From the last week of April through last week, Milwaukee’s own Rio Turbo and Detenzione were on a Japanese tour together. Since it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for most Milwaukee bands (unless you’re Holy Shit!, who seem to go to Japan constantly), we thought it would be a good idea to have a member of one of the bands recap the experience. The following is a post-tour diary from Detenzione vocalist/Milwaukee Record contributor Dan Agacki.
Detenzione is a young band. In our first year of playing shows, there were no tours, so when Yoichi of the Japanese label Snuffy Smiles approached us about touring Japan, it was a bit of a surprise. Of course there was no way we could say no. How many chances does a band get to tour Japan? Rio Turbo seemed to be a strange touring partner, but it came down to the fact that they’re a band people can’t help but love and they’re all really solid people.
The first significant tour happening was Rio Turbo getting interviewed for Japanese TV. Cat Ries is a people person, so she delighted the camera crew with entertaining conversation. Eventually the crew asked to follow us on tour, but that wouldn’t happen. They had no idea how unglamorous a journey it would be.
The nine of us piled into a rental van driven by Sitoru, bassist of Your Pest Band. The first show of tour was in Yokohama and also the last show at the long-running Bar Move. It proved to be a wobbly warm-up for both bands, but we kept the train on the tracks. The biggest takeaway from the night was that people love to smoke indoors in Japan and some of us would need to wear facemasks to make it through.
Post show, we made our first brutal overnight drive—eight hours to Kyoto. This is the drive that got the ball rolling on inside jokes, and also when the van was dubbed Satellite High Dive. With drinking legal in moving vehicles, we established ourselves as a party on wheels. As the sun came up, the sake emerged and a tradition was christened.
We rolled up to our host’s house in time for an impressive breakfast feast, followed by a quick four-hour nap. The hardwood floor was a welcome respite from the cramped van. The slumber was short lived, as the sake temple called. Wandering the grounds, it was our first taste of the wondrous architecture of Japan.
After a short drive to the venue, we had hours to burn wandering the neighborhood. During our journey we discovered that Wendy’s serves highballs. How could we not stop in? Eventually the show at Rinky Dink Studio started in a white walled practice studio. It may have been the smallest show of tour, but it was one of the most fun. Sanhose opened and had definite shades of Crimpshrine. Their guitarist’s Japanese named band played second and were insanely good off the wall hardcore in the vein of Jellyroll Rockheads and The Futures. Detenzione played our first decent set of tour, but this show was all about Rio Turbo. It was their sole headlining slot of the tour and they seized the moment. They were “on” from the get go. The set was a non-stop dance party. When they ran out of songs, the crowd yelled for more, so DJ Kelsey Kaufmann threw songs on a playlist and kept the party going.
Another all night drive ensued. Daybreak sake was passed around the van. We made it to Fukuoka and crashed on the floor at Toshi from U Span D’s place. Rio Turbo turned in an energetic set that people loved. Three shows into tour and it was obvious that that band’s got magic running through them. Detenzione played, quite possibly, our best set of tour. There were fists pumping in my face most of the set, which was great until the mic got slammed into my teeth. To make room, I flung myself into the crowd and they responded by lifting me atop them. U Span D closed the show and made us all happy to not play after them. Their thrashing hardcore made us all look like amateurs.
Back at Toshi’s, we all slept in a row and promptly woke up at 6 a.m. The Kumamoto show was scheduled for a noon start. It was the first “pro” venue of tour with everything mic’d up. The show would be the most awkward of the tour. As Cat danced throughout the audience during the Rio Turbo set, people stepped away instead of joining in. Our set was equally as ho-hum. XL-Fits put in a solid set of noise rock, with an epic deconstructed jammer to close it. The show ended around 3 p.m.
The real action of the day would be at the post-show meal. It was an all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink affair. We had our own private room and most of the bands from the show attended. The communal atmosphere was fun as we got to know a handful of new people. Eventually, the drummer of XL-Fits decided it was time to pull down his pants and urinate in a bottle. No urine was expelled, but it opened the door for him to pull his pants down every two minutes or so. Of course he ended up fully naked a short while later. Cat took the opportunity to spit mouthfuls of her drink on him. He followed that up by sticking chopsticks up his butt and breaking them. In hindsight, this is hilarious, but at the time I was considerably less impressed. We topped the night off with karaoke and a 10 p.m. bedtime for all.
We all woke up promptly at 6 A.M. again. After being turned away from three bathhouses because of our tattoos, we finally found one that would let us in. As relaxing as the bathhouse was, the effects would be outdone by another long day in the van. We made it to Kokura close to show time. Rio Turbo added to their string of great sets. Detenzione played well, but it was one of those sets that you can’t really tell if they like it until the cheers at the end. We hopped into the van and made another all-night drive to Takamatsu.
