IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #13.5
J Church or Honey Bear or whatever
Wrongs of Spring - I Don't Know What…
J CHURCH LIVE LP
Holy shit! The second live album is finally here. Sorry to everyone
who has had to wait for so long. I got this accompanying letter from the
guy who presses them up:
"Thank you for the records to manufacture. Sorry about the delay
but we got hit with a lump of too much at once… Always nice to hear
from you anytime…"
Peter is a good guy and he's just one person on a lonely island making
each record one at a time with a hand-operated lathe. Give the guy a break…
If you ordered it, you should get it in a week as they are all going out
this week Media Mail.
SOME HOPE AND SOME DESPAIR
God, Kinko's sucks! I just spent a small fortune at the local Kinko's
making the latest issue of my zine. Anyway, Some Hope And Some
Despair #7 is done and can be yours for $3 ppd. This issue features
the Japanese Tour Diary, D.I.R.T., Cathy Wilkerson formerly of the Weather
Underground, I Excuse from Japan and the Sinyx. Plus you get my normal
2004 "SOCIETE EST UNE FLEUR CARNIVORE" EUROPEAN TOUR DIARY
DECEMBER 3rd ZAGREB, Croatia (KSET)
I love it here. Maybe the best gig of the tour. A great turnout that went
made for it and the sound was amazing (which is not typical for Europe).
Later that night we all went drinking at an after hours punk bar called
Spunk. The singer for Analena asked me what spunk meant. She was so nice;
I didn't want to tell her.
DECEMBER 4th BUDAPEST, Hungary (Marco Polo)
Budapest was a lot dirtier than I was expecting. It could be just where
we were. It could be that we arrived as the sun was going down and the
dark colors of the looming buildings seemed almost baroque and asleep.
There's nothing wrong with a little dirt. New York City is sorta disgusting
but still might be the most alluring city in the States. Hong Kong is
worse but I can't get enough of it. Budapest is dirty. I wish I had the
time to really explore.
This was sort of a small, subdued show. But it's our first time here
and they were into it I think. Maybe not. Maybe they're just really polite
here. I've got no reason to think otherwise.
Great late night Turkish dinner with the promoters Balazs and Edith.
Balazs and I like a lot of similar music like Han Bennink, Susie Ibarra,
etc. I would love to do some further trading with him…
DECEMBER 5th PRAGUE, Czech Republic (007)
This one was a bit of a disappointment. Small crowd again, which is okay.
But it's a bummer when even the few people that show up don't seem to
be enjoying the show. Two nights in a row this happens and two nights
in a row we get an encore. What does that mean? Encores have become this
strange social contract. If you're a band like us and you don't completely
offend the audience, you get an encore.
007 is a really cool club that was a real underground punk spot under
communism. Our show as set up by a cool ex-pat named Marika. She's your
basic Frisco stoner who hung out with groups like Bomb. A Nightbreak /
Chameleon type of person. What was the Chameleon called before it changed
In fact, the whole audience seem to be ex-pats in one form or another.
Of all the people we spoke to after our set, I don't think I met a single
Czech. I haven't seen this many Americans since Austin.
DECEMBER 6th PRAGUE, Czech Republic (off)
Today was our day off and my throat is still fucked. Everyone else went
to see some cathedral made of bones. I sat in and just tried to get better.
I strolled around the city square looking at the Christmas markets. Mundane
items like candles come off as charming in another country. Maybe I'm
just a moron.
DECEMBER 7th DRESDEN, Germany (AZ Conni)
It's nice to break free from the unbearable lightness of being in Prague.
Tonight we were reunited with Sainte Catherines and it was a relief to
speak in English to someone new even with their funny accents (ha ha,
We pick up two more Canadians here, Winnipeggers Jo and James are joining
us for most of the rest of the tour. They're working on some project about
squatting and punk. Something like that. I don't know. Whatever. They're
friends with Propagandhi so they're good with me. Ben was right in describing
them as the Blair Witch Project. They're cool and we
need new blood.
When Sainte Catherines starts there are three people there. So they're
being silly jumping around and posing out. It's a funny joke set for the
most part. Little do they know, the club starts filling up. They notice
in time to play their last song seriously.
