RSS Feed

Tag Archives: #music

Kink, Kryptonite, and Kabuki

Posted on

Day 14: May 20, 2015

Slept late and spent too much yesterday, so I’ll just walk around Akiharaba and Shibuya, see some kabuki, do laundry, and get an early night.

Wild and sexy, yeah? I’ll miss Shibuya’s bright lights, which is one of the perils of being a middle-aged solo female traveller in a very youth-oriented, male-dominated city. Perhaps I’m making more of it than it is and I’m just tired. I feel safe but isolated. The idea of going to a bar on my own feels weird. I can do it at home, but in a foreign city… If I were younger, that might be different. If I were a middle-aged male, it would be fine. I think travelling is different for men because they take a lot for granted. Maybe if I were in an English-speaking city or country I might feel more comfortable going to a bar and seeing a band. I don’t think they do that here. Tokyo seems very clubby and EBM oriented. That’s not for me.

Japan is so contradictory. On one hand it’s very formal and conservative, and on the other is utterly sexually out there—and not in a necessarily health egalitarian way. Akiharaba is a good example, as it houses not only loads of electronics and anime games but also lots of sex shops where the three mix. Tam told me about this yesterday, so I thought I’d see for myself. I found one shop, but wasn’t allowed past the second floor. Needless to say, I was pretty annoyed. Why can’t I see if the goods involve women? Maybe I’m being heteronormative and they were male/male, but so? And what about the top floor with the “big” products? Big what? I wanna see! I didn’t bother with the BDSM basement.

Barred. Bugger.

Barred. Bugger.

To clear my head, I take the subway to Shibuya. It wasn’t as crowded at is it was in the morning.

I'll wait for the next train, thanks.

I’ll wait for the next train, thanks.

Also, for the record, there is a women’s car.

Women only.

Women only.

Shibuya is known for its shopping but also for its scramble crosswalk, a model that Toronto has copied.



My main task was to find a Tower Records and get a CD for my friend Allan, who asked for something by a group called Funassyi. Never heard of ’em. Even the shop clerks had to look it up, which may simply have been a result of my terrible phrasebook Japanese. In the end, they found two discs. Hurrah! Score a point for the white lady! I wandered around for a bit, overwhelmed by the amount of music, then paid for the CD.

So. Much. Music.

So. Much. Music.

As I was leaving, I noticed the Tower Records Bookstore. My kryptonite.

To read.

To read.

After lunch I decided it was time to pick up a kabuki ticket.

Kabukiza Theatre

Kabukiza Theatre

Like noh, kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese theatre, but it’s considered more accessible to Westerners. Apparently, audience participation is encouraged in the form of yelling at the actors. I’d been looking forward to going; even bought a little black dress for the occasion.

Ichi kippu kudasai.”

“One ticket?”

I really shouldn’t bother with Japanese.

“Yes, please.”

“One act?”

Hai.” The theatre sells single-act tickets to tourists and other kabuki newbies. It’s less expensive for us, and I suspect it keeps the riff raff away from the veteran theatre goers.

We exchange yen.

“Please be here ten minute early. Show start this time,” she points to the clock.

“Okay. Arigato.”

We bow. I have just enough time for a coffee. So much for the LBD.

I return early and join a crowd of well-dressed (compared to me) Japanese theatre goers. I really doubt I’m supposed to be here, but I don’t see a line. I do, however, see audio guides. I’m addicted to these things, by the way. They interpret everything: from Japanese to modern art.

“One, please.”

“Sorry. Japanese. English in other line,” the clerk smiles sweetly.

“Okay. Sumimasen. Arigato.” I wish I had a yen for every time I say these words.

A uniformed usher sees me and quickly escorts me to the proper line, which is through the side door (not the grandiose front one, alas) and up the elevator. The doors open on to a narrow hall crowded with foreign tourists. My people. I’m handed a number and politely asked to wait.

Eventually we’re escorted into the upper balcony of the sumptuous theatre. I settle in with the audio guide (actually a subtitle guide) and the lights go down.

According to the flyer I was given, Keian Taiheiki, by Kawatake Mokuami, was written in the Meiji era when kabuki would show historical events. The main character, Marubashi Chuya, is plotting to overthrow the Edo government. He shows up drunk at a tavern near Edo Castle (the flyer says he feigns drunkenness, but the subtitler says he’s sloshed) and spouts off. His father-in-law spots him drunk and overhears his plan. Chuya returns home to sleep it off. As he snores away, his beleaguered wife must host two officials of the shogunate. After they leave, Chuya and his wife discuss his plot and his mother overhears. In shame, the mother kills herself, leaving the missus utterly distraught. Her distress is compounded when the army, having been informed by her father, shows up to arrest her hubby.

Then it gets interesting.

