Just a heads-up for you guys planning to hit the San Francisco show on the 15th - it's been moved from the Fillmore to Slim's. Here's their web site if you need directions to 333 11th St, the venue's address. Original Fillmore tickets will be honored.
Oddly, their US site has not yet been updated with this info as of the morning of 10/31. Click the link to Slim's above, though, and you'll see them on the calendar for the 15th. The official PUFFY Japanese site also makes note of the change.
No idea for the reasons behind the move - Ami had said they were looking forward to playing the Fillmore again, as it's a venue they're familiar with. So I doubt it was completely their choice. Just looking at the Slim's web site, it does appear that the new venue is quite a bit smaller than the Fillmore.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Just a heads-up for you guys planning to hit the San Francisco show on the 15th - it's been moved from the Fillmore to Slim's. Here's their web site if you need directions to 333 11th St, the venue's address. Original Fillmore tickets will be honored.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Last night, Puffy made a "surprise guest" appearance on the TV Asahi program "Music Fighter" - appearing alongside Mr. Children, Glay, Kimura Kaela and several other veteran and up-and-coming bands. This episode was a special tribute to Tamio Okuda on the 20th anniversary of his entering the Japanese rock scene, so all of the guests either sang a cover of one of his songs or paid homage to him in some way.
Puffy didn't play, which was a little disappointing, but they did get sort of the honor spot as the guest during Tamio Okuda's lengthy interview segment. It was actually pretty interesting and funny, in the way that people are funny when they're drunk. The interviewer definitely didn't ask pat, PR-like questions, and Okuda wasn't giving pat, PR-like answers.
They touched on why Okuda became a producer (he said it was just a fad among musicians at the time), what Puffy thought Okuda needed to improve about himself, and even who - between the interviewer and Puffy - Okuda would date if he had the chance, using nothing but the face as his criteria. (He chose the interviewer!)
Here's a clip from the interview segment:
The clip is the aforementioned conversation about what Okuda needs to do to improve himself. Yumi answers, "he needs to eat less curry." Okuda complains she's not taking the question seriously enough. But she goes on to explain that the spice can affect a singer's voice, and he counters that he doesn't believe it because he sings from lower in his throat.
They go on to talk about the "windscreens" used in front of the microphones in recording studios, the best of which are made of panty hose material. Okuda wondered why singers don't just wear panty hose on their heads when they sing to avoid having to change the windscreens, so he tried it himself. He says it didn't work out too well, for obvious reasons.
That's basically the gist of this segment; the interview goes on like this for about 20 minutes. Oh, as for why he picked the interviewer over Puffy for his date, he says he knows what Ami and Yumi looked like 8 years ago, and he know how much more makeup they wear now to keep looking the way they do. He knows what they really look like. That's either an indication of how close they are, or how much of a jerk he is!
Special thanks to my wife for acting as translator for me.
Obviously, the point of the show is to promote the two Tamio Okuda cover albums that were just released: Unicorn Tribute and Tamio Okuda Covers. Puffy play a song on each, so check them out if you haven't already.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
A guy going by the name of HIDE☆KI$$ has posted a couple of images to the online community site Mixi showing his collection of PUFFY pins (they call them "badges") that he picked up at the show at Shibuya C.C. Lemon Hall. I'll repost the photos here since most of you just aren't going to have access to Mixi at all (it's both invite- and Japan-only these days):
The idea is obviously to collect-em-all, and in fact his post is all about selling his collection piecemeal to those looking to complete their own.
If I see any more tour merchandise out there "in the wild", I'll post either more pics or links to them... and I'll hopefully have some nice photos of my own coming after the west-coast dates!
Those of you who do have access to Mixi can view the original thread here.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Even I admit that this is pretty crazy:
I don't think I realized what that was going to look like before I laid it out. I couldn't even fit everything in! No t-shirts, no keychains. On a shelf, it's not quite as nuts. I hesitated to post it, because I'm not sure what kind of person this makes me look like. Hopefully, just a collector. But it's been a slow news week, and I just wanted to post something. Anyway, this is the review backlog. Eventually, everything will be reviewed here. Maybe most of it, at least. Probably. Assuming I live a long life. I hope that I do.
