Friday, September 30, 2016


A pirate-type guy.

I'm not sure where this came from, though I do feel like I'm drawing a lot of oceanic/aquatic themed-themed stuff lately.

I'm pretty sure this one's inspiration hangs from KNKL's groundbreaking Violet piece, which was the first piece of his I saw when I started studying his videos, linked to from the Magic Reddit when someone was suggesting art resources for those who want to study digital painting.

I'm of course using his chalk brush and line-sculpting technique. I wasn't sure where I was going with this one, just wanted to switch it up from the harder linework Steve Ahn's ink brush allows.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016


This was a study I did that morphed into a quasi sketch of Meer Katnip from the Tanis Podcast. I could see her as perhaps of Asian or even Russian descent with a heavy winter coat with fur trimming, isolated away in self-imposed exile somewhere, doing her thing. However, I should note, while I really, really enjoy the The Black Tapes Podcast podcast, I am on the verge of giving up on Tanis.

I cleared out the current two seasons of TBP, and found out that, neat, they have a sister podcast that's apparently a more SF-y TBP. That's got to rock. Well, I listened to the first episode literally three times at least, and then the first five episodes or so twice, and I still had no idea what's going on. Not like, "oh, man, what's gonna happen next???" but like, "Ok, what is this about? Why should I care? Why should anyone on the show care? Why is anybody doing any of this? Why is that hacker character such a jerk? Is this supposed to be charming?"

I mean, let's get right down to it, easily my least favorite personality on the show is Meer Katnip. Let's pretend the show were scripted real quick...I would say the writers are trying to make an abrasively charming "Dr. House" type, who's so good at what they do and so ultimately helpful that their severe social shortcomings get forgiven. I can get down with that, but there's no underlying warmth to it. Like, imagine if there were say a brother-sister sort of relationship where MK might needle or "abuse" Nic, but you could sense that she actually did care for him if anything external were threatening the cat's mousey plaything, I could buy that. Or if there were moment of opening up and betraying what causes the curtness, or if she saved his life or something, that gives us some contrast to the general harshness.

But when it's so one-sided, she just feels like a rude bully, and then there's such a labored effort by Nic and the dude he hangs out with on location sometimes to assure the listener that despite the brusqueness, this MK character sure is cool, eh? I just can't get into it. It's telling not showing; there's nothing for me to "see" where the coolness comes from to alleviate the rudeness. This was true at least (especially) for season 1, which is what made that season such a chore to get through, if I'm being perfectly honest. I would dread(!) whenever MK was coming on. Contrast this with the joy when Alex would stop over!

But after my first bout of "wow...I don't think I can keep going with this one," I soon happened across the Reddit for all the Pacific Northwest Stories series. And while it seemed the consensus was that TBP was a better listen than Tanis (and there was certainly much more discussion of that show, too), those who did enjoy Tanis did stress that after making it through season 1, it really pays off in season 2. I'm just about current on season 2, and I'm still waiting for stuff to feel worth it, and I'm just weary of the cycle of "find out what happens next time" and then we find out nothing substantial next time. I can appreciate not giving any real meat to chew on if they want to preserve/prolong as much mystery as possible, but when denied even the bones to go on, then there's only so many times you can keep coming back to the diner.

Granted I listen to the podcast while drawing, so maybe I can only 95% focus on the audio (but to be fair, painting, inking, etc. doesn't actually take major concentration after setting up the base stuff), but I do the same for all audio, and am fully absorbed by TBP, Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe, the Bright Sessions, King Falls, Dunesteef, etc. enough to follow those narratives and discern what I like and dislike about each.

I must say, though, when it's just rando-wacky tales, like the bonus short about the sadistic doctor lady (Bonus Ep1), or the early season 1 episode with the urban legend of the elevator game, that stuff rocks. It's weird, unsettling, and vaguely relevant, but compact enough to feel satisfying. Just like with the early TBP where seemingly unconnected weird stories just came at you episode to episode, those felt worthwhile because they were self-contained enough to feel like something happened, and only got richer when things started coming together. Tanis just feels like someone trying to wink you into submission that they know something you don't know, but they won't even tell you generally what it even is that they know and why you need to know it, just that you need to know it. So why do you even care that they know it? Who knows!

So where do we stand on Tanis? I dunno, I might relisten to season 2 after it's all released, and if that doesn't work out [faint background female scream], I'm pretty sure I'll drop it, or at least only check in once per season. I really, really hope they pull it together; had such high hopes after TBP. Worse comes to worst, at least they have a new series coming out, too. Optimistic for that one, just as I was with Tanis.


Monday, September 26, 2016


I've had a cold of increasing severity since shortly after Motion City, so more recently I've been forcing myself to sleep most of the days away when I'm not chugging water and orange juice (and sprinting to the bathroom), which really sucks, but I know I have to take care of myself. So while drifting to sleep the other day, I had a vision of a piecemeal Pikachu.

