More than just those fluffy things you lay your head on

Thanks to a generous JET friend, this past weekend I scored a free ticket to see The Pillows, a well-known Japanese alternative rock band that’s been crooning their English-titled (but mainly Japanese-lyriced) songs since the early 90s. They were really good! Look-wise they resembled The Strokes; their sound sorta reminded me of Green Day… poooossibly Weezer. At times they were even edging on ska (Reel Big Fish, what!).

A word about Japanese concerts: they’re weird! Ok, not weird. Just extremely different from the shows I’ve been going to in the US since my pop-punk adolescent roots in Hawaii.

First of all, photography is not allowed. Apparently, Japanese copyright laws involving the media are quite different than in the US. And unlike most of us American assholes who fanatically snap away at paparazzi-worthy moments regardless of any rule (I have a photo of Michelangelo’s David which I took illegally at the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence SOMEWHERE), Japanese concert-goers abide.

I hoped upon entering Sakurazaka Central in Naha that I’d spot the luminosity of at least a few LCD screens in the venue and thus feel justified in following suit. However, not a single glow was to be found in the darkness. And when I tried to get smart near the end of the set by covering my camera’s LCD with one hand while blindly lifting the thing above my head with the other, I was swiftly met with a tap on the shoulder. A fellow Pillows patron stood behind me gesturing with crossed forearms and a scolding look. Bah, fine. I relinquished the role of foolish foreigner and put it away.

With a shot this good, you know it’s a concert in Japan. (The Pillows at Sakurazaka Central, Okinawa – illegally captured by moi)

Secondly: the crowd at a Japanese concert is so well-behaved that people remain silent in the pauses between songs! Like, eerily silent. To the point where I was afraid that by simply whispering to my friend next to me the oddness of the situation, I’d be gawked at or shushed. I’m used to the loud, rowdy audiences at shows back home who’d be wooting and hooting and basically being noisy assholes in the absence of music. In comparison, while the Japanese rock out sufficiently while the band is on, the in between moments = quiet time. I’d heard that people here rarely shout or raise their voices in most social situations, but I had no idea it would extend to the liberation I’m used to witnessing at rock shows.

These are merely my observations, though. The strange new experience was far from unenjoyable and like I said, I had a great time.

Since I was told the best way to learn the Japanese language is to find a fun way to do it, I’m actually hoping to get my hands on some of The Pillows’ albums soon. With alienation, heartbreak, and general emo-ness engendering their genre, the vocabulary should be right up my alley :P.

And I’m already sort of learning! I (semi-)successfully used my first katakana English to order a drink at the concert. “Sakurudoraiba, o kudasai.” x3 :)

Finally, I present to you… The Pillows! Enjoy! (Or as one would say here… dozo!)


2 thoughts on “More than just those fluffy things you lay your head on

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