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Out & About in Nagoya

Life isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs for the citizens of Komaki. Theirs is the dreariest kind of commuter town, a faceless sweep of seen-better-days concrete and asphalt that makes Nagoya seem the height of urban sophistication. So you can forgive the townspeople for wanting to let rip every now and then – and, if letting rip means getting tanked on sake and parading an enormous wooden phallus through the streets then, heck, why not?
Witness the bizarre spectacle that is the annual Hounen Matsuri, held at Tagata Shrine on Wednesday 15th. In a Shinto fertility rite that dates back to long before this kind of thing was considered a bit “ooh-er”, the locals celebrate the schlong in style, with a cavalcade of replica members, cock-shaped candies and the like. Really, you’ve never seen anything quite like this before. Having encouraged everyone last month to take the day off in order to make it to the Hadaka [Naked] Matsuri and then singularly failed to do so myself, I feel no shame in urging a similar course of action this time around. Go on, skive. Things kick off at about 13:00, with a parade followed by a round of mochi-throwing. To get there, take the Meitetsu Line via Inuyama to Tagata Jinja-mae Station (¥740, approx 40 minutes + transfer time).

For festivities of an altogether different kind, hit Osu on Saturday 4th and partake in the Nagoya St Patrick’s Day Parade, an event that boasts the dubious (and, it must be said, wholly unsubstantiated) distinction of being possibly the first St Paddy’s celebration of 2006. Last year’s was an amiable bit of fun, and this should be no less jolly – well, providing the weather doesn’t go all Irish on us. Live music kicks off at 12:00 at the Welcome Cat, with the parade itself starting at 14:00.

Now, unless you’ve snatched this tawdry little publication straight off the printing press, chances are you’ve missed the boat for the following, all on Thursday 2nd: geriatric funkster James Brown, taking it to the bridge ad nauseum at Nagoya Shimin Kaikan (19:00 start, tickets from ¥8000); Japanese out-rock improv trio Green Zone at Tokuzo (19:00 start, ¥2800 adv, ¥3300 door); and the recently-reformed alt. rockers Dinosaur Jr at Club Diamond Hall (19:00 start, ¥6800 adv). And how about the intricate strumtronica of Mice Parade, at Tokuzo on Friday 3rd? Nope, probably too late for that one too. Ho-hum. Support from Nagoya’s own Lullatone, a duo who describe their musical bag – rather endearingly, it must be said – as “pajama pop”. 19:30 start, ¥4000 adv, ¥4500 door.

Good news for giggers left shivering out in the cold when The White Stripes pulled their Japan gigs in January. Yup, the blues-rock-country-marimba two-piece are finally coming to Nagoya… assuming, that is, that frontman Jack White doesn’t fall foul of another bout of laryngitis-or-something-thereabouts. Really, he should try and croon a bit more – it’s much easier on the throat than all that screeching and howling. Zepp Nagoya, Wednesday 8th, 19:00 start, ¥6500 adv.

If that’s all a bit too mainstream for your liking (as if!), make a beeline for KD Japon on the same night, when Erase Errata will be making what I think I’m right in saying is their first visit to Japan. And not a moment too soon: rumor has it that the angular post-punk girlband will be splitting up after their third album, Night Life, drops in the summer. Just, er, don’t quote us on that one if they’re still knocking about in a couple of year’s time. Support from the rather yummy Limited Express (has gone?), SU: and gura. 19:00 start, ¥2000 adv, ¥2500 door (plus ¥500 drink ticket).

Happening of the Month prize goes, as is so often the case in this column, to Tokuzo, who are hosting the latest date of Damo Suzuki‘s aptly-titled Never Ending Tour. The one-time Can vocalist jets around the world incessantly, hooking up with local musicians at each stop along the way to indulge in what he terms “instant composition”. This time around, he’s playing with members of Acid Mothers Temple, plus drummer Taiqui, saxophonist Ryoko Ono and guitarist Kei. Thursday 16th, 19:00 start, ¥3000 adv, ¥3300 door.

