they both are amazingly intuitive DJs. Thom always pushes the audience and Nigel pulls them back in again. Thom will play an Acid House track and then Nigel will follow will an Old School Hip Hop track. It is a joy to watch.
It’s also always great to watch the crowds when they DJ. There are always a few superfans that are trying secretly (or in most cases not so secretly) to take pictures with their cameras and cellphones. There are others that are shazam-ing every song. Some sit in front and stare like it’s an exhibit in a museum (Thom usually tells them to dance or get the fuck off the dance floor), and then there are those that lose themselves in joy of it all.

They are the ones that let go of awkwardness having one of the favorites musicians be so close. They are ones that actually dance and share in the communal moment between themselves and the DJ. There aren’t inching towards the DJ booth in hopes of starting up a conversation with Thom or Nigel, with an awkward request or pretending to not know who they are. They are content with experience. They are in the moment. They aren’t twittering about it. It’s these times that I am reminded why I love music and DJing.

Fuji Rocks July 31

We took a relaxing bus ride up to Fuji Rocks. It’s about 3 hours outside of Tokyo at a ski resort. The drive up was amazing. My favorite part of traveling in foreign countries is stopping at the gas stations and seeing what weird things they sell. green tea flavored Kit Kat bars, (my new obsession), Hello Kitty protective face masks, portable cigarette ashtrays. It’s the little things that make me happy.

The landscapes outside of Tokyo were beautiful. Usually on DJ tours I fly everywhere, so it was great to be able sit and actually see some of the rural Japan, even if it was on a bus going 60mph.

We arrived at Fuji Rocks around 4pm. As I walked into the backstage area, I ran into my friend Diva Zappa. She had flown out for her birthday. I love how festivals bring so many friends together. It’s always a bit like summer camp for adults who never grew up.

The space where Fuji Rocks is held is enormous. The stages are spread out in what seemed like miles from each other. We had to take a minibus to get to mainstage area (I much prefer the crazy golfcarts of Coachella). We went backstage and then walked around the crowd for a bit. It had rained the previous two days of the fest, and the fields were covered in deep think mud. Everyone wore rain boots, but seemed completely content.

As Vampire Weekend played we walked around the field. People had camped out. Occasionally someone would recognize Nigel and Joey and stop them to take photos. I documented our journey with a stop motion animation on my iphone. Most people shyly smiled and waived. It’s always a beautiful thing to see people singing along to every word of a foreign song. They may not speak English, but they most of the crowd knew every word of every song. I guess I’m the same way when I’m at Sigur Ros concert.

I hate watching shows from the side of stage, you can never hear anything, and you are always in someone’s way. I decided for the Atoms for Peace show to watch the show from the pit. I would take some pictures, and avoid the chaos of the crowd, and manage to stay out of the crews way all at the same time.

I had a new camera and hadn’t really tried to use it to do any live band photography. In the pit I was surrounded by around 50 professional photographers. I did my best to stay out of their way, and took some pictures and enjoyed the show.

Atoms For Peace are amazing live. To have Joey, Flea and Mauro playing along with Thom and Nigel is such amazing chemistry. It is the best rhythm section I’ve ever seen. I grow more and more in awe after every show I see. Each song feels like a masterwork of a artist at their prime. I did my best to try to capture some of that magic in my photos.