Tonight in Japan (they're 13 hours ahead), Puffy play Hiroshima.
Monday, October 22, 2007
On 10/20, Puffy performed for Fuji TV's FACTORY Live show. I've heard this will be broadcast on 10/30, but I can't find real confirmation of that - if it's true, though, then I'm going to hopefully give it the same treatment as I did "Music Lovers" and "SONGS." Until then, feel free to ruminate on the set list, transcribed from memory by a guy on the Mixi community site:
boom boom beat
Kimi to O-tobai
Ain't Gonna Cut It
Tokyo I'm on My Way
Electric Beach Fever
Ajia no Junshin
I bolded "Aint Gonna Cut It" because they've never played it live before, and I speculated earlier that they'd add it to US shows. (I removed the set list from my Shibuya show/tour kickoff post because it's apparently supposed to stay secret, but I will at least say that "Ain't Gonna Cut It" was not on it.) Now that we know it's a song they've been rehearsing, I think it's probably even more likely it'll be added to their US set.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Last night, Puffy appeared on the KDDI-sponsored music show "Music Lovers". I confess I don't know a huge amount about this show - like a lot of the Japanese music-related media, I learned about it through Puffy and not the other way around. I previously posted about Puffy's call for an audience of 200, and that was pretty much the first I'd heard of it. But it seems like a pretty fun show, and hey, it is a Puffy promotional appearance - another excuse to post some pics and video!
The hook to this show seems to be that they feature two people who get to be on TV with Puffy in a studio interview that airs in between performance clips. The two "music lovers" get to pose their own questions to Puffy in this segment.
I don't think these people are picked completely at random, as neither of the two guests were at all camera-shy, as you'd expect any two given random people to be. Of course, I can't understand much of what they're saying, except that one of the girls apparently thinks Ami and Yumi are really cute. (Update: read the first comment in the comments section below - seems these most definitely are not random people! Thanks for the info, anonymous commenter!)
These people also get to be in the front row of the crowd, and they get the cameras put on them for reaction shots all throughout the show.
Here's the set list for the live performance segment - and keep in mind it's really a 19 minute show with an interview in the middle, so it's pretty abbreviated:
Wild Girls on Circuit
Electric Beach Fever
Ajia no Junshin
Encore (played over the credits):
As usual, the older stuff got the biggest ovation from the crowds - though really, what else would you expect with any band? The older songs have familiarity on their side. Eventually, the new songs will be old standards too. I will say that I think "Electric Beach Fever" is one of their all-time best live songs, and I really hope they leave it in for the US shows this year - they have a habit of pulling it in and out of their sets seemingly on a whim. I've actually never seen it in person myself, even though they supposedly played it on their last US tour at most dates.
The backing band was, as some have reported from the Honeysweeper tour, completely different from their regular band. This guy is not Furuta!
One of the guitarists was the same guy from their US Splurge tour - I don't actually know his name or any of the rest of the new band. They do seem pretty into it and totally competent, though, so I don't think it makes a huge difference. Puffy themselves have called Furuta "the heart of the band", though, so I wonder how they feel when they play without him.
The audience was kind of strange - I don't know if this was intentional or what, but it was about 90% women. Is it always like this? Is this a show "for women"? I have no idea.
One thing that struck me when listening to the interview segment is just how low Yumi's voice is getting. She's always had a lower speaking voice than Ami, but it's getting crazy low these days. You can sort of hear it in the beginning of this clip - this is the "special medley" from the show:
Compare her speaking voice at the beginning there with her voice in this clip from 2000:
I sometimes worry a bit about her smoking, so I hope it's not related. Singers who smoke often lose their range as time goes on - that was one of the first things I learned when I had a band and took my own vocal lessons. I'd hate to see that happen to her. Yumi-chan, do yourself a favor and quit smoking! (Of course, the health issues go without saying - I don't mean to sound like a person's singing voice is the main concern with smoking. I've had major lung problems myself, so I know how much it sucks.)
Here are a few more stills, both from the performance and the interview - again, I don't want to post the whole video here out of copyright concerns.
