Portable Rock

Text by Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound

IMGP0643.JPGOn Saturday June 2, I went to see Portable Rock at small venue Club Crawl in Shibuya. It was the first of two "one-man" shows (no opening band) the band played. This one featured guest Suzuki Keiichi (leader of Moonriders), while the other show on the next day would feature Suzuki Saeko (drummer of Cinema, and ex-wife of Keiichi). I only made it to the first show which is what this report is about. While the band played shows in Kyoto and Nagoya last year, it was their first time to play in Tokyo in 6 years (report of previous show)!, except for a short appearance at Maki's 30th anniversary show last March (report).

Portable Rock is a band from the 80's new wave scene that featured Nomiya Maki as vocalist, with Suzuki "Chibun" Tomofumi on guitar and Nakahara Nobuo on bass. It was also the glue between Maki's early 80's short time as a solo artist and Pizzicato Five recruiting her around 1990, at the same time putting an end to Portable Rock. Suzuki Keiichi of the Moonriders was much involved in Maki's "Pink no kokoro" solo album, and later lent his home studio to Portable Rock. Suzuki Tomofumi was part of the same music circle as Konishi Yasuharu and Takanami K-tarō, leading Maki to eventually join P5. There was talk during the show about Portable Rock playing karaoke-style shows in the late 80's, influencing P5 to do the same later.

Enough of history class! My friend and I arrived just in time, as the band entered the stage. Maki wore a white-dotted green dress. The audience was all seated, but there were no more seats so we stood at the back near the bar.

The show began as an acoustic set, the band featuring the three original members and also drummer Kanazu Hiroshi who tended to play with two or three drumsticks in each hand, mainly beating a floor tom and cymbals (no bass drum). All members were seated. This was often accompanied by an old-school drum machine, as heard in the last few songs album "Lost & Found" (mainly a live album but with 2 previously unreleased songs).

The day's guest, Suzuki Keiichi, was invited on stage and first played a Moonriders song by himself, accompanied just by the drummer. Then Maki joined for "usagi to watashi", a song from her first solo album. Then the other band members returned, and the next song was one requested by Keiichi, "Golem Polka". Maki asked him "what is it about this song?" as if she didn't like it much. It's one of my favorites though! The last song of the set was "My Name Is Jack" (original by Manfred Mann), previously covered by P5 in tribute to the Moonriders, as it has Japanese lyrics written by Keiichi. Coincidentally The Manfreds were in town for shows the same weekend.

They also discussed that Keiichi is the one who coined the name "Portable Rock", the reason being that the band only being 3 seemed like it could easily perform anywhere, therefore being "portable". He also said that names often stick forever, even though they're sometimes decided without thinking too much. It seems that at some point he wanted to change the name Moonriders to something else, as it didn't fit their mood anymore, but it had become almost impossible.

Set list 1: Idol / ijiwaru denpa / TuTu / shinju kaigan / Green Books
With Suzuki Keiichi: Moonriders' B TO F (Suzuki Keiichi solo) / usagi to watashi / Golem Polka / fuyu no budōbatake / My Name Is Jack (Manfred Mann cover)

There was a 15-minute break, after which the band came back on stage. The drummer had become a DJ and Maki now wore a short black dress. This set showed the other side of Portable Rock, using an electronic backtrack. The first song was "Picnic", another of my favorites. There was a bit of technical trouble when the backtrack suddenly stopped towards the end of song "Edie" (a song written with Edie Sedgwick in mind). It took a little time to get things back in order, so meanwhile the band performed "ijiwaru denpa" again this time in a more rocking version. The set closed with what Maki said is her favorite Portable Rock song, "Green Books".

Later a few songs from the first set were played for a second time, in their electronic version, and also part of this set were the two songs with lyrics by Konishi that resurged on this year's "Lost & Found" album (one of them included as a bonus track on Maki's "30"). The story of these two songs was that they were recorded just before Maki joined P5, leaving them unreleased, and then they were forgotten and left sleeping for some 20 years! None of the 3 members even had the recordings anymore, until someone who worked on Maki's 30th anniversary album found them. Quite a miracle!

Set list 2: Picnic / Edie (technical trouble) / ijiwaru denpa (rock) / Edie (take 2) / Cinemic Love / Idol / Dance Volunteer / yūtsu no Hold Me / Sweet Renaissance / Green Books

Of course there was an encore! Takanami K-tarō happened to be part of the audience and he was called on stage to take part in a cover of Pizzicato Five's "Sweet Soul Revue"! Being unprepared he played tambourine and sang chorus. This was a really great moment and the perfect ending to a wonderful show!

Encore: Pizzicato Five's Sweet Soul Revue (with Takanami K-tarō)

After the show, the band sat at the entrance to sign autographs for those who had bought a CD. My friend and I both got our autographs. This was also the perfect chance to tell the band that I wish they'll write new songs and keep going. Long live Portable Rock!


"haru shite, koi shite, mitsumete, Kiss shite"
(This song wasn't played this time, rather kept for the 2nd day as it was written by Suzuki Saeko. Too bad I missed that!)

Tags: NOMIYA Maki, Portable Rock, SUZUKI Keiichi (click for more info)

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