Saturday, May 29, 2010

VAJRA 2nd ONEMAN

I literally just got back from VAJRA's second one-man concert. I'm drenched in red Kool-Aid, I have bruises and busted capillaries on my arm, I have scratches all over me from unknown sources, and I'm reeling from the most emotionally exhausting indies concert I've ever been to. This blog is going to be a roller-coaster of emotions but it's full of crazy stories and experiences so I ask that you bear with me.

Once again, today's featured band is VAJRA:


Anyways, as I discussed in earlier blog posts, 『L.』 left VAJRA after their show in Sendai a couple of weeks ago. This is 『L.』:


Of course, the term "left" was open to interpretation. It was clear from the band's blogs and numerous apologies that 『L.』 did something at the Sendai show that got some people hurt - or close to it. This wasn't surprising, considering 『L.』 was known to punch fans and drag girls around by their hair. Anyways, he was put on "house arrest" and banned from shows temporarily. Ultimately, he announced that he was leaving VAJRA due to "musical differences." It was unclear, however, if he truly had gotten sick of the band and the Sendai show was the catalyst to make him leave... or if the band kicked him out for getting them in trouble... or if 『L.』 left VAJRA on his own to avoid the shame of being kicked out. We'll probably never know. Either way, 『L.』 was not expected to be seen on stage with VAJRA ever again after the Sendai show.

Of course, this left the question: "what happens at the one-man?" VAJRA was planning their second ever one-man concert and Ashley and I already had tickets. But now they were down a guitarist - and a guitarist who was something of a mascot of VAJRA. This left a lot up in the air. Would people even come to the show without 『L.』? What would the band do? Would there be a support guitarist? Pre-recording? Hell, would Nesting Girl even be there? She was an 『L.』 die-hard. The show would be empty without her. Ashley and I were feeling a sense of doom and foreboding about the whole thing. Ashley and I hadn't thought much about 『L.』 while he was in the band. His departure made us unhappy, obviously, but we didn't dwell on it too much. Still, the closer the one-man concert approached, the more sad and depressed we became at the thought of seeing VAJRA without 『L.』. There was going to be a gaping hole where he used to be...

The show was being held at Chelsea Hotel - which isn't actually a hotel - in Shibuya. It was a total dump, but I say that endearingly. Here's a picture I took of it:


The tickets said doors would open at 6:00 and the show would start at 6:30. Ashley and I chilled in a Starbucks (where some other people we recognized as indies girls were also chilling). At 5:45, we went out to the venue to stand around. A line of girls was already forming outside the venue. Okay, so that was a good sign... Also, at the front of the line was something rather shocking... Nesting Girl was indeed there and... she was dressed in a near-perfect 『L.』 cosplay. Her normally blond hair was dyed hot pink and spiked up in the air. And she was wearing the whole outfit - the leather trench coat, the ruff, the boots, the red and black arm-guards... She looked just like him. Here, this is a picture of his outfit and this is exactly how Nesting Girl was dressed:


Normally, I would have thought nothing of this but... 『L.』's not in VAJRA anymore... so... what was this supposed to mean? VAJRA's manager came outside, saw Nesting Girl's outfit, and started touching it and going on and on about how awesome it was.

The crowd continued to grow. Across the street, I saw that stupid guy who stabbed me with his spiked bracelet at the last VAJRA concert. He was there with some other dude and his girlfriend. I was ready to kick his ass if he bothered me during the show, but he won points with me for crouching down to pet a cute dog as it walked by. Also, we were standing along the side of a very narrow road and cars kept coming down the road and nearly killing all of us. At one point, Nesting Girl got mad at a car that cut it too close and ran down the street after it, an onigiri (rice ball) in one hand, shaking her fist angrily at the car with the other. Oh Nesting Girl... what would we do without you? A suspicious blond man also crept out of the venue at some point and walked past us. But we didn't recognize him so we ignored it.

