Saturday, February 27, 2010

Plastic Tree live at the Yokohama Blitz 2/25

Time to report on a real, full-scale concert for once! I've been doing so many runs of indies concerts, I almost forgot what it's like to go to an actual concert for a famous band, lol.

Anyhoo, today's band is Plastic Tree! Plastic Tree is comprised of four lovely chaps, from left to right: KenKen, Akira, Ryutaro, Tadashi:

Lol, Ryutaro looks like a corpse in this picture. Anyways! So Plastic Tree's been around since 1993, and I guess their music is like... soft-core rock, maybe? Or hard pop? I dunno... it sounds almost like British rock to me (and the band has admitted to British musical influences). They sort of confuse me, honestly, because their music doesn't seem particularly hard - it's often quite light and melodic, in fact - but the atmosphere and mood of the band is extremely gloomy. Doesn't quite add up, but I think maybe that's why people like them. Everyone at the show was gothed up as all hell despite everything.

So yes, you'd be right in assuming that the music isn't quite my kind of thing. A little too light for me. But they have some harder songs I enjoy, and some catchy songs I enjoy, and I actually like their slower, prettier songs more than anything else. I like enough of their music, and what I like I really like, so it seemed worth it to see them in concert, lol. Because I'm not too familiar with the band, this report might seem a little vaguer than usual, but I'll do my best!

To start off with - the venue. It was up in Yokohama, which is outside of Tokyo. I've always wanted to go to the Blitz, because Yokohama Blitz and Akasaka Blitz are both famous venues. Taking advantage of being in Yokohama, Geri and I stopped off for some delicious kaiten-zushi (that's when the sushi runs on a conveyor belt and you can just grab whatever you want as it passes by). Then we also went to Starbucks to indulge in the delicious sakura (cherry blossom) deliciousness that is Japanese Starbucks in February and March.

Look at the delicious sakura latte! They're pink and addicting and amazing!

And sakura cake on top of all that!

Seriously, America needs to get on the sakura bandwagon. At least 50% of the Japanese in Starbucks lately are indulging in the cherry blossom goodness.

Anyways, after food, Geri and I headed to the next station over. We'd heard Yokohama Blitz was right near the station, but we honestly had no idea which way to go. As we were wandering around the station looking for any sign that might say "Blitz this way!" we spotted a couple of girls with gigantic metal collars around their necks and tall, ball-tipped antennas sticking out of their heads. Uuuuuum... way to go Japan, lol. The girls were cosplaying Plastic Tree in their Consent music video.  Fun fact of the day: the drag-queen alien in the Consent music video was the drag-queen who did the dress-code check when I went to Tokyo Decadance. I wrote about how he was fanning himself and getting all hot and bothered over Kaya's sex-driven performance that night, lol.

Anyways, I usually play "Follow the Goths" to find concert venues in Japan, but today it was "Follow the Robots!" As we followed our silly robots, it became more and more clear that we were heading in the right direction. Sooooo many people with shoulder-length, black, poofy haircuts, lol. Sooooo many people wearing too much eye-shadow. Sooooo many people in gigantic, over-sized and/or striped clothing. Mhmm.

Anyhoo, then we got to Yokohama Blitz (where the baggy-clothed goth population hit its maximum). Here are some pictures of the venue!

Anyhoo, I was quite enjoying the fashion walking around the place. I've always loved Ryutaro's style, and I like to see so many people trying to have fun with it.

So we stood around for awhile, sequestered into stupid line segments. And the idiots running the place couldn't figure out where to put the lines, so sometimes they would pick up the barriers and herd us all like fucking cattle to a different spot. When we got to the main waiting area, Geri and I wound up in a strangely awkward pickle. There were these two guys standing there, and that alone was weird because there weren't that many men at the show. But these two guys, well... you couldn't miss 'em because they were soooo tall (over six feet, I swear) and one of them was dressed really VK. He had half his head buzzed with a red heart dyed into his hair, and he had red contact lenses and very strange clothing. And his friend, who wasn't as dressed up, looked really familiar. And they kept staring at us and whispering to each other. It dawned on us that those two guys are from one of the indies bands we've seen, and they recognized us! Wow... awkward.

Eventually, we got into the venue, and we were able to get up to a pretty good distance. Like half-way up. Yokohama Blitz can hold maybe... 2000 people? So I'd say we did pretty good. There was more waiting... blah blah blah... and then the show started!

Here's the setlist for anyone who knows Plastic Tree. I had to transcribe all this from kanji and katakana, so bear with me if I made any mistakes! Geri can probably fix it for me if she notices a problem (she knows Plastic Tree waaaaaay better than I do).


Naizou Mic

sunset bloody sunset

Donna Donna


Nihon wa Seiten Nari
Hate Red Dip It
Abstract My Life

So... since I can't really do a blow-by-blow with Plastic Tree, I'll just give you all the highlights!

Well, anyways, the backgrounds were quite lovely. Yokohama Blitz has huge LED backdrop capabilities, which Plastic Tree took full advantage of. There were lots of circles in the backdrop, so things were often spiraling or spinning or footage was playing inside the circles. For example, during one of the songs, the background was filled with spinning wheels, but one of the wheels had a hamster running in it. One effect that they did a few times was to make the circles act like computers and type out the lyrics in scrolling patterns across the backdrop as Ryutaro sang.

Ryutaro himself is quite the strange performer. He's known for his youthful, childlike voice, but he has a strange way of handling himself as well. For this show he was wearing an enormous, over-sized, button-down shirt that went down to his ankles. Eventually he unbuttoned it to reveal that he was wearing a tank top underneath and these fuzzy, grey and black striped shorts that went down to his knees. Under that was black leggings and red shoes. He liked his over-sized shirt waaaaay too much and continually spun around in circles and twirled about the stage for the entire show, letting the shirt fan out behind him.

He has an amusing MC style as well. He barely acts human when he talks. He's almost more like a doll that flops around. And his MCs don't make much sense. He was like "Yokohama desu ne..." ("we're in Yokohama, aren't we?") to which the entire crowd obviously responded in the affirmative. Then Ryutaro was like "so we're in Yokohama... because we're in Yokohama... I ate shumai (small, Chinese dumplings)... I ate two shumai... I ate too much..." and then he laughed while totally zoning out at his own joke. Two shumai is eating too much? What is that, like 100 calories?!  Well, now he know how Ryutaro stays in shape. Anyways... he just seems like he's drifting around in his own world.

Of course, the audience finds him painfully adorable. Whenever Ryutaro says or does anything, the girls in the audience are like "kawaiiiiiii!" ("cuuuuuuute!"). He really is adorable. He has good command of the crowd, too. When Tadashi was trying to MC, Ryutaro discovered that if he holds the microphone towards the audience, they'll all scream, even if Tadashi is trying to talk. After doing that a couple of times, Ryutaro smirked and put his finger to his lips to silence us.

Anyways, musically speaking, the band has a good mix of catchy songs and melodious songs, but the band has some harder music with which to rock out as well. They played Ghost, which was really fun. Everyone likes Ghost cuz you can actually headbang to it. Most of the girls started headbanging, which was surprising since this was more of a stand-and-absorb-the-music kind of show.  Even the band's technician started rocking out to Ghost while working the tech crap.