It seemed pretty simple to make, and I could see it (the image and process) quite clearly in my head. It started as the above square form, but while putting the finishing touches on it, I thought about a little pokeball design treatment. This might make a neat little series, so maybe we'll dip back into this when we need something a little lighter to work on (my head is still quite pounding and I have all these emails to get to...). Trying to get bigger stuff done, but this cold is just making stuff much more difficult than it needs to be.

Anyway...I believe I know the poke I'd like to choose next.


Friday, September 23, 2016


I've had a cold of increasing severity lately, I couldn't think straight, so I decided to just draw on one layer with my "unforgiving" Steve Ahn brush. I've always been chasing the ability to convey epic size, and I love the Japanese countryside, especially when driving out there on a lonely road, with those giant metal towers, so that seems to have informed this piece.

This is how it looked before the blur and color wash layers. It wasn't as punishing working on one layer, just mildly annoying when tweaking smaller areas.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Finally colored those old lines. This was a character named Jinjin that I came up with a few years ago for a design challenge.

In her original version, she had more of a frog-style hat, but here we went more squid like.

I was coloring her without consulting any references to her original color scheme, but I was pretty sure she used heavy reds, so I knew I wanted to avoid getting too close to Vicky's color scheme.

I inked this digitally, but the original pencils were traditional. As far as what I wanted to portray here, I just knew she had to be vaguely Asian, but other than that it was just about going with what felt summery/islandy and adventurous. She doesn't smoke, though, she likes lollipops.

Jinjin was named for one of my mentors in college. The character herself and her story were inspired by an incredible Korean comic called Banya, as well as One Piece.

Jinjin has to assemble a ragtag crew of delivery men. She is the fearless leader, and takes her job the most seriously out of everyone because she holds everyone's life in her care as Chief Delivery Man in this hyper-competitive world of cutthroat couriers, so even if her crew doesn't (or can't) go as intensely as her, they still respect her enough to do their best for her.

I don't normally miss people, in fact, I'm more prone to pining for times/moments/places rather than people, but I was suddenly stricken with an incredibly potent bout of longing for my old mentor a couple years back. It was quite strange. Everyone else always seemed like they knew what they were doing, and she was one of the toughest, strongest people I ever met in the old days. Huge inspiration. I hope she is well.

Bonus Twitter version. Never feels good enough.


Monday, September 19, 2016


I love the rain, and it's finally getting cold out to match.

I love the rain, but it's all about staying out of it, so you can enjoy it in comfort.

I love the rain, especially when you draw with it tum-tum storming off in the background.

I love the rain, perhaps chiefly because it represents the entirety of romance.

I love the rain, and fell in love in childhood while reading to it in the distance.

I love the rain, and am saddened by those who despise it.

I love the rain because it doesn't care what you think.


Friday, September 16, 2016


I dunno. After the MCS concert, and Kyoto, I was feeling a bit down. Not sad exactly, just...kinda tired, mentally and physically. Spent, I guess is the word. All week. So I spontaneously decided to draw Day[9] after listening to some of his talks.

Usually, I put a lot more thought and care into choosing people/stuff to draw, but this one was just, let's do it, no planning, whatever, let's go, watercolors and Signo pens to boot, too.

I'm not even that into StarCraft, his signature game, though I played a bunch up to Brood War when I was in middle school. Come to think of it, StarCraft might have been my game of choice before Magic. Anyway, I only came to know Day[9] from the cross promotional stuff he was doing with Magic for a bit. From there, I'd branched out and listened to his spoken word stuff.

Just listening to him, especially his GP story always just makes me happy. Same with like LSV's videos, especially his Goblinslide video, or Conley Woods and Tom on MTG Potpourri. Their voices just kinda warm up the room. I'm not one for hanging out or chatting or being around people in general, but it's just comforting hearing these guys talk.

And then I found out that he seems to have dropped SC, at least partially due to his demanding job building a new game, which I found out he even more recently quit, and now it seems this was possibly in anticipation of it folding, which it just did, and that all just bummed me out anew. I myself have been kinda down that I'm not terribly excited for Magic lately, not even the new set, Kaladesh, which is just about to come out; I haven't played since the SOI prerelease and don't see myself playing any time soon.

Stuck in this rut, I started checking out some of Day[9]'s SC videos, and my gosh they were great. I haven't played in, what, 10+ years?, but he makes SC feel so engaging. But then I thought of League of Legends and Overwatch and how these are supposed to be huge now (I don't really keep up with any games but Magic), but I definitely don't hear anything about SC, if anything, I get the feeling RTSs have fallen out of fashion. From Day[9]'s videos, I learned he has a famous brother who's also closely tied with SC, and now all of a sudden I'm worried about this stranger of a brother of a stranger who I don't even really know much about. Is he ok? Is SC ok? Are they ok? Are they happy?

Why do I care?


Wednesday, September 14, 2016


I got to see Motion City Soundtrack (technically last night as of writing, since I got back after midnight). It was their last show in Japan, part of their very last tour.

