The week leading up to Monday the 27th of September was probably one of the worst weeks of my life. The first Clear And Refreshing live event was approaching, we had no money, our computer was rapidly expiring through overwork, requests for tickets were hovering around the zero mark. On Thursday, a tragedy that really should have put all this into perspective just drove me into a further panic. 1-2-3-Go! had been founded by a small group of like-minded individuals, out of passion for music and an instinctive desire to do something, but it was only words; and not even very clear words. As the date for the event drew closer, the possibility that all this was just a flight of fancy created in the imaginations of a couple of naive idealists seemed more and more of a likelihood. Founding figures in the 1-2-3-Go! network struggled in the face of the frequently crushing realities of life and death to put into words their own conception of what we are about, so that it could be enshrined on the inner sleeve of the free CD (Cover / Back) that Clear And Refreshing were increasingly looking like being unable to afford to produce. In the end, I was the only one who was unable to produce a satisfactory piece of text, my own scribblings coming from a place far too negative to lay on our young brothers and sisters at such a time. Still, the words were down, Akiko from The Students had provided some truly beautiful artwork for the front cover of the CD (Cover / Back), we'd scraped together the cash to actually make the damned things, there was still no-one coming to the event but all we could do now was wait for it to happen and see if these words that we'd written would prove themselves to have any substance after all.
In the meantime, throughout the panic of the past week I'd been neglecting one of my own pet obsessions, an idea that was now emerging with a vengeance. As Friedrich Nietzsche said in Human, All Too Human, "...the artist's work becomes the image of what endures eternally." The CD (Cover / Back) was born out of a desire to ensure that people at the event go home with some audible record of what they had just heard, something that would endure beyond the immediate energy rush of the night, but I was determined that, no matter how few people there were attending, someone was going to get this event down on videotape as well. Another night and day of me giving a hard time to everyone I know, and we have a video camera and a wonderful, kind and beautiful young lady by the name of Hotty on her way to operate it. And our audience for the evening just doubled as well. Score! Things are looking up.
With minutes to go before the doors open, the Clear And Refreshing team are dressed in coordinated white shirts and black ties and I've written a short speech full of made-up statistics drawing a parallel between events of great historical significance and small attendances. My phone battery is going to die at any second, I get upstairs and there is something so beautiful and reassuring waiting for me that my heart melts instantly. There are people already waiting to get in. For those of you (most people) who don't know about the most intense and dedicated fans in Tokyo, these people are here to see The Students. For all the panic and the worry in the run-up to the event, there is a valuable lesson to be learned about what 1-2-3-Go! is all about. We rack our brains trying to find the words to describe the feelings or the values that we want to express, but the artists themselves are what make it real. It's obvious! If they make great music and connect with their audience, then it will be a success. If they don't, then it will fail. I'm feeling better now. I know that the bands on tonight's line-up are brilliant, if there is anyone who can't understand what we are about, then just listening to these four bands is going to describe it perfectly. There is no way they can fail when the music is this good. Let's go!
The Students are magical of course. Today is a typical Students show in that they spend roughly as much time repairing broken guitar strings as they do actually singing songs, but it's also a typical Students show in that every moment that they are on stage, either performing or just talking, bubbles with invention and originality. They sound like no other band on earth, and yet there is such simplicity and pure pop at the heart of their music that the beauty of what they do is clear and accessible to anyone willing to open their ears and hear it. But it's not just The Students who make this such a great opening to the evening. A large part of the credit has to go to their fans. A successful arts movement needs great artists, but it also needs passionate and vocal supporters. The atmosphere is breathtaking.
Buchibuchi2 take things up where The Students left off. They wreck their guitar strings, they sound like nothing on earth, they explode like I've never seen them do before. They're splitting people's eardrums one second, soothing their broken hearts the next, making people weep with laughter one second, making their hearts soar the next. They are also the first band of the evening to break the drum kit. Rock and roll! Yeah!
This is the point where we take a break. Clear And Refreshing is not a production line, running off one band after another. People need a rest; they need time to soak up the atmosphere. DJ Shokichi is probably one of the coolest guys on earth. Even more so than a band, a DJ has to be in tune with the mood of the audience. Unflappable in the face of relentless requests from the ever-interfering Clear And Refreshing team, he is a star of the highest order, seamlessly mixing everything from The Beach Boys to Melt-Banana to The MC5 to The Libertines to Sparks.
Do The Boogie are losing their guitarist at the end of the year, so they seem intent on making every moment count. Their drumming is relentlessly on the beat and their guitarist is relentlessly on the floor. Yusuke Toyoshima builds a tower of beer crates from the top of which he performs one of his songs, right up until the moment where one of his screaming modette fans karate-kicks it into oblivion. Rather than breaking his neck and getting carried to hospital like most of us would have done, he takes it in his stride and gifts us with the most furious and energetic performance of the evening.
Mosquito are the last band on stage tonight and, like The Students, they really don't sound like anything on earth. They're not one of those bands who compensate for their own lack of identity by pilfering from numerous genres, they're just one of the most completely open-minded and joyous pop groups out there. Kaoru's guitar mangling balances explosion with precision like a Jackson Pollack painting in sound and John's bass is the funkiest thing in the metropolis right now, but Shihomi's dancing is what sticks in my mind more than anything. Never smiling, but brimming with energy and exuberance all the same, she is a firm reminder that this is pop pop pop music, and that Mosquito are fucking serious about it.
(International) Noise Conspiracy said that, "Unfettered creativity is one of the most powerful manifestations of subversion possible, for it offers us all a taste of freedom." Wind back the clock a hundred years or so, and the artist Wassily Kandinsky founded the Blaue Reiter school of German Expressionism based on his belief that salvation could come from absolute freedom for the artist. He promoted, through Almanach der Blaue Reiter, all kinds of art that he felt shared similar values. This was not a simple matter of a single, unified, self-congratulatory scene, where everyone makes the same kind of art, out of the same set of limited influences. This was about bringing together things that are pure and beautiful, so that they can feed power off each other. We gathered The Students, Buchibuchi2, Do The Boogie and Mosquito together on 9/27 because they express a kind of freedom and liberation that is all too rare. The music industry hates bands like this. It wants to make them feel small. It wants to make them feel powerless. It wants to make them feel that the only way they can get success is through conformity and compromise. It could be right, but that doesn't mean that it should be. The only way that we can prove it wrong is to give our hearts to these bands and support them as passionately as we know how. Next week "Yamai Ni Rock" will take place at the same venue, and salvation will move one step closer. However, I have a headache, a sore throat and I can feel a fever coming on. I'm going back to bed now.