Now, Plastic Tree was clearly going for a "surreal" atmosphere during this show. The oddest thing that happened was when four men stomped onto the stage wearing cardboard boxes on their heads. The boxes had two holes cut out for eyes, and the eyes had red, blinking lights in them. Then the box heads wandered around the stage tearing pages out of newspapers and magazines and throwing them into the crowd. Um. Riiiiight. Another strange moment was when Ryutaro sat down on his crate and began headbanging in such a way that it looked like he was trapped in an invisible rocking chair and someone was pulling it back and forth violently and wouldn't let him off. Again, I emphasize that this man acts more like a doll than an actual person.

Oh, and Plastic Tree just got a new drummer named KenKen, but he already seems to have his own fanclub. People were screaming for him like crazy even though he just joined the band. You go, kid!

At the end of the show, Ryutaro spun around in circles so many times he just collapsed to the floor. Hope he didn't eat too much before the show, lol. Then again, if two shumai is a lot of food to him, I'd say that's not a problem, hahaha.

So the show was a lot of fun. There were pretty songs, poppy songs, harder rock songs... a good spread over all. I was kind of sad they didn't play Kuuchuu Buranko, though, cuz that's my favorite song.

So that about wraps it up! Sorry I can't give more details! I'm a n00b!

Anyways, hope to see you all soon!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Valluna One Man Live - Sadistic - Shibuya Club Crawl

Wow. I just got back from a literal indies Hell. And of course I can only mean that in the best of ways. Up till now, these indies concerts have been little mini festivals in which a ton of bands play to a somewhat scattered audience.

Not tonight. Tonight was a real concert. Tonight was one of the best concert experiences I've had in a damn long time.

So who was the harbinger of this wonderful night of joy? Someone I did not expect - Valluna:

Sorry for the crappy picture. Valluna only just added two of its members a few months ago, so this is the only updated picture I could find. Anyways, tonight was very different because Valluna was having a one-man concert by themselves, and the concert was free (except for the $5 drink charge at the door). I didn't know much about Valluna, but, well... it was free. Actually, Valluna hosted two concerts two nights in a row, and the first night was call Masochistic, and the second night was called Sadistic. I have no idea what the Masochistic night was like, but the Sadistic night we attended, well... hehehe.

Anyways, today's show was also at a new venue for me: Club Crawl in Shibuya. Club Crawl is great. It's really small, but it has a really professional setup. When we got there, there was already a herd of around fifty girls hovering around outside the venue. Wow. That's a lot of people already for such a small venue. I guess everyone wanted to make sure they were allowed in, since the concert was free.

Anyways, they opened the doors at 6:30 and we made our way downstairs into the deep, dark depths of Club Crawl. And man... it was packed. I guess that's why bands do free lives. It's great publicity. They must've squeezed over two hundred people in there. It was so crowded that people were crowding the doorway too. And there were a ton of guys. Most of them were trying to protect their masculinity by either coming with girlfriends or coming in packs, but we had a lot of guys there.

Now, the first thing I noticed about this particular show... the set-up. Holy shit. Remember how my very first indies live was described through a Silent Hill metaphor? Well, this time I mean it for real. The entire stage was set up to look like Silent Hill. There was a bar along the ceiling, and there were chains crisscrossing the front of the stage from the ceiling down to the barrier. There were also random chains dangling from the ceiling. On the crate was two mannequin heads wrapped in bloody gauze and blind-folded. The drum set was also wrapped in bloody gauze, with gauze dangling from the cymbals. The gauze waved eerily in some wind. The backdrop was glowing a thick, blood red in the darkness. And all around us was a strange, dissonant music like we were trapped in some kind of horror movie. My first thought was: wha-?

I mean, don't get me wrong, I've seen Valluna live and they were very enjoyable but... I didn't recall them being some kind of Halloween band. They seemed like a band trapped on the border between a goth band and a typical flamboyant VK band. So honestly... I didn't really expect this kind of thing from them. Chains? Bloody gauze? Mannequins? Really?

Anyways, Ashley and Geri and I were only able to get about halfway up because of how crowded it was, but that's okay. We just stood there admiring the hellish atmosphere of the place. Then, at around 7:00, a projector was set up and began to play a giant movie on a curtain to the left of the crowd. In unison, the entire audience dropped down to the floor and sat to watch the movie. I love how coordinated Japanese crowds are. Anyways, at first it just played two of Valluna's songs recorded live. A lot of the girls in the crowd were squealing if they recognized themselves in the audience somewhere. There was also a lot of laughter because the ripples in the curtain were warping the band members' faces and making them look all weird and freaky. Anyways, after the live shows were over, the band played an extremely amusing video in which the five of them had an arm-wrestling tournament. Surprisingly... drummer KANADE lost, lol. Guitarist SAKURA kicked everyone's asses to a very impressive degree.  Kirimaru was being weird as usual, and he was wearing a pair of glasses with a tissue stuck under it to obscure his face. I thought maybe he was hiding his face because he wasn't wearing his make-up or didn't have in all of his piercings or something but... after he lost at arm-wrestling, he jumped up and nearly knocked over the chair, causing the tissue to fall off his face. Well, he looked like his usual insane self under there so... I'm going to assume the tissue was just for the fuck of it. They also played footage of the band touring around Nagoya and visiting temples. Kirimaru was still wearing the tissue in public. And that was the end of the video! Now onto the show!

Well, part of me worried that the Silent Hill Halloween set-up was just to show off and that the band wouldn't really follow through with that sort of thing. But then they came out onto the stage and... once again I was sort of blown back with surprise. Drummer KANADE came onto the stage and jumped up onto the crate, then crouched down like a dog with his hands on the crate and gave us all a crazy stare through two different colored eyes. Huh? Is this the same Valluna I saw last time? Ashley didn't seem as surprised as me, so perhaps I just saw Valluna on an off day last time. That and I think they really wanted to impress us and go all out for a one-man. Anyways, the rest of the band came out, too: guitarists Kei and SAKURA, and crazy bassist Kirimaru.

Finally, last but not least, vocalist yo-ka came onto the stage. Well, this just sealed the deal. He was dressed the way he was last time I saw him with the PVC leather short-shorts with the belt straps going back up into his crotch, but... he just looked out of his fucking mind. He also had one normal eye and one white-out contact eye, and tons of black make-up on his face. He jumped onto the crate (all the band members had to be really careful when they stood on the crate because the ceiling was so low they had to duck to avoid knocking themselves out) and gave us all an insane, bug-eyed stare, mouth hanging open, shaking head to foot like he was about to explode. It was one of the most deranged faces I've ever seen a performer make.  As the band members all appeared, the girls in the audience were making the most horrifying, animal-like shrieks and snarls. It was like a room filled with a hundred insane monsters growling and shrieking and throwing their fists at the band - who looked like something out of a Halloween nightmare.

I must say, vocalist yo-ka is dressed for dirty thoughts. He's ripped as all hell with a full six-pack, and he's wearing short-shorts with belts hanging from them that connect back up into his crotch.  Also, yo-ka grabbed onto the chains crisscrossing the front of the stage and began making sexually-suggestive faces at the crowd. At that moment, I suddenly realized the meaning in the Masochistic and Sadistic concert names. This show was S&M-themed! Haha, duuuuh.