It's actually hard to get good stills of them from video - they never stand still on stage!
Friday, October 19, 2007
Only an hour or two ago, Puffy concluded their first show on the Honeysweeper tour at C.C. Lemon Hall in Shibuya, Tokyo (渋谷C.C.Lemonホール). As always, I'm watching the community sites and Japanese blogs I know for fan reaction, and I'll update here if I see anything interesting. I originally had a set list here, and some of you no doubt have already read it, but I found out later that Yumi asked fans to keep it a strict secret - if you really wanna know, just follow some of the links I've got here because at least one other guy's also got some loose lips. (Or just ask me if you want the English/romanized version; I'd be happy to email it to you individually.)
To reiterate, I have removed the set list from this post in deference to Yumi's request at the show. Though I know it's "out there" now - this is the internet, after all. But I'm not interested in pissing off Puffy by broadcasting it publicly now that I know it's against their wishes :)
I will just say that it's a pretty hard rocking set; not a lot of different genres, and it leans heavily on newer stuff. It's also a pretty long set - 21 songs, including two encores. I don't think anyone will be too disappointed in the song selection, although there are a few old standards that didn't make the cut this time around.
I posted about Sumairu Puffy yesterday, and while I'm not gonna get in the habit of just aping their content, they've got the first substantive comments I've seen. I ran them through an auto-translator, and while that's not always completely reliable, they seemed to suggest that Yumi has gotten a lot more animated live, that their vocals sounded better than they do on CD, and that Ami was unusually showing off some ankle - including a tattoo that I don't know if anyone has seen before.
They also have a photo of the line to get into the MotionPortrait booth, along with the booth itself.
UPDATE: Another great report (in Japanese).
This report says the show was nearly 2 hours long because of all the "MC" banter - which there was a lot of. (The first show I saw in 2005 was about that same length, for the same reason. The 2006 show was shorter.) I love that stuff, and it's part of the genius of pairing them together. I just hope they have some new English stories to tell when they get here! Ami's worn out that "my fly was open!" story by now.
Right on cue, the official Honeysweeper blog has a tiny photo and report from the show.
Here is another show report (in Japanese). Apparently, the t-shirts and towel sold out. Get to those merchandise tables early! I always go before the show starts, personally.
This report is short but sweet, and in English. :)
Puffy is ROCK, indeed.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Some of you probably already know about this, but Jesus H. Christmas, I've found a goldmine here. In browsing around for info on "TV Geracho", a show on Space Shower TV that Puffy's frequenting lately, I stumbled onto what appears to be a Japanese bbs similar to my blog - it's in blog format. The main difference? Well, it is in Japan, so whoever posts to it has tons of stuff available to post that I don't. That means lots of big, high quality photos I have never seen before, anywhere. A lot of info on events and other stuff that you never even see written about on any of the official Puffy blogs too.
Don't be misled by that screenshot. Scroll through the posts. There's also an image gallery.
Japanese readers, especially, may have seen this site before... but I hadn't, and I'm sure that few if any of my English-speaking readers have.
I love maintaining this blog, but seeing what this site's doing just makes me feel inadequate. And I confess, a little discouraged! It's tough to write about a Japanese band from New York City, especially when you can't even read kanji. But no fear, I'm not going anywhere - and I just couldn't keep this from you guys. I'm a Puffy fan before I'm a blogger, and this site's amazing.
And of course, the main reason I started writing here was to post my DVD/CD reviews, not news... and I write in English. So I guess I shouldn't feel too bad. I'll keep on doing what I'm doing. But I'll keep watching Sumairu Puffy too, and I'd encourage you to do the same.
UPDATE: Ugh! Somebody at Sumairu Puffy is reading my site and reposting info without a credit. Several times now, I've seen info that only I had up (for example, the Seattle photos from Kevin, that he told me about specifically and gave specific permission for me to use in a specific way) that immediately appeared on Sumairu Puffy, with the same links and photos. I don't care if anyone reposts my info - I'm not trying to copyright news or anything - but please just give credit where it's due! This is especially embarrassing in the case where I'm posting photos with permission and credit that are then ripped off and reposted elsewhere without an original photo credit.
