Category Archives: TG

(Update) Takedown Part 7 – Escape Velocity (7 pages)

This installment is coming together very quickly. I just finished the pencils, and inking should go quickly. The keynote on this one is simplicity of presentation, and if possible a homage of Wally Wood inks, if I can manage it. Ink the lines and swash on a little light gray highlights, aaaaand its done. Probably in one week, just in time for Thanksgiving. The more color, the longer it takes. This one is going quick. After this installment (part seven) the only thing left to complete for issue Six is one epilogue, “Dinner with the Family.”

You can read past intallments of Takedown with Japan’s Greatest Ninja here for free on this page.

Oberon Destroyers: The Quiet Ninja (23rd of the House of Ugamoto)

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(NEW) Looking for the Next Yara Asatomo – 3 Original Men with Acoustic Guitars (RECOMMENDED MUSIC)

  (NEW) Looking for the Next Yara Asatomo
3 Original Men with Guitars (RECOMMENDED MUSIC) YaraAsatomoABOVE – Yara Asatomo, Queer Original based in Osaka.

When I landed back in Sacramento in 2009 from 14 years in Japan, I immediately began checking out the local music scene in Sacramento and the Bay Area. I was deeply inspired to find someone in my home country like Yara Asatomo. I saw him perform live a couple of times, but mostly just played the hell out of his first album for ten years. HIs lyrics are filled with the kind of intimate, raw honesty that was rare for his time and surroundings. I found his music to be very powerful, just one man with one guitar.

Yara-San is one of those old, Osaka gay ghetto cranks that can’t have a single speck of English anywhere, but with every genius comes a price, and this is a very small one, already paid for in Karma. When I mention him in conversation to American music fans, the reaction is the same – “Wrong country, wrong language, Next.” See? It’s Karma, for me in the middle, yet again. Oh well, what can we find?

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In the U.S., I searched for something like Yara-San, that was acoustic, folk inspired, a little or a lot political but poetic, and very lyrical. In a higher male vocal register as is popular in Japan and Europe would be great but who wants to be too picky? (me). It should be someone who plays  small venues, so the audience can experience the music in an intimate setting. Giant crowds were a thumbs down. Performers of original material is a key point.

The music had to have a love of the mother tongue and language.  It had to have blues, and had to run in a pop idiom as well, with a message that speaks to everyone on a basic level. Vocal quality also had to be the highest. Lastly, if possible, someone able to blow the roof off a small venue with the power of his voice, overwhelming the PA system.

Lucky me, I found everything I wanted except blowing the roof off the house. Japanese generally prefer exhuberant performances, but Americans like to keep things cool and reserved .
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UPPER LEFT – Adhamh Roland, Oakland/Berkeley. UPPER RIGHT – Joe Stevens, Sacramento when not roaming all over the USA.  LOWER – Eli Conley, Berkeley/Oakland.
THEIR OFFICIAL WEBSITES
JOE STEVENS – www.coyotegrace.com
ELI CONLEY – www.eliconley.com
ADHAMH ROLAND –  http://adhamhroland.wordpress.com

Yara Asatomo
http://www.a-yara.com
(pure japanese website, only URL box has english, see for yourself)

(Yara Asatomo live songs on Youtube)
urusai okama (obnoxious f*ggot).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2d9PSGNCGn4
Kamome (seagull)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWAW_vnRazc
I love his poetic use of Japanese set to music. See bottom of the post for my English translation of Yara-San’s signature song, Urusai Okama.

NOTE –
Unless otherwise noted, hot linked words lead to a live performance on youtube, or the homepage of the artist. You may need headphones. This is part one of a two part series.

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ABOVE: Adhamh Roland and Koralie “Sugar” Hill at a Berkeley Cafe.

Joe Stevens, who founded the band Coyote Grace with Ingrid Elizabetha and Michael Connolly, is a sacramento local boy like me. However, whenever he can,  he travels all around the country looking for big vistas. Adhamh and Eli now live in the East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland) across from San Francisco. Eli is originally from Virgina, and Adhamh’s from Missoura, and both write songs about it. All three have been writing their own songs, recording music and playing live gigs for at least 5 years or more. All three have toured extensively in the U.S. and put out several albums. They essenially run their own businesses dedicated to music.