Anyways, the show was utter madness. It was still an indies VK concert with all the furi, but... it was so packed and hot and sweaty, it was just like a real concert. And the fans treated it like one. You could barely move, and you had to do furi and headbanging very carefully and in totally synchrony with everyone else or you would literally knock someone out.

Now, I couldn't figure out if there was any way people could do gyaku-dive at a show like this. I wasn't even sure how the girls on the barrier were managing to vault themselves on the barrier because of the chains held taut across the front of the stage. It looked like they'd jump right into the chains. Still, the girls pulled it off and barrier-hopped as well as usual. Then, when gyaku-dive happened during the first song, the girls still pulled themselves onto the barrier and dangled over it. However, for whatever reason, the entire crowd surged and rushed forward. Seeing a great chance to move up in general, I rushed forward with everyone else. I didn't body-slam anyone because I couldn't get close enough, but I now went from half-way back in the crowd to somewhere between the third and fourth row! Yay, stealthiness.

Anyways... this show was just... fucking insane. How do I even describe it? Vocalist yo-ka shrieked like a banshee and made faces so wide-eyed and insane that I thought he might just grab a girl out of the crowd and rip her head off. At one point, in brilliant S&M fashion, he looped his hands through two of the chains dangling from the ceiling, showing that they were set up like handcuffs, and pretended to be tied up for an entire song. He pulled and struggled against the chains for the entire thing.

Everyone was mass head-banging and jumping up and down. At one point, everyone was supposed to hold hands and hop side to side. A little Japanese school girl next to me grabbed my hand and grinned up at me. Aaaaaw. Kirimaru was crazy as always. His pierced tongue was always hanging out, and he would grab it or waggle it around or chew on his fingers. He has a definite fascination with his mouth. Also, I can never tell where he's looking with those crazy mismatched eyes. And he's off in his own weird little world. At one point, he started headbutting the dangling chains over and over again. Strange man.

Now, when things got crazy, they got really crazy. When gyaku-dive returned during the Valluna concert, something very new for me happened, and I decided to join in. The girls at the barrier jumped up and dangled over it, then the second row rushed forward and slammed them... and then the third row rushed forward and slammed the second row, and then... everyone ran forward and, in a fit of madness, almost the entire crowd rushed forward, jumped, slammed, and dog-piled on top of each other. Yes, over fifty girls dog-piled on top of each other at this concert. And not only once. It happened in rounds. The vocalist would start screaming something that sounded like "WHY?! WHY?! WHY?! WHY?!" and everyone would throw their fists at him and yell with him. Then, when the barrier girls would leap over the bar, everyone would rush forward and body-slam into a giant dog-pile. While in the pile, everyone would continually slam against each other to the beat, at least once per measure, meaning everyone would jump onto each other, then slam each other over and over again. And guess who was right there in the pile? Yeah, me... It was one of the most fun things I've ever done. During the "why" part, I would run back, fist-pump, wait for the cue, run forward, fucking slam the bitch in front of me, then get slammed into her, and then just fucking pummel her over and over with my shoulder while getting pummeled and leaped onto from behind. It didn't hurt, though. All of us were laughing and grinning while we did this. There wasn't any malice behind it. It was just pure, awesome fun.

Only in Japan.

The real fun of this dog-pile routine was the way the band treated it. The band members all continually switched spots, giving each section of the crowd its full attention. When guitarist SAKURA came up to the front in my section on the left, he egged us on, trying to get us to scream. He locked eyes with me and jerked his finger into the air every time yo-ka yelled "why!" trying to make me yell with him. I yelled "why!" each time, but Sakura wasn't satisfied and kept staring into my eyes and fingering the air until he was sure I was hoarse. Then he nodded and moved on. When Kirimaru came up to our section, it got really insane. Everyone slammed forward, jumping against each other, trying to get his attention. I wound up in a staring contest with him. At first I couldn't tell where he was looking because of his two-toned eyes, then I realized he really was staring right at me. And he wouldn't look away. I grinned with my teeth on my lip and Kirimaru responded by sticking out his pierced tongue and waggling it at me in an extremely perverse fashion. Hahaha. Now, you have to realize how close we all were to the band. Kirimaru reached in and began patting people on the head or grabbing their heads and tugging on them, which only urged us closer. I raised my arm and threw the horns right in his face, and a girl grabbed onto my arm for support as she got slammed into me. Kirimaru responded by seductively stroking his hand up the girl's arm and across my hand. Whoa there. Then yo-ka came over. Oh boy. He kept putting himself right in between the girls at the barrier so that their faces were pressed up against his bare thighs. When he crouched down between the heads of the barrier girls right in front of me, I wound up with my face right in his crotch. I could actually see up his shorts. Thank god he was wearing underwear of some sort. He kept rather seductively muttering "mada mada mada" at all of us (and occasionally screaming it). In this case, "mada mada mada" would probably translate to "we're not fucking done yet, bitches!" In fact, he was so close, he reached out and mussed up my hair like I was a dog, then grabbed a chunk of it and gave it a tug and left all my hair messed up and scattered in my face. I guess the show was called Sadistic after all, lol. Yo-ka moved away and also grabbed one of the mannequin heads and slammed it onto the stage. He also picked up a full mannequin body and went over to Ashley and hit her over the head with it. She looked at him like he was crazy, and he responded by hitting her again. He later threw the whole mannequin into the audience, and somehow a girl in front of me wound up with one of the mannequin's arms in her hands.

Yeah, this show was fucking insane. I wasn't kidding. At the end of the show, as KANADE was pounding on the drums, Kirimaru came up to some of the chains hanging across the front of the stage and began biting them and tearing at them with his teeth. Crazy bastard. The band also graced us with two rip-roaring encores with lots of jumping up and down and head-banging. They also threw items, and Kirimaru always put his whole pick in his mouth before throwing it into the crowd. When Valluna finally exited the stage for real, they left a battered, sweaty, but ecstatic audience in their wake. Everyone looked like they'd been beaten in the face with a happy stick.

Wow. One of the most amazing concert experiences I've had. An S&M-themed concert! How great is that?!

After the show was over, Ashley and Geri and I used our drink ticket to get some Cassis grape and refresh after the insanity.

Wow. Thank you Valluna. That was exactly what I needed. A real body-busting concert. I have a headache from headbanging too much but, you know what... I couldn't be happier. Really. Thanks a bunch, you guys! I hope to see you again soon!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Indies Bands, Takadanobaba AREA

Back to Takadanobaba AREA for another round of indies!

My friends and I showed up to AREA a little bit late (oops), and the cashier asked us which band we'd come to see. We said exist†trace, because at least I know who they are. The cashier then gave my friends and I each a little exist†trace cube, which we later discovered had two pieces of Meiji caramels in it. Here's my cute little cube!

