Music For People in Japan - The Documentary

'Tour' Photos         The Documentary


On June 6, 2018 I received a direct message via Instagram from an old high school classmate named Chris Peck that read: ‘If there is any chance of an MFP Reunion, come to Japan. I’ll pick up flights/accommodations for 4 people’. Somehow, I knew he wasn’t kidding. I really wasn’t sure WHY he would invite our nonsense to Japan, but I knew we had to call his bluff. As my mind started to grapple this proposal, I realized that if this was going to happen, it would need to be filmed. I quickly asked him if we could bring a fifth person and Chris said, ‘fine’. The next step was to see if the guys could and would even do this.

The initial messages to Damien, Andy and Rob were all responded to quickly with a resounding YES, but when and where and why? I just told them that I just needed the YES first and that I would sort it all out with Chris. I texted with Chris for the next few days and he suggested trying to arrange August in Tokyo. He gave me the number of a booking guy he knew that ran a rock club downtown. Chris said the booker knew I’d be getting in touch so, he replied to my email pretty quickly and set up a phone call. He let me know that things were done differently than in the U.S., here you had to rent the room and then pay the house out. It would have been around $500 and I couldn’t justify asking Chris to cover that. I mean, who else besides Chris is going to come see this shit? I asked Chris for any other options and he put me in touch with Ian. Ian was acting manager of a bar called The House of Machine’s that Chris was part owner in. Ian would be helping us get around when we came over and I shared my show dilemma with him. He suggested that the bar resurrect a craft beer festival that they recently decided not to have. We could mix the show in with the festival. The House of Machines was located in the ski resort town of Niseko. August is the off season in Japan, so it’s locals or nothing. We would be playing our 28 year reunion show at a craft beer festival in a ski town, during the off season…..in Japan. Done. Perfect.

Damien brought on Kevin Belli as the videographer. Kevin is an award winning documentary film maker working for Harvard. Damien and Kevin knew each from playing in bands around Danbury, CT in the early 90’s. Kevin was the perfect guy to come along with us. All of the pieces were mostly in place, but what we didn’t have were tickets or the itinerary. Chris had put me in touch with someone from his office to arrange the tickets. I don’t remember specifically what was taking so long, but it took forever to come through. We all have jobs and families, so we really needed some proof. The people in our lives didn’t know what to make of this. They were all like ‘So, who is Chris Peck?’ The conversations were strange. It also felt silly to be asking for time off without a ticket in hand. August was fast approaching, but thankfully the tickets did finally come.

As luck would have it, Rob Petrasy was coming from San Francisco to the East Coast for the Fourth of July to see his family in Connecticut. I have a practice space in Nashua, NH with drums set up. Damien came up from NY and Andy came up from Concord, MA. There were discussions about playing material drawn from all of our collective post-MFP output, but I didn’t think we had the kind of time to commit to that. Instead, I suggested we would play the exact same set list from our last show in 1990. MFP only has four, maybe five originals and the rest were all covers. We concocted an awkward blend of Elvis Costello, Midnight Oil, Agent Orange, Montrose, The Replacements and David Bowie. The rehearsal was fun and went pretty well. Damien and Kevin spent the night at my house and our dog Gary (RIP) tortured them by whining and pacing the floors all night.

When the big day came to go, Andy, Kevin and I flew from Boston to San Francisco and Damien joined us from NY. Chris thought it would be nice for the film to have us all on the plane together going to Japan. He was right, it was cool, but it added like four hours at the front end of our 24 hour plus flights. That kind of time on a plane does things to you. We were flying into Sapporo, Japan where we would spend two nights at a little apartment situation Chris rented for us. We arranged a rehearsal room in the city for the following day and all we had to do was bring our guitars. When we arrived at our apartment it was probably around 4 or 5pm. We dropped our stuff off at the place and then went over to the Sapporo Brewery around the corner. The place had these grilling surfaces setup in the center of each table and you just had to buy the meat from them. It was neat, but the beers were better.

The neighborhood we were in was well on the outskirts of the action, but we did have a 7-11 nearby. We got up reasonably early to go pick up some eggs and drive heave at the rows of freeze dried fish products. After breakfast we did a quiet rehearsal in the apartment before heading off to the space. Damien started playing ‘Secrets’ by Van Halen and then we unanimously agreed to add it to the set. We made our way to the center of the city and found the rehearsal building. I think we rented the room for two hours and that was pretty much going to be all we would have for show prep. The city of Sapporo is spotless. It was almost creepy.