Up to this point the play has been dialogue heavy, so I’ve watching and reading simultaneously. Now we go into full action mode for the rest of the play! If you like realistic fight scenes, you’re in the wrong place. The combat is so utterly choreographed that it makes absolutely no sense in real life. But who cares? It’s theatre! I’m in Japan watching one man take on the entire Edo army with a two by four! Screw reality! I’m also fascinated by the contrast: a play about a flawed protagonist fighting the government and winning against all odds shown in a country where obeisance is so ingrained.

Something else for me to think about, Japan.


Mats, Maths, and Stiffness

Posted on

About twenty years ago I wrote a feature article for the now-defunct Ottawa magazine Trans FM about accessibility to local clubs for music fans. It was inspired by an advocacy group housed down the hall from CKCU where I volunteered as a DJ. It occurred to me, as a spun records, that the listeners the next room may not be able to go to see the same gigs I did. Small rooms, stairs, tiny toilets.

Fast-forward a couple of decades. A lot has changed. I’m spinning records, discs, and files at home now. I write for myself and edit for others. For sure I don’t go to as many gigs any more, largely because of time and money. And, after thirty years of concert going, I want to sit. Also, as you may have noticed from previous posts, I use a cane now so standing for long periods of time is out of the question.

Back in the late ’80s I saw an abridged version of the Replacements at Barrymore’s in Ottawa. They were a fantastic band who never quite got the credit (read: sales) that they deserved, drowned out by mediocre radio-friendly crap. After years of rumours and acrimony, the band announced a reunion tour as part of Riot Fest…with a Toronto date! Mine wasn’t the only heart that skipped a beat; most of my Gen X friends posted, cross-posted, and linked their middle-aged brains out on Facebook.

“You in?”

Well, was I? Let me check prices. The cheap seats had gone right quick so the remaining single-day general admissions were about $60 to $70. Not bad for the Mats, plus Iggy Pop, the Weakerthans, Dinosaur Jr., et al. I reached for my credit card.

Then the light went on. Where would I sit? The photos of previous fests showed an audience as a sea of standing bodies. OK, it’s a rock gig—well, a festival in a field, actually. I searched the website for accommodations for fans with mobility issues:

Those with disabilities are welcome to attend. We will not be providing parking to attendees, so those with disabilities should be transported to and dropped off at the main gates. Attendees with disabilities should inform security of their needs at the gates upon entry, they will assist you in accessing the festival. We will not have seating available, so those with trouble walking or standing should use an all-terrain wheelchair and/or attend with someone who can help them navigate the vast festival grounds. Onsite, there are many paved pathways to use, ADA accessible toilets will be provided in all parts of the venue and ADA accessible ramps will be placed next to the Front of House structure at a couple of the main stages. If you have further questions after arriving at the festival, head over to the Information Tent on the grounds, and they will be able to assist.

So no room for camp chairs. I’d need to rent a wheelchair for one day. Ok, fine, that starts at about $15, but for a Sunday and return the Monday? Sigh, call it $30. Then I’ve got to get it there. Hmm. The TTC’s Wheeltrans service is out of question as 1) I have to apply, 2) I’m ineligible, and 3) it isn’t used for just one day. Fine. So a cab…from my home in the East End all the way to Fort York: roughly $60 one way.

The tally so far: ticket $70 + wheelchair $30 + return cab $120 = $220 (plus tax) and I haven’t sipped a beer, nibbled a hot dog, or visited the merch table. A friend of mine suggested I get a VIP ticket as she did (thinking there would be more room) and we’d split the cab: ticket $120 + wheelchair $30 + cab $60 = $210 (plus tax) and I’m still parched and famished. Oh, and there’s no guarantee I’ll see the actual show; just the giant TV.

So because I have arthritis, going to Riot Fest would have cost me a minimum of $210 + tax.

Compare this with TURF, which cost me $70 all in. Why? Because I can bring a camp chair. It’s that simple.

Now some would say I’m too old. Uh huh. I’m the exact demographic who would see the Mats (Paul Westerberg, b. 1950, age 53) and Iggy Pop (b. 1947, age 66). Old? Me? Get outta my way, kid, let me see the show.

Oh, one more thing. I’m not alone. In the UK, young Paul Belk is trying to make fests more accessible.

This Vinyl Femme

Posted on

The paths that are our individual lives are untravelled despite the experiences of others. This is because it is our journey and while others can provide a map, you always feel like John Cabot or Christopher Columbus—the map ain’t quite right, but it will do. So it is with my record collection. The songs are expressions of emotion from the artists’ who make you feel like you’re comrades in songs. But in the end this complete stranger’s need to write was entirely different than yours. It’s just skewed perception and heightened emotion that makes me believe that Johnette Napolitano, Neko Case, and I all went out with the same guy. My life was turned upside down and inside out over the past five years, little of it resembling what previously existed. This convoluted twist led me straight to my poor, neglected record collection. I think it must be the best lover I’ve ever had and far more loyal. It’s always there, always forgiving, and never forgets. Plus you never have to clean up after it.