A few other quick mentions, while we’re on the subject of gigs. The Satoko Fujii Orchestra, Nagoya version (confused? You haven’t heard the half of it), is appearing at Tokuzo on Tuesday 7th. If (like me) you didn’t get a ticket in time for ONJO last month, this might be the next best thing. 19:00 start, ¥3300 adv, ¥3500 door. Equally off-kilter, ex-Microphones mainman Phil Elvrum is playing the same venue under the Mount Eerie moniker on Saturday 11th. Support from WOELV and Nikaido Kazumi. 19:00 start, ¥3000 adv, ¥3300 door. Sitting at the complete opposite of the musical spectrum is Crystal Kay, a singer for whom even the most splenetic of J-Pop haters have some grudging respect. You go, girl! She’s at Zepp Nagoya on Thursday 30th and Friday 31st, 19:30 start, ¥5500 adv.

Some good stuff coming up on the club scene this month, too. El Coco is under new management now, and they’re pulling out the stops to keep the good times rolling. Along with the usual weekend salsa lesson’n’party combo, they’ve got a special event on Sunday 5th, when renowned LA-based salsa promoter, choreographer and instructor Albert Torres will be rolling into town. From 15:00 to 17:45, Torres will give a lecture about the history of salsa, coupled with a dance lesson and music from DJs PapaQ and George W, ¥2500 (1d). That’s followed by a party from 18:00 to 22:00, with PapaQ and DJ Rodrigo supplying the grooves, ¥2000 (1d).

Trance DJs Jan and Marcus of Gravity Plus Records – collectively better known as X-Dream – are inked in the schedule for Radix on Friday 17th. With support from Ryo, Takashi and NME, plus psych-out decor and lasers (of the harmless variety, we hope), this should be a pretty special night indeed. Doors 22:00, ¥4500 adv, ¥5000 with flyer, ¥5500 door.

What with it being the day before the Spring Solstice holiday and all that, there are a couple of quality events on Monday 20th. They’ll be mainlining righteous vibrations at Radix, courtesy of the Twilight Circus Dub Sound System and 1945 a.k.a. Kuranaka. Pretty much essential for all you serious dubheads out there – well, providing you actually manage to get off the couch and drag yourself there in the first place. Doors 22:00, ¥3000 adv, ¥3500 door. Meanwhile, Ozon & Spiral are offering a deliciously mixed bag of a line-up as part of the Heineken Beat Paradise Connect ’06 tour. What happens when you put a DMC World Champion turntablist (Kentaro), a highly regarded minimal techno DJ (Karafuto, better known as Fumiya Tanaka) and a live dub/funk/dance band (Sly Mongoose) on the same bill? See for yourself. Doors 22:00, ¥4200 adv/with flyer, ¥4700 door.

Skipping forward to Sunday 26th, and Ozon & Spiral is at it again. Come and marvel at the bonkers vocal concoctions of Afra & Incredible Beatbox Band, in the hood again to promote their debut album. As anyone who saw them supporting M.I.A. last month can happily testify, these guys are the dopest thing since Michael Winslow in the Police Academy movies. Support from Boo, DJ Murakamigo, Kame & L.N.K. and others vying for attention. 21:00 start, ¥2500 adv. And moving back a day… get your monthly helping of Progressive House at Radix on Saturday 25th, with DJs Kasey Taylor and So. Taylor, founder of the Vapour Records imprint in his native Australia, has DJed alongside some of the biggest names in the game, including Sasha, John Digweed and Paul Oakenfold. So, meanwhile, is one of the more high-profile prog exponents here in Japan – and one whose international profile is on the rise, following a well-received trip to Germany last year. Doors 22:00, ¥3500 adv, ¥4000 door.

Finally, it’s all change on the Mangafrog front, as the new bearers of the family name – Ben, Momo, Gatsu and Kuma – pick up from where the old crew left off. They’ll be getting the ball rolling on their reign of terror with a one-off multi-genre thang, called – appropriately enough – Twisted Frog. Point your friends and foes in the direction of Club Mago on Friday 31st, for a royal knees-up with some of Nagoya’s top DJs. Momo, Ben Friedlander, Gatsu, Smith and guests will shred the main room with hard and progressive house, techno and trance, while Okuda, Blueworld, K1, Asaya and others stir up a viscous mix of funky and tech house, breakbeat and drum’n’bass next door. Doors 22:00, ¥2000 adv (e-mail your name to advanced@mangafrog.com by 12:00 on the day), ¥2500 door.

Okay, that should be more than enough to keep y’all out of trouble for the coming month. Have a good one.

For the latest listings shiznit, check out the Nagoya Lowlife blog.