We had one more night in Sapporo before we headed to Niseko. The group was adamant about finding sushi. I’m not a big fan of sushi, but hey, Japan. We went to a nice place that someone had recommended during the day. It felt like a Greek diner inside. The sushi was fine. Did I walk away changed? No. We finished our sake and did what any American Rock band would do while in Japan, we went looking for ice cream. It was a nice night and we walked back to the apartment.

The following day we had to grab a train out to Kutchan station near Niseko. We were getting picked up by Ian, the guy that helped me get the show all sorted out. Figuring out the train situation was a slow process. It went fine, but thankfully we were befriended by a younger college student that chatted us up because of the musical instruments. The kid was going to Kutchan station too and promised to help us with station changes along the way. He was amazing. Nice kid, we’re friends on Instagram. I was loving the train because now we were seeing the countryside and it was beautiful. It was amazing to just look at all of the little villages as we passed by. When we arrived at the station, Ian was there to meet us with a van filled with tables and chairs for the Beer fest the next day. He took us to a grocery store and advised us to buy enough food for the next two days because Chris’ house in Niseko was in the middle of nowhere. The grocery store was a trip and yes, Kevin was filming all of this. We were fairly quiet in the store, but we were clearly overstimulated. None of the shoppers seemed bothered by us. We were having fun, it rumbled just under being a spectacle, but we weren’t disruptive.

Chris’ place was definitely in the middle of nowhere and perched on top of a steep mountain. Ian dropped us off and left us to get settled in. Chris called and said he was on his way over. We put all of the food away and tried to relax a bit. We wandered the house and picked out our rooms. Apparently, this house was mostly used by friends during ski season. All signs confirmed this to be true. It wasn’t wrecked, but it definitely looked like the last guests just got up and walked out leaving everything as is. Chris arrived around 3pm. We were all thrilled to see him. We talked for a while and just genuinely had a ball catching up on hometown gossip. During the conversation Chris asked if we were going to play ‘Driver 8’ by R.E.M.. All the guys look around the room quizzically. MFP never played ‘Driver 8’, but one of my other bands had. So, we learned ‘Driver 8’ after he left. It seemed like the right thing to do.

At one point, Chris wriggled himself away and went down to the basement area. I went looking for him and found him taking a mineral bath. I opened a random door and he’s sitting there in an open air tub. The pipes bring in hot spring water from the property. The smell of that water was really strong and earthy. I’m not saying it was bad or anything, but it definitely latched itself to everyone’s clothes.

After Chris left we decided to get dinner started. As we took the stuff out of the fridge we noticed everything was warm. Turns out the fridge was shot. I don’t think any of us checked it. The fridge was filled with meat, dairy and ice cream. The only sensible thing to do was to start drinking beer and cooking two days worth of food. I had the meat sweats.

The next day was show day and Chris picked us up in a van to take us out for some sight seeing and lunch. We stopped at a convenience store for some more beer and I was looking for some random snacks my son Steve saw on YouTube. Chris asked the woman at the counter about them and if she had any more in the back. She did and she came back with a whole case and Chris bought the whole fucking thing. We left there and drove through a small town and then through farmland. We passed rows of these huge wind turbines. They were just right along the highway and totally approachable. We pulled over and got right up close and listened to the whirring of the gears. That was a highlight. We got back in the van and drove through some rice patty farms, per Chris some of the oldest in Japan on our way to the ocean. Oh and there was supposed to be a typhoon rolling in just in time for our show. As we drove along the ocean, the clouds were fucking black, but also thankfully were starting to blow offshore. We arrived at an unassuming and traditional style building. This was the restaurant we were going to and it is a historical building that Chris helped the town to restore. Lunch was tempura shrimp, vegetables, wheat noodles and beer. We were full, but not heavy. It was awesome.

Next stop, The House of Machines in Niseko. It was raining and pretty windy when we pulled up to the parking lot. There were tents set up outside of the club with food vendors and a few brewery tables. We went inside and found a warm and hip little bar that felt like a lodge. We put all of our stuff down and met the sound guy. We were scheduled to play at 6pm and then again at 9:30. Hey, if you’re going to go to Japan, you should play the set twice. That guy Ian that brought us to the house was behind the bar and got us all a round. The other bands were called; No Jobs, Avengers and Madison Square Garden. All of the bands were just fantastic, engaging and serious. Very serious. Our first set was the long one where we played everything we had. It felt pretty good and it didn’t seem like the crowd was upset by us. Everybody was drinking and having a good time. People were dancing and thankfully, smiling. When we played our second set, we kept it brief by only playing the songs that went VERY well earlier in the evening. I think everyone appreciated that…..since, it was pretty much the exact same crowd. The whole night was just really fun, we were all hoarse from talking to people that were literally from all corners of the world.

