Four years. It’s been four years since I’ve played here in Matsusaka at M’AXA club. The club looks great inside with a lot of things ‘Americana’ hanging on the wall. The owner, Tsuyoshi san, is a singer and a big fan of rockabilly and western swing. He likes all kinds of music actually but seems to spin those types of platters when I’ve been there. He’s a jovial and friendly guy and his staff is great. The club is a comfortable venue and set up to accommodate a musical performance environment. I’ll always play here if Tsuyoshi lets me.
We arrive and as usual the staff, even the owner, helps us load in. Gotta’ give it up when the owner is schlepping gear along with us. We set up and do our sound check and tweak the monitors and run over a few vocal things that we’ve just added on some songs. The ‘gakuya’ or dressing room is right off the left side of the stage and up a slight staircase. There’s a tatami mat up there and I inform John to not step on it with your shoes. Then as it turned out when I changed into my stage clothes I would absentmindedly stand up and wander lost in thought and drift over on to the mat only to jump off it like my feet were on fire and cursing myself for the breach of Japanese etiquette. John just laughs. He plays it safe by just staying on the other side of the room.
When I did play here four years ago it was a light turnout of a crowd. I was really hoping for more this time. I knew our sold out streak was going to end at 3 shows tonight but I set the bar low as far as my expectations for a good house tonight. Matsusaka is a small little seaside town and although I couldn’t see the ports or water from my hotel room, I knew it was close after looking at the maps. So for us to get a crowd out in this town is nothing to laugh at. When we got back for the gig there was only about 7 people in the club not including staff. OK, I think to myself, it’s going to be light again. To my pleasant surprise the room started to get some people in it and soon we had us a nice crowd. Way more than last time and I felt better for it. I mean I still would’ve gone out there and played with all my might but a crowd is like the cherry-on-top for me. We start up and we’re all feeling good. At the end of the night, there was this table of 3 people sitting right in front of me and they’d been there since we got back for the gig. A young couple and a small girl who was maybe 8 to 10 years old. She was introduced to me as Karen – a blues drummer. I told her to always play from the heart and to practice. She was sweet.
Turns out her father is a magician and a famous one in Japan. When I was told that by his wife after the show I requested some magic. He was brought over to me and produced a regular set of Bicycle playing cards, red, and started off with the fanning of the cards and expert shuffling techniques. One trick was especially dazzling when he fanned the cards with one hand and the cards in the deck were moving left to right in a rapid motion on a vertical plane. I’d never seen that before. Then he started with the slight-of-hand stuff which was baffling and fun at the same time. He made me sign a card, 2 of diamonds, and would make that card reappear out of nowhere. The first trick was the ol’ pick any card and take it, and he told me what it was, (how did he know!?), made me take my autograph card and put it in my hand then lay my other hand on top, then he showed me a King of Spades then laid that card on my forearm and snapped his fingers and the King was now between my hands and the two on my arm!? Just amazing. Cuz’ I’m looking really hard at his hands and I didn’t see anything funny or unusual. That’s how the good ones perform, they make it look easy and natural. I’ll have the video posted so you should see. I was truly entertained. I was told that this magician was hired to play a party given by Tom Hanks while he was here. This guy was good.
All our stuffed packed I went to another after party and the Taro, of tuna, was freshly caught on a rod and reel just the day before and was being served up to us. Most tuna is flash frozen before coming back but this tuna didn’t have that process done to it and the meat just melted in your mouth with a clean taste to it. Along with a half dozen or more dishes later I was super stuffed. So far the best food on the tour. Simply wonderful.
Tomorrow is a day off in Osaka and then we’re on to Okayama. First time in this town for me.
I can’t wait.