Keith Fridel's Japan Review

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Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2000 03:10:08 PDT
From: Keith Fridel
Subject: Late Japan review, just got back!
I just got back from Japan yesterday and I read Mister Minor's reviews of
the shows in Japan.  I think they are right on the money.  So, I'll try to
give a more unorthodox review of Japan.
I saw the last four shows of the tour, and cannot possibly comment on the
first three shows except to say that they were well-received by Japanese and
American phans alike.  The rainbow at Hibiya was mentioned often and seemed
somehow perfectly representative of what will surely go down as a legendary
run of shows.
Onto the review:
Best show by my normal criteria:  Zepp Osaka.  The band played masterfully.
The improvisation sounded as if it were orchestrated.  At times, majestic
and regal interplay between the band members.  The definite choice for
tape/cd to obtain.  This was the last show of the tour and grown men and
women were literally crying afterward. Bittersweet tears.  Myself included.
My favorite show:  Fukuoka.  The feeling inside that building that night was
unlike any concert atmosphere I've ever witnessed.  Almost sacred.  I've
been going to shows for over 20 years and this was the most relaxed,
attentive and respectful audience that I've ever had the pleasure to be a
part of.  It kinda felt like we were invited into a studio session(or a
private jam-session) and without having to be told, were quiet as a mouse.
During the piano solo outro of Squirming Coil there was not one whistle,
holler or peep until the sustain of the last chord had slowly diminished to
silence.  A one-second pause, then the place went berserk!  I have
goosebumps just writing about it.
Best bar band show:  Nagoya.  The venue was tiny and on the 8th floor of an
11-story shopping mall in the middle of the city.  A hotel was on the 10th
and 11th floor.  The band rocked like there was no tomorrow.  A wonder to
behold.  The place had very low ceilings and was as steamy a soak in a
Japanese onsen (hot springs).  Kinda like walking into your hotel's bar and
Phish is the band that happens to be playing that night (and that is staying
in the rooms next to you).  Thank you Japan Travel Bureau for the exquisite
serendipity of my travel reservations.
Biggest band gaffe:  Trey telling the audience at Big Step, Osaka that he'd
see us at Zepp Tokyo the next night.  No Trey, that was the week before.
Biggest audience gaffe:  Americans, of course.  The 3 or 4 selfish freaks in
front of Page who thought that approximately one quarter of these tiny
venues was just for them.  Ever heard that saying: "there's one in every
crowd" ???  These were the ones.  After talking, cajoling and pleading
failed (for days), the threat of serious violence (AFTER the show of course)
finally seemed to do the trick.  An embarrasment to the rest of the American
Best American news:  That everybody else was just beyond cool in terms of
being friendly, respectful and positive in every possible and conceivable
manner.  For the people I met, I love you all.  For those that I didn't, I'm
sorry, but we'll happily meet somewhere on down the road.  This was the only
place I've been that strangers were literally stopping strangers just to
shake their hands.  There was never a doubt that if you saw a fellow phan
that you would stop to say hello and introduce yourself.  Beautiful.  Just
Interlude:  Some notes about Japan.
Nobody locks their bicycles.  The streets are safe always.  Everywhere.
Women can walk alone at three o'clock in the morning and never get harassed,
a cat-call, or a leering look.  A VERY modern country.  Coolest little
hand-held phones.  A very mountainous landscape and consequently the cities
are very crowded and lie in the few flat areas of the country.  Best public
transportation in the world.  Cleanest country in the world.  Restaurants
and bars are open VERY late (3 or 4 a.m.!) even on weekdays.  Almost no
police presence anywhere.  Police do not carry guns.  Mushrooms are legal.
And the people...  Wow, I'd have to write several paragraphs to begin to
express my affection for the inhabitants of this oddly ancient and
simultaneously post-modern country.  I was welcomed like an old friend by
all the Japanese phans.  Invited to dinner, drinks, to stay at their houses,
to meet their families, given gifts, showered with smiles and affection and
laughter and trust and goodwill.  Simply the most extraordinary people I
have ever met.  My back still hurts from bowing so deeply in my profound
appreciation of the unending kindness that came my way.
Coolest overall thing:  The amazing cultural exchange between Japanese and
American phans.  At some of the larger shows (1,000 people, tee-hee), the
audience was 80% Japanese.  These hardcore phans knew every word to every
song (except Piper of course!).  They loved us.  We loved them back even
more. If that was possible.  E-mail and address and phone number exchanges
went on until the staff had to kick us out of the venues, then spilled out
onto the streets.  The language barrier was of little significance.  Our
boys from Vermont were the glue that bound us together.  Thank you PHISH!!!
One fan (and new friend) dubbed this very palpable phenomenon as
On a final personal note, I'd like to thank in no particular order:
Noritugu (GUTS!!!) and Taqane Miyazaki (the best friends a guy could ask
for), Isao (Mr. Rail himself!!!), Kazuhiko, Patria & Katie & Tara (you know
what for!). Also, Danny, Ali, Jill, Paul, Yoshi, Hiroki (you started it all
buddy), Regan, Marcus, Previn, George, Elizabeth, the proprieters of the
Yum-Yum Yellow (the kindest restaturant in Japan) and too many others to
name or remember at this time.  I arrived not knowing anybody.  If wealth
can be measured by  the amount of friends you have, I became the richest man
in Japan.  We all did.  Thank you all for the greatest and most memorable
experience of my life.  An epiphany both transcendent and sublime.
One final note to the Americans:  For those of you who did not get a chance
to get out of cities.  Next time, DO IT!!!!  Imagine if a Japanese phan came
to America to see Phish and went to New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles,
etc.  Even though great cities, their concept of America would be decidedly
narrow.  If they took time to see the Rocky Monutains, Southern Utah, The
Cascades of Washington and Oregon, the Everglades, Blue Ridge Mountains and
all the cool surrounding smaller towns in these regions..., well you get the
picture.  I was fortunate to spend my last four days on the northern-most
island of Hokkaido with gracious new Japanese friends I met in Osaka.  We
visited untouched forests and landscapes as far as the eye could see.  No
signs of human life or destruction.  Snow-peaked mountains and wilderness
hot springs were everywhere.  An area comparable in beauty and isolation to
anything in the world.  Don't miss it next time.  The place I visited was
called Daisetsuzan National Park.  There are many other gorgeous National
and Quasi National Parks all over Japan!
Japan, the land of the rising sun.  Domo Arigato.

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