DECEMBER 8 LEIPZIG, Germany (Conne Island)
After all the hype, this was a major letdown with only about 30 people
showing up. It's fucking freezing and there's really nowhere to go. We
probably should have played at the local squat. But I guess some folks
thought this was gonna be a big show. Oops.
Best part was that we stayed with Robert from Zann and his girlfriend
and they had a super cool place with The Family Guy on
DVD. I really hate weekday shows. But Robert is cool and I'm glad to meet
him. It's weird how oddballs have become cool in this really under-the-radar
network. It's even weirder that you can completely relate to someone in
Leipzig without knowing anything about them beforehand.
DECEMBER 9 BRAUNSCHWEIG, Germany (B58)
Before our show, we got a tour of the beautiful Nexus with Mausel. It's
a work in progress but promises to be one of the coolest spots in Germany.
The venue we're at is cool too and it's our last with Sainte Catherines.
It's a shame we're not dong the rest of the tour together as I really
dig these guys.
For the first time on this tour there is a real hassle with an opening
band. Some group from the states called Swearing At Motorists came and
were trying to pull some bullshit. They were trying to force Sainte Catherines
to play first so they could play second. They were also complaining about
the drinks not being cold enough, no pot and no hotel rooms. No wonder
everyone hates Americans.
The gig was a little bit of redemption as we played alright and the crowd
was up for it. Some kids wanted me to play Reaching For Thoreau,
an acoustic song. I couldn't remember the words, so they went home and
typed them up for me.
Back in Zagreb, I got sick after the show and barfed everywhere out
by the van. I assumed it was good poisoning. But it happened again tonight.
What's going on? We got done playing and during the last song I could
feel the warm saliva and that choking sensation in the back of my throat.
As soon as we were done, I had to run for the toilet where I heaved for
a few minutes.
DECEMBER 10 HAMBURG, Germany (Stortebeker)
I love this place. It's our third time here and it's always intense. It's
Ingo's homecoming so he's glowing. The show is great with a fantastic
opening band from Frankfurt called Confused. I don't really know how to
describe them. Maybe Black Flag and Dead Guy and Silverfish?
Ben was hoping to rekindle his brief romance with Eike. But she put
the kibosh on that, so he was on the A-train to Shitfaced, as they say.
I don't blame him. It was one of the last things he was really looking
forward to on the tour. Still, there are a lot of other beautiful women
at the gig. Me, I finally found a phone card to call China and hear Liberty's
voice for the first time since Brighton. Now I'm sad. It's a fight not
to get into the mindset where I'm counting the days until I'm home. Shit,
she won't even be there.
Jo and Ben are wasted. James and I are cracking up I the backseat as
we all start quoting Suburbia, me and Chris singing the
theme music a cappella. I guess it's one of those rituals punk bands have
to go through at some point. We all laugh, but I actually like that movie.
DECEMBER 11 ALBORG, Denmark (1000 Fryd)
In the morning it's breakfast back at the Stort. We meet our third driver,
Sasha and say goodbye to Eike, Ingo and the Shteiner who is one of the
constants for me in Hamburg. I remember him from back when Cringer came
over. He's a serious guy until you get a few mugs of wine in him.
As we cross into Denmark I can't help but buy an insane children's book
with people dressed as animals decorating fake stones to look like little
creatures. I can't explain it any other way. It just feels quintessentially
1000 Fryd is a cool old place. They still have a poster up from when
I played here 13 years ago with Cringer. The picture doesn't even look
like me. I used to be sorta cute.
The show was small but fun. I guess that's kind of the nature of this
place. Peter, who was the main promoter, is a really cool guy. Nobody
knows about J Church in Denmark. But he still likes to bring in any DIY
band he can. He must eat shit financially most of the time. I finally
score the Gorilla Angreb 7" I've been looking for.
A couple of interesting opening bands: The Very Job Agency are playing
these two shows with us. Sorta catchy punk that feels very German and
almost arty. I wouldn't call it a stereotype. More of the nature of their
aesthetic as Crass would say. Nice guys, they're selling amazing buttons
mostly of bands but also of TV shows like Simon And Simon
and The Fall Guy.