The only time I saw them before was when I was a junior at Yale, the year I realized I didn't really care about anything but art. They played at Toad's Place, right across the street from my dorm in JE. I always hated that I didn't stay after to meet them because I had a paper due the next day. And do you know what that paper was on, my dear? No idea. I don't even remember the class it was for.

This time they were at the famous Club Quattro in Shibuya, Tokyo, which I was delighted to find was not as anti-film/photo as I had worried it might be, since most enclosed places, even nice photo-op-y outdoors areas, often have no-photography policies. I got a little lost as usual, but managed to make it just a couple minutes after doors. As is the tendency of Tokyo establishments, Club Quattro is on the upper floors of a building that has entirely separate businesses below it, in this case a version of Book-Off, a popular chain of used media shops. If you don't know what you're looking for (and even if you do) it can be hard to identify places you want to go if you are overly concerned with what the ground level businesses are. Club Quattro's sign is a bit discreet, but the map said it was there, and lo, it was.

The inside is a hall of bricks and other industrial sorts of cues. Concert posters and festival ads line the walls, and an unending supply of handbills weigh down counter-tops as you enter, guiding you towards a coin-locker area. The lockers are not intuitive, so I ended up blowing 600 yen on the 300 yen device. The sign on the wall said, among other things, no plastic bottles, so I downed as much of my water bottle as I could, as I didn't want to have to deal with any water-bouncers. My ticket included a stub for a 500yen drink at the bar, but I don't drink, so, hey, free souvenir!

As long as we're talking omiyage, I had wanted to buy a tour shirt, but I felt a little under the gun to find my way to the actual club room as soon as possible to get a good spot since I was still a little late after all, and Japan is nothing if not competitive when it comes to finding space for things. Even down to convenience store lines, if you hesitate for just a second before getting in line, you are punished with an eternal wait five-people deep, and if that's not bad enough, as you make the walk-of-shame to the back of the serpentine mass of bodies, everyone in line ahead of you gives you the finger and takes turns kicking you in the sushis while cursing the dishonor you've brought upon your ancestors with your foolish hesitation, true story. 7-11s are hardcore in Japan.

But business before pleasure--after holding my breath to check that Club Quattro bathrooms have soap (and O, happy day, they do!) I took a "pre-emptive pee," as my old band teacher used to advise before concerts, and enjoyed the luxury of a rare, generous bottle of hand soap and manual water faucets (not automatic for once!). I made my way past the smoking room, which looked like a diseased fish tank, with its glass wall quarantining off one of the worst parts of living in Japan: the ubiquitous nature and social acceptability of smoking (the number of parents I've seen smoking not near, but right next to their kids is heartbreaking--shout out to the mom puffing up in the car with the windows rolled up, toddler in the passenger seat).

The brick hall's double-doors open to a wide, dark spiral staircase chamber which leads up to the performance room. There was a bar at left, and around the ring of the floor's pit were bar stools and counter-top for those who came in earlier enough to stake out seats to booze to. All these were taken. Perhaps they had 500 yen water at the bar, but I didn't want to risk inquiring only to find the floor magically swamped while I had my back turned. A collection of mostly Japanese people, with a good smattering of nonJPers had already gathered in the dark, bluish-tinted room, waiting for the show to start. You get so used to being packed in with people in urban Japan, it was a relief the club didn't feel like a Yamanote Line car. Additionally, no stomach-churning scent of alcohol- or tobacco-soaked clothing. There were several people wearing the elusive black tour shirt, and apparently so was the staff, so all night it was basically impossible to tell who was who.

Fortunately I guess it's not cool to be early to a rock show, even in Japan, so I was able to stake out a nice, comfortable place without too much hassle in the center back of the pit for the openers, a jRock band with plentiful English lyrics, Over Arm Throw. They were pretty blaring, to be quite honest, so it was a little hard to enjoy the full depth of their music, but fortunately I had my headphones with me to help keep my little mimis safe. I had wanted to pick up some ear plugs, since all the shows I went to in college helped me realize the importance of being ear-nest in the fight against tinnitus. But I was so relieved that Motion City themselves had such a clean sound that, Vader-like, I could listen to them with my own ears.

Over Arm Throw was solid, though. From a sociological perspective, it was exciting to see what a Japanese group is like playing to a Japanese audience live. Not that their music is super br00tal, but I'd say the band was quite cheery, speaking often to the crowd between songs, including plenty of humor. However I noticed one member had a tendency to do an in-song move I've associated with the much heavier Maximum the Hormone's Maximum the Ryo. They'd both do like a "death glare," which doesn't seem too à propos of Over Arm Throw's musical style, but maybe that's just a general jRock mannerism.

