A 9.0 Earthquake, Aftershocks, a Tsunami, and Potential Nuclear Disaster Wreak Havoc on Japan
Revilement got into Nagoya, Japan on Thursday night a day ahead of our three day, three city mini-tour of Japan, and was met at the airport by Jun, guitar player of the local thrash metal band Deaflock. Jun didn't speak much English but with sign language and slow, deliberate speech we were able to get by. He took us directly to Club Quattro where Unearthly Trance, High on Fire, and The Melvins were playing. Our flight landed at about 6:15, and with the seven o'clock start time, we missed Unearthly Trance, but caught the last two bands. High on Fire ripped through their set with the oft shirtless Matt Pike unleashing sludgy, sonic hellfire through his 12-string guitar. Being used to seeing him sans upper body coverings and resting his ax on his paunch it was almost odd seeing him move about the club after the show wearing a tank top.
The Melvins were headlining and it was unreal how tight they were with their two-drummer set up and varying vocal combinations featuring all four members at times. Being the consummate eclectic eccentrics that they are, the band closed the show with a four-part harmonized version of Merle Haggard's “Okie from Muskogee”, during which bassist Jared Warren doffed his instrument and waded out into the crowd to both wrap his arms around, and in the case of at least one unsuspecting attendee, pick them up and flip them into a standing 69 position, all while belting out his end of the harmony.
Friday was Revilement's first show in Japan at a small club called Daytrive. But before the show we had some time to kill, so we all headed over to No Remorse Records, run by Miffy, guitarist and vocalist for Nagoya doom metal act Amber Vial. Miffy bought three of our EPs to sell at his shop, and it was just as I was handing him the CDs that that the earthquake struck. At first I thought I was just dizzy from the previous night's consumption and lack of sleep. Then Allen, Revilement's guitarist, said it was a quake. At first I was in disbelief, having never experienced a geological event that was strong enough to knock me off balance, but Miffy quickly ushered us out of the building. On the sidewalk outside, we could still feel the ground moving beneath our feet, and all traffic was at a standstill. Some musicians who had been doing a sound check in Zion Live House below the record store exchanged nervous laughter and bewildered expressions. It seemed to last about a minute, and we had no idea how serious the situation was at this point. Once it had apparently died down, we got in a taxi, and the TV in the cab had one of the local news channels on. All we could understand amidst the Japanese characters on the screen was the number 8.8; the initial estimate of the strength of the quake.
We got to Daytrive and began going through sound check, and it was via the club's wi-fi connection that we were able to get our first glimpse of how serious the quake was. On my phone we watched the BBC's video of the devastating tsunami tearing across the landscape in Sendai, where the quake struck, hundreds of kilometers away from us. It was surreal and shocking. Defiled, the Tokyo death metal band that had put together the tour, had left their hometown before the quake struck, and arrived safely and on time, save for guitarist and founding member Yusuke, who had been traveling separately by train, while the rest took a bus. They too had a look of bewilderment and confusion on their faces as they struggled to come to grips with the horrific situation. I meekly asked their bass player, Haruhisa, if he was OK. “No,” he said, as his eyes seemed to well up with emotion, “tsunami.”
We had wondered if the show would still happen, given the magnitude of then national tragedy that had just befallen Japan. We would have completely understood had they wanted to call off the show, but the Japanese bands seemed adamant that the show must go on, and go on it did. About twenty people showed up to watch, and we played on as we normally would have. After our set we sold some merchandise, handed out a few free EPs, and sold one to a woman who carried around a small pink suitcase with a wind-up plastic crocodile inside. The quake and its aftermath weighed on my mind, knowing that the country was likely facing a terrible death toll in the ensuing days, but admittedly it did drift in and out of my thoughts. It just seemed too big to comprehend. But we helped ourselves to the keg of beer, and went out with all the bands on the bill, Hydrophobia from Fukuoka, Defiled, and Deaflock, after the show to a restaurant where we ate and drank until about 3 a.m. Everyone seemed to put the events of the day out of their mind for the time being. We laughed and talked loudly, doing the stupid things bands do on tour. Defiled's drummer served up sushi rolls atop his shaved head which were dutifully swallowed up by Deflock's vocalist, Koichiro. Our next stop would be Osaka, to the south, farther away from the quake zone.
Joe Henley is a freelance music journalist and editor currently living in Taipei, Taiwan. In addition to pulling vocal duty in a death metal band, he maintains a website on the Taiwanese metal scene and writes regular features on the touring bands that come through Taipei for a local monthly music magazine.
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