Anyways, it pains me to do this, but I have to start this blog on a really sad note. Today, there was supposed to be one more band in attendance named Gakido. This is... or was, Gakido:

On February 12th, while the band and the staff was traveling in their van on the way to a venue, one of the rear wheels of the van burst, causing the driver to lose control. The van rolled. Everyone in the band sustained minor injuries and needed stitches, and one of the members of the band and one of the staff members had "serious injuries" but were expected to recover. Unfortunately, vocalist Piyo was thrown from the van, sustained severe head injuries, and died instantly. Here's a picture of Piyo:

This is a terrible thing to have happen. The news reported Piyo as 28 year old Yamada Yoshiaki. They sometimes say the worst thing you can ever find out about a J-Rocker is their real name, because it means either the band broke up, the artist was arrested, or they died. I'm very sorry that we had to learn Piyo's real name through death. And he was only 28 years old. I never got to see Gakido in concert, and it's creepy to me that today would've been the day, had they not had their accident. I'm very sorry to the band and very sorry to poor Piyo that his life had to be cut so tragically short.

Anyways, back to the show. So the first act up was a band called DEPAIN:

Anyways, we missed the first fifteen minutes or so, but they were really enjoyable for an opening act. They had their own banner and the whole front section of the venue was packed with fans rocking out like crazy. They had a huge following. They seemed very hard, and I enjoyed what little I caught. At that point, my friends and I were just hovering in the back. The vocalist screamed like crazy, and the girls were headbanging in a frenzy and punching the air. And, despite being the opening act, there was even gyaku-dive!  But we missed most of their act, unfortunately.

Anyhoo, the next band up is the band I came to see - exist†trace:

Now, to anyone who doesn't know exist†trace, I imagine they look like any typical visual-kei band, right? A bunch of guys dressed like chicks trying to act cool. Well, there's one huge difference here, however. These are actually girls. Yup, real women. Real women with vaginas. So, if this puzzles you at all while staring at the above picture, allow me to explain: these are women dressed as men dressed as women. Does that help? They're not really hiding that they're women, but they definitely want us to view them as equals to the other VK bands... even though they have boobs. The funny thing is, even though these chicks ain't got dicks... they're more bad-ass than a lot of other male indies band out there.

Exist†trace has been around since at least 2003, and they're a band who is sort of teetering on the border between indies and major. They're actually a major band, but they still play at indies venues, even though they have big one-man shows and even toured Europe recently.

First off, vocalist Jyou is really great. She may look androgynous, but her voice - while more mid-range than most female Japanese vocalists - maintains a sort of female purity. Despite her clear singing voice, she can also scream if need be. Guitarist Miko is great on stage. Other guitarist, Omi, is the "token female" of the band... sort of like the band lolita. She's tiny and adorable, yet she never tries to outwardly act feminine. Bassist Naoto is the scary member. Her eyes are painted up with so much black eye-shadow that she looks like a zombie. She has tons of facial piercings, and during the show she had two lip rings that went through her top lip down through her bottom lip, sealing her lips closed. Still, her bass skills are fantastic. Drummer Mally is also a rather boyish member, but she can pound on those drums as fiercely as a man.

Musically, they're a combination of metal, synth... something like gothic metal, or melodic death metal. Hey, ya know what? Why don't you just check them out for yourself? They're famous enough to have real music videos.

Here's exist†trace's music video for VANGUARD:

Now, as for our audience... perhaps because a female VK band is already breaking down barriers... the audience itself was a little warped from usual. First of all, we had two foreign girls from France up on the barrier, and something else was on the barrier... a boy! In fact, there were a bunch of men in the audience for exist†trace, which was surprising. Well, the boy on the bar just seemed kinda flamboyant, but some of the men in the crowd were old and creepy looking. I guess it figures... you get some vaginas up there in goth clothing and suddenly all the guys are drooling. Gross. One of them was wearing a Nickelback shirt... triple gross!

At the end of the show, Geri caught Miko's pick!

So then... alcohol! My friends and I decided to use our $5 drink fee to go get ourselves some drinks. The three of us ordered some tasty cassis soda (black currant liqueur). Good thing I got some alcohol when I did because... boy does it fucking go downhill from here.

Frankly, I lost interest in the rest of the show, so I'll keep the rest of this blog brief. Next up... Syndicate:

This band is called Syndicate, but from here on out I will refer to them by the more appropriate code name I gave them during the show: Fitness For Dummies. This group involved group posing, dancing... they were like the Power Rangers trapped in the 80's... or a really bad fitness video, hence the code name. I wound up drinking my entire cassis soda with a sigh.

After Fitness For Dummies, I decided to ease my suffering by picking up some exist†trace merchandise. I bought...


I also bought their Ambivalent Symphony CD, which came with a DVD with the music videos for Resonance and VANGUARD:

And lookie-look! I bought a t-shirt!  I need to learn how to close my wallet, lol:

Also, we spotted exist†trace trying to exit the venue, make-up-less and wearing sunglasses. But I recognized Mally and Omi's hair (boy cut and pigtails), and we decided to go over and say hi. Of course, once Geri and Ashley and I were in front of exist†trace, we didn't really know what to say. We started off with the usual "otsukaresama desu" (roughly translated to "great work out there" or something like that). They all grinned a bit and bowed their heads to us. Then Miko started to say, in English "where are you-" - but I was tired of these bands twisting themselves into a pretzel trying to speak English to us when it's not necessary, so I cut her off really quickly and started speaking Japanese. Anyways, Geri had lost her voice earlier in the day and couldn't say anything, but Ashley and I tried to explain that we really enjoyed the show and wanted to see exist†trace again. They were rather shy and mostly just nodded at us in amusement as we sort of floundered and grew flustered under their stares. I told them I bought their CD, which made Jyou go "oh?" and smile. We asked them when their next show was, and they told us March 3rd. Then we thanked them somewhat awkwardly and skittered away so they could safely flee the venue.

Oh, but then it just keeps getting worse. I don't even know if I'm going in order anymore. Next up is Juliette:

My friends and I just sat down. We just didn't care. I can't handle bands up on stage pretending to be all cute and happy. Life's not happy. Piyo just fucking died in a car accident... life isn't puppies and rainbows... stop pretending it is...

Next up... Valetta:

I stayed sitting. Don't care. They didn't stand out in any way shape or form... not in appearance, performance, style, or music. Whatever.

Next up, Tokyo Michael:

At this point, all I have to say is AAAAAAAAAAAAGH, MAKE IT STOP! NO MORE, GOD, NO MORE!!! They actually had a song where the chorus went "Happy happiness! Happy happiness!" and sang an entire song going over the different stops on the fucking Yamanote Line. God, who the fuck cares?!

Anyways, last up is the band that actually hosted the event, SCAPEGOAT:

We've already seen them on this blog, so I won't bore you too much. This was a bit more my style, so my friends and I went up to the front and enjoyed jumping up and down and head-banging and throwing our fists. I was able to get out all my frustration. People were pretty nuts during this one. At one point, the whole audience collapsed to their hands and knees and began head-banging on the floor. Gyaku-dive came back to such an extreme that one girl even got knocked to the floor.

Anyhoo, that's the show! Anyways, I'm going to check out another show tomorrow because Valluna is having a brief, free concert. See you all soon!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Indies Bands - Urawa Narciss

Here we go with another round of indies! Today's round is a bit different, however, so this might be an interesting read.

