Saturday, November 19, 2005

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Aah, the weekend.

Those two precious days where everything is right with the world. Unless I have to work on Saturday or Sunday.

I slept in until the P.M. today. Of course, since I was up until 4 A.M., I think I got the necessary shut-eye.

Today I made plans to go to Monster Land, a club for live music here in Muroran. The Number Girl cover band from Muroran Technical University (NON-STOP THE TRANSISTOR) was opening the show, and the lead singer asked me to come and catch them play.

Once again, it was incredibly cool to hear Number Girl songs live. Sure, NST is only a cover band, but they know their music well. I only got to see the real Number Girl play live three times, and I didn't really know enough about them to appreciate the experience.

I did get the chance to meet them, though. Actually, all three times I saw them play.


Back when I entered CWU, I attended a meeting during Freshman Week (or whatever it was called...Czar, can you help me with that one?) called "Wanna Be a DJ?" I'd taken a radio/DJing course at the vocational school in the Tri-Cities back when I was in high school, and I really enjoyed it...even though I was a pretty lousy DJ. So I attended this meeting and signed up to train to be a DJ at CWU's campus radio station, KCAT 91.5 FM.

KCAT had started out as a broadcast station, but somewhere along the line the Communications Department let the station's license run out, so when I got to CWU, KCAT was a cable radio station. So for three years, I DJ'ed as Ash (the coolest movie hero of all time). I DJ'ed the morning show for a while when I was a freshman, along with volunteering my time for lots of other available shifts, so by the time I finished up my first year of college, I was actually a pretty decent DJ. I even won the DJ of the Year award, although I think it was a sympathy vote because I just didn't do anything else except DJ. My sophomore year, I had a specialty show on Fridays called the Friday Pre-Funk, because you have to pre-funk before you get funked. Third year, me and my absolutely excellent buddy Big Radio Dave, aka Dr. Smoooth (not a spelling mistake...he had three o's in his name) DJ'ed the Friday evening show Sandbox Anarchy.

Then I went to Japan, and I figured that was the end of Ash's illustrious DJ career.

In a way, it was. When I came back, I had a fairly decent collection of Japanese CDs, and a desire to return to the wonderful world of radio, which I have a face made for. So I volunteered to help out with a show called "Kaze" which was hosted by a Japanese exchange student and featured both western and Japanese music. The Japanese exchange student had left to go on an exchange to Chile, so there was no one left to host the show. When I volunteered to help out, management told me, "The show's yours!"

I decided to not go half-assed with it, and take "Kaze" all the way. I applied for specialty show status, and said that I would DJ the show in Japanese and play only Japanese artists. I got the OK, so Fall '99 featured the debut of the new and improved "Kaze", with DJ Masa, on KCWU 88.1 FM.

While I was in Japan, the radio station got its broadcast license reapproved. But there was already a station in Pine Bluff, Arkansas with those call letters, so the station changed them to KCWU, and changed the frequency so as not to interfere with other stations in the area. "Kaze" is Japanese for "wind", which is something that Ellensburg has in abundance. I changed my DJ name to "Masa", in honor of a couple of really good Japanese friends who both had "Masa" in their names.

As a specialty show host, you get some priviledges, one of which is a calling code for long-distance phone calls. I made good use of this. Sony Music Japan has a branch in New York that was established to see if there was a market for Japanese artists in the States. I got in contact with the artist rep there, and he started hooking me up with CDs to play and to give away. He also got some of their artists to do IDs for my show. This continued for a while, and then one day, when we were talking, he told me to get down to Austin, Texas for the South By Southwest festival. Sony was planning on bringing some artists over, and the rep told me that if I could get down there, he would set me up with some interviews.

Excited, and armed with this incredibly cool knowledge that would be good for the whole station, I went to the Station Director and asked if I could get the money to go.

His reply? "No."

Shock and despair filled my day. Then, I got some good advice from Nelson Sensei, my Japanese instructor.

"If the radio station won't give you the money, get it from somewhere else."

This led to a process of begging and pleading with heads of various departments and directors of various programs, but in the end, I was successful, and recieved enough money to pay for registration, hotel, and airfare.

So during Spring Break 2000, I cruised on down to Austin for Sony's Japan Night.

This is NOT where I met Number Girl.

The night before Sony's Japan Night, a different group was holding a Japan Night with some indie artists from Japan. Number Girl was among these acts. However, I didn't see them that night. I went and saw some freak show act called Ex-Girl that was a waste of my damn time. To think that I passed on Number Girl to see saddens the musician inside me.

So how did I end up meeting Number Girl? I'm glad you asked.

I talked with the guy managing the logistics for that Japan Night, and he told me they were going to be in Seattle about a week later. If I came to that show, he said he'd hook me up with interviews.

So to Seattle I went, and with Number Girl an interview I conducted.

I met the band's manager and promised to send them a copy of the show where I played their interview. I put together a nice package for them, with station T-shirts and copies of the photos I took.

And that was that...until 2002.

I was on my way back from the dentist's office, and I stopped in a local convenience store to get something to eat. On the wall, I saw a poster that said, "Number Girl - Yonago Belier - Tickets On Sale Now!"

Sweet! Number Girl, playing near here! I bought a ticket (see also: lucked out that the show wasn't sold out) and made plans to go see the show. About a week before the show, I logged on to the band's web page, and sent them an e-mail.
"Hi, this is Dustin Kidd! I'm not sure if you remember me, but I
interviewed you when you played in Seattle back in 2000. I'm really
excited that you are coming out to Yonago to play. See you at the show!"

I wasn't expecting a response. I just sent off the mail as a spur-of-the-moment thing. But a couple of days before the show, I got a reply from their manager.
"Kidd-san! Thanks for the e-mail! We'll be looking forward to seeing
you there. Just find me and say hi!"

HO-LY...They remember me. Cool! So I went and caught the show. Belier was packed full of people, and the AC didn't work, so even though I was way in the back, the sweat was pouring off of me in buckets. A couple people passed out and had to be escorted out of the club. It was nuts. The band came out after the show and said there would be no encore because they were all about ready to pass out themselves. As people started to clear out of the club, I went and found the manager.

Me: "Hello, Y-san!"
Y-san: "Kidd-san! Thanks for coming! Hey, since you're here, why don't you go up and say hi to the guys! They'd be glad to see you!"
Me: uncontrolled blubbering

So Y-san escorts me upstairs to the Green Room, where the band members are sitting around, shirts off (except for the guitarist...she's a lady) and looking like someone just dropped a train on them. Talk about uncomfortable.

I say hello and chat with them for a few minutes, but they all look really tired, and it just didn't feel right to be there. So I said, "Well, it was great to see you again. Take care!" and started to leave. That's when the lead singer, Mukai-san, said, "Hey, if you'll stick around for a few more minutes, we're gonna clear outta here and go have an after-party. Why don't you come with us?"

Me? (This should be read in the Looney Tunes cartoon voice where the character is being granted something unbelievebly awesome.) Getting invited after-party? With Number Girl?


So I went to the after-party and hung out with Number Girl.

Unfortunately, half a year later, the band broke up. But before that happened, I went and saw them in Hiroshima, one last time. The tour had been decided on before the break up, so the band decided to play one last tour. It was a little weird, knowing that about a week later, Number Girl would be no more. But I went and saw the show, and hung out with them at the after-party (again! SWEEEEEEEET!!!).

Number Girl. Quite possibly one of the coolest Japanese bands ever. I only figured it out a little too late.



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