Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a huge music fan. Back in Fort Collins, I work at KCSU, and I spend an absurd amount of my money on concerts and records. So I always knew that, in my four months in Japan, I would have to go to at least one concert to see what a show outside of the United States is like.
Well, this Sunday, I had the opportunity to, as my friends and I headed to the Namba Hatch in Osaka to see a stacked lineup of Japanese groups such as Art-School, Scandal, and Tricot. These bands might not be household names in the West, but they pull a decent draw in Japan; a mostly young crowd (except for a couple gray-haired old men who enthusiastically danced along to J-pop tracks) packed the Hatch, a building that looked more like a sports stadium than a music venue from the outside.
The show was a lot of fun, and it was a perfect way to see Japanese groups in various different music venues. There was a hard rock group, a couple of girly pop groups, an all-girl math rock band, and a group that alternated between playing soaring post-punk tunes and playing nothing but screeching feedback and the triangle. It was definitely a night full of everything, and fun was had by all.
But the thing I was most interested in was how Japanese concerts and Japanese concertgoers differed from their American counterparts. And it turns out there are some pretty marked differences that even teach you a wee bit about their culture.
There’s a Japanese proverb that goes, “The stake that sticks up gets hammered down.” This essentially means that you shouldn’t try and make waves; this will just bring the rest of the society down. This collectivist mindset is much different from the American “squeaky wheel” temperament, where individualism is preferred and those who make the most noise tend to get what they want.
You can immediately discern the difference as soon as you walk into the stage space of the Namba Hatch. Even when there wasn’t a band onstage, the venue was almost eerily quiet. The few conversations that were going on were hushed. And, as opposed to a lot of shows in the U.S., where you can hardly hear a quiet song over the sounds of annoying drunk people hitting on each other, there literally was not a peep coming from the crowd during the band’s sets. On one hand, it was awesome these people are actually considerate towards the people around them, but sometimes it felt awkward and a little bit creepy.
There was also very little dancing, next to no singing along, no drunkards spilling their beer on your head and very few cues as to whether or not the crowd was even enjoying the band onstage. Tricot (a punk-y math rock band that I hope becomes popular in the States very soon) got the crowd to loosen up and I was soon caught in my first Japanese mosh pit and saw my first crowd surfers in this country. Outside of that, though, crowd reaction was kept to a minimum.
I’m not sure whether I prefer the American or Japanese crowds at a show, but I am sure I had a great time. And while I will miss Kanye West’s show in Denver while I’m abroad (you couldn’t wait ’till January, Kanye?!), I am glad to have had the experience to see how our Eastern cousins handle themselves at a concert.