In early November, Eyehategod, hometown heroes for the down-and-out, made their first trip back to Japan since the beginning of the pandemic. As a New Orleanian currently living in Osaka, I seized the rare opportunity to experience a piece of home. Upon receiving a message from their bassist (and past AG contributor) Gary Mader early on the morning of their Osaka performance, I ran out to meet him in the heart of the city. Together, we strolled the historic grounds of Osaka Castle and then headed down to Dotonbori, the city’s famous, brightly-lit food and club area. As we walked across Osaka, we discussed the familiar chaos of New Orleans and the excitement of being reunited with someone from back home in a foreign country.
When I met up with the rest of the band later in the afternoon, I was quite surprised to discover that we weren’t alone. Three hours before doors even opened for the show, autograph hounds were already perched outside CONPASS, the night’s venue. It was surreal to walk down the street, watching as signature-seekers chased down guys from my neighborhood halfway across the world from home. Most of EHG spent the hours leading up to the show inside a different, even tinier punk venue named CLUB STOMP. There, they met up with members of storied Japanese punk bands ZYANOSE and WARHEAD, including Jun Kato, Gary’s lockdown-era recording bandmate in DIS-PUTER. Together, the musicians put away a steady stream of shochu, a type of Japanese hard liquor, as they chatted enthusiastically like old friends despite language barriers. Occasionally, I helped to bridge the language gap but mostly steered clear to let them enjoy the raw expression of mutual enthusiasm.
After drinking their fill, EHG stumbled back to the tiny venue and laid down a gnarly set of their signature feedback-laiden lamentations. An emotional wave of familiarity overcame me as the group played many of the same songs they had performed during the first DIY show I ever attended when I was just 15. Yet EHG has not become an old nostalgia act, but rather the embodiment of a distinct local sound that resonates wherever it is heard, transporting audiences to the place of its origin. Once the crowd warmed up to the band’s harsh, hypnotic sounds, the room devolved to a state of constant motion. After a series of thunderous chants calling out the band’s name, Eyehategod returned to the stage for an encore. Much to the confusion of the Japanese audience, the group’s onstage inside jokes quickly sent them spiraling into an absurd jam partially based on Master P’s “Say Brah” with off-the-cuff lyrics referencing the Westbank. After all, the members of Eyehategod are New Orleanians no matter what country they’re in.
I stayed at the venue late into the evening, savoring the familiar atmosphere. EHG, not ones for rockstar pretension, spent the night outside of their green room chatting warmly with fans who had eagerly been awaiting the band’s first domestic performance in four years. Among them was Tokyo doom metal band Church of Misery’s current drummer Toshiaki Umemura, who had spent much of the summer touring alongside EHG in Europe. After hearing I was from New Orleans his face lit up as he proceeded to show off the Crowbar and Goatwhore merch he had on, and even proudly bragged that he knew about Suplecs. While neither EHG or any of these bands have received the acknowledgement of the tourism bureau for bolstering New Orleans’ image, their sounds have certainly traveled far and resonated with devotees across the planet.
I spent much of the day reminiscing about Fat Stupid Ugly People vocalist Hollise Murphy, a beloved member of the New Orleans underground scene gone too soon. Upon seeing my shirt depicting Hollise earlier in the day, Gary opened his wallet to reveal a card listing Hollise’s daily declarations, which emphasize one’s ability to bring love, joy, and forgiveness into the world. These principles now serve as an unspoken guiding force in Gary’s global adventures. In between sips of their pre-show shochu, vocalist Mike IX Williams and drummer Aaron Hill warmly recalled the few times that Hollise rode in the van with the band to out-of-town gigs. While Hollise never made it to Japan during his lifetime, he now travels the world with EHG via a sticker plastered on Gary’s bass above the phrase “THIS IS LA. NOT L.A.” At the end of the night, I took a photo with the band to document our continued love for Hollise so far from home. Guitarist Jimmy Bower poured some of his drink on the floor in his honor. By the time we parted ways, I too had a renewed appreciation for Hollise’s declarations:
- Hate no one no matter how much they wronged you.
- Live humbly no matter how wealthy you become.
- Think positively no matter how hard life is.
- Smile even if your heart is bleeding.
- Give much even if you’ve been given very little.
- Keep in touch with the ones who have forgotten you.
- Forgive those who have wronged you.
- Do not stop praying for the best for those you love.
I woke up the next morning with a full heart. I often feel at odds with my surroundings even though they are quite lovely. I may struggle to conform to life in a foreign country, but the day prior reminded me that I am not crazy. I’m just from a crazy city full of characters. I remembered for the first time in a long time to embrace the absurdities that New Orleans has gifted me instead of trying to bury them deep inside.
Top photo, left to right: Aaron Hill, Jimmy Bower, Toshiaki Umemura, the author, Gary Mader, and Mike IX Williams