If you imagine a day in the life of Tokyo to be full of grumpy-looking Japanese businessmen in suits and ties, train station staff literally stuffing trains with commuters, elementary school kids with cell phones, teenage girls prostituting, next-to-none education systems that would make many American parents proud of their own, a depressed economy, billions of bad debts, huge layoffs and no solutions in sight, horrible, incompetent politicians and government officials, stuffy and outdated traditions, a high suicide rate that kills three times more people than traffic accidents, materialism, consumerism, etc. etc., you are absolutely correct.

To make it worse (or better :)) there is a new disease called "Kimock Syndrome" running rampant amongst a handful of freaks.

This disease causes SMILES and DROOLS, SPACY LOOKS, LACK OF CONCENTRATION AT WORK PLACE, EXPRESSIONS OF LONGING, RELEASE OF LOVE, FINDING FRIENDSHIPS much like the way Jerry Garcia sang in "Scarlet Begonias" which is not really of their typical behavioral patterns. A large number of postings with praises and afterthoughts still pouring on bulletin boards at few jam music related websites where they express their "misery." Imagine a young woman smiling in the middle of jam-packed train in the morning rush hour in the Tokyo cosmopolitan area, listening to "Ice Cream Factory" by Steve Kimock Band on her MD player, while the entire surrounding communities are dreading the beginning of their glorious day.

The cause: Steve Kimock Band's three-show tour in late November, which had been anticipated for more than a year. The remedy is not yet known but one way to cure this trippy disease is for them to fly over and hear Kimock again, as well as experiencing a hot organic natural bath of the San Francisco freak-out music scene with many other bands.

How contrasting those who suffer from this disease are, mostly creative, energetic young lovers of unpretentious high quality music in the midst of that depressed state of the nation. They are smiling because of the MUSIC and seeing the light in the darkness. Perhaps they are no longer in the dark, but out in a field of lights while still few in number, but a tightly knit groups of freaks. They are happy to find such space, while the majority of the Japanese society remains in the closet and just doesn't have a clue.

It has been two weeks since SKB completed their first Japan tour, and they can't stop talking about it, spacing out about it, smiling about it and longing for more. Mr. Kimock, you absolutely did them in, BIG TIME, and your presence in their intimate clubs in Japan filled with enthused fans in the near future would be the only way to make it even worse. You now have hundreds of royal fans in Japan, and the word is spreading fast. If you see freaks banging their heads against the concrete wall in downtown Nagoya and crying uncontrollably, they just might be those music freaks who didn't make it to your shows. And, since Japanese fans did not get drunk or chatter when you were playing, so that they wouldn't miss a single note or beat that you guys played, few American fans who were fortunate enough to make it out there can't forget the experience either. They will do their best to go back there for sure, taking with them even more American fans who want to experience your music in that environment - no drunken chatters. Sure, they paid $60 a show. But they made every cent worthwhile and their lives are already better because of the kind of music we all love out here.

For them, first it was Phish who toured 1999 and 2000. Young fans discovered The Grateful Dead afterwards, while experienced long-time fans still cherish the memories of Jerry. Then they thought it would be Widespread Panic or String Cheese, besides occasional surprise appearance by heavy hitters like Neil Young & Crazy Horse at Fuji Rock this summer. But I personally find these hopes to be a tip of the iceberg. Sure Panic and Cheese will go out there someday, but few bands that enjoy intimate club scenes here are actually making it out there and enjoying success. MMW, moe., the Slip, Deep Banana Blackout, Lake Trout, Disco Biscuits, Ozomatli, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Project Logic, and Keller Williams are all very appreciated by them. Galactic is a hot commodity. Some of the fans are as twisted and avant-garde as Skerik, who is very much respected. Now Steve Kimock Band. It's grassroots. It's one-band-at-a-time. It's one-show-at-a-time. And the harmonious circle of awareness is slowly but surely expanding.

The Slip is going again in January 2002, dragging that heavy-looking Drum n' Tuba with them. Others will certainly follow. It is encouraging to hear some musicians from various bands I spoke with are very excited about the international possibilities. After a few more first-time visitors to Japan in the coming year, this thing might grow to become an international, long-distance love affair. While they patiently wait for their favorite bands to visit their land, many of them will make pilgrimages to their shows in the US including New Year's Eve shows. I am aware of a few who are coming for Phil & Friends, String Cheese Incident, Galactic, Steve Kimock Band and others in San Francisco, a few hard-core Panic fans will be in Atlanta, and others will be at The Fox Theater in Boulder for Sound Tribe Sector 9's first new year's treat.

It's exciting to see lovers of jam music establishing their grounds, lifestyles and awareness in Japan. Around this music, people seem to behave much in the same way we do, so far. It's definitely universal to an extent, but I don't see where this "extent" is yet. Even without seeing any shows out there myself, I might have gotten this disease indirectly, through their enthusiasm. Actually, it feels pretty good.

JamBase on the Japanese Scene
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 12/4/01]

Take full advantage of all JamBase has to offer by signing up for an account!

You'll receive

show alerts

when your favorite artists announce shows, be eligible to enter contests for

free tickets

, gain the ability to

share your personalized live music calendar

and much more. Join JamBase!