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It’s hitting 40 degrees in the concrete badlands of Odaiba and the asphalt beneath our feet is attaining the viscosity of quicksand. We wanna run for cover, but this stuff sucks at your sneakers and makes the beer tent slower to get to. The only sea breeze today is the cocktail mixed by the bartender, but if we don’t finish our drink within five minutes it’s lukewarm. We knock ’em back. But instead of getting merry, we stagger round with a premature hangover, aka sunstroke. It’s been a crap summer but today the sun is making up for lost time. It’s out to kill us. And before the day’s over there will be at least one death at this year’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Summit.”

(Cut to backstage: There’s a “room” here, like on a cheap film set. Just two walls and a TV camera, but no roof! When a band comes off stage, drowning in sweat and about to die, they are led here and interviewed by Fuji TV . . . under the brain-melting sun. They sit on a sofa and suffer. Next to them is a prop: a table on which is stationed a tiny oval glass bowl with a solitary orange goldfish swimming about in ever decreasing circles. The bands being interviewed are as wet as the poor fish.)

The fairground we’re in — complete with merry-go-round and video-game arcade — is opposite the futuristic Fuji TV building and is the venue for the TV company’s fourth annual “Rock ‘n’ Roll Summit” event. It’s a highlight of the festival year as Fuji TV have a habit of inviting some of the coolest garage-rock bands in Japan. As garage is the hottest genre in the world right now I was hoping to see if Japan’s impressively disparate garage bands matched up to the likes of The White Stripes, Kings of Leon and Datsuns on the big stage. However, the cream of Japan’s garage scene is not here — bar a couple of bands. Hardly a summit. (Though with the entrance fee a paltry 1,000 yen, we’re not complaining too much.)

Japan’s biggest garage band, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant (who played this event a few years back and have announced they will split after their current tour) aren’t here for starters. But other bands that deserve to be here, such as Gasoline, Pappys and Howling Guitar, have been overlooked. Bands like these have built up sizable followings of devoted fans by constantly gigging. With little mainstream publicity, they’ve had to rely on the quality of their music coupled with thrilling live shows. Playing an event like this and enjoying the subsequent TV exposure would enable them to take a further step toward the elusive Japanese mainstream — a bridge that only TMGE, out of all garage bands, have managed to cross with major success.

Instead, this year we find that half of the 10-band lineup consists of rockabilly bands straight off the Stray Cats conveyer belt. I’m not a big rockabilly fan but the bands I admire most are the ones that experiment. Say The Cramps, by adding a sleazy gothic element, or The Ed Woods, whose ultra-raw style make them one of the most exciting rockabilly-style bands in Japan right now.

The rockabilly bands here today — Retro Gretion, The Peppermint Jam, The Beatle Crusher, Elvis Junkies and Nine — play it far too safe (although Nine have some good tunes).

They’re dolled-up in their rocka- billy uniforms, but it’s their gravity-defying pompadours that remain the most awe-inspiring thing about them — not the music.

The temperature rises when 54 Nude Honeys hit the stage with their surf guitar-tinged melodic punk tunes and S&M gear, although even they seem subdued — perhaps because of the unbearable heat and the fact that their minds are on their move to New York City in October.

The Neatbeats offer us a snack of early-Beatles’ style garage-bop, but it’s stale so we politely refuse and stand next to the air-con in the game arcade for a while. We emerge to see SA, who might play derivative old-style British punk-rock, but they get a mosh pit going despite the heat.

Laughin’ Nose, another veteran punk band, pulled out of the festival after a drunken member crashed his car into another vehicle and spent some time behind bars. It’s a shame, as they put on a great show at a free festival at Chigasaki beach a month back.

The headliners, Guitar Wolf, are shambolic, just as they were at Fuji Rock. Garage rock might be about getting back to basics and “borrowing” from the best bands of the last 50 years, but Guitar Wolf take it back about 12,000 years. They sound like a demented Cro-Magnon trio slapping elephant-skin drums with baboon bones, strumming on the sinews of dead chimps and howling at the moon like saber-toothed tigers in need of immediate root-canal treatment. Recently, halfway into their shows, they’ve abandoned the concept of playing songs and instead rape our ears with a feedback-infested mess. If they mellowed out they could take TMGE’s throne but, for them, that would be selling out.

You might think I didn’t enjoy myself, but that’s not true. I had a lot of fun and I’d always pay to see the Honeys and Guitar Wolf, even at 10 times the price of this bargain event. The tough thing was jumping up and down on the hottest day of the year.

Also I commend Fuji TV for promoting the underground, because that’s where the best Japanese bands are and most kids don’t know that ‘cos it gets trivial media coverage. I just hope that next year they put together a lineup that reflects the very best of Japanese rock ‘n’ roll and doesn’t get bogged down in a specific sub-genre.

And also, I hope they open up that off-limits swimming pool — amazingly situated above the stage!

(Cut to backstage: The goldfish seems to have met a premature end. Once swimming with vigor, by the evening it is floating lifelessly on the surface. When no one is looking, I pour the rest of my beer into its bowl to cool the water and give it a pick-me-up just in case it’s simply in a temporary coma. I ponder momentarily on its samurai-like act of self-sacrifice in the name of rock ‘n’ roll.)

(Postscript: A Fuji TV official this week issued a statement denying an animal was boiled alive backstage at the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Summit.” He said the goldfish was only placed beneath the sweltering skies while bands were being interviewed. Between interviews, it was moved to a shaded room. “The goldfish is alive and well,” he said.)

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