Live house

April 14, 2008

by Tomomi Nakashima

There are a lot of ways to enjoy the nighttime in Kyoto, and I think one of the best ways is with… music! If you want to experience a variety of musical tastes by artists who have their base in Kyoto, take my advice and follow these directions.

Take a Karasuma Line subway train bound for Kokusaikaikan, and get off the train at Imadegawa station. Leave the station through either exit 4 or 6 and walk in a westerly direction along the south side of Imadegawa Street for about one and a half minutes. Here you will find the sign for BACKBEAT. Head down the brick lined narrow staircase and open the door. You are now at a real Kyoto live house!

As this venue is located in a basement, there is a kind of authentic, underground music feel to the place. On the bend of the stairs outside, you can see announcements for the event that will be held that night and also some fliers detailing artists who usually perform here.
Almost with your first step into BACKBEAT, you are at the bar counter where the manager will invariably be waiting to serve you personally. The room is decorated with leis, neon signs and many pictures of the sea, because the manager has a real fondness for Hawaii. The sound system is located directly next to the bar, and there are a variety of old posters on the wall celebrating coca-cola, etc, as well as CD jackets for most of the legendary Beatles albums. On the far side of the room from the door is the stage, the focal point of the place.


In this live house, just about anybody can perform on stage because the concept of the live house is “free”. In any given month, most days are pre-booked for “lives”, which means some artists have made bookings in advance and have been given a time to perform. However, some days are reserved for “Acoustic Tobiiri Day” which means artists can play without a booking in a kind of “open mic” set up. Many of the performers at these events play songs on acoustic guitars, but they present a surprisingly unusual and eclectic mix of styles! Some play songs composed by professional artists but with their own arrangements, others play original songs with heart-warming lyrics, and then there are those who play guitar only, often showing great technique. It’s not only about the music though, as there are also plays, original movies and traditional and modern arts showcased here from time to time.

Message from the manager of BACKBEAT:

I used to belong to a band when I was at university. It was tough to get a booking to perform in places then because there were a lot of bands around. There was real competition between bands to see who could get the biggest audience, capture the hearts of the audience with their songs, give them a good time and also enjoy performing for themselves! Now I recognize what music means to me, and really enjoy it with a lot of people in HAKO (BACKBEAT).Of course, I manage the place, but it’s not really only mine. The atmosphere here can change daily according to the artists who are performing on that day. What I want to do is make this live house somewhere for everyone, artists and audience alike.

So, how do you feel about spending a night at this “live house”? If you want to be in the audience or even fancy performing on stage, please go back to the beginning of this article and review how to get there. You can also access the BACKBEAT homepage to get further information about the location and the live entertainment schedule. Rock on Kyoto!!

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