As for how jFans react, I noticed they do this double-fists straight up in the air pose, when westerners might just put their hand up or fist pump or something. But the Japanese style is just lettin' 'em linger up there, elbows locked in rock position. The double-fists did make me think of that famous group shot of the Strawhat Pirates, so it must have general connotative associations with solidarity, but I also seem to remember the same gesture from that scene in Digimon after the first-gen kids are older, when we see Matt's band perform. Anyway, just neat to see how other cultures react. Something else oddly impressive was when the JP tech mic-checked using "hey" instead of the usual Japanese method of "ah, ah, ah," which always sounds like someone's proudly gagging for all to hear! Scrumptious relief!

Anyway, I enjoyed their performance, and they expressed their hopes to tour the US, so I am rooting for them to get an opportunity to do so. As far as I know, JP bands don't have a terribly easy time getting to the US, and I can only think of maybe One OK Rock, Illion, Maximum the Hormone, and say Takeshi Hosomi's bands--sure Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, too--as examples of groups that are more or less able to hit the road successfully. Some bands with great international potential, like Radwimps actually choose to stay in Japan, hence lead singer Yojiro Noda using his solo side project to get overseas as Illion.

But on to the main event. I believe when Motion City was touring My Dinosaur Life they'd sometimes use "Walk the Dinosaur" for their walk-on song, which I thought was a nice touch. This time it was the similarly delightful, though more subtle "Shake Your Rump," by the Beastie Boys. I'm not sure about the legality of posting live performances, but if curious as to what the night's show was like, I found a pretty good 3-part capture at a US show here to help follow along. With that, the main event.

Right off the bat, they kicked off the show with a total surprise track I absolutely didn't expect, Back to the Beat. I became a fan during their second album, Commit This to Memory, but this song was from even before their first LP! I've only been able to hear it online but it's one of my favorites, and I'm so glad they brought out a really, really classic song. One of the coolest things about this song is how it's so laser-dialed-in to a nostalgia that I simply have no part in, but it resonates all the same. Substitute break-dancing with card games or video games or pogs or anything else. This song is timeless despite its specificity. How do you even do that? Justin Pierre just reaches in and dismantles you, on his terms. This guy, this violent, violent guy, how does he do it?

After that was the "begrudgingly" lovely Cambridge, which I only perfunctorily pretend not to enjoy just because old college rivalries and whatnot, but make no mistake, I truly love this song. It just stabs you right in the gut. I mean, I remember being a sophomore at Yale when I discovered they had an album before the ones I had, and I finally got a copy of it in a care package from home. That "whirring" sound that starts the album as a part of this opening track just gets you right back there, right to that time. It's a little scary, actually, when this track comes on. Cambridge itself was an extremely ugly place; one of the saddest, emptiest nights of my life was when we had to stay at Hahvid for The Game, and our sister house put everyone on the floor of the common room, no heat. That was the same Game people reportedly got frost bite at, it was so cold the next afternoon. I already felt quite isolated at Yale at that point, but you can't imagine how vacant H felt. I don't love that place, but this song is richer for having been through all that, Yale included.

Capital H packs an emotional punch all its own, cleverly concealed in that veil of humor. It was only in recent years where this song really started digging into me, and here in Shibuya, it really clawed in. I actually didn't expect anything more from the night than the closure of seeing them live one last time--maybe even finally getting to meet them--since I remember not really feeling too much when I saw My Chemical Romance at Madison Square Garden (the experience was partly dulled because the sound was just blaring), but here we were, third song into the set, and I could already feel my eyes welling up...! I've listened to this band for years and years and years and years, and even the recordings still suckerpunch me to this day. And here these guys were stirring daggers a million miles away from where everything began. One of my earliest memories of loving this band was hearing the superfast monster description part when I was listening to samples of this elusive debut album that I had just learned existed. Coming off of CTTM, and Even if it Kills Me, it felt like, all right, these guys are just wire-to-wire good. To think I was worried their first album would not live up to 2 and 3.

Justin addressed the crowd for the first time, with "僕たちはMotion City Soundtrackです。" ["boku-tachi wa MCS des" / We are MCS.] He lamented, "ごめんなさい、I'm a terrible student," [Gomennasai, I'm... / Sorry, I'm...] foreshadowing the next song. "I was supposed to be studying Japanese." JP spoke JP really quite well, actually, and I was legitimately impressed with his accent. Oh, man, by the way, how ridiculously sweet would a JP x JP EP b, B (g, ie. W)? Note, that link is not an example of an accent to aspire to, it's the concept I'm talking about!

Indeed, they launched into Her Words Destroyed My Planet, a song that is special to me because My Dinosaur Life was coming out right as I was finishing college (EIKM was right around when college started), and this song quite perfectly articulated what it was like at Yale after discovering comics and art after the steady crash in spirits just a few short months into first coming to New Haven. This was another tear jerker, just shredding off that old band-aid. I have to say, it's always a little intimidating listening to them, cuz you never know when a quiet moment will make you remember exactly why you hold certain songs so dear. I probably should be playing it even closer to the vest, but whatever. I love this band. And I mean, there are years of comics and art on this very site to help Sherlock Holmes it out, so whatevz.