The Je Ne Sais Quoi is a great band mixing post-punk, no wave, etc. into
an interesting hybrid. Very catchy, they keyboard player was in Trapdoor
Fucking Unit. I've got to track down their music. They are very, very
startling and impressive. This is one of the moments on tour you savor,
as you really can't be sure that you'll ever see these people again.
IN THE J CHURCH VIEWING ROOM
ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU (dir. by Shunji Iwai)
This is a better manifestation of a William Gibson-esque world than any
actual Gibson screenplay. Showing the conflicts arising between human
and post-human adolescence, the violent world of early teens in rural
Japan is given an unusual critique not only deconstructing the social
growth patterns between kids over time but also showing how traditional
preconceptions of youth hierarchy are complicated by cyber space.
The title is a beautiful and irresistible misdirection. There's really
nothing about Lily in this film. We know she's a pop star sort of like
a more goth Bjork. Sounds like it too. But she is merely the figurehead
of a cyber society of teenagers where information is King and feelings
can be scrutinized and objectified thoughtlessly.
The story is about kids. The film follows the high school years of Yuichi
(Hayato Ichihara) and Shusuke (Shugo Oshinari). Yuichi is the closest
to a protagonist. He is the leader of a chat room dedicated to Lily fans
in his township. With everyone logging on anonymously, whatever your class
ranking in the real world is erased. That's good for Yuichi who is constantly
victimized, first by older bullies who humiliate him in his early teens
in front of his friends in an excruciating scene. He befriends the young
Shusuke who is new to their school. A naïve bond is made between
the two during a sleepover. The awkward communication between the two
is cripplingly real as two kids suffering from different stages of alienation
Through a series of situations, sort of a Truffaut on meth ride, they
steal the money to have a nice vacation for their small crew of friends.
If the film wasn't surreal enough with it's over-stylized camera work
and it's hyper-real phantom pop star, the trip to Okinawa goes over the
edge. While enticed by the sirens disguised as bicycle riding female escorts,
the trip is one to the world of death. A car accident kills an island
eccentric that has been popping up along their trip. The kids respond
differently from excitement to indifference. Relaxing with the girls on
the beach lead to vaguely metaphysical discussions. The trip ends but
not after Shusuke nearly drowns. But when they get back to school, the
formerly bookish Shusuke turns the tables on the bullies, beating and
humiliating them in equally crude ways. He in turn takes over their position
now dominating the school. Rather than that starting a new regime, he
takes over violently victimizing Yuichi and his peers.
It's hard to say whether the drowning was an epiphany or not. One of
the things that is the most striking and jarring thing about the film
is that the violence all seems so arbitrary. Even when you ascribe an
action to the lamest notions of jealousy or hormones, it fades away as
you realize the violence and rewards aren't even particularly interesting
for anyone. Only the victims are ever genuinely affected.
Life in this world is even crueler for the girls. Yuichi loves Yoko
(Ayumi Ito), a gifted musician. But the arbitrary and petty jealousies
of some of the girl cliques leads to her abuse and eventual self-abuse
as her only refuge. Another friend of Yuichi's is Shiori (Yu Aoi). But
after finding incriminating photos of her, Shusuke blackmails her, forcing
into prostitution. Her one shot at freedom is through death. She claims
it as a beautiful celebration.
There are a lot of ways to look at this film as overdone hipster-ism.
Director Iwai also the hugely popular and equally brilliant Swallowtail.
The kid stars have pretty cool resumes as well. Hayato Ichihara starred
in Juon: The Curse 2 and Onmyoji 2.
Shugo Oshinari was in Blue Spring, Battle Royale
II and at least one of those Tomie flicks. Ayumi
Ito was in Dr. Akagi and Hana To Alice,
Iwai's latest feature. Yu Aoi also stars in Hana To Alice.
Anyway, you can enjoy the film on a lot of different levels. It's pretty
dense. You can get into the global shift in how we see adolescent relationships
and identities as affected by the cyber world. You can be haunted by the
awkwardness of an encapsulated but violent society still unable to communicate
simple ideas like telling the boy you have a crush on. You can also just
let the almost obnoxiously vivid images wash over you art instillation
of artificial light.
(Home Vision Ent.)
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