This weekend was the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival, of which I saw a sukoshi. Saturday night, the San Francisco Taiko Dojo had a show at the Kabuki theater. I’ve seen them twice now, and they’re just amazing.
The first time I saw them was last year at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. That show literally knocked the wind out of me, from the spectacle of the drummers and the sheer power of the sound. It’s not just about the drumming, as the performances are highly choreographed with all kinds of jumping from drum to drum and waving the sticks around in Tai-Chi-like movements, but not dull. Both of the shows I’ve seen combine contrasting elements: traditional Japanese culture with modern spectacle; eastern rhythms with western rhythms; Asian with Native American culture; celebration with reverence; group unity with individual personal expression, percussion with dancing; and discipline, order, and control with wild, abandoned, banging the shit out of some big-ass drums. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Sunday, I walked up to Japantown to see the Grand Parade. This turned out to be an awful idea, mainly because the weather was ungodly hot (for SF) and I’m not used to walking farther than down to the corner to get cigarettes. By the time I got to Japan Center, the sweat was rolling off of me like I’d just been hit by a tsunami. I saw all the Japanese women walking with their breath masks on and finally understood that it was probably to avoid the overpowering stench of overweight hairy gaijin who’ve overexerted themselves. It was also really crowded.
The parade itself was kind of cool, but it was more of a community thing than a “taste of Japan” thing. The SF Taiko Dojo had a float, though, which rocked. They really are spectacular.