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 blabberings.

 

2004 "SOCIETE EST UNE FLEUR CARNIVORE" EUROPEAN TOUR DIARY PT. 3

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 it's name?

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, ugh…).

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 Western European.

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 and self-consciousness.

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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