In June 2000, Phish played their only headlining tour through Japan. A few dozen American travelers joined several hundred newly initiated Japanese phans on a phenomenal seven-night run of intimate venues, resulting in a series of fiery shows, unique cultural exchanges and the birth of the Japanese Meatstick. Longtime fan Stanch had been living and teaching English in Japan for a year when Phish arrived. In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the tour, and with help from a detailed journal and inputs from his traveling companions, he recounts his memories of the tour’s first four shows.
06/09/00 On Air East, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Nestled in the heart of Tokyo, Shibuya personifies Japan’s neon lit glow and lightning-speed pace, and is the heart of its vibrant youth culture. It is literally a place where you are apt to see just about anything on its streets – from magic mushroom vendors to transgendered vampire unicyclists, but even still, I was not possibly ready for what we encountered as we turned up the alley toward one of Tokyo’s hippest small music venues. Moving closer, we saw what you do outside every Phish show in America – fans, scalpers and vendors swarming outside the club, buying and selling wares and tickets, and reuniting with friends. But that is where the similarities ended.
[Photo via FrankZappa.org]
Approaching from the rear, I heard what I thought was Phish playing on a stereo. But then I realized – no, that was live: Phish was still soundchecking, and the doors at the back the venue were open, with music spilling out into the boiling summer afternoon. As I advanced, I saw no security: who has heavy security at a club that holds 500 people? While most fans milled around in the front of the club or waited for the doors to open, a handful twirled and danced in the back outside the wide-open double doors, getting a head start to the evening. Next to them stood Phish LD Chris Kuroda. I thought, why not?
I introduced myself and asked Chris about their experience so far. He very graciously filled me in: the band had been in town for a few days and was having a great time. He mentioned how outrageously expensive it was to lug Phish’s equipment across the globe, and even said the band was blown away at what a hard ticket that night’s show had turned out to be. Even more, they were really excited that most of the crowd seemed to be Japanese. He then motioned over to a Japanese language Phish promotional poster and said he wished he knew what it all said.
READ ON for more from Stanch about Phishing in Japan…