June 05, 2008

Truckin' Flashback: Fukuoka, Phishy City

y Tenzin McGrupp © 2002

14 June 2000

Holly walks through our car on the bullet train with a grin on her face. “I lost my boyfriend,” as she shrugs her shoulders, “He got out at the last stop, went to go buy something on the platform, and the doors closed on him, and the train left without him.” Poor Holly, her boyfriend got off and never made it back on the bullet train to Fukuoka.

Our train arrives at Hakata Station in Fukuoka exactly one minute early than scheduled. Fukuoka is Japan’s largest and most populated southern city. A majestic port city, it is closer to Seoul, South Korea than it is to Tokyo, which gives Fukuoka a more international flavor, especially with a fair amount of American military around, the locals are more used to GAI-JIN. Señor and I walk through the busy Hakata Station and we find a crowd gathered around a stage with a live musical performance by a band and these tiny kimono wearing dancers. As we pause to check out the scene, I am aroused by the flavorful smells of baked goods. I turn around frantically, trying to seek out the origin of the smells, the aromas, the tantalizing treats that are making my already hungry stomach growl for more attention.

I find the bakery a few steps away called TANDOR. Upon entering the bakery you are walk among rows of baskets of baked goods, all various sizes and shapes, of fresh baked breads and pasties and cookies. The large brick bread making ovens are located right behind the check out counter, where all the workers are tiny Japanese girls who wear the most adorable white and red uniforms and lovely white gloves cover their tiny hands. They greet you with big smiles and sing a nice happy song to you as the customers pay. I have no idea what they are saying but it makes me smile anyway. I buy a loaf of garlic bread, a few rolls, a couple of chocolate doughnuts and three containers of orange juice. The portions are so small in Japan, that I have to buy almost double the amount of food that is presented to me. I lug my overstuffed backpack and my baked goods to the counter and the check out girl smiles and is overly enthusiastic about my sale. I bow my head and say, “Arigato!” And she smiles back and bows.

Señor and I walk out of Hakata Station and find our way to the subway, as I catch my first glimpse of downtown Fukuoka. It’s very sunny and warm, and this is the most sun I have seen since I arrived in Japan a week ago. I bask it up for a few moments before we walk into the subway and take a ride to the area of town where Phish is playing. We were suggested a hotel by the information desk at the train station, and like every city we traveled to on this trip, we never once made a reservation, we would just show up and take our chances finding lodging. Risky, but that's how we were doing this trip. As we exited off subway and started walking in the wrong direction, I stop to ask a local where our hotel was, he tells me I am going the wrong way and gives me the correct directions in perfect English! The Fukuoka locals are definitely more friendly down here in Sourthern Japan, and alot more willing to help with directions, as compared to the serious brush offs we were getting in Tokyo.

The hotel is overbooked, we unhappily find out upon arrival. But the manager recommends a cheaper place just a few blocks away. He even calls to make reservations for us! As I make small talk with the nice fellow, I find out that he’s not only well versed in English, but fluent in French as well. He worked at the Japanese Embassy in Paris for a decade, and I chat with him briefly in French, before thanking him and making our way to the next hotel. I’m pleasantly surprised by the friendly, curious energy and the laid back, Sunny California attitude of the locals. I’m really enjoying the vibe in Fukuoka and start to hope the vibe finds it’s way to the show later that night.

We check into our small rooms, shown to us by a very small and round elderly lady at the front desk who had been expecting us. I drop off my stuff, write a few lines, take a quick shower, make a quick inventory of my narcotics, Yen and tickets and head back to Hakata Station to meet Beano. He had separated from us in Tokyo and went to check out the mountains for a few days and skipped the Nagoya show. We are all excited to reunite, and when we finally find him, we’re all pumped and start to focus on Phish! On our way back to the hotel, Beano tells us stories about staying in a RYOKIN, a Japanese style hotel and a funny story about his bus ride from the hotel to the JR train station. We drop off his gear and head right for DRUM LOGOS, just a few blocks away, the venue where Phish should be starting up in less than 2 hours.

For the first time all trip, I kinda get us lost and Beano and Señor don’t have a clue because they have instinctively been following me the entire trip. I didn't want to tell them we were lost, so I just keep walking. I’m starting to feel the beginning effects of the shroomies I took before I left the hotel, and I hope I don't start booming too early, while I'm lost. I’m very confused because the street signs are all in Japanese and the map I have isn't very good, so I finally stop on one corner and confess to Beano and Señor, “Guys, I can’t find the venue.”

As they look at the map, I notice Mike Gordon (Bass player for Phish) walking down the adjacent street, and I quickly say, “Well we can always follow Mike to the show.”