Now, I know that through this blog I've taken you all to some deep, dark places in Japan, but allow me to introduce you to the shadiest, most underground place so far: Urawa Narciss.

If you all remember the first indies concert I went to, it was at Shinjuku HOLIDAY - a place I described through a Silent Hill descent-into-Hell metaphor (which was my fault for showing up the venue late after the lights were already out and stuff). Now along comes Urawa Narciss. Urawa Narciss is located in... well, Urawa. No kidding. Urawa is actually up in Saitama, so it's not technically in Tokyo. Urawa is only two train stops away from where Ashley lives and, from what she'd told us, it's the seediest, shadiest place out there, full of nothing but hostess clubs, prostitution, and pachinko parlors. Sure enough, when we switched our trains at Higashi-Urawa, a whole gang of young yakuza (Japanese mafia) joined us. Yay!

Anyways, we got off at Urawa and looked around for Narciss. Well... you had to keep your eyes peeled to see it, that's for sure. It was already pitch black outside and Narciss... well... we went down a shady side-street where old men stopped and stared at us. Then we found a parking garage. At the edge of the parking garage there was a large piece of plastic hanging down from the ceiling. Behind the plastic curtain was a desk with a box, and a single young man with bleached hair wearing a trench coat was sitting on a chair behind it. Beside him was a large opening in the floor, with stairs leading down under the parking garage. We gaped at this display in awe and suddenly realized... this was Urawa Narciss. We just burst out laughing at the sight of it. There we were... Geri, Ashley, and I... staring right down into the underworld as usual. The man behind the little table didn't seem particularly perturbed by our laughter, so we just went on up to him and asked for three tickets. The man was actually very nice and gave us the pre-order price instead of the at-the-door price, meaning we got a $5 discount. Then we made our way down the dark stairs - plastered with pamphlets and posters of indies bands - and headed into the blackness below.

We were actually almost an hour late, but we were pretty sure that because only five bands were playing, we'd probably only missed the first one. When we got down to the bottom of the stairs, it was quiet - presumably because the first band was finished. We opened the door into the stage area and... we burst out laughing again. Now, Takadanobaba AREA can hold at least 400 people. Shinjuku HOLIDAY... maybe 250. But Urawa Narciss... wow... it doesn't get more indies than this. The audience consisted of maybe fifteen people, sitting along the sides of the audience area... which was about the size of a large bedroom. The stage was even smaller than that. It's a good thing most of the bands only had four members because five members bands can barely fit up there. Still, Urawa Narciss likes to brag that it's been around since 1982 and, despite its size, it did have a functioning curtain with a screen, different lighting effects, and a television set recording everything that happened on stage. And, of course, my friends and I were the only foreigners in there, causing us to receive a lot of stares. I felt a little bad because the first band, as seems to be the custom in these tiny places, was standing behind the merchandise booth chatting with some of the audience members, and they kept staring at us curiously. Sorry, guys... we'll come on time next time, lol.

Anyhoo, second band up (first band for us) was a band called OROCHI. They had themselves a nice little fan club of five girls at the padded barrier. Everyone else was sitting, including my friends and I, who plunked down on a small step in the middle to watch.

Aaaaand now for something completely different. For real. Here's OROCHI!

Now, the name alone had me kind of thinking "uh oh... is this going to be another one of those 'traditional Japan' acts...?" Orochi is, after all, a famous monster from Japanese Shinto mythology (it was a dragon with eight heads and eight tails who was slain by a Shinto god). And sure enough, when OROCHI started up... I knew that, yes, it was going to be another one of those acts. The curtain started playing some kind of projection, and a deep voice started to tell the story of OROCHI as if we were all seated around a campfire. When the curtains parted, there were Japanese lanterns hanging from the ceiling and... men in kimonos. I was already rolling my eyes, honestly, but... I was more than pleasantly surprised.

First of all, OROCHI doesn't sound the way I was expecting.  Now, the fact that I can even tell you what they sound like leads me into a shout-out to Urawa Narciss. You know what, that place may be small and very questionable, but it undoubtedly had the best acoustics I've heard so far. The walls were all padded and the sound was fantastic. I could actually hear the bands playing and really, seriously tell you what they sounded like. It's a beautiful thing.

Anyways, back to OROCHI. OROCHI's one of the most bizarre things I've seen in awhile. Kagrra,, they are not. Vocalist Ushiwaka has an unbelievably deep singing voice, but he can also sing really graceful high notes. And he really doesn't look like your typical VK artist. He's rather... rugged? The photo above is touched up and doesn't really show you what he looks like. On the other hand, guitarist Yuki-mura... Now, most Japanese VK bands have "the token female" - one member who is always in drag and goes out of their way to be entirely female. And Yuki-mura was that member except... he had taken it to a whole new level. Fellow J-Rock fans probably know what I mean when I refer to Mana's dream-like way of performing; where he's so feminine that he moves in a slow-motion haze for the entire show. Yuki-mura was that... to such an extreme that I thought he was on drugs at first. While he played, he would roll his eyes around in a daze and stare at the lights moving overhead like it was the most fascinating thing he'd ever seen. He made the act so believable, I really thought he was trippin' balls at first, lol. He's the one all the way on the left in the picture above, and he looks pretty drugged out there too, lol. Other guitarist Ran-maru was extremely charismatic, and drummer Genji-botaru was very talented. I noticed that they didn't have a bassist, and the bass was a pre-recorded track. Perhaps they're switching around members or something. In fact, I'm quite sure the current members aren't the original ones.

Anyways, this was quite the unique act. Vocalist Ushiwaka was rather crazy. He ran around the stage and headbanged quite a lot for a man in traditional clothing. He would also put his foot up on the barrier right between the heads of the girls and trying getting the crowd going. At one point during a song, he whipped out a traditional Japanese flute and began playing it. During another song he pulled out a small sword and began sword-fighting some invisible enemy. Most surprising of all... during another song he simply launched off the barrier entirely, landed in the middle of the audience area right in front of my friends and I, twirled around like a crazy person, then launched himself back up onto the stage (rather ungracefully). He smiled continuously during the show with a very charming, handsome smile, but... there was admittedly something a little off about him. I thought it was just the small, rather quiet crowd that was throwing him. This annoyed me at first, because the number one thing an indies performer must be able to do is contend with a small crowd and not let it get to them. I later realized I was mistaken about what was up with Ushiwaka, though.

The five girls that made up the barrier all had beautiful, traditional Japanese fans that they waved around in place of typical furi. The music was surprisingly bad-ass for a traditional Japan act.  I guess that's why they call their music "Samurai Rock." Anyways, they were definitely an intriguing act. When they were done, my friends and I continued to sit around, and I noticed that all of OROCHI was now hovering around behind the merch booth chatting with fans. Yuki-mura was still a little hazy-looking, but at least I now knew he could talk and not just stare at the pretty, pretty lights. Ushiwaka amused me because he was still in his outfit, but he was wearing big sunglasses. Anyways, I couldn't help but notice what an awkward guy he was. He would talk to people, but always with his arms folded and hunched over like he thought he'd get punched. And every time he was left alone, he would start to wander over to where my friends and I were sitting. It looked like he wanted to say something to us, but then he would suddenly get cold feet and scamper away and hide behind his band mates. I was starting to think the guy was a whacko.

