December 20, 2012

Super Deluxe

When I arrived in Japan I researched the best music venues in Tokyo and kept coming across a place in Roppongi called Super Deluxe. I checked out their schedule and found a really impressive line-up of relatively unknown artists ranging from experimental hip-hop to garage rock.  I say relatively unknown because I had to consult the internet for most of the acts and was surprised to find a number of artists I really liked. I decided to make it a goal to attend a show there before I left (21).


There were some acts I wanted to see in October, but I couldn't rally anyone else to pay $50 to see an unfamiliar act. When I returned from my month in Kyushu, I checked the schedule again and noticed an announcement that "Morgan's Organ will play their 100th and last show in March 2013". Upon further research, I found that on the third Thursday of every month, for the last 96 months, Morgan Fisher has performed his experimental and improvisational solo pieces on a variety of his vintage keyboards at Super-Deluxe. He was the Jon Brion of Super-Deluxe and I wanted to be a part of one of his final performances. Plus it was free!

A secret door marks the entrance to the basement club
I may have gotten ahead of myself by saying that he is the "Jon Brion of Super-Deluxe" as that would imply he played enjoyable music. Not that I needed any more reason to adore Jon, but now having experienced another improvisational and experimental show which utilizes vintage keyboards, loops and video projection, I can see how that set-up can be a recipe for disaster. While a Jon Brion show is like being a fly on the wall in an eccentric kid's bedroom, watching as he figures out another tune or bounces around his bed performing extended solos over his favorite classic rock song, Morgan's Organ is a lot like being a fly on the wall in an eccentric kid's bedroom, except that kid is more concerned with making noise and pressing different buttons than he is creating music. Jon was the kid who thought it would be fun to play different variations of TV show themes on his guitar, Morgan was the kid who got distracted by his looper pedal and thought it was creative to burp into a microphone while looping it. With Jon, you feel like you're watching someone discover something incredible, with Morgan, you feel like you're watching someone discover that a feedback loop is a very unpleasant sound.

 

Regardless of my taste in the music, I did admire the guy's dedication. 97 shows of doing this sort of thing is an impressive feat, and the audience seemed to be enjoying. He's clearly a passionate guy who has turned his passion into a steady gig, and that's great. Between sets, he mingled with the audience and seemed to feel at home. But if you're in Roppongi before his last show in March, I would not say it's a must-see. Even with the addition of his abstract photography being projected against the walls of the club as well as the enjoyably-dated home movies he cut together to be shown between his sets, I was unable to make it to the end and decided to leave about 20 minutes before he finished his set.

But Super-Deluxe is a fantastic place! Good space, good people, pretty decent guacamole! And if $6 ginger ales are your thing, do I have a place for you! If I had more time to spend in Tokyo I would definitely try to become a regular there as it attracts a nice mix of young and hip expats as well as Japanese trendsetters. And also a few children who seemed to be enjoying the set even less than I was, but luckily had their Nintendo DSes with them. I was quite envious.

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