Anyways, 6:00 rolled around and... the doors weren't open. 6:10 came around... then 6:20... Why weren't the doors opening?! Was someone sick?! Were there sound problems?! No one else seemed concerned, though. The thought occurred to me that our tickets had a misprint. Most other girls had shuffle tickets from the venue itself but Ashley and I had tickets bought at a convenience store. Sometimes these things are printed wrong. I think this was the case because, at exactly 6:30 they finally opened the doors. On the way in, they gave us each a free CD which I slipped into my bag without looking at it.

When we got inside, we realized that the Chelsea Hotel is... a strange venue. The floors are wooden and uneven and... springy. When the other girls realized this, they all started jumping up and down and running around on the floor like wild animals. Nesting Girl decided to really test the floor by running head-first into her friend and knocking them both to the floor. The left side of the venue was blocked by stacked chairs and a dressing room folding door. A shoddy, lint-infested black curtain hung over the stage. What a dump. But an endearing dump.

Ashley and I took third row in the middle. The girls on the barrier took their spots. More and more people were filing in. There were a lot more people than I expected. At least a hundred if not more. And you know what really blew my mind? A third of the crowd was male. Whole packs of guys showed up for this thing. There was also a foreign couple who seemed to be there more out of curiosity than as fans. Anyways, Ashley and I were just standing there smirking at the girls jumping around on the floor. More and more we began to realize how amazing VAJRA fans are. Everyone was talking to everyone else and goofing around and being crazy. Everyone just wanted to have fun. I'd noted before that VAJRA's fanbase has a bit of a "club" mentality to it. Everyone knows everyone else, and a few certain people (like Nesting Girl) seem to lead the club. They even plan things out before the day of the show. Anyways, Ashley and I have always been the two foreigners standing on the fringes of shows. This never bothered us, even in this kind of club situation. The fans never minded our presence so, in return, we just did whatever we wanted to do. But then, as Ashley and I were standing there chatting and enjoying the antics of the VAJRA fans, one of the girls suddenly peeled herself off the barrier and came over to us, her hands held out in a water-cupping motion - which is the Japanese gesture for "handshake." She grasped Ashley's hands between her own and shook them, then bowed. Then she turned to me and repeated the process. Ashley and I, at a loss, just bowed silently back. Then the girl, without a single word, turned right back around and returned to the barrier.

Ashley and I just stood there gawking for a minute. Slowly, realization dawned on me. Without a single word, the girl on saizen had said everything that needed to be said. Ashley and I were "in." One of the "leaders" of the "club" shook our hands and greeted us, silently accepting us as members of the VAJRA fanbase. Because of the supposed language barrier, we became a part of the club without words. I don't know what Ashley and I did to deserve this sudden acceptance other than attending the VAJRA live and taking a spot up close but... this gesture really meant a lot. I was really touched by it.

The band started late and had a very long-winded sound check. During the sound check, the girls of the first four rows started emitting ear-piercing shrieks and cries. This can't really get the band to come out any faster but... it does start to set the stage for what's coming.

Anyways, they finally ripped back the curtain and the show began. The intro was changed into some kind of odd atmospheric music with Nobro's voice singing wordlessly over it. I wanted to be excited but... I'd had a long day (and a midterm) and I was sleep-deprived and exhausted. Also, the thought of having a VAJRA show without 『L.』 was bothering me horribly. Anyhow, a tall, lanky, blond guy came out on the stage wearing leather. I had a moment of total confusion before realizing it was Rohan, the drummer. Whoa, he's blond now. Then I realized that the suspicious guy walking around outside was Rohan! But none of us recognized him because he changed his hair! Anyhow, bassist Kiyuki came out, as did guitarist Yuuri. Then, someone with pink hair and sparkly make-up and a leather trench coat came waltzing out onto the stage and took stage right. Wait... what? What?!

『L.』?! But it couldn't be! 『L.』 already officially left VAJRA! What in the world?!

And you know what? Everyone's faces just lit up. Everyone started freaking out and screaming 『L.』's name and jumping up and down with happiness. That's the kind of effect he has on us. I knew it was probably just for this one show, but still... 『L.』 was back! 『L.』 acted as though nothing was amiss... as though his appearance on stage was totally expected.

