If artists like The Golden Cups, Char, X-Japan, Tensaw, hide with Spread Beaver and Ra:IN mean anything to you, then The Club Sensation in Yokohama may become your new hangout. This new “British rock café and bar” is the place to catch these artists gigging and hanging out with others dedicated to the scene.
“Produced” by Ra:IN bassist Michiaki, The Club Sensation is located in the space formerly occupied by the storied Guppy’s Live House, which closed last summer after almost 40 years of beer and rock. Along with long-time bandmate Yoshihiro “Grico” Tomioka, Michiaki decided to transform the space into a retro British rock bar.
While it’s open every day except Mondays, The Club Sensation is, on weekends, filled with Yokohama and Tokyo scenesters hanging out and drinking Napa Valley wines from ¥3,800 a bottle or by the glass at ¥700—a far cry from Guppy’s menu of cheap brews and cigarettes. The only beer on tap is Guinness (¥900), but if you’re looking for a lager you can opt for a bottle of Heineken (¥700).
When live bands play Saturdays and Sundays, the place can fill to overflowing-point, with punters spilling out onto the sidewalk in their rock-icon leather attire, twirling glasses of red wine. Fridays see the club presenting acoustic sets by musicians from around the country, both well-known and unknown. It’s the best night to arrive early and snag a table on the open mezzanine. The massive TV monitor hung center stage is flanked by two huge speaker cabinets that deliver some of the cleanest sound we’ve heard in a small live house.
The Club Sensation’s focus on British authenticity doesn’t carry over to the food menu—except perhaps crisps. What the kitchen does offer, though, fits in with the bar’s New World wine menu and premium spirits. Pair those with a green or red Thai curry (¥750), bruschetta (¥600), German sausage (¥650) or the ubiquitous hot dog (¥600). We dug into smallish pieces of lasagna with salad (¥650), just because it seemed like the sensible thing to do. And no paper plates and packets of ketchup for these guys—even the rock ’n’ roll food is nicely presented.
The well-placed mics around the mezzanine capture all the live-house sound, while original paintings of Kurt Cobain and Paul Weller adorn the walls. This is Brit rock pre-Oasis, when the invasion first hit Japan. On our visit, slow and bluesy Rolling Stones squawked out over the monitors, along with Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy” by Traffic, with nary a Blur or Suede song in the mix. Patrons play the drums with their fingers on the tables and tap out the backbeat with their heavy black boots. After 40 years, the real British invasion lives on.