Things were winding down and Chris said he was taking us to an afterhours karaoke bar. It’s around 2 in the morning and we’re like, is the place even open? He said he’d take care of it. Quite frankly, we were all pooped, but we were in it for the long haul. We arrive at the bar and it is in the middle of NOWEHERE. Chris gets out and goes to speak to someone at the door under dim lighting. It’s shady and hilarious. He motions us to come in. The inside looks like an old man bar from East Boston, but the difference here is that the cigarette smoke is so fucking thick in there that it’s almost comical. None of us can fucking breathe, but as we sit down in our both, it places us just a little bit below the smoke line. It’s better below the smoke line. The waitress in full geisha garb approaches and Chris orders in Japanese. The lady returns with a couple of pitchers of a drink that pretty much looks and tastes like water. However, upon further tasting, there is a noticeable trace of alcohol. It’s actually quite refreshing, but I was definitely bummed about the alcohol, we did NOT need more alcohol, especially Damien. The waitress now sits with us as the host of the table. She begins to pour us each out a glass. So, that’s it, she pours out the pitchers and then sits there to make small talk with us. It was sweet and weird. It actually made the night more difficult. I feel like we were trying to entertain her because we’re not that interesting. I also was starting to feel bad about keeping the staff awake. The female manager comes over after a while and has a quick chat with Chris. I mentioned that this was a karaoke bar, but come to find out that Chris told the bar staff when he called earlier that he would be arriving with Cheap Trick. The manager has now come to cash in on the reciprocal favor. Chris leans over and asks if I wouldn’t mind singing a few Cheap Trick songs for the room, just to keep things on the up and up. I sang like three Cheap Trick tunes and we didn’t get killed. Unfortunately, the locals weren’t loving our presence in their little smoke club. A very drunk dude came over and started to slur aggressively at Chris. Chris responded very calmly and the man simply returned back to his booth without saying another word. We asked Chris what was up and just said he gave the guy a bunch of good reasons to go sit down. Meanwhile, Damien was losing the ability to stand and/or make sense. Chris then decided not to bring us over to his friends’ family lodge for the evening as he had been planning. To be fair, until that very moment we all thought we were just going back to the original lodge. Instead, Plan C, Chris drives over to the Four Seasons hotel where he’s staying.

It was like four in the morning and we were wiped out. Chris was kind enough to get us each our own rooms at the hotel. We needed showers and, holy shit a bed. Yes, we absolutely offered to pay for our rooms, but he shooshed us. Our flight home was two days off and we took the time to settle down and recharge. The hotel had a mineral bath on the main floor. I had no ides this was a thing, Chris had a little one at his house too. Men Only. No Clothes. Weird, but I’m a grown-up. As Rob Petrasy would say, ‘When’s the next time you’ll be able to take a mineral bath in Japan?’ I went down by myself later one evening. It wasn’t too crowded, but that is hard walk to make. I came in with two guys and I saw them go over into a shower room before heading to the bath. I dropped my clothes into a cubby and went into to the shower room. The showers were a bunch of waist high stalls in a row. You had to sit on a little stool spray yourself down. Why? Why don’t you want to do this standing up? The bath is very long from left to right and straight ahead of you is all glass windows looking onto a lush green hill. I’m naked. I get in and Scootle over to a nearby cement pilar. I feel comfortable. There’s plenty of distance between the group, perhaps 10 people. You sit on your butt and the warm cloudy water comes up to just under your armpits. I gave it a good 20 minutes and called it a night. It was great and all, but the smell of that mineral water on you afterwards is absolutely a problem. All of your clothes smell of it, deep down. All set. For the rest of our time there we took the time to recharge. We had a couple of band breakfasts and dinners before we left. We took a few walks around the hotel grounds. There was an outdoor shopping section that was set up like an ‘Ol Japanese village. It was cool, but it made me feel bad about myself for some reason. Everyone was in good spirits, but ready to go. We saw Chris and his girlfriend a few more times before we left and thanked them for showing us such kindness and generosity. They were fun.

The drive from the hotel to the airport in Sapporo was beautiful. We were descending down through a jungle scene for what seemed like forever. Everyone seemed to be mentally preparing for the flights. I know I sound like a baby, but damn I didn’t want to go through that again. That kind of flying is agony.

That’s it…..

Will M.F.P. ever play again?

Nah, I don’t think we need to…




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