I still like to read Sumairu Puffy, but come on, guys! A little professional courtesy here.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 5:02 PM
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Not sure how I missed this, but if you did too and you're in Japan, Puffy's on another magazine cover this week:
Also, completely unrelated but I may as well mention it, Puffy's been plastering the internet with word that those who attend their October 19 show at Shibuya C.C. Lemon Hall have the chance to get their face projected on the screens at/near/behind the stage and possibly into Puffy's next music video that's apparently being filmed at the show. Just visit the "MotionPortrait" booth after 4PM to get your picture taken.
This is actually some pretty crazy technology - look at the demo on MotionPortrait's site here (be sure you check the "What is MotionPortrait?" page). I wonder how Puffy's going to use it at the show. Let the speculation begin on what song's going to be next to get the promotional video treatment! My guess: "Sayonara Summer" or "Youkai Puffy" (in honor of Halloween!).
Monday, October 15, 2007
Seems hard to believe now, but yes, there was a time not so long ago when Puffy was virtually unknown in North America - no different than current Japanese chart-toppers like Yui, Ayaka or Kimura Kaela. Nowadays, of course, they've still got residual recognition from the "Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi" show, and they've built up a small but rabid nationwide fan base through their music. Most of those fans know the story of their debut here - the 2000 SXSW appearance, the subsequent continent-wide tour two years later.
Not many of those people have probably had the chance to see anything of those shows, though, considering that Puffy only released the DVD chronicling their US/Canada "Rolling Debut Revue" tour in Japan. I've always thought that this was pretty strange - if we were gonna get any DVD released here, it should have been this one. That's compounded by the puzzling title screen labeled "Puffy AmiYumi" (their North American name) and the western nicknames given to the entire band. It almost seems like this was meant for a US release, but for whatever reason, it didn't happen.
In 2002, Puffy was gearing up for the release of Nice (releasing cover album The Hit Parade in the interim) as they prepared to head full steam into the Andy Sturmer era. It was definitely the beginning of an all-new, retooled Puffy, and one that probably seemed pretty unfamiliar to their Japanese fans. Completely gone were the cute, bubbly, innocent girls that Japan had come to know and love - in their place were two indie rock chicks, all grown up and with an edge that they'd never had before. Gone also were the matching outfits, the complicated hairstyles, the overt poppiness and commercialism (for now).
Even the cover of the disc (pictured at the top) is about as out there as it gets. Yes, that's the real cover - coffee stains and all.
Whether this was Puffy intentionally trying to appeal to a western crowd or just them finally being themselves is anyone's guess - it may have been a bit of both. What seems clear from this DVD, though, is that it took them a little time to figure out North American audiences. The disc opens with their performance at Irving Plaza in New York City (where I'd see them three years later), and they seem outright nervous. Not only has their image changed from Spike Daisakusen a year and a half earlier, but so has their carefree attitude - they rarely so much as crack a smile while on stage.
The disc hops around from city to city, covering at least a few of the 13 dates on the tour, though most of the actual concert footage is from Irving Plaza.
Here's the full track listing:
1. Umi Eto
2. Ajia no Junshin (English version)
3. Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi
4. Boogie Woogie No. 5
5. Atarashi Hibi
6. Your Love is a Drug
7. Akai Buranko
8. Puffy's Rule
9. Wild Girls on Circuit
You'll probably notice that the track listing is quite short compared to, say, Tour! Puffy! Tour! 10 Final. But wait! This is not strictly a live DVD - this is a tour chronicle. Unlike most Puffy live DVD's, it has a large amount of candid backstage and tour bus footage.
See! Ami eating both Dunkin Donuts and McDonald's. She's a fast food junkie.
See! Yumi complain about a sign at one venue that reads "Pufy Amyum".
See! Drummer Furuta's (aka "Rick") "sexy" birthday cake.
See! Ami and Yumi do Q&A and autograph signing at a dinky little record store. (I know, it's the vitally important indie music shop Amoeba Music; I've been there.)
Puffy's pre-"HiHi" US fans had a little different look to them!
See! The entire band posing in front of Niagara Falls.
See! Ami and Yumi getting used to sleeping on a tour bus.