We made it to the venue, Too Nice, at 6 a.m. We all slept on the floor for a few hours before setting out to see what secrets the city held. We ate ramen before wandering to a castle. Next, we walked to the port and saw jellyfish swimming everywhere. Eventually, we ended up at a garden that had a sign posted informing us that all the fish had herpes. Once back at the venue, I was exhausted and the show hadn’t even started. Rio Turbo played early in the show, which was a bummer, but they ruled anyway. Sister Paul played fourth and their glam punk pop was thoroughly loved by everyone but me. It was my first instance of feeling alienated from the group.
We stayed in Tokushima with a member of the opening band. Stopped at a Lawson convenience store on the way that was filled with roaches and a puke covered toilet. We showed up to blankets covering the floor of the house, a definite step up from the venue floor. The next morning, we had a barbecue at the house. I was surprised to see hot dogs alongside the fish and noodles being grilled. It drizzled all day, which was a bummer, but it didn’t stop us from going up to a mountain looking over the city.
The Rio Turbo set went well, as people are naturally drawn to them. The Thirsty Chords played before us and were very well-received, so the bar was raised for our set. The fact that I was already in a bad mood made for the perfect mindset for a good set. Most of the set is a blur, but I do remember that during the encore I was tired and forgetting the words so I dove onto the crowd. I aimed for Joey Turbo because I knew he’d catch me. Post show was a bummer. I was hoping for a shower and sleep, but the party followed us back to the house.
We were up and out by 8 a.m. and back in the van for another eight hour drive. It was nice to do a long drive in the daytime because Japan is a beautifully lush country. The show in Yokkaichi was at Vortex, a stylish punk store with a venue upstairs. Rio Turbo’s set was plagued with sound issues, but they pulled through like the bosses that they are. The crowd rewarded them with screams and butt shaking. The Detenzione set got better as it went, but was still one of the worst of the tour. The show, once finished, immediately turned into a dance party. I went to a bath house around the corner to unwind and then crashed out on the van seat while everyone eventually slept at the venue.
Yoichi knocked on the van window at 6 a.m. We got coffee and talked. It felt good to sit down one on one with the person to whom we owed the whole tour. By 8 a.m. we were back on the road, headed for Kanazawa. Nothing really sticks out about the show. Both bands played well and were well-received. They had a squatter toilet in the bathroom which is always troublesome.
The overnight drive took us from the west coast of the island to the eastern side, specifically Satoru’s apartment in Tachikawa. The drive was mostly through curvey mountains. With a shortage of rest stops, we pulled onto the shoulder and most of the band members relieved themselves streaming down the roadside. Eventually the mountains were gone and I passed out until Tachikawa.
After a quick nap at Satoru’s, the rental van was returned and we loaded everything into Fumito from Your Pest Band’s car. The show in Akihabara was at Ikebeck and it looked like we were playing inside a Guitar Center. Daiei Spray opened and were the best Dag Nasty-influenced band I’ve ever heard. X is Y followed with a jazzy Saccharine Trust influence and Boredoms-styled vocals. Spy Master and Groaning Groove played sets of pretty straight forward hardcore. It made for an odd match for Rio Turbo, but of course they had no problem winning the audience over. All the hardcore guys were dancing throughout the set. Detenzione played well. During the encore, I crowd surfed again. When thrown back onto the stage, I knocked the P.A. tower over. Luckily nothing broke, but the crowd still demanded another song.
We hopped onto a usually-busy train to Tachikawa and found it was surprisingly empty. Then we noticed the puke puddle streaming down the car. Not ideal, but we enjoyed the space. Later that night, Kelsey and Cat returned to the house in Tachikawa and they also had a puke car on the same train.
The next morning was the last day of tour and people were slow to move. Yoichi cooked a big breakfast and everyone feasted. We headed to the show on foot. The show being a Snuffy Smiles showcase, we had already played with half of the bands on the tour. It was great to see all these new friends again. Of the bands we hadn’t seen, Deathro was the most impressive. Their singer described their sound as The Ramones with New Romantic vocals. He’s a true showman. In a better world they’d be huge. Moonscape are a violent-sounding hardcore band in the vein of Japanese greats Gism and modern U.S. hardcore favorites Hoax. Their chain-wielding singer’s confrontational presence commanded attention. Rio Turbo closed out the tour with another stellar performance. Detenzione did not. Our stumbling set was underwhelming. The best part of the set was Rio Turbo joining us on stage to sing Happy Birthday to Yoichi. Your Pest Band closed the show with a perfect drunken set. With that, tour was over.
On tour, there’s bound to be ups and downs. Despite my occasional doldrums, touring Japan was easily one of the best experiences of my life. We drove through the majority of the country on a guided tour and we got to play shows while doing so. People pay a lot of money for that kind of service, and we got it for the price of plane tickets. Along the way, we met so many amazing people and also bonded as a group. In such close quarters it’d be hard not to.