January 30, 2007

Bar hopping in Asagaya

Saturday night after work and a colleague and I decided to explore the bars near Asagaya station. We weren't entirely sure what was there, but I had heard that there were lots of small bars that catered to all tastes in music, so it looked worth a try.

We started by wandering around taking a look at what was there, and were sorely tempted by the offer of "Jazz and Boozz" [sic] offered at one place, but it sounded remarkably quiet. On a different side street, however, we could definitely hear some live music, and we plumped for Blues House Chicago.

The first thing that strikes you as you walk through the door, is the air, or lack of it. The atmosphere must have been at least 80% smoke and less than 10% oxygen. Once you recover from wincing at this, the next thing you notice is that the name is rather grandiose for a bar that is smaller than most people's living rooms (and L-shpaed to boot). However, there was live music.

We were fortunate enough to get the last two seats at the bar. We ordered the beer and adopted the same craned-neck pose of the other five (yes, just five!) patrons as we tried to get a glimpse of the band that were playing round the corner. It was a apparently a four-piece band, though we could only see the guitarist/lead singer, wailing and writhing in a particularly glam rock take on the blues. Being a tiny bar, the sound system was tiny too, and the band sound as if they were being amplified through a set of portable speakers you might have used in the past with your Walkman.

After that band, the woman two seats down at the bar, who looked as though she might work in the local bakery, took to the stage with her acoustic guitar and belted out some fine renditions of blues classics such as 'Sweet Home Chicago', 'Bright Lights Big City'.

Top of the bill was the self-effaccing guy sat the other side of us, who had to squeeze past to get to the stage. He delievered a set of Dylanesque songs in Japanese, some of which had quite amusing lyrics, almost putting him in Loudon Wainwright III territory.

Not a bad live set for 600 yen!

After the live music, it was definitely time to get some fresh air, as my lungs were starting to forget what oxygen tasted like. We wandered around a bit more, and then opted to pop into Dongara, which had the 'soul cinema' posted outside and a large collection of 70s vinyl behind the bar.

The menu looked like an album, printed on a record-shaped card, slotted inside an album cover bearing the bar's name, which was pretty cool.

There weren't many customers there that night ~ apparently the weekend after payday is quiet in Asagaya, because everyone heads for a night out in Shinjuku. Even so, we had a good time chatting and chilling out to the sounds of Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, War and so on, whilst admiring the various old film posters pinned up around the bar.

We were talking so long that I missed the last train and had to get a taxi home, but it was a good night out.

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