"This one's a love song," he said before sliding right into True Romance, which I'll admit isn't coasting into my list all-time top tracks, but my gosh, the chunky part where they slow down and hammer out "I believe it's true" always has such power. That part really turns the song around for me. The Converse edition version is especially good there.

MCS albums tended to come out around big changes in my life, and Go was, appropriately, the album out right around when I first came to Japan, so it conjures all kinds of memories from when I was just here. After coming to Japan, I was worried I wouldn't feel anything from MCS albums any more because a lot of the, shall we say "difficult," parts of life had washed away in the US. And unfortunately, I feel like there exists some distance between Go and me, but I certainly still enjoy the album, especially the latter half. The JP edition also has tracks that should have just been standard with the album, I can't imagine it without them. I'm still studying this album, and have a hunch it'll really hit me later. The album seems to revolve around adulthood in particular, and I by no means consider myself there yet.

To be fair, to Go's credit, Timelines certain snuck up on me on one day...I was driving from a meeting in the "big" city, headed to my tiny rural town (back when I lived in a Miyazaki movie), and I thought, "Well, here I am in Japan, driving my little Japanese car. Six months prior, I could not have said or predicted that. I'm coming from a meeting of humans I didn't know existed, back to a town even Japanese people don't know about. I'm now speaking a new language I had no reason to learn just a few months ago. Almost nobody knows I'm here; almost everybody here knows who I am." I feel this song would have clobbered me in college. I mean, Yale? What does that even mean? Say it enough times and it fast becomes alien babbling. Why did they let me in? Who says it's ok that I got in and someone else didn't? Did I screw that up? Will I leave Japan just as uncertain about having accomplished anything worthwhile? Was I lucky to get Yale or was it a reflection of my abilities? And Japan? Who says I ever even get to know?

And as long as we're diving into the memory vault, there was this one time on the bus, again in the big city. I saw an old, old man quietly, but excitedly pointing out the world beyond the front window to his tiny, tiny grandson, who was clearly seeing these parts of existence for the very first time. Nobody else on the sparsely populated vehicle in our remote part of Japan was overly concerned with the two explorers, but I couldn't stop watching them. They were holding hands, standing as close to the front of the bus as possible, no interest in sitting down. Meanwhile Everyone Will Die was playing. Everything felt ok. Just ok.

And to give Go its due respect, songs like Bad Idea and Happy Anniversary are first-ballot hall-of-famers.

At this point in the show in Shibuya, I noticed something I hadn't at Toad's--Justin's glasses started fogging! These little details you either never or always wonder about. This would happen a lot to me when I lived in the rural part of Japan, where it was much more dramatic in temperature difference. Tokyo's just generally warm all year round. I know these guys are all allegedly human beings, but it's neat when there's concrete evidence of it.

Justin then informed the crowd that he had spent a lot of time and money at Tokyu Hands, a department store in Japan. He thanked the audience for coming out to support live rock and for "making our lives excellent."

Next up was It Had to be You, which I was excited to hear for the crowd at the "ooh-ooh-ooh-oooooh" parts. Haha. I was hoping to hear a difference with a mostly JP crowd, but it all kinda sounds the same in our zombie-mass chorus. By the way, it was a weird feeling being among all these MCS just never encounter them in the wild. Poking around for interest invariable leads to some form of, "no, never heard of that movie." I met one person at Yale who was a "fan," but of course that means just liking their second album's hit single...needless to say, not very deep conversations to be had there. Which smarts because that's the one place you want to dig deep into text, man, Yale; ponderers, ponderers everywhere, and not a thought to think.

Make Out Kids came next, and is simply one of my favorites. I now believe I've pinpointed this to be due to Matt Taylor Bass's obstinately cheery chumming and how it pairs so well with Jesse's equally optimistic theme, all of which contrasts with the futility of the lyrics. Make Out Kids is actually probably the best illustration of the entire band working together to make something greater than any individual.

But but but up next was Time Turned Fragile...gosh, just back-to-back killers. I always think of this and Make Out Kids as somehow related, but I'm not sure exactly how. Yes, they're consecutive tracks on Commit This to Memory, but I feel like there's some narrative connection, like perhaps it's something like a before-and-after relationship. The former speaks to presence, youth, beginnings, and optimism while the latter to retrospection, death, endings, and defeat. Anyway, Time Turned Fragile is especially powerful to me because of the theme of a friend checking in on a second, reclusive and/or closed-off friend. I feel like that song, and well, this band, performed something like that function for me during college, and I largely used this song to inform Nyao and Z's relationship in the comic.