They each have an authentic, individual voice. It colors every song they write. All three tap into a common folk legacy, but take it somewhere different individually. They also have a love and skill with lyrical English.  My taste in American and Japanese music is essentially the a mirror image when it comes to expressive language, and these guys deliver the goods.

Eli, Joe and Adhamh  mostly tell stories of common people, living lives rich in emotion. They believe in love,  but things are never simple. Their courage in putting so much of themselves into their music still astounds me. Gentle, their tone betrays enormous strength, just below the surface.

If you like guitars and strings like me you are in the right place.

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ABOVE  –
Coyote Grace, (LEFT to RIGHT: Michael Connolly, Ingrid Elizabeth and Joe Stevens.)

BELOW – Adhamh Roland. The Accordion looms large  in Adhamh’s work.Adhamh+Roland+3434847562_12c1a2b23b_z

For guys so young, they really have accomplished some notable successes through hard work and love. They are not slacking to fame. They’re working their asses off.

That means putting all your free time to writing, practicing, networking for gigs, promotion and practicing and writing more songs, more songs, more songs!!!!  I call Joe the traveling bluesman, Eli the Crooner of Ballads, and Adhamh the rock and roll free spirit. All three are highly original and have diverse influences, so its hard to pidgeon hole any of them.

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Eli Conley at Trans March (live stage), SF, California, 2011. I recognize the shirt.
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ABOVE – Adhamh Roland at Occupy Oakland.

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Joe Stevens at the Coffee Garden in Sacramento, for a Occupy Sacramento event.

Music for them is not an excuse to put on a stylistic facade, but to reveal the inner core of their being.  All three play with the highest standards of musicianship, and would hate themselves if they felt like they cheated an audience (they never do).  I  know that for a fact. They sound better than many acts signed to professional labels (listen for yourself). And their music has mesmerized and compelled me for four years. All three are musicians in it for the long haul.

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And I also just found out that after 15 years, Yara San is still playing gigs. I just found out he plays quite frequently, with two dates in October., 2014, and more in November. In Japan.

  Yara Asatomo Official Web Site.at http://www.a-yara.com

JOE STEVENS
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Joe Stevens (ABOVE), early 30s, is the pioneer, upperclassman of the group, and Sacramento local like me, but I call him a traveling bluesman, addicted to the road and big skies. He incorporates a lot of things, like blue grass and blues, and a popular folk sensibility,  into a seamless, effortless blend that runs at a slow to fast gallop, running long distrance. His music really sweeps you away, expecially if you’re a guitar and strings freak like me. His band Coyote Grace does these wonderful layers of strings. Just open up their website to hear what I mean for yourself (music plays when you open the site). Coyote Grace has a quite a few haunting ballands in the repertoire as well, like These Grey Days.

He’s great on stage, very humble and funny. He’s great at helping an audience to settle. Then 20 minutes into a set, “So, I used to be a girl, did I mention that?”

Joe is dedicated to  serving his community (Joe is transgender, FtM). He’s toured multiple times across the U.S. (still touring), stopping in small towns, just to give people like him facing horrible discrimination a necessary morale boost in the form of brilliant music. Joe has a great affinity for all the various misfits in the world, connecting them to the rest of humanity in his music.

Several of his more known songs are dedicated to expressing  his experience growing up and coming of age transgender  (Guy Named Joe,, Daughterson,, Ghostboi). He has a tremenous fan base of transmen that have supported and followed his work his entire career. Most artists write of love, coming of age, and events that shaped their life, and it would be dishonest for Joe to erase a huge chunk of his life from his work becasuse he is trans. As an openly trans performer, he is definitely a pioneer.

However, Coyote Grace is complicated and more than one thing.  I’ve always thought Joe was a great candidate for breakout act, as his skill, idiom and talent have a natural,  broad appeal. Joe speaks to the universal core values of ordinary, decent people, set to music and poetry, out on the prairie where people seem small.

