Japan's Must-Read Magazine

Harmonium Parlour

So you came to Japan, you’re here to teach English, but you’re not so sure this was the dream career path you’d mapped out back home. However, you soon realize that Japan is actually the perfect place to nurture that other dream you had to form a rock band with complete strangers you only know because you share an ability to speak English.

We all know one (you might even be one): the self-styled rock god, closer to being a legend in his own lunch hour than to the rarified heights of lesser beings such as Orange Range. And despite the best efforts of determined foreign musos to convert their musical intentions from fledgling to fully-fledged, the vast majority end up being shafted by the pay-to-play policy of most venues, resigned to playing at gaijin bars where audiences are tuned to the TV.

So, what if you just really want to play for someone, anyone, without having to fork out a ton of cash to pay for the venue or convince your friends that ¥3000 really isn’t that much to pay to come along and watch you? In Nagoya, there now glows a little ray of light to guide all struggling musicians along the path to superstardom…and if it doesn’t lead you there, at least it gives you the chance to practice your manky licks.

Thanks to the extremely generous folk who run the Plastic Factory over in Imaike (and with a little help from their friends in local outfit Semi-On), there’s now Harmonium Parlour, an event that encourages all artists – and not just those of a musical nature – to showcase their talents in an extremely chill environment every last Sunday of the month. The idea took seed when Semi-On lead singer Bryony Ollier’s father, on a trip to Japan, fell in with the DJ and ended up having a good ol’ fashioned jam session on an otherwise quiet Sunday night. From there the decision was made to turn an impromptu amateur performance into a potentially regular event which anyone could take part in.

Though it’s billed as an Open Mic Night, Harmonium Parlour is a much looser concept, and much like the monthly line-up at Plastic Factory, open to interpretation. You might be a band, you might be solo, you might be a performance artist, or you might be a photographer or illustrator or painter – whatever your preferred medium, the Plastic Factory is malleable enough to suit the performance, and visual artists are invited to utilize the brand new gallery space upstairs. The first Harmonium Parlour was held in June, and so far it appears to be going splendidly, with the vibe veering from covers to originals and performers from many backgrounds and musical experiences. These differences culminated in a couch jam session at the first event, a sign that there’s no competition between participants, only support.

Anyone is free to join, and performers are asked that they showcase around three songs, so that everyone is afforded equal opportunity to have their chance on stage (there’s plenty of time for wild improv later in the evening). There’s also Toru the DJ on hand to keep the music coming during set-up and between performances.

So, now it comes to the all-important question of money… how much to view and how much to do? Heading along to Harmonium Parlour will set you back the princely sum of ¥500, whether you decide to just watch or take part. You are free to bring your own instruments along, or have a play with what’s available at the venue, and no need to worry about lugging amps and mics, as the Semi-On folks have got them there, too.

So whether you take your trade seriously and want exposure on the cheap, or you’re just interested in what’s been brewing in the local music community, head along to the Plastic Factory on the last Sunday of every month (that makes this month the 31st) and check out Harmonium Parlour. You never know who you might jam with. The night kicks off from 20:00. If you want extra info, you can get in touch with the members of Semi-On at semionjp@gmail.com

Harmonium Parlour @ the Plastic Factory
32-13 Kanda-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya
(Imaike Subway Sta. Exit 2 or 3)