If Make Out Kids demonstrates the power of the band as a team in collaboration, Time Turned Fragile shows how strong they are individually. Particularly, from the middle to the finale, it just chains dominant performances in sequence, notably that classic part where everyone backs off and there's just that little diatribe, "Do you still believe..," which then gives way to Tony's outrageous solo, one of the most emotionally powerful examples of drumming I've ever heard. And then, and THEN, the driving beat continues just behind Justin's auto-eulogy only to come to such a crisp, cold, abrupt, even cruel end, killing everything but Jesse's(?) contemplative tonal work, like organ notes wafting from a distant funeral. I knew this one was going to be a rough one to experience live, but what an experience. Just crushing.

Ah, then LGFUAD, which is just an excellent stress reliever. It's boldly worded, and perhaps as liberating as libations, though I myself don't imbibe (nor curse, for that matter, I just say "bplubped" during those parts!) I remember I tried discussing this song with someone outside of Yale, and it was just unreal...I mean, ask anybody on the street, do you think they just randomly throw words together? You don't suppose there is some method to constructing a song? I'm not even a good analyst, but come on, dude, try! Anyway, I remember the crowd being extremely into this in New Haven, but perhaps owing to the less fluent crowd here, they weren't as intense, though the pogoing flowed plentifully.

Following that was Last Night, which often hits me when I listen to it walking home at night, and for a while I thought I was making it out of this all right, but it just builds and builds, starting with the reference to "autumn," my favorite season; the "so-called art" part, which I use to jeer myself when I feel a piece isn't coming together; and then comboing off into the "pouring rain," which is my favorite kind of weather. Just a perfect storm, really. How does it not hit you?

My gosh, then My Favorite Accident. What can you possibly say about this song? It just crashes down on you like a mountain of bricks. This song encapsulates the band in so many ways. Some of my earliest MCS memories involve thinking on Jesse Mack Johnson's gut-wrenching work, exemplified here with that intro and throughout the piece. And contrast that with Tony's furious drumming on this one, too, right into Josh Cain's "astral slide," into Justin's frustrated vocals, backed with Matt Taylor Bass's grounding. It is simply perfect, the epitome of collaboration. Sometimes I can't even listen to this song, it is so excellent. How many trillions of years has it been, and it still mystifies and grabs you by the throat? I recently noticed they have the demo version up, too, which is definitely a must-listen, too.

Justin took a moment here to thank the opening act, Over Arm Throw. Again, these guys were great, and seemed like nice dudes to boot. I saw them after the show and wanted to ask them about their song writing but it looked they were busy loading stuff, so I didn't feel it wise. I recall hearing MCS doesn't select their JP openers, but if we could just fantasize for a sweet would it have been to get like, say Ellegarden (obviously inactive of course) or if we're on the Takeshi Hosomi train, why not the HIATUS (probably past their opener days)? Maybe Indigo La End, these guys have a sound rich with the nostalgia and introspection JP commands so effortlessly, whereas the Hosomi bands tend to be a little more external.

Back to the beats, This is for Real came up, a song whose benediction is a wonderful sentiment to shout to a band preparing to call it quits. This is the kinda song that gets into you if you're not careful. Listening to MCS is such a wonderful minefield that way.

Then right into Attractive Today, just simply one of their most important songs. The finale just stings, huh? How many years has it been? I guess I keep coming back to that--the sheer power they packed into their work, such that it remains fresh and cutting over a decade later.

Next was Modern Chemistry, which actually relates to the singular other time I met a fellow MCS fan at Yale, but again, it was a one song-fan...still, I appreciate meeting any kind of MCS fan. Anyway, again, the "owl" section, as I call it, where we all go "hoo-hoo" was immensely enjoyable. I never did any drugs or anything, but I certainly hold music and art as a sort of panacea. I got I am the Movie right when I really needed it, and this song just keeps you afloat.

Following that was When "You're" Around, just giving voice to all the powerlessness we feel sometimes. The live version often seems to feature an extended, up-scaling final "around," an improvement over the album's steady reading, but I didn't notice it this time, unfortunately! I also love this one for how much Josh Cain really throws it down. I think of him as "Dr. Cain" because of how wise and in control he always seems to be. Like, in an emergency, you always ask, "Is there a doctor in the house?" Josh Cain just makes you feel like everything's under control; there's blood and guts everywhere, but everything's under control. It sounds way more grim than it is. Justin mentioned after the song, "Matt [Taylor Bass] and I were listening to 90s rap before the show." I didn't notice any breaks, but apparently Justin had some difficultly keeping a straight face during a modified part of the song that the two had planned. During these apparently flubbed parts, Justin said hoped no one noticed but that he started laughing, "thinking about his sweet, funky bass lines."

Justin then warned about an impending drop in the mood, before launching into the one and only, the legendary Hold Me Down. This song was playing exactly as I was leaving Kyoto, actually, so that might have contributed to the tough little rollercoaster ride there. But regardless, this song just reaches down your throat and crushes you from the inside. I was torn between enjoying (aka getting wrecked by) the song and just feebly striving to capture it. I caved under the pressure and used my camera's "record" function intentionally for the first time. I got just about all of the song, and feel so happy to listen back to it, but a part of me will always wonder if it might have been more beautiful to be completely in the moment on such an important song.