Finally, Ushiwaka got up the nerve to come up behind us and, in near-perfect English, he asked us "where do you come from?" Automatically in Japanese, we said we were from America. Ushiwaka wasn't giving up with his English though, and proceeded to quietly ask us where we lived. We continued in Japanese, explaining that we were exchange students at Sophia University. Ashley told him "Nihongo wa daijoubu desu" ("we're fine speaking Japanese") because usually these indies guys give themselves a hernia trying to speak English. Well, that didn't faze Ushiwaka either, and he continued in English, but his eyes flicked around nervously and he looked kinda freaked out. He asked us what band we'd come to see. Um... awkward. After a round of embarrassed "uuuuuuuuuuuuuuh"s from the three of us, Ashley finally said "Navir and Ha;qch." At this point, Ushiwaka seemed so awkward and nervous that I thought he was going to explode. It was like this guy had a little paranoia meter above his head, and it just kept rising. I felt so sorry for him that, in Japanese, I blurted out, "I thought your performance was wonderful!" Like a typical Japanese person, Ushiwaka scratched the back of his head in embarrassment. Paranoia meter rising, rising! At that point, I don't think he could take it anymore so, in Japanese, Ushiwaka told us we could fill out the survey about the band if we'd like, and then he slunk away before we could even respond. When he was out of ear-shot, the three of us looked at each other and went "aaaaaaaw." It was then that guilt began to settle over us. For whatever reason, Ushiwaka clearly wanted to speak English, and we should've spoken English back, or asked how he learned English, or something. We should've kept talking or asked him questions so he wouldn't feel the need to run away. We decided we would definitely make it up to him next time.

Well, anyways, it was after the show that we learned a bit more about OROCHI. Sorry to jump ahead here, but... Ashley sent me the band's online information, and I realized that they had both a Japanese and an English website! And they had a MySpace all in English! Ushiwaka is literally fluent in English! Well now I was just confused. I checked out all their stuff in order to solve the mystery, and came to realize that, not only has OROCHI been around since 2004, but the band is from fucking Australia. Ushiwaka, at the very least (not sure about the other members) formed the band while studying in Australia! I guess they won a lot of battle of the bands in Australia and I guess the band are the representatives of the Japan-Australia Year of Exchange or some organization like that. On their website they list their purpose as: "To make friendship and understanding of two different cultures stronger, and promote unity between them" and their bio says "Bringing Together Nations through Our Live Show." Shit, no wonder Ushiwaka wanted to talk to us so badly! I felt really bad when I realized all that about them. According to their site, they've only just moved the band back to Japan within the last year. Well, next time we're going to talk to Ushiwaka in English and not make him feel anymore awkward and embarrassed than necessary.

Well, anyways, let's move on, shall we?

The next act up is one I'd already seen before. We got up and went out into the middle to see Navir! Remember these guys?

Anyways, the barrier dropped down to three girls now. Three girls in front, the three of us in the middle, towards the right... everyone else sitting. However, the fact that we were out there eventually encouraged three other girls to come out and hide behind us, then eventually fill in the left, then eventually chicken out again and disappear into the back. Rather bipolar crowd, I must say... Anyhoo, now that we had good acoustics, I was able to actually hear the band in good detail. First of all, there is something very Ruki-like about the vocalist's performing style, though I hadn't noticed before. I don't know what it is... something about his studded black jacket, his rap-like singing... I dunno, it just reminds me of Ruki. And their bassist really freakin' looks like Hitsugi from Nightmare. And he's really crazy and zany on stage, which amuses me because I know from having spoken with the band that the bassist is shy as all hell and can barely talk to anyone. Anyways, they were as enjoyable as last time, and for some reason I remembered most of the furi, which was fun. That meant I was able to rock out and headbang and jump up and down without too much worry about whether or not I was doing it right. So we ignored the fact that we were practically the only people out there and we just had fun. Good times!

Next up... dun dun dun. The return of Ha;qch. Remember these guys?

Third time's the charm... As you may remember from my blog, Ha;qch hit a snag recently when their bassist, Saku (the grumpy guy second from the right in the picture), decided to up and vanish on the day of a concert and has not been seen or heard from since. This left us with a flustered band and a very upset Chihiro. Anyways, I was pretty sure they'd be fine today. I follow Chihiro's blog, and he said they'd hired a support bassist and done a show that went fine. He also went to a beauty salon, got a massage, and enjoyed beef over rice.

Anyways, the show went quite well, and it was nice to see Ha;qch back on their feet (well, Chihiro back on his bare feet). The support bassist looked a little out of place with his overly-bleached hair and t-shirt and pants, but he seemed surprisingly happy to be up there and bounced around like crazy, interacted with the other members, and even jumped up onto the crate at one point to egg on the crowd. This later led my friends and I to form a theory that the support bassist wanted to be in the band all along, so he killed Saku and fed him to Chihiro so that he could become the new bassist. I'll just go with that theory for now.

Chihiro was back to his old self, stomping around the stage, putting his foot up on the barrier, snarling at everyone, glaring through his white-out contacts, and acting like a rampaging beast. I know he wants to be scary, but every time he gets up to the front I just smile. But this was the first time I've actually gone out into the middle to rock out for Ha;qch, and Chihiro recognizes me by now, so he glared at me and, when I continued to rock out and do all the furi, he gave me a satisfied nod and moved on. Better than the alternative. If you don't rock out to Ha;qch, Chihiro spits on you. This I have learned. Anyways, the fans were coordinated enough that when the four girls at the barrier dangled over it, people actually ran and body-slammed them. I did it too. I've decided I don't care if I crush anybody - they're asking for it. Although, one girl slammed another girl so hard the whole barrier shook. Ouch. We had a pretty good line of people actually out there for Ha;qch which was nice. They're a band that really relies on audience participation to work.

Anyhoo, good job Ha;qch, keeping on despite Saku's disappearance! Yay you!

Unfortunately... the show died out at the end. We had such a good thing going with three fantastic bands in a row. And then... Cheeky happened. I could find absolutely nothing about Cheeky online, not even a picture, so I took a picture of a pamphlet I got from the venue to use as my photo. Here:

This is Cheeky, the dumbest thing I've seen in awhile. And they headlined! Yeesh. First of all, Cheeky seems to want to be a lot of things, and it is none of those things. They're a gimmicky mess. They have the token crazy goth, the token VK member, the token Kamijo, the token Bou, and some vocalist who I couldn't place at all. The token Bou looked so much like Bou that I practically did a double-take. And the vocalist... his hair extensions were so bad, you could see where they were connected.

