Sayonara, Shinjuku Jam

At the end of 2017, Shinjuku Jam closed its doors. This was a place many a Tokyo rock freak spent many a night shouting incoherently with their fists in the air while their favorite band played at max volume on the stage.

My personal fave memory there is when the Dogs played and I lost my shoe in the mosh pit. After the song was over, Loren said into the mic, “Anybody lose a shoe?” while holding up my bar floor goo covered Converse, which somehow got passed back to me goo covered but fine. This is Nakagami-san’s post about Jam from the Target Earth blog. 

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In the days leading up to Shinjuku Jam closing its doors at the end of 2017, it had a series of shows that devolved into wild parties to send off the iconic Tokyo venue. I organized one of those shows and I want to write here about Jam and my show there.

Jam opened in 1980, originally as a rehearsal studio. Many people know it for that, but for me and my friends, we know it as a rock club where we saw some of our favorite bands play over the years. It closed because the building has gotten too old and they’re demolishing it.

It was going for 37 years. Whenever you read the news about Jam closing, they always say that it’s a place where now-famous bands played when they weren’t famous. Yeah, well… any place that’s open for 37 years is going to have some famous bands that played there. Jam is important because it played a significant role in the mod scene, hardcore scene, garage scene, and countless other scenes that sprung up in the 80s, and lots of cool bands played there.

Jam became the breeding ground for all these scenes because the hurdle was low; it was cheap to rent for events. This gave bands and promoters the freedom to put on the shows they wanted to. So, you had bands that were playing there trying to work their way to rock star fame right alongside bands that were happy to toil in the underground forever.

The heyday of places like Jam and Shelter, for us anyway, was years ago. These days, there are more shows at newer places like Heavy Sick, Penguin House, and Pit Bar. Nobody had been going there much recently, so I first heard about Jam closing from Rockbottom, who regularly practiced there. It was their idea to have a last show at Jam, but they figured it would be better if Target Earth put on the show than them.

I decided that if Target Earth was putting on the show, I should ask bands that have always been associated with the label. One question that came up was whether to make it an all-night show or not. Since it was a weekday and there’d be people come from work, I decided to make it an all-nighter with a bonenkai afterward. There were some worries about the cops being called if it was an all-nighter, but Jam owner Ishizuka said it wouldn’t be a problem. We ended up compromising on an all-night show that would end at 1 or 2 so people who had to catch last train could see most of the bands.

The obvious choices were Rockbottom, Thunderroads, Evil Hoodoo, Firestarter and Three Minute Movie. I then added B.C.P.C. This was supposed to be their first show but then they opened for the Pushers in November. Then, I asked Giza Giza, Takuji from the Nou’s new band, and this was their first show. At the last minute, Greg’s band Talent Show got added and we had eight bands. Along with me, Sekiguchi-san and Daddy-O-Nov Dj’ing, I thought I’d managed to put together a pretty good show. Still, it was tough to make the timetable, keeping in mind everybody’s work schedule and stuff like that.

I left work on the day of the show and took that path everyone takes from Shinjuku Station to Jam. Jam had a daytime show, so the only band with a rehearsal was Giza Giza.

If I wrote about each band, this would go on forever, but basically, from the time the show started, Jam was packed and the audience was really into every band. People were telling stories about Jam, talking about the first time they played there and stuff like that. I was busy managing the time, taking pictures, DJ’ing, talking to people and stuff, so the time flew by. I thought everybody would go home at last train, but most people stayed. Lots of memories were shared about Jam – shows, its low ceilings, the dirty toilets, the shitty backstage, getting drunk, playing on its stage, etc.

Jam changed over the years, but for us it was just the same old place we remembered. It’s hard for clubs to balance the business side with taking care of the bands and audience, but I always felt like Jam was a place that put the people and the bands first.

So long, Shinjuku Jam!

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