RH in Tokyo: Shimo-Kitazawa Shelter

This article is part of a series on the vibrant music scene in Tokyo’s various neighborhoods.

With one more night in Tokyo before I fly back to California, I head off to Shimo-Kitazawa Shelter, another famous live house in the area. The venue is a little bigger than a Stoughton double (a Harvard dorm renowned for its large rooms), fitted with all the essentials for an edgy DIY music space. There’s a huge clock in the back, cables and pipes everywhere, and a disco ball hanging in the air. The place is literally packed; people are standing on the staircase that leads up to the street.

The Strokes’s debut album Is This It plays on repeat as GOODWARP, the first band on the bill, sets up. They play a bright, danceable indie pop set to the packed house of hip 20-somethings. Combining city pop synths with Western indie pop instrumentation, their sound is pleasant and inoffensive. As they finish, Is This It comes back on over the speakers and about a fourth of the audience files out.

The next band, 愛はズボーン(I WAS BORN), has an insane energy that captivates me and the rest of the audience. They have a playful power pop sound with some powerful drum work. Not even halfway through the set, the drummer performs a crazy solo, breaking his left drumstick in the process. Later, one of the members donning a robot costume throws two large trash bags filled with balloons into the audience. I’m an instant fan.

Finally,アンテナ(Antenna) take the stage. They sound like a Japanese Two Door Cinema Club with a dash of shoegaze thrown in, taking the energy back down to indie pop levels. Their newest single, a song about pizza, is my favorite of the night. They clearly have a dedicated fan base; the girl next to me literally has tears falling from her eyes.

After a crazy two months in Japan, this night at Shelter is a perfect end to the summer. Although I barely even scratched the surface of the live music scene in Tokyo, I hope this series gave a little taste of the incredible bands and venues that abound in this city.

James Gui is a DJ for RH, TDS, Jazz and Blues