Asked the crowd for indulgence on a long shot, Justin inquired if anyone was familiar with an obscure Japanese act called "Drunjo Drunjo Kept by Four," assuming my spelling is correct. He even started spelling it out himself, but I couldn't keep up. I thought he was going to mention that total mainstream sellout Cornelius (sarcasm), but no such luck. I can't find anything on this Drunjo band online, so that's that.

Speaking of which, next was A Lifeless Ordinary (Need a Little Help). This one feels like a hug, I dunno. Comforting to admit powerlessness and insecurity, which I liken to surrendering to a father's bear hug or something.

And then Everything's Alright (sic). I was kinda hoping they'd pull a fast one and play Everything Is Fine, as well, their recently released JP bonus track, which isn't online as of yet. But unfortunately, we just had to make do with one of their most undeniable tracks of all time. I should note, the bonus track is currently sample-able here, listed as エヴリシング・イズ・ファイン (日本盤のみのボーナス・トラック). Anyway, Everything's Alright is special to me because it's one of the very first songs I ever heard by them, and they even played it on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, which was when I became a fan. I kept that performance on our DVR for as long as humanly possible. I remember Justin was wearing a shirt with a classic "e-card" 50s advertisement-style guy saying, "I'm getting too old for this noise," or something like that. Too bad it doesn't seem to be online, that would really take me back.

If we can dig deep, I also remember singing the song to myself in my head while hiding in the kitchen of a rich, old Yalie's house, meanwhile counting the number of tiles on the ceiling. It was Los Angeles, the summer before moving to college, and I was waiting for the new-admits party to end. I dunno, there was this (self-generated) pressure to go to these new-admit parties, as if they'd rescind acceptance if you didn't go. This day was important because of a discussion I had with my old interviewer--the alumnus whose interview surely sealed the deal on getting me accepted to Yale (joking, but it felt life-or-death at the time). I could speak comfortably with him because we had some basis of familiarity from the interview months prior, and it's easier to talk to people having opened up already at length, as opposed to this fresh J. Crew of chatty strangers with names like Muffy, Conrad, and Ferguson (first name). Ok, I don't actually remember any names, but you get the idea, I couldn't begin to relate to these miniature adults. Dr. [P] noticed I wasn't really clicking with anyone at the party. He assured me, and I'll never forget this, "don't worry, everyone meets their kindred spirit at Yale." I spit that quote in my face every so often, less so nowadays than during the Yale years. Absolutely no discredit to the doctor, of course, he meant well, he just had no idea.

Related, I remember when applying to my first job in Japan, my online research indicated that applicants should memorize a song in case the interviewers were to ask for a spontaneous performance to mimic the apparently "gotcha" nature of JP-style job interviews. Oddly enough, even though MCS has been my favorite band since, my gosh 2006 or so?, I usually don't have lyrics memorized at the drop of a hat and need to sort of go from start to finish with the music. But Everything's Alright was one of the few I knew cold. I chose Everything's Alright and practiced it in the car ride to LA for that interview. Never came up.

I forgot to include it in my notes, but I believe this is where they exited before the encore.

Around now, Justin took a minute to thank Yoshi, one of the staffers who helped put together their Japan tours over the years, he said. "It's been such a trip, hanging out, it's been wonderful," he told the crowd, and included a thank you to Yoko and Sony.

They then went into Anything at All, one of the outstanding songs from their excellent final album. I've discussed this song briefly on Twitter, but Anything at All is beautiful as an argument to the band from a fan who may have grown apart from them over the years, and at the same time, it can be the band singing to that very same distanced fan, beyond the more on-the-nose relationship reading of course. I've been with the band since high school, but the person who introduced me to them sorta grew apart a few albums ago, so I myself think of this song as one of those two parties singing to the other. By the way, this type of hyper-personalized interpretation is actually one of the things I gravely disliked about studying literature at Yale, because it often seemed to become a contest of seeing who could most skillfully inject their own circumstances into text as the reading we should all accept or die a miserable death (or just get glares from kids in section, whichever). But I feel comfortable asserting my read here because A) this is my site so who cares and B) this is not an attempt to define the text, but just reflect on the band's meaning to me.

Next was Even if it Kills Me, another one of their all-time "hall of fame" songs. The beatbox part sounded so clean, just incredibly better than the already moving album version. And the build to the intense part of the ending was nothing but excellent.

And then they present the very final song I am to hear from them, conjured by their own hands and selves right before me, The Future Freaks Me Out. What can you say? What can you possibly say? The crowd was just a wave of people jumping, many Japanese people, a good number of non-jPeople. The song has many optimistic moments, but I love how deep it slices on the "we fail at everything we even try to attempt." When I think of Justin Pierre, I think of a calculating surgeon with a butcher's streak. Either are just doing their job, but what deep, stinging work they do.

