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a strange performance

September 24, 2004

super heroes

Last Friday, I took part in an extremely strange performance. Y’s band was playing at a party to celebrate the aged, and Y decided, three days before this, that I would play drums with them, while he played bass. Strangely enough, he decided this in spite of the fact that he is a very good drummer and I have never played drums with a band at all, whereas I’ve been playing guitar for a long time. I wasn’t playing a full kit, but rather a set-up of Y’s invention: two small taiko drums, and a larger, upright, very boomy Okinawan drum, placed on a stand at waist height, and played with light taiko sticks (which are still a lot thicker than conventional drumsticks). Despite the fact that we only had two rehearsals, I think I actually managed to play reasonably competently – since I was only playing with sticks, I didn’t have to worry about the hand-foot co-ordination that always throws me when I play on a kit, and the similarity with taiko-drumming was close enough that I wasn’t completely in the dark.

Anyway, the day before the concert, Y decided that it would be good to have some super-heroes fighting on stage while we played.

K, another island friend, for several years performed in (ultra-Japanese!) Saturday morning live-action super-hero shows for kids at department stores. So, knowing the moves and having a pretty good feel for the storylines, this summer he created the “Sea Rangers”—this island’s own super-hero show—for the biggest festival of the summer. It went down very well with all the local kids (there’s a video of the festival, and when the Rangers take their final bow and go off stage, that triggers a stream of kids rushing past the camera towards the backstage exit to meet them that goes on for several minutes), and so since then there’s been a general feeling that the Sea Rangers will return at future events on the island. Y decided that this concert for the elderly would be an excellent time for them to come back and show off their ninja skills. Strangely enough, I think he was right.

After we finish playing the first song (an Okinawan ballad), two superheroes rush on stage and start fighting viciously with staffs. At one point they get so carried away that they nearly fall into the crowd of delighted elderly ladies clapping at the front of the audience. Me and Y give the fight a rattling, clanging percussion soundtrack – this time with Y on drums and me banging a gong. Then they bow, and walk out of the theatre. We play a more up-tempo number. Then K and one of the elementary-school teachers, chosen because she’s a karate black-belt, come on and do a karate demonstration. It’s particularly interesting to watch if you know that she’s a genuine karate expert, whereas he is actually just a very talented mimic, copying her from the corner of his eye. Before the show, backstage, he was practicing along with a video he’d taken of her on his mobile phone, which was one of the most interesting uses of mobile technology that I’ve ever seen.

The whole thing was completely nuts. I want to do it again!

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