Concert Photographer: A Snapshot of Tokyo’s Underground Music Scene

Last Thursday, on the 13th of February, I was the official concert photographer covering the event for the debut show of Catherine Forte in downtown Tokyo in a cozy and interesting venue named Mame Romantic (Haretara Sora ni Mame Maite).

The venue is quite hard to find if Japanese language is a barrier (it is for me anyway), but apparently this is a well known spot for underground music events. Ironically, this venue is actually underground as well! It was the first time I’ve ever been to Mame Romantic in Daikanyama, Shibuya. After attending last week’s event, I can now objectively say that I’ll be back as an audience member to check out their other interesting music events.

Catherine Forte band members
A Snapshot of Tokyo’s Underground Music Scene: Catherine Forte and her band

If you have ever read any of my blog posts, you already know that I love events. All kinds of events. Here you can check out my other post about another event I had covered in January 2020, titled: ONE EVENT, MANY CREATIVES IN TOKYO, JAPAN.

Before digging deeper into the article, I should make some clarifications. By and large, music for me is divided into two main genres: “I like” and “I don’t like”. Of course I know about rock (actually love listening to Queen), pop, hip-hop, classic music, reggae, jazz and probably, if I do some brainstorming, I’ll be able to name another few.

Catherine Forte’s music falls into the category of “I like.”

Who is Catherine Forte? I asked her myself to tell me about her time here in Tokyo navigating the underground music scene.

“After moving to Tokyo in 2018, my first show was in the corner of a small bookstore without any amplification. I booked it myself after applying to a ‘singer-songwriters wanted’ post I saw on Facebook. Shortly after the intimate show, bookers and promoters began reaching out to have me play at bigger venues such as Ruby Room, Shibuya NOB, and Varit Roppongi, just to name a few. Things seemed to just fall into place; one opportunity led to another. Even though I was being placed on bills with full bands, I did my best to win the crowd over with my lively acoustic music, passionate voice, and honest songwriting. I think even a few laughed at my silly jokes! Eventually, I was introduced to Japanese producer Takashi Shirayama of W.M. Studio Music Factory, who wanted to use his network of professional musicians to establish a backing band to help my music career in Japan. He believed in me and my music. It was validating to say the least. A week before the show, I met all the members and we practiced for 2 hours in a rented studio space in Shibuya. This past Thursday was the debut show of my band and an accumulation of a year and a half of hard work performing in the Tokyo music scene. It’s humbling to think of my first show: crammed in the corner of that bookstore…”

Catherine Forte portrait taken during her music debut show in Tokyo
Catherine Forte portrait taken during her debut show in Tokyo

Catherine Forte’s musical momentum continues with a new single, “First Dance”, set to be released in March across all streaming services worldwide.

Working closely with San Diego producer, Drew Chammas (aka DruLoop), Forte’s new single is the beginning of a new fresh pop sound, but still maintains the same emotional and engaging songwriting that fans fell in love with.

Join the Catherine Forte Newsletter on catherineforte.com to keep in touch with her musical journey in Japan and be sure to follow her on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and very soon – Spotify and Apple Music.

My favorite song of Catherine Forte

Catherine continues to describe her music and passion:

“I write music on my acoustic guitar or on a piano, sometimes I perform completely acoustic yet it still holds energy. People tell me they close their eyes and think there is more than one person on stage with the rhythms I create on my guitar. And now, I am excited to be producing music in a pop style for the first time with Drew Chammas.

My first single, ‘First Dance,’ will be released in late March on all streaming platforms and will represent my first dance with my audience with this new exciting sound. 

There will be synth, funky bass lines, electric guitar, and electronic drums but still have the emotional and honest lyrics and storytelling of my singer-songwriter background.

I used to only write sad music, but now I want to give people a soundtrack to their lives to bring happiness and to inspire. I still love melancholy so there will be a few softer, more intimate songs that I will release sporadically that will remind those of my acoustic beginnings. “

Catherine Forte during her music debut show in Tokyo, full stage take
Catherine Forte during her music debut show in Tokyo

For a while now, whenever I am working on my computer, editing photos, doing social media, writing this blog, I listen to music. I find at times that depending on how I feel and what I do, I listen to different music, sometimes only instrumental, other times Mozart, Queen, or John Coltrane. It seems that music indeed is a form of therapy for me and an integral part of my everyday life.

Catherine’s music speaks to me and even fits my old-fashioned taste (I mentioned Queen before!). I guess this is the best compliment I can make to her. From the first moment she stepped on the stage, it caught my attention and doing my work as a photographer was sooooo easy. There is a symbiotic relationship between photography and music, yet I’ve combined the two only a handful of times. The show lasted for about thirty minutes but it felt like it was only three minutes. During her show, Catherine successfully managed to catch the crowd’s attention in a very natural way, I was really amazed. There were people in the crowd singing along during the band debut show and this proves she already has a large fan pool.

Catherine Forte Portrait
Catherine Forte debut music show

Everyone was very engaged during the show and from an outsider’s view like me, they actually looked like they knew each other and have sung for a lifetime. That is impressive. I am already looking forward to hearing Catherine Forte and the band live again.

Make sure you check her out and follow & subscribe to her newsletter. And why not, become a fan. I know I am.

Thank you for staying with me until the end of the article. Since you are here, go check my other blog post I already mentioned above about another event in Tokyo I covered as a photographer.

Cristian Bucur Photography Logo
Cristian Bucur Photography Logo

Don’t forget, if you are looking to hire a photographer in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, I am here to Frame Your Life Stories!

Huge thank you to Catherine for helping me to make this blog post possible.




Video from the show.

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