Friday, April 20, 2018

The RockNRoll Hi-Fives Japan Tour, Nights 5 & 6: Nagoya, Kobe, 4/14 & 4/15

The RockNRoll Hi-Fives at Alchemy

Livin' the Lost Boy Life

We woke up on Saturday morning in Tokyo, got all of our stuff together, and loaded up the van for the 4.5 hour ride to Nagoya. The RockNRoll Hi-Fives had a show at Bar Ripple there that night; and, then, we'd head straight to Kobe for the final show of the tour.

We pulled up to the tiny bar right at the time that the band were supposed to do their soundcheck, so we all headed inside and got things set up right away. Ripple is a tiny spot run by the gracious and jovial Nobu with punk rock memorabilia all over the walls and a large collection of amps taking up a good amount of space.

The RockNRoll Hi-Fives ran through their soundcheck. I got a little nervous about what the lighting situation was going to be like (I ended up pretty impressed with the Sony A7r II's performance at ISO 12,800). Then we all headed out to find some coffee. When we got to the street, we ran into the five women of teto-pettenson, one of the other bands on the bill. Their bass player presented the Centenos with a gift of some snacks from her native Okinawa and then walked us over to the nearby Starbucks.

teto-pettenson and The RockNRoll Hi-Fives

Sufficiently caffeinated and ready, we headed back to Ripple for the show. In addition to The RockNRoll Hi-Fives and teto-pettenson, the bill featured Catholic Girlfriends (the project of Custard Core co-honchos Maki and Isseki) and Manchester School (a pop punk band fronted by Harurou).

Catholic Girlfriends were first up. They played fuzzy, 90s-inspired indie rock; and I found myself saying, "This band clearly likes the same music as I do."

Catholic Girlfriends

teto-pettenson were next and had to be one of the most interesting bands we came across on the whole tour. The "five sisters" as they called themselves employed a wide array of instruments from xylophone to recorder to melodica to keys in the least-"rocky" set we'd seen. That didn't make it any less mesmerizing, though.


Manchester School are straight-up, high-energy pop punk. It's fast, loud, and anthemic not unlike a lot of what we hear around here in the Garden State. The band totally own it, and I'm sure they'd be a big hit around here.

Manchester School

Once again, the crowd went wild for The RockNRoll HiFives. A nice moment came when Eilee passed Maki the tambourine during "Livin' the Lost Boy Life," which is Maki's favorite song. After the set, the band chatted with everyone, signed more shirts and CDs, and fielded more pleas to return to Japan. Just another amazing evening with supportive fans in Japan. We couldn't hang for too long, though. It was a three-hour drive to Kobe for the final stop on the tour.

The RockNRoll Hi-Fives
The RockNRoll Hi-Fives
The RockNRoll Hi-Fives

We pulled up to Bar Alchemy at around 3am. Alchemy is just one part of the business that also includes apartments, a hostel, and a language school all housed in the same building. We would be staying in the hostel / dorms for one night. Owners Jacob and Paul waited up for us and got us situated in our bunks. Check out Eilee's and Evren's journals over at to see what that night was like.

The next day saw us move over to an AirBnB where we'd spend our final two nights in Japan. After cleaning up and getting ready, we all held up and crossed Pocky in honor of the final show of the tour and headed out.

Alchemy is a teeny tiny bar with a small cocktail drum kit. We'd been warned that the police may show up at the show. Bands were asked to keep volumes as low as was reasonable.

Syuogo designed the tour poster / t-shirt and played in The exkilll

People packed in shoulder to shoulder and Fashion Keys, another band fronted by Custard Core's Isseki, kicked things off. Their sound was definitely in a similar vein to Catholic Girlfriends'. They hit us with a cover of Guided By Voices' "Teenage FBI" (kind of foreshadowing for what Joe and I would be doing in a couple of days), and Isseki delivered an impromptu rendition of Tom Waits's / Bruce Springsteen's "Jersey Girl," substituting "I'm in love with a Jersey band" in the chorus.

Fashion Keys

Kobe is relatively near Osaka, and it's the home base of our new friends from Piggies; so there were lots of familiar faces from the early portion of the tour in the audience. Piggies' Tetsu was front and center fist pumping and joining Eilee and Joe on the mic.


The police did come, and there were a few (not really) tense moments as we waited for them to leave. They did eventually leave, and the rock continued with Maki pounding the tambourine once again for "Livin' the Lost Boy Life."

Livin' the lost boy life

And, so, The RockNRoll Hi-Fives' Japan tour barreled to a close. We met so many wonderful people over the course of our 12-day adventure. Maki and Isseki of Custard Core did an amazing job making sure that everything ran smoothly and, most of all, curating unbelievably great shows. The enthusiasm and genuine love of music from everyone we met gave me new inspiration and a fresh outlook on covering music. We made new friends that we'll have forever and, hopefully, see play again.

I want to thank The RockNRoll Hi-Fives for having me along on this journey. The time we spent together and our experience exploring Japan are things I will cherish forever. The Centenos are a wonderful and generous family. Eilee and Evren are two amazing kids whose talents and great personalities will carry them very far. Joe and Gloree are examples to all parents of how to bond with your kids through shared experiences. Special thanks to Gloree for doing an amazing job planning all the logistics of the tour for us. And everyone absolutely rocked at every show. Now, it's back to reality after 12 days of livin' the lost boy life with some of the best people that has given me the chance to get to know.

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