As they left the stage, the original version of Back to the Beat played, closing a simply demolishing night. I couldn't believe it was over so soon. I felt like you just read the intro paragraph to a novel you were ready to spend all night with, or getting three episodes into an incredible podcast only to find out they stopped making episodes. That was it.

The venue cleared out soon enough and unfortunately, it looked like the halls were already pretty much all packed up with any merch they might have still had for sale. I'm not usually into clothes or anything--I still wear a rotation of free shirts I got for joining Yale clubs and stuff over the years (I even still wear my D.A.R.E. shirt from 5th grade!)--but this would have been a sentimental buy, a final vote of support for a band I love.

Eventually staff gently scooted everyone out, and I was bummed there was no meet-n-greet (which is weird, because I normally dread meeting people, of course). But I camped out towards the exit of the building on the ground floor in the off chance they'd leave via the front...and they did! I noticed Tony Thaxton heading out just like anybody else (the bottom levels of the building were a Book-Off of some variety), and I had to take a little jog down the up-rolling escalator in order to reach him! I couldn't believe it, but he remembered the Tony Tony Tony piece I did of him that summer before I came to Japan...and now here we are half a decade/planet removed.

I know they're all just humans, I know, I know, but I was so nervous to meet them because they simply mean so much to me. These are artists who can move other humans with their work, what on Earth more could you ever aspire to do as an artist? And here I was finally able to meet them (minus of course Jesse Mack Johnson, who must have headed out earlier)! I'm pretty sure I just barely held it together long enough so that I could talk with them for a bit before darting off to pull myself back together and mentally prepare to speak to the next guy semi-cogently. I had written three drafts of questions prior to the event and tried to memorize them on the train, since I knew I would likely not be able to wing it: not only do I have general difficulty being coherent in person, but I had a strong hunch even apart from the nerves, I'd likely be a little emotional--heck, I'm getting a little misty writing this!

It helped just seeing all the warmth from fellow fans who had also stuck around to meet them. As I was waiting to meet Matt Taylor Bass, two guys ahead of me were trying to give him a T shirt, but he politely indicated it wouldn't fit him! One of the guys figured out from the inflection and body language, and tried to explain to the other that the shirt was indeed too small, but the main guy really wanted to give it to him! It really was much too small, a common frustration westerners face when shopping for clothes in Japan (hence I need stuff to be literally ripping apart before I even think about the hassle of hunting for replacement duds). Japanese people tend to adopt a playful, kid-like "whiny" tone when it comes to stuff like beseeching or coaxing someone, so the guy ultimately cried to the night sky "it got returned!" and the two had a good laugh at the cosmic defeat. I forgot to explain to Matt Taylor Bass what they were saying, but hopefully he didn't feel they were seriously distressed.

When speaking with them, I was torn between wanting to ask them "real" questions I've wondered for years, versus making sure to communicate what they meant to me, though I'm sure they hear this kind of thing all the time, and obviously I didn't want to keep them longer than they needed to be there. I will say I got to get into a deeper discussion on Even if it Kills Me with the great Josh Cain. I know I'm always going to wonder about Jesse Mack Johnson's thoughts on Hold Me Down's outro...Anyway, I hope they understand and appreciate the magnitude of what they accomplished together. I know words lose their meaning over time, but sometimes you simply need to experience something extraordinary for tired, old cliches to betray the power of their concentrated meanings. One such cliche would be "thank you."

And, my gosh, when I mentioned that one fan art piece I did, they remembered me! Even a little zero like me.

Anyway, this was a special night, so I hope the heavy reliance on photos and prose for today's post is not too offensive. I did sneak in a preview of a piece I'm working on, though. I hope to share some more Motion City memories when that image goes up, though it'll probably get a little onion-choppy. But that's exactly who we are.


Monday, September 12, 2016


Just got back from GP Kyoto, where I met the great Algenpfleger!

I was working on a special upcoming piece after each day of the event, so not much time to finish smaller pieces, hence all the teaser/study bits on Twitter rather than actual finished stuff. But I did manage to color up some old lines to kill time before the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) home.

Bonus blingy version.

I can't believe it, but I lost my Shinkansen tickets TWICE--first on the way to Kyoto, then again on the way back, except on the return, I also lost my WALLET! because I thought, well, this time I'll put the travel slip in my wallet since I never, ever, ever, ever lose my wallet...

Bonus Twitter version.

I can't remember ever losing tickets before in my life, let alone my wallet, and to get the double whammy...I got the wallet back just fine because it's Japan, but still, that could have gone extremely poorly. I was already using a note to travel rather than actual tickets because I forgot my train tickets in the Bullet Train from Tokyo, so the staff had to confirm my tickets were in the seat-back pouch I detailed, and then they made up a little doctor's note for me to use as proxy tickets for the rest of the trip.

Bonus teaser collection.

The event itself was great--I even met a couple people who remembered me from past events!

And of course, Algenpfleger is simply the best; I am humbled he puts up with me.