Music note: Acid Mothers Temple crashed in my living room


Acid Mothers Temple carried their suitcases in a line to the door of my house and looked at the yard full of snow. It’s strange to host them, to see how they spend time between performances. That time is a marginal space in which their minds are still humming, whistling, and focused entirely on sound. After drinking green tea and resting on my sofa, we all ate gumbo in the kitchen. Gumbo was a new word for the four Japanese musicians, and Tsuyama Atsushi, the bassist, mumbled “gumbo” repeatedly as he ate. After polishing off several helpings of gumbo and corn bread, they washed their dishes, all in a line, went back to the living room, and got on their Macs to e-mail home.

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The one thing the Acid Mothers required of the Twin Cities was a cheap, decent record shop with a lot of rarities. The band and their driver, Justin Waters, are making a habit of stopping for records at each of the 30 cities on the tour. An aggressive level of competition has emerged during record shopping. Justin speedwalked to the international music section of Hymie’s record shop, with guitarist Kawabata Makoto on his tail. Arriving moments too late, Makoto exclaimed, “Dang it!” and moved over to the classical music section to wait his turn.

Hymie’s made out like a bandit. With dozens of records under their arms, the band members piled back into their van and set out to their venue. I followed a few hours later and quickly learned that when a band like Acid Mothers Temple plays the 7th Street Entry, you take out your earplugs.

Atsushi rested against the black curtains of the Entry with the neck of his bass in the air, all energy channeled into that neck as furious sounds emerged. He had rested just the same way against the bricks of my fireplace that afternoon as he played my nylon-stringed guitar. During the show, I felt Acid Mothers Temple could have been pumping that sonic overload among any four walls and it wouldn’t have mattered to them. Earlier that day in my kitchen, Atsushi had told me the band could play anywhere and it was always the same. After years together, the band creates energy as a unit—onstage and off. The slack-jawed audience surrendered, surrendering their awareness to the deafening overload of sound. Keyboardist Higashi Hiroshi’s white hair glowed ghostly in the stage lights. Makoto did strange things with his guitar. He swirled it so the room pulsed with cyclic frequencies. He hung it from the ceiling and it seemed there was no limit to the sonic possibilities. And just before 2 a.m., the show ended.

Justin Waters told me the set was Acid Mothers Temple’s shortest ever, at just under an hour. My ears were throbbing, and I could barely hear his voice. Hiroshi seemed disappointed to have had only an hour to play, feeling as cheated as the audience by city noise codes.

When the morning came, the Acid Mothers were eating ramen noodles in my kitchen. Atsushi was wearing sky-blue flannel boxers. Everyone hung up wet black clothing on the curtain rods to dry. Drummer Shimura Koji was continuously taking pictures of my dog. The Acid Mothers first met Justin when they crashed on his couch, and the pictures they took of his dog and ended up on an LP cover.

We all decided the best thing to do before the band hit the road would be to walk a few blocks to Paperback Trader. It’s a curiosity shop packed with used books, war memorabilia, marionettes, retro pornography, and stuffed crocodiles. Koji’s wife loves crocodiles. He bought her a miniature crocodile figurine with a golf ball attached, as Atsushi tried on a monster mask. Makoto mailed a handful of postcards to Japan, composing the last of them while sitting on the sidewalk in front of a mailbox.

The band members—wearing leather and cowboy boots, patchwork pants and loose tunics—folded the towels and blankets they had used, and they smoked as they packed their suitcases into the van amid concrete and snow in the pale morning light. For Acid Mothers Temple, packing a van is as familiar a routine as playing a 35-minute opus. They pack a van with the same intensity with which they approach all aspects of life: eating gumbo, sleeping backstage, watching the opening bands, searching for vintage records, and playing a very loud hour of psychedelic rock. In some ways they seem exhausted by their years on the road, but the intensity remains.

The band lined up by the van and I said goodbye, carefully pronouncing each of their names. I hoped they would tilt back their heads and snore while Justin drove 1,600 miles to Canada. As they drove away, my brain remained metallicized by the Acid Mothers’ powerful drone, by their beautiful noise.

Jennifer Kotting ( is a Ph.D. student in media geography at the University of Minnesota. She has lived with musicians all her life and is fascinated by them as a species.