: A Day in
the Life of a Tokyo Musician
A Day in the Life of a Tokyo Musician
(See what you missed "working for a living"
all these years!)
by Rambling Steve Gardner
As a working musician playing gigs in a city of nearly 12 million and
using public transportation to go to and from live shows, my success
depends on the art of packing and personal mobility. I usually carry a
couple or sometimes three guitars, spare strings, a handful of
harmonicas, holders, slides and picks, a small amp, mics, all sorts of
wires to plug into do-dads for this and that, CDs for sale, a bag of
energy drinks and tonics and a Snickers bar, just in case, all stacked
and packed onto my “rolling rig”. (Every musician has their own rig for
gigging around. Some roll and some don’t. But we all carry more or less
an amazing pile of musical "stuff".)
For me, an outing to a usual live show usually involves departing my
apartment pulling, dodging and pushing gear to navigate crowded
walkways sprinkled with steps and inclines to get to my local train
station. I roll through the narrow station entrance up along the narrow
train departure platform after more steps, but these days some
elevators. Bumps and skids from the platform onto the train --
several trains. Then navigation through endless miles of escalators
zooming up out of the stations but many times not back down again for
when you are ready to return home.
Once I hit the venue with steps up and steps down, there is usually
just enough time for unpacking and set up. It is here that I usually
discover that the one electrical outlet on stage is either completely
overloaded or is powering the main neon street sign for the place. This
usually creates a nice humming sound broadcast out over the PA. Usually
in these places everything is wired in series so the stage loses power
whenever the kitchen uses the microwave oven.
Opening cases, setting up and with the guitars unpacked, somehow
everything gets plugged in without a fire starting or anyone being
electrocuted. I pull sound and adjust. Then I remind myself that I came
to play the best music that I can for these folks, many of whom came
a long way tonight just to hear me. I make a few more adjustments. The
clock ticks around to just enough time for a beer. Then it is about
time to kick off the first set.
As I pick up my guitar I see that the place has filled up. From the
stage I can spot a few regulars out among the new faces taking their
seats. Drinks are sloshed down and around as food is served up. On
stage it is slow going as the microwave oven takes most of the stage
power causing the amp and PA to cut on and off. I just work the “stops”
into a song and keep going. Seven orders of microwave popcorn nearly
cut the first set short as I was running out of tunes laced with
several random stops. One that works is the old, “Mama don’t allow
no…..in here”. I usually have to sing, “Mama don’t allow no microwave
oven in here!”
Mid first set I noticed a familiar woman holding her cell phone over
her head and waving. I couldn’t tell what she wanted but she seemed to
be enjoying herself. As the microwave cut in again and the lights
dimmed, I recognized her as a regular who often accompanied her elderly
father, now nursing home bound. For years they made it to nearly every
show that I played there.
I smiled at that nice thought of the two of them sharing the music. He
took pride in his English ability as well as his knowledge of American
music. He would request tunes like “John Henry” or “Take This Hammer”.
He almost never missed one of my shows. She told me when I took a break
after the first set that she had called him at the nursing home so that
he could listen to a few tunes, hoping that maybe my music might cheer
She was doing face-time with her 92-year-old father!
“Broadcasting” the music live to him, so to speak. I had to laugh at
that. Suddenly it didn’t really matter what it had taken for me to get
to the show. Fighting the crowds. The hustle and bustle. The steps. The
crazy stage electricity and the microwave oven. Or even the fact that I
was going to have to pack up and haul all of that music gear back home
on the crowded late night train.
I ate my Snickers bar and adjusted my
second set of tunes while thinking of the daughter sharing the music
with her 92-year-old father by cell phone. The thought reminded me that
music IS special. Live music played for a live audience is very
special. I guess that I marveled that these folks came just for the
music that I would play for them. They came just to listen to a tune or
two and to share it with someone to whom the music meant a great deal.
Those who know me, know that I don’t have too much use for cell phones
and usually keep mine locked in the trunk of the car or stuck in the
bottom of my equipment case. But seeing that woman, beaming with joy,
holding up her phone so that her father could listen, might just be the
best use of one of these phones that I have seen in a long, long time.
After the show, I packed up my gear, made my goodbyes and headed down
into the subway, battling the steps and the crowds toward home, but I
was smiling all the way. It had been a nice evening. Made all the
better by those who came out to share in the music and the fun. And
even with the lack of folding money in my pocket, the heavy lifting and
the packing of two guitars, two cases of equipment and an amp; I knew
in my heart of hearts that bringing joy to folks and being a musician,
beat “working for a living” any day of the week!
So thank YOU for YOUR
SUPPORT. Please keep on coming out. Shouting out. And sharing the music
with the ones that YOU love. After all, that’s what makes the world go
I’ll save YOU a seat at the next show so, COME ON!
More details, in both English and Japanese (日本語), on the amazing
Rambling Steve Gardner, including biography, concert schedule, and
album list are here: http://www.ramblingsteve.info/
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