The film High Fidelity starring John Cusack hit very close to home to the point that when I moved into my new apartment I did a double take on my record collection. Since everything else had changed, why not this? Should I forego the traditional alphabetical and year released strategy of organization which had stood me in good stead for so many years? Or should I shuffle the wax in order of life experience? Almost every record has a story. There’s Jack Elliot’s Muleskinner Blues that I discovered at the library sale for a quarter. There are the unmentionables that my friend thought I ought to own. There’s Joy Division that I bought used since I thought it important to own, played it once, and got so depressed I couldn’t play it again. There’s the Gun Club that I bought for four bucks from a buddy who routinely sold off portions of his record collection only to buy it again. Then, like most musicphiles, there are the albums we’re way too embarrassed to admit to owning, wonder why the hell we bought them, but cannot bring ourselves to sell since they’d probably work well on a mixed tape.

As for life and long players, well, I’ve discovered serious overlap in songs. Case in point: Concrete Blonde’s debut self-titled album. I got this CD as one of the first upon the purchase of my player. Then it became practically the only record I played when my then-boyfriend travelled across the country on an excursion to find himself. He later called me when he found himself covered in second-degree burns and needed to get home! Later, when we split, I played it only to cry my eyes out. Now, I play it to learn the chords.

Then there’s the Replacements’ Let It Be with the gorgeously poignant song “Answering Machine.” That, predictably, was the first song I put on my first answering machine that my mum bought for me at the Canadian Tire in downtown Ottawa. Funny, that answering machine died a few months after my relationship did. The record, on the other hand, lingers on.

So what’s my point. Perhaps this is an open-letter apology to my long-ignored record collection. For too many years its growth has been neglected and when additions were made, they were done in fits and starts. I, like many fans, have an emotional connection to my musical recordings. These aren’t things I give up to easily, but I am eager to share and read about. I take pride in being able to the spot influences and nods to other artists. This artistic expression, this effort of blood, sweat and beers, has spanned time space and neuroses by a mere fraction of a diamond hitting a groove on a flat piece of vinyl. The tortured feelings emanating from a laser hitting a burned surface has driven me to the waiting embrace of Jack Daniels and the comfort of a Kleenex box. It has fired me up and calmed me down.

Now how is this different from anyone else? Apart from being verbose, I find few soulmates among women in this regard. Record collecting appears often the domain of men. Female friends who used to work in record shops found most record buyers albums were male. This has usually been true through the history of rock and roll. Women usually buy singles. This trend doesn’t appear to have changed much at least from my observations of record shops. I am the only XX-chromosomed human intensely perusing the record bins at thrift stores and CD racks at Sam the Record Man. My gender-mates can sometimes be found at the indie shops, but men usually dominate there too.

This must say something about me. My collection certainly does as it does for so many others. One’s personality can’t help but be reflected by it. This is why I designate a certain amount of time to nosing my way through people’s record collections at parties. If nothing else, it’s an icebreaker. Some take it as an insult that my flipping is a comment on the liveliness of the gathering. Others take it as an inspection of their “street cred.” Still others are able to pump their chests at the finding of a rare Maximum Rock and Roll compilation only to be outed by a well worn Olivia Newton John release. I don’t criticize such finds too much – living in glass houses and all.

In fact, such diversity in taste is a good thing. If the art is indeed a reflection of your life, crazy mixed up collections simply make you that much more dynamic and interesting. There may be a few ruts, but I prefer to think of them as grooves. A friend of mine declared recently that her goal in life, before marriage and babies, is owning every song she liked. A worthy goal, I think.

Special treats for me aren’t manicures or clothes or lipsticks. Rather, they are imported CDs from an artist I can’t afford to buy at any other time. Given the current rising price of CDs, however, these treats are becoming few and far between. On the other hand, I like to think of my continued purchases of CDs as cigarettes, except I’ll live long enough to listen to them when I’m old. What a life!



as I walk Toronto

through my lens

shannon alberta

Welcome to Muse Ink, my small space on the worldwide web! You'll find commentary on books, movies, current affairs, and whatever else moves me. So have a look, have a drink, and get comfy.


Attempting to remove the packages from my pantry, one bag and box at a time.

Writer Beware®: The Blog

Welcome to Muse Ink, my small space on the worldwide web! You'll find commentary on books, movies, current affairs, and whatever else moves me. So have a look, have a drink, and get comfy.


At home and abroad.


Words, words, words


The official blog of Editors Toronto

The Editors' Weekly

Welcome to Muse Ink, my small space on the worldwide web! You'll find commentary on books, movies, current affairs, and whatever else moves me. So have a look, have a drink, and get comfy.

lumpy darkness

Welcome to Muse Ink, my small space on the worldwide web! You'll find commentary on books, movies, current affairs, and whatever else moves me. So have a look, have a drink, and get comfy.

Sentence first

An Irishman's blog about the English language.

Saturday Afternoon

at the Kavanaghs