Joes sings and plays a lot blues in his own idiom, like a personal favorite Heaven Dog, It sums up well the pathology of my father – the charming drunk, ever the adorable leech. Bullet in a Gun, The Money’s Gone, and many other betray the band as a blue collar act with great musical integrity and many catchy hooks . Coyote Grace is actually three people, and I would hate to pidgeonhole any of what the band did over 10 years and five or more albums. Bass player Ingrid Elizabeth is a great vocalist and musician in her own right. She has some great vocal contributions on several Coyoto Grace albums. And to get that wonderful “wall of strings” Michael Connolly brings the goods. Its amazing how much power they put out, just the three of them on strings, but hey that’s Coyote Grace.

And the guitar parts that just roll and keep rolling. All three have a love of folk ensemble jams, and together they just roll, and keep rolling, summoning up an expansive feeling. Like magic, transported in an instant to America’s prairies under a big, big sky.

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Joe Stevens and Ingrid Elizabeth of Coyote Grace

After nearly 10 years on the road, Joe and Coyote Grace are currently on hiatus, but they still play together when they get the chance.  If you like the music, get the CDs!! Or just check out  Coyote Grace at their website. “In their own words” is always the best way.

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Left to Right – Coyote Grace – Michael Connolly, Ingrid Elizabeth, and Joe Stevens

This is two part series about three unsigned artists worthy of note.
THEIR OFFICIAL WEBSITES
JOE STEVENS – www.coyotegrace.com
ELI CONLEY – www.eliconley.com
ADHAMH ROLAND –  http://adhamhroland.wordpress.com

And I also just found out that after 15 years, Yara San still plays gigs,
with two dates in October., 2014, and more in November. In Japan.
Ganbare! Oyaji!!

Yara Asatomo –
http://www.a-yara.com
(pure japanese website, only URL box has english, see for yourself)

NEXT TIME- (October 23, 2014)
ELI CONLEY and ADHAMH ROLAND

JAPANESE SONG TRANSLATION

Japanese original © Yara Asatomo, applies in both Japan and the United States. No copying or use without permission. Ask and see what happens. The lyrics go with this song. Wow. the power of the voice. Sometimes you have to just develop control, precision, screw up that diaphram, and hit those notes like a sledgehammer.  I love this music even if he hates on English. Enjoy!
Shitsukoi Okama (Obnoxious Gay) by Yara Asatomo
English Translation by Brian McNally
Sorry, try somewhere else.
Not my type, y’know?
but hey, you’re a man that likes nice things,
but you got me wrong. I’m no good.
悪いケド・・・あたしの好みじゃないのよね
他をあたってくれますか
だけどもさ・・・あんたも物好きな男だね
あたしがいいなんて可笑しいよ
(chorus)
I sleep in the forrest,  lost in the forrest
Tonight the play continues,
I feel the moonlight on my chest
I become a flower.
眠りの森 迷いの森
今夜も芝居は続く
月の光 胸に受けて
あたしは華になる
I am so sorry, please try somewhere else.
my feelings will never change.
本当に・・・何度も何度も悪いけど
あたしの気持ちは変わらない
Oh that guy, his new man seems hot
Don’t they seem so cute together
But I laugh, that he and I used to be thing
Seems ridiculous we were together
あいつのさ・・・今度の男もイカすよね
似合いの二人でいいわよね
笑っちゃう・・・あたしとあいつがその昔
つきあっていたなんてウソみたい
(chorus)
I sleep in the forrest,  lost in the forrest
Searching for a map to something precious
Bring me back to the man
that threw me away
 眠りの森 迷いの森
  宝の地図をさがして
  あたしを捨てたあいつのもとへ
  あたしを帰してよ
Sorry, try somewhere else. Not my type, y’know?
You really seem like an obnoxious guy, obnoxious gays don’t do well here.
悪いケド・・・あたしの好みじゃないのよね
他をあたってくれますか
本当に・・・あんたもしつこい男だね
しつこいおかまや嫌われるよ
I sleep in the forrest,  lost in the forrest
Tonight the play continues,
I feel the moonlight in my chest
I become a flower.
眠りの森 迷いの森
  今夜も芝居は続く
  月の光 胸に受けて
  あたしは華になる
Don’t you think so? Obnoxious gays are the worst.
Don’t you think so? I’m the worst, aren’t I.
思わない?しつこいおかまってサイテーよね
本当ににあたしってサイテーよね