Eye on the Scene

Big in Japan

You may have noticed the lack of dobro in the Old City earlier this month. It was because local musician Matt Foster from Medford's Black Record Collection was out of town... way out of town. He got back last week from a solo tour in Japan. The first gig was in Tokyo at The Pink Cow, a popular place a few minutes walk from the world's busiest crossing (the one from that scene in Lost in Translation ).

But the highlight of the two-week tour came later in what the Japanese call the countryside: Sendai City, population one million. Here Foster headlined at Charly's Lemon Country, a 30-year-old live music venue. The stage and bar area walls are a shrine to American country and bluegrass music, covered in posters, bumper stickers, and other memorabilia.

â“It was the most authentic honky tonk I have ever been in,â” Foster says.

The owner, Charly-san , has a mullet and drinks spiked Mellow Yellow. Foster gave him a few WDVX stickers, which Charly-san stuck up on the stage's centerpiece: a guitar-shaped Grand Ole Opry sign.

It didn't take long for Foster to warm up the Charly's crowd, mostly middle-aged businessmen in full suits. He greeted them with â“Oban desu,â” the regional dialect way of saying good evening. (Imagine a young Japanese visitor in Knoxville saying something like, â”Evenin' y'all.â”) After a laugh, everyone hushed to listen to Foster's original songs about heroines, coal-miners, prison letters, and the like. Aside from the sing-a-long (which was a disaster), it didn't matter that almost no one in that crowd understood much English. They all wanted a real American handshake from Foster after he signed their new copies of Medford's The Flattville Murder Album .

Foster also played for an international audience of language instructors, academics, and Guinness-lovers at the Ha' Penny Bridge Irish pub in Sendai.   The place was unbelievably crowded. In Japan, the bars are small, but they don't seem to have any fire codes that prohibit as many people as possible from squeezing into one building.

Foster is back in Knoxville and will be with the rest of the Collection at New Amsterdam on Saturday along with Scott McMahan & the Overnite Lows and Sam Lewis . If you make it, be sure to ask Foster to demonstrate the proper way to distribute a business card in Japan, bow and all.

We Jammin' Mon!

To catch the spirit, take a tent and a sleeping bag to Camp Reggae on Sassafras Ridge May 25-27. The Natti Love Joys , who also host Camp Reggae every Memorial Day and Labor Day, founded the camp.

The hills will be alive with the sound of music, but you will not see Julie Andrews here. This year, the Natti Love Joys are joined by the award-winning Canadian artist Errol Blackwood , Kiwi the Child , Scholars Word , Sat Penguin , Pacifier , Taco de Naso's , Brandy Robinson , King Kotton , Ronnie Lovely , Rude Boyz International , Yacob the Prophet , John Sexton , and Hodgepodge Orchestra .   Sister Lyle from Chattanooga's WAWL (91.5 FM) and Knoxvillian Michael Gill will emcee.

Besides music, camp participants can enjoy three days of camping in the beautiful Smokies. Luckily, food is not restricted to campfire weenies and s'mores. Jamaican cuisine will be served, and vendors are welcome. Besides culinary enlightenment, campers can meditate on the mountaintop with yoga master Sjahway . If you're a little too spastic to sit and muse, you can raft down the rapids on the Ocoee River, just a few miles from the campground.

â“This is a rain or sun event. We don't stop,â” said Marla Allen of the Natti Love Joys. The gates open at 9 a.m. Friday; camp begins that evening at 7. Tickets are $60 dollars for adults and $50 for students at the gate. They're ten bucks cheaper online at campreggae.com.

Allen hopes to see 800 to 1,000 people. Don't disappoint her. For specific directions (apparently, prospective campers often get lost) visit campreggae.com .

â" Brooke Everett , Heather Mays

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