See! The band jam in an informal backstage session.
See! Yumi ride a roller coaster (by herself?!)
And much, much more. Favorite moment of the disc for me: one of their American fans enthusiastically telling the camera that meeting Puffy was the "best day of her life". This was in 2002! Talk about otaku.
The Dunkin Donuts scene is actually kind of funny, because somebody (probably special guest Bleu) apparently chose a Dunkin' Donut for Ami to eat as one of Boston's representative foods, as if she's never had a donut before and as if Boston doesn't have anything better to offer. She of course forces out a fake-sounding "it's good!" even though she probably eats superior Japanese Mister Donut (or Doughnut Plant) donuts every day of her life. (Hey, if there's one thing I'm an expert on, it's donuts.) I wonder if somebody offered her a cup of Starbucks coffee when they went to Seattle.
In fact, it's these scenes that make this DVD worth owning. You're not going to see many of them turn up online (some of the concert footage has), and while a few individual live videos from this DVD were thrown onto the US release of Nice, none of the candid stuff made the cut. Puffy also look a lot more comfortable and relaxed in these scenes than they do in the concert footage, where they never really come out of their shell - in fact, through much of these shows, both Ami and Yumi are staring at the floor like a couple of early 90's British shoegazers.
These were not their best-ever performances. In fact, it was seeing some of this footage on the Nice album that set my expectations so low for my first Puffy concert in 2005 - expectations that they completely blew away. I know firsthand that they're capable of so much more than this. And I also know it from their other concert DVD's, all of which are more energetic and fun.
But the backstage stuff is fun, and it's the Puffy we all know. There, they seem to feel free to be themselves, and they're among friends. On stage, they're in an unfamiliar situation - playing small arenas to crowds that may or may not know their music. I will say that it's surprising to see how packed some of the venues are, given their name recognition here at the time. Who knows - maybe that scared them a little bit.
This kind of setup had to be intimidating to a couple of girls who are used to playing large arenas with raised stages and a ten foot buffer zone between the stage and the crowd.
No doubt they were also emotionally and physically drained by the tour, which Ami makes pretty clear in her goodbye speech on the last date in Toronto. A 5,000 mile bus tour is not something most Japanese acts ever have to deal with. The geography of Japan is such that, given a few days in between tour dates, a band can play a show and be home the same night for a couple days of R&R - almost regardless of where they're playing. Worst case, a Hyatt's never more than a dozen miles away.
It may not have been the best choice to feature one of the last performances of the tour (Irving Plaza) so heavily on the DVD.
I will say that there are a couple of tracks here that aren't often repeated on other live Puffy DVD's, so there's another good reason to seek this out. "Ajia no Junshin" in English? Don't think that even exists live anywhere else. "Your Love is a Drug" has similarly not been repeated to my knowledge. "Atarashi Hibi" is rare.
With everything taken together, this is a pretty interesting DVD - though uneven, rough around the edges, and definitely not their best pure live concert DVD. It works really well as a snapshot in a time of renewal - their metamorphosis from the vestiges of their old personas in Spike was now complete, but they didn't seem quite comfortable with where they were headed just yet. They did settle in nicely by the time I'd see them in 2005, so viewing this now only shows the promise of what's to come (it could have easily gone the other way, depending on what the future brought).
Watching it also helps explain their current habit of doing "mini-tours" in the United States, covering only one coast or the other. They were clearly worn down by the end of the Rolling Debut Revue tour - you can almost watch it as it happens here. They obviously learned a lot on this tour, and that's only helped their future performances here get better.
As usual, the DVD is locked to region 2, and it is 4:3, though my screen grabs came out at an odd 720x536 resolution, so it seems like it may actually be using the full horizontal and vertical resolution of the format. The picture quality is not bad, but it doesn't approach the level of the anamorphic and all-around excellent Tour! Puffy! Tour! 10 Final DVD.
Disc Content: B
As I mentioned, there is some streaming video from this disc floating around the net. Unfortunately, it's divx video - I'll embed it here, but it won't work unless you have divx installed. (On the plus side, the quality is very good!) As always, I highly recommend buying the DVD, though this one is long out of print and was never an easy one to find.
