Thursday, 15 December 2011

Sunset Drive live at The Ruby Room Tokyo December 10th

Sunset Drive - Photo by Paul Slattery
I saw Sunset Drive at Tokyo's Ruby Room last year and was blown away by their powerful and raw good time rock 'n' roll. I bought their two CD mini-albums "We've Got To Talk" and "It's All You" at the end of the gig and they have been constant companions ever since. It's just a shame that I haven't been back and able to see them this year as I really wanted to feature them on the Blog. So the next best thing, if I can't write about them then get someone local to do it for me...! Step forward Kurt Schussler from Tokyo band The Big Nothing, who very kindly and ably, filed this report on the band's latest live show. As luck would have it, regular contributor to the Blog, photographer Paul Slattery, was in Tokyo at the time and has sent in some excellent shots of the band too.

Sunset Drive live at The Ruby Room Tokyo December 10th by Kurt Schussler
"When I saw the size of this bass amp I got really excited, but this is as loud as it goes!" Alastair shouted from the stage as he slapped the side of the misfiring new piece of equipment like a fuzzy telly. No one expects great gear from the Ruby Room, just great local rock 'n' roll. Sunset Drive blazed through such hits as "Not Alright" and "See Your Face," Alastair's vocals trading licks with Tosh's firey flying V. The bass kept the songs driving, defying the weak amplifier, bolstered by Shin's rapid drum attack.
Sunset Drive - Photo by Paul Slattery

The headlining trio played with the well-oiled authority of a band that has been together for 30 years (though they're about 25 shy of that). The band's overall sound is joyous garage rock, like a dirty Ted Leo or a slightly cleaner Jay Reatard. But they're also capable of the sweet melodies found on "We've Got to Talk" and "On Fire". This Kiwi/Japanese combo's energy does not come at the expense of songwriting. The crowd danced, as they always dance to Sunset Drive, specially prepped on this night by the fantastic grooves of the Golden Katies. Like a modern Black Sabbath, with 50% of the members and 200% of the sound, this hard rocking two-piece stirred the appetite for rock. Among the revellers were the Walsh brothers from The Watanabes, Mike from The Mootekkis and Kinlay's mighty frontman Andy. 
Sunset Drive - Photo by Paul Slattery
Later on, Hiroki of  thatta showed up to hang out for a DJ set. Tokyo bands love to whinge about the city's lack of a cohesive scene due to the "noruma" pay-to-play system of its live houses. For them, a night like this restores hope that DIY music is alive and well in the metropolis, thanks to bands that truly admire each other's work. It also helps to have venues like the Ruby, which doesn't charge the bands and requires punters to pay just 1,000 yen per head to see four or five bands on a weekend night. Get past the clouds of cigarette smoke and dodgy sound system and it feels like you're rocking out in your friend's basement (the one with the awesome record collection and the reliable connection). After Sunset Drive's set, before the DJs revved up the turntables, the Ruby clientele filed out into the street to watch the lunar eclipse. The shadow drawing across the vast white expanse felt more like a beginning than an end.

Tosh, Alastair & Shin from Sunset Drive - Photo by Paul Slattery
Many thanks to Kurt Schussler for the review and Paul Slattery for the photographs.

The underground Rock scene looks very healthy in Tokyo, there seems to be a good spirit and camararadie between the bands that are often mixed with ex-pats and locals. If possible, please take some time to click the highlighted links in the review to check out some of the bands.


  1. Hey Hey.

    My name is Nate from The Complaints Department. We've gigged with The Big Nothing and Watanabes before. (I've met Alastair from SD as well) Interested in checking us out sometime? We've got a gig at Eggman for the Emergenza contest in February, but will have other gigs as well. Glad to see this kind of support for the underground. ;)

  2. Hi Nate, I've published your comment so hopefully people can check out your band. Have also emailed you. All the best, Steve