As for the stupid of the act itself... The entire crowd got up for these guys and went into the audience area. And everyone rocked out like this band was metal. But... they're not. The whole thing involved full-body dancing. The girls would literally dip all the way to the ground, hop around... The dumbest thing of all... all the girls had whistles in their mouths, and they would blow the whistles at the end of certain phrases and freeze in a position. I'm like... is this Simon Says or a fucking band? Utterly stupid. The fans looked like they were having a great time but... there was one goth girl sitting near me with a look of bug-eyed horror on her face, so... I know it wasn't just me who wanted to flee the venue. I used this performance to sit on the step and fill out the survey for OROCHI. Worst part was... everyone cheered for encore at the end. What I didn't understand was... Cheeky came back for encore but... only the five or six barrier girls stayed. Everyone else just left the venue and went home. Huh? Bipolar crowd, geez...

After Cheeky was mercifully done, I realized OROCHI was gone. I'll just have to give them the survey some other time. Navir was out, and we wanted to talk to them, but they were busy talking to other fans. Then, before we could say anything, Navir ran off and disappeared. Oh well. We left the venue, and Ha;qch was standing in the parking garage smoking.  Lol.

The end!

Strange post, I know. I hope it was interesting, though. I'm seeing another indies band tomorrow and I think it will be veeeeeeery interesting. A teaser for the next blog: the next show is headlined by a band that consists of girls dressed as guys dressed as girls. Yay Japan!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Venus Fort

Welcome to Venus Fort! Venus Fort, located in Odaiba, is one of the largest malls in Japan, and it's completely Venice-themed! The shops there weren't particularly to the taste of my friends and I, but you go to Venus Fort because the whole place is so cool looking (and if you like designer shops like Prada or Coach)!

Anyways, the ceilings in Venus Fort are painted and illuminated to look like the sky, and they even set with the sun. The picture doesn't do it justice, but the ceilings looked real enough to be somewhat disconcerting, especially since it was raining outside when we went. The whole point is to make it feeling like you're shopping outside in Venice.

They have a big light-show going on there now. This is along the ceiling:

A better shot of the mall:

This is the really cool ceiling above the fountain:

The fountain itself. I felt like I was at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, lol.

Close-up of the fountain:

Christmas-y displays in February, lol:



There was also a giant arcade in Venus Fort where Ashley and Geri and I did purikura. Sorry the glare is so bad, the lighting sucked in the purikura (probably so people won't illegally take photos like I do, lol). Here's us being stupid:

More stupid:

Trying to act innocent and cute. Yeah right, lol:

Aaaand, kitty-ears in a box! Hey, why not, lol! The left box says "mikan" meaning Geri's sitting in a box of tangerines. The right box says "moeru gomi" meaning "burnable garbage" which is apparently what Ashley and I are, lol.

Venus Fort also has a big casino where you can watch people gamble away all their money.

Venus Fort is also cool because it's a "dog friendly mall." The first floor was almost completely overrun by dog-related things, like coats for dogs, dog-food, etc. They also have restaurants where you're allowed to bring your dog in there with you. They also have an area where you can pay to rent a dog and take it for a walk, lol. It's a pretty fun place!

Hope you enjoyed!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Weirdest Dream Ever

While I don't post anything particularly personal on this blog - I had a dream so unbelievably ridiculous that I decided it absolutely had to be put on the blog. This is the stupidest, most bizarre dream I've ever had. Enjoy!

So the dream starts out with me going to a Dir en grey concert in America. I'm going with my friends Melissa and Hannah, and we're determined to get in the first few rows. The doors to the venue open, and I go running for the front. But for some reason, Melissa and Hannah stay behind. I don't think much of it, because I notice that, although several rows are filled up, there's this massive gap at the barrier in front of Toshiya's part of the stage. I make a run for it and grab the barrier, then drape some jackets and bags over it to save the spot for my friends. I feel guilty because I swore I'd stand in front of Die's area of the stage - because I never do - but I just take what I can get. But for some reason, my friends just don't come inside. In fact, only about a third of the people in line come into the venue and everyone else hovers outside for no reason.

Well, my brain actually skipped the concert itself, so let's fast-forward to after the show. I come outside and ask my friends why the hell they didn't join me during the show. They can't seem to give a reason. Just as I'm about to press them further, a man comes up to us and asks if we want to be in Dir en grey's next music video. Well, obviously we don't turn him down. The man gives us tickets to go to this hotel with a fake beach and explains that we have to go there for the shooting.

Anyways, we go to this hotel, and sure enough, there's this fake beach kind of like the ones you see at certain Vegas hotels. Anyways, of all things, the Japanese musician Miyavi is lying on the beach, half-submerged in the shallow water. He's lying there with his eyes closed like he's dead, and Rihanna, wearing a bikini, is bent over him dabbing at his mouth with a napkin. Yes, you read that correctly. Rihanna. As in the American R&B singer, Rihanna. Yeah, this is where the dream completely falls into insanity. I ask someone what the hell's going on, and they explain that this is for Miyavi's next music video, and he's pretending to be drowned. I ask where the cameras are, but no one answers me, and Rihanna continues to dab at Miyavi's mouth with a napkin while he floats in the water.

Anyways, for the music video, they tell us that we all have to go to the top of the hotel, to the roof. We do as we're told, and now I can look down, where Miyavi is still floating in the water next to Rihanna. They tell us that we all have to hold hands and jump off the building into the water below, and that we all have to do it in an oval formation shaped like an eye. I mutter to the people around me that this sounds dangerous, because Miyavi is lying on the beach, half submerged, meaning this water is really shallow. The man in charge overhears me and says we'll be fine; that the water gets deeper. He says we'll be fine so long as we do it right. To me, it seems impossible. I look over the edge, and I see Rihanna gazing up at us with extreme concern on her face.

Well, it's too late, we all agreed to do this. We all close our eyes, hope for the best, and leap.

Anyways, my brain skips that part too. We fast-forward, and now I'm coming home from the music video excursion. Anyways, I feel really bummed about the concert still, and Miyavi, and everything else that happened, so I tell my friends I'm going to my room. For some reason, I'm back in my Nihongo Hausu dorm-room in Madison. I go into my room and slam the door, and my room is pitch black, covered in filth, and boxes, and spider-webs, and it looks like something out of Silent Hill. In fact, it doesn't look like my room at all. I sit down on the floor and lean against my refrigerator, which is in a completely different spot from where my refrigerator really was in Nihongo Hausu. I lean against it, and then I notice this strange compartment at the bottom of the refrigerator. I open it up to see what's inside, only to be assaulted by cold smoke and fog. It's a freezer! I reach inside and see a giant white box. I cautiously open the box, and I realize it's an entire container of cheesecake! I grow extremely excited, and decide I must have put it in there at the beginning of the year and forgotten about it! I wonder for a moment if it's too old to eat, but I decide I don't care. Sitting on the floor like some goblin, with the light from the freezer glowing as the only light in the room, I start gorging on the cheesecake. I just started digging in there and eating it like an insane person.

Suddenly, the door flies open. I stop immediately and look up in horror, realizing I've been caught being a glutton. But I see a bunch of my friends from Nihongo Hausu standing there, and they're holding some kind of aquarium. I slam the refrigerator compartment closed and ask what the hell's going on, and they tell me they felt bad about the concert, so they picked up these really cool fish at the hotel's fake beach, and they wanted me to have them. I stand up and take the aquarium from them, and I see these disturbing fish with legs. Human legs. At first, I'm kind of grossed out, but then I notice that my friends barely put enough water in there.

"They don't have enough water!" I scold. "They need more!" I start to pry open the top of the aquarium so that I can put in more water, but one of the fish suddenly leaps from the tank and into my mouth. I start freaking out and spitting and clawing at my mouth, trying to spit out the fish. Part of me is laughing in embarrassment, and part of me is freaking out, and the fish is wet and slimy and squirming and horrible. Finally, I manage to spit the fish into my hand and I quickly throw him back into the aquarium and close the top. One of my friends says to keep the top closed, and they'll go fetch some water for the fish. I'm still spitting, and my friends laugh a little and tell me it's no big deal, but I feel completely violated. We get some water and manage to sneak it into the tank. I put the aquarium on top of the refrigerator in the darkness of my room, and my friends tell me we should go get lunch, it'll make me feel better.

I follow them back to my old haunt in Madison: the Liz Waters cafeteria. I grab lunch, but every time I try to eat it, I just feel a fish squirming in my mouth and I absolutely can't. Everyone tells me to get over it, it's just a fish, but I can't get the thought out of my head. I can't even drink water because I'm afraid I'll drink the essence of the fish further into myself. I stare at my food in some sort of traumatized horror.

And then I wake up at exactly 10:30 AM, all by myself, which was exactly what time I told myself to wake up the night before! Ta da! How absolutely ridiculous was that?! And I remember it so well! I woke up still feeling kind of horrified, with the feeling of a phantom, legged fish squirming in my mouth. Isn't that lovely? I can't even begin to make sense of that dream. All I can gather is that the concert thing at the beginning must have been related to Ha;qch's failed performance that I saw last week. The beach thing... maybe because I'm planning on going to Okinawa over break? But I couldn't help but notice this recurring theme in my dream of water, and never enough of it. Not enough water for Miyavi to drown, not enough water for us to jump into the fake ocean, not enough water for the fish, and I can't drink water at the end. Did I go to bed thirsty? But what about the cheesecake and stuff? That part made nooooo sense. And Rihanna? What the hell?! What was she doing there, and why was she there with Miyavi?! Why was he even there?! I don't listen to or pay attention to either of them. God, I don't know. That dream was on crack, I swear.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Nekobukuro - A Day with 21 Cats

Now this is gonna be an awesome post. As I've said before, Japan is the birthplace of some of the world's best ideas: sushi, Pokemon, Jägerbombs... but undoubtedly one of their best inventions is the "neko cafe." Neko just means "cat" in Japanese. Japanese people looooove cats, but not all of them can afford to own one or have the space to keep one. To fix this dilemma, the Japanese invented neko cafes. These cafes are basically just like normal tea and coffee shops except... there are cats wandering around. It's a common "relaxing" activity in Japan to just sip tea in the company of cats. Well, Ashley and I decided to check out one of these cat places, and wound up at Nekobukuro in Ikebukuro, which is on the 8th floor of a department store. It's not actually a neko cafe, however. It's more of a playing-with-cats place. You pay six bucks to get in, and then you can spend as much time as you want enjoying cats. This place had tons of cats, and twenty-one of them were wandering around. Now, I've done some pic-spams on this blog before but this is my greatest pic-spam so far! Are you ready? Are you prepared for explosive levels of cuteness?! Behold: over fifty pictures of cute, fluffy, adorable cats!

Here's our first kitty. He wasn't out, but you could still see him through the glass. Soooo cute:

They were everywhere! Even up on planks overhead!


Aw, what a cute white one!


Wandering around. This one was following around one of the employees hoping for treats:

Ashley and I dubbed this cat "Grumpy Cat" because he always looked like his brows were furrowed, lol.

Sleeeeepy kitty:

Lots of sleeping kitties!


Hehe, I liked this guy. Evil little black kitty hiding in his fort:

Pose for the camera!

This Abyssinian is the mascot of Nekobukuro and their most prized cat, because he's very expensive! He was so sleek and skinny!

Oh, I love the pretty colors on this one!

Fluffy Siamese cat!

Ashley petting Grumpy Cat:

Grumpy Cat's ruining the display, lol:

This cat was very attached to this employee and eventually jumped right up on her shoulders:

He knew he'd get a treat, hehe. I guess what she was feeding them was some cheese paste that they really like:

Treats time for everybody!

Soooo cute! This black and white cat was very chill and calm with people:

Ashley petting a kitty!

Ashley petting the sweet black and white cat! He was soooo soft!

More treats! Gimme!

Words cannot even describe how huge this cat was. Pictures do it no justice. The lady who took him out of his enclosure couldn't even lift him. He's probably around thirty pounds!

He's preeeeetty though! I dubbed him Monster Cat:

Here's a pretty black kitty! He looks like a Halloween decoration! He was all evil looking but he was kinda derpy, so Ashley and I named him Zero after Zero from D'espairsray, lol (I believe the sign said his real name was actually Oreo though, lol).

Our fluffy Siamese. He has the prettiest blue eyes! Don't forget you can click any picture to make it larger! I like the juxtaposition of the cat, with Ashley's cat-shoe sticking out at the bottom of the photo, lol!

Zero jumped on Ashley's back, lol!

Then Zero jumped on the employee hoping for treats!

Black and white kitty finally woke up for some food!

Zero's hungry!

Then Zero jumped onto this guy's shoulders!

And decided to nest there since the hood was so comfy, lol:

And he made one last stop on this girl's shoulders in the hopes of getting as much black hair all over her white sweater as possible, lol!

Sleeeek kitty!

Lots and lots of kitties! The fluffy Siamese invaded Evil Black Kitty's fort!

Monster Kitty practically takes up the whole table!

I like this cat's collar, lol:

Aw, Monster kitty was such a sweet kitty!

And huge! Some people were actually going up to it and going "Eh? Neko da?!" ("What?! Is this a cat?!"). Other people were just like "waaah - deka!" ("whoa, he's huge!").

Super fluffy kitty!

There are kitties eeeeeeeveeeeerywheeeeeeere!!!

Aw, they're so cute on their hind legs! He looks like the cat from that Japanese Aflac commercial, lol (the maneki neko daaku one):

Another employee feeding cheese to the kitties!

Hahaha, I like this one's butt!

Two cats being fed together!

Now here was a very strange cat! His hair was all wavy and curly, and he had all these random, squiggly gray hairs all over his body! And his whiskers were curled too! His fur felt so weird! When I was petting him, I felt like I was petting some kind of curly dog instead of a cat! Click for a better look at him!

Hahaha, this cat was really funny looking but he was really cute!

Cat on his back!

Oooooh, preeeeeetty kitty!

Aw, look how pretty! He has a fur coat around his shoulders!

This was a bit white cat they had on display outside Nekobukuro!

And that's all I've got for today! Aren't they just soooooo cute?! So many kitties! And boy, what a life. These cats just sleep all day, then they get taken out and get all the attention and treats they want, and then they go back to sleeping! Next time, my friends and I will go to a real neko cafe and I'll have even more pictures of cats! Hope you enjoyed all the epic cuteness!

Also, check the blog post below for the latest update on Ha;qch's bassist. They still haven't found him, but the band is moving on without him.

See you all next time!