If you happen to arrive at one of Puffy's upcoming tour dates naked (ok, even if you don't), you now have some options with which to clothe yourself once you arrive. We saw a tiny shot of the Ami-designed "Puffy the Monster" shirt earlier, but now we've got a little better view of it, along with another shirt that I like just as much (for different reasons) and some other little trinkets.
Click here for the full display. This is what you'll have available to buy if you manage to attend a Puffy concert this year.
A little tip: roll over the badges below the keychains and you can see a little more of a closeup of the characters on the Puffy the Monster t-shirt. Ami's a pretty good illustrator! And I knew that the style looked familiar, but Pooch of Peace. Pop. Puffy. pointed out on the puffyamiyumiworld.com forums that it's a spitting image of Rat Fink. As soon as I read that, a bell rung in my head:
In fact, the TV channel that I work for just showed this film. Guess now we know another of Ami's influences.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
I'm working on a look at the Rolling Debut Revue DVD right at this minute, and it will probably be ready to post by tomorrow. Check back for that. It would have been ready tonight, but I think I'm a little too drunk to write properly right now so I'm sure I'm gonna have to rewrite the whole thing. It's been one of those weekends. Anyway, content yourselves for the moment with this video of Puffy - and for some reason a lot of people eating - from the Sweet Love Shower 2007 festival a month or so ago:
Oh, and another one from Summer Sonic 2007, Puffy and Ki/oon label-mates Chatmonchy:
Look at how freakin' nuts the crowd's going during Ajia no Junshin. btw, I don't know if any of you are into video games, but that building they're playing in is the same place they hold the Tokyo Game Show. (Link goes to my other blog.)
Thanks to PMJ2 - one of my MySpace friends from Japan - for posting these up. I'd never really heard Chatmonchy before; they're pretty good!
More to come soon!
Saturday, October 13, 2007
As I try to find the time to post some more reviews and "feature" style posts (I've been a busy dude the past few days), I've got just one little news update.
The other day, I told you about the Honeysweeper tour blog that Puffy was maintaining - today, they posted a slew of English translations to their main staff blog, and they've announced that they'll continue doing that. Click this link to follow along with the tour in English.
Still no word back from Girlie Action on my questions about the album and any other possible tour dates. I'm not really expecting any, honestly.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Periodically, I get random emails from Puffy's US publicity agency Girlie Action. Most of them are about other bands, but today I got my first email from them about Puffy themselves, specifically their US tour. No big deal there, but what piqued my interest is that the email makes it clear that they're expecting a post-tour US release of honeycreeper. A couple quotes:
Puffy AmiYumi will preview tracks from the upcoming honeycreeper LP on this string of dates, which is being called the "honeysweeper tour."
Puffy AmiYumi will no doubt give audiences a sweet taste of what honeycreeper has in store when they preview tracks on tour.
This is their publicity agency so you'd think they'd have some inside knowledge. I take this as near-confirmation that a US release is coming. So, good news!
Unfortunately for me and anyone else on the east coast, they also refer to the west coast dates as Puffy's "North American Tour", implying that's gonna be the whole thing. Sigh...
I'm trying to get some more details as we speak.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Alright, I admit it, this is kind of a time-killer post. Pretty much nothing else going on the past few days and I just haven't been able to motivate myself to do anymore reviews yet (hey, I just did two in the last week and a half). But I think I know what you guys (and girls!) want - you want eye candy. So here you go!
These are from the first-print 28 page "special booklet" that comes with honeycreeper. This is all the photos within it. The implication of this being a first-press "extra" is that at some point it's gonna be cut down, so consider this both an incentive for you stragglers to finally pick up the CD while you can still get the bigger insert, as well as an archive of these photos for anyone who might have missed them in the future.
Well, without further ado:
I love the photography for this album. I love how lo-fi it is, like a 1970's Polaroid. No, that's not my scanner - that's the way these photos look. It's really hard for anyone to look good with photography like that, so mad props to whoever the photographer on this shoot was. (Not to mention the Photoshop retouchers, though it doesn't honestly look like a huge amount was done to these photos.)