And I pull them off in that direction. We keep following Mike about 20 yards behind, until I see a few phisheads loitering about, then I know I’m going in the right direction, onward to Drum Logos. In Japan, they let you into the show by ticket number so we had low numbers and scurry right inside and get a good spot for the general admission show. It's larger than the last venue in Nagoya, but smaller than the Zepp in Tokyo. Señor meets two Deadheads living in Southern Japan and it's their only show of the tour. I meet a couple of kids from the Navy (they barely shaved) and they ask me for some LSD. I tell them I’m not holding and they explain to me how they get drug tested, but not for acid. Interesting. Good to know my tax dollars are being spent on random psychedelic experimentation for our soldiers throughout the world. G.I. Joe keeps asking me if they are going to play WILSON and I keep telling him (and showing him the setlist from the Nagoya show) that they played it last night.

I notice this show might have the most Americans in attendance. Most of them I haven't seen on tour. They is a lot of military personnel and Yanks working in Southern Japan which accounted for the new American faces. Zobo is with Aki and Kimi and they find us and sit down. I also see Dan and Marie from San Francisco and all three girls named Heather on tour, as the lights go down and the boys start out dark and I fire up the hashish and toke with Beano.

Carini is one of my favorite Phish songs to hear and I love the frantic and dark Phish to begin the night. Cities was fun because Zobo was making me laugh the entire song and Trey changed some of the lyrics to: “It's only the noodles... It's only the noodles” Gumbo was well placed and unexpected, and Heavy Things is a Japanese favorite and makes the crowd go a little crazy. A edgy Split Open & Melt closed the heavy, contumacious and dark set. When the lights came back on, Beano and I made a beeline for the Beer Line as I scribbled down the setlist:


A Japanese kid in line behind me recognizes me and says with a warm smile, “Tokyo show?”

I nod and agree, trying to remember who he was then I recall he had been wearing a Dog Faced Boy T-shirt at the Zepp show, and I then I exclaim, “Zepp Tokyo. Great show! Seiko!”

He gets excited and laughs and I chuckle as I am slowly becoming a celebrity, being recognized left and right by random Japanese tour rats. We make our back to Señor and he’s smoking with Aki and Kimi and they are getting very shitty. I turn to Aki and say, 2001.

His eyes get all wide, “Really?”

“Yeah bro, it will make my whole tour.”

Aki agrees and passes me some homegrown Osaka cannabis. Before the second set starts I put the vibe out. 2001, 2001, 2001. I keep thinking it aloud. 2001, 2001...

The set begins with Back on the Train > Twist > Jam. The Jam was a very odd spacey jam which then segued into Walk Away. Our lost member of Phish, Page was smoking during this tune. I almost forgot about Page this tour. He was just chilling back, grooving and waiting for his moment. Slowly Walk Away jammed into 2001! I turned to Aki and he just nods his head and gives me a huge smile! I nod back and get lost into the spacey grooves and loops of 2001. Phish peaked at this point and closed the set to the satisfied and funked out crowd. The Twist was 18 minutes long! And I finally got my Japan 2001.

Trey walked onsatge for the encore and someone yelled, “SLEEP”. Trey laughs and jokingly says, “We haven’t played that this tour. We were going to play another song, but we’ll play that. Two songs. We’ll play two songs!” as he holds up two fingers.

The crowd erupts as Phish accommodated a rare request from a Japhan in the front row. I’m not a big fan of Coil, but I focus on Page the entire song, and just watch him play for the last 15 minutes of the show. Page is on a different planet tonight and he does me right, as I finish up jotting down the setlist:

Set 2: Back on the Train > TWIST AROUND > JAM > Walk Away > 2001

Encore: Sleep > COIL

Happy, smiling, elated, over joyed, full of the Fukuoka vibe, we wander out of Drum Logos, only to find Asselope Greg selling one of his Antelope T-shirts.

“McGrupp, buy one. $20,” he yells to me.

“I’ll buy two of those overpriced shirts for 2000 Yen,” as he pretends to ignore my offer, “Well fuck off!" What an Asselope!

We look for a veggie friendly restaurant to eat in for Beano and settle for a Yakatori place on the corner. Every time someone enters and leaves the restaurant, the chef bangs a drum that is located above the bar and yells something out loud. It’s too funny. I can’t get enough of it. I’m booming just a little bit, so I still have the giggles, and I don't know what to eat so I just point to stuff on the grill and they serve it to me. Great eats, which are basically just veggies, chicken, beef and stuff grilled on sticks. Nothing special, but it sets us all right. We have a couple of beers and I’m not tripping anymore as my previous altered state enters into drunk mode. We leave the restaurant, as they bang the drum, and we laugh and take pictures before we stumble off towards our hotel.

At night the local restaurants, bars and hotels leave their recyclable goods on the street for a pick up and Señor and I find a few empty kegs and we start tossing them around and about the empty street. I pick up one over my head as Señor takes a picture. Yeah typical stupid, drunk Americans, doing stupid stuff overseas. We are what we are, drunk wandering the streets of Fukuoka at night.

Editor's Note: This was the first ever submission to Truckin' which I originally wrote under my pen name Tenzin McGrupp.

No comments: