Growing up with a significantly older brother as a musician, the show or the gig has always been a staple of my life. Even back when I was young enough that low lights could make me drowsy I was at bars, restaurants, venues, and in-between places listening to some of the headiest jazz you could ever imagine. My first run in with really complicated lady problems was talked over at a music show, the first time I met my sister-in-law was at one of her shows, and my first loft party was really just another show. So it’s been a bit strange to live without the ability to go to such an event like it’s no big deal for a few years now. Living in the Japanese birthplace of Jazz (even though my Yokosuka propaganda claims otherwise), Jazz shows are surpassingly expensive, scarce, and sometimes a bit uninspired. You’ll hear someone singing outside of Yokohama and Kawasaki station a bit but that really only provided situations for me to do my best Celine Dion and Andrea Boccelli impersonations for friends. Also, who’s going to stop to listen to Con Te Partiro on a sunny spring day? That song is for the depths of existential dread or at the very least poorly thought-out Italian restaurant playlists.
Is this to say that the music scene in Japan is lacking? Not exactly. But for spending such a long time around artists and musicians it really did take far too long to run into those who watch or play gigs. Maybe this is just another one of those New York things? Even if I wasn’t from a musically inclined family, I would likely have been dragged to see friends bands or friends of friends bands for most of my teen and young adult years. Most people I speak to in Japan say they’ve been to one or two gigs but considering I’ve seen more joke band’s gigs than that, it seems to be an incredibly small number. This was pretty much the line of thinking I had until I learned that Yokohama has a vibrant punk scene.
Yokohama’s punk scene may turn off some of those who are always inclined to say “that’s not punk!” but in that case makes it something usually more accessible by other musically inclined people. On a Sunday night I met with a friend who’s an artist in Koganecho and we headed to a basement bar just barely in the center of Yokohama. There we sat with the most polite crowd at a punk show possibly ever known to man. The atmosphere may have been smokey enough to destroy my voice for a few days, one of the guys introduced the bartender as the “Milf owner”, drug and anti-establishment imagery was everywhere, yet people were pretty calm, polite, and less offensive than the asshole businessmen you’ll find at some izakaya on a friday night. It’s definitely an experience.
I was only able to see two bands that night, the first one of which was Mustang Jerx which seems to have some popularity in Tokyo as well as Yokohama and probably isn’t exactly what you’d think of when you hear “punk rock.” The bassist in particular was pretty skilled and even outplayed the guitarist. Don’t worry, there were no bass solos though. The band after, Battlescard was more along the lines of what would be expected though they seem to identify as metal. My friend and I ended the night the way every Sunday should be, eating Korean chicken on the seediest street in Yokohama.