Then a little, psychotic creature came hurtling onto the stage. Why, it's our vocalist, Nobro! And he's shirtless and covered in peeling plaster with red paint under it! Oh, right, I forgot that Nobro is a clone of Kyo from Dir en grey. Kyo did that same stunt years ago. In fact, if you'd like to know exactly what Nobro looked like, here's a photo of how Kyo looked doing it back in 2001:

Yyyyyeah, Nobro's got a Kyo-boner, that's for sure. Anyways, the band really have ditched their outfits. The masks are gone completely and they've mostly trashed the costumes. Rohan didn't even have his fake boobs or anything. In fact, they all seemed to have dyed their hair back to more realistic colors, like brown or blond. I barely recognized them at first. The only one dressed up like normal was 『L.』, but he wasn't wearing the mask. Instead, he had the mask tied to his microphone stand.


So yeah, Nobro ran out covered in plaster with weird black lipstick. It didn't even look like him. Everyone was going nuts, ready to rock the fuck out. A lot of the guys in the back moved up. Within the first song, I could tell that things were going to be crazier than usual. They opened up with their song Insou to Nebure and the next thing I knew, everyone started slam-dancing. Except, this wasn't the usual Indies slam-dancing. Usually, at these shows, the girls all hop up and down waving their arms and pushing each other along the sides of the stage. But this time it was more of a mosh-pit than any kind of slam-dancing. Everyone just started pushing and shoving and throwing each other around. There was a side-to-side hop in there somewhere but... for the most part everyone just slammed into each other as hard as possible. I felt like I was getting knocked around like a pinball. I would jump into people thinking I had the upper hand and then, suddenly, someone would slam me in the other direction. People were falling and getting trampled and others were fleeing. I had at least ten different moments where I thought I was going to get slammed to the floor and trampled. I glanced at some of the male fans in the back while doing this and saw their faces lit up with shock and... blood thirst. I know that look... that's the look guys get when they're suddenly incited to fuck shit up. Crazy shit. Thankfully, because of indies etiquette rules, we could all reclaim our spots when the slam-dancing ended.

Anyways, I kept a close eye on 『L.』 whenever I could. He was still acting as though his presence was expected. However, there was strange look on his face a lot of the time. It was a difficult face to interpret. "Restrained" was the first word that came to mind. I felt as though, even though 『L.』's mask was tied to the microphone stand, he was still wearing an invisible mask. He was strangely blank-faced. Or like his expressions weren't matching the emotion in his eyes... which was mostly blank. But that's to be expected, I suppose. The thought occurred to me that he probably had to be on his best behavior since he was still in trouble for the Sendai concert. It was possible that the restraint I was seeing had to do with 『L.』 feeling like he couldn't act the way he wanted to. Hmm... we shall see...

Anyways, the show was really crazy. Nesting Girl was on the barrier as usual. There was also a girl in a pink maid dress. I thought that was really stupid, but she wound up being one of the fiercest, scariest fans there. Sometimes I had to get out of the way because she would crouch down and headbang so much that she'd start to trip towards me.

Anyways, I should bring up something that I didn't realize until after the show. Apparently, 『L.』 had been dropping massive hints on his blog that he would be at the one-man. In one post, he listed his feelings and expectations about the one-man:

1. We were going to bring umbrellas or raincoats
2. We were going to get dirty
3. He hoped someone would cosplay as him
4. We would all kneel before him

Aha... I wish I had read his blog before the show... He also dropped hints about hoping there would be some girls dressed as maids or nurses at the show.

So that explains a lot. Nesting Girl was just fulfilling 『L.』's desire for a cosplay of him, and that girl in the pink maid outfit was fulfilling his desire to see a girl in a maid dress. Would all his expectations be filled at the show? I guess we shall see...

Back to the barrier... it became very clear to me that one girl in particular was the true "club leader." She's been at all the shows I've been to and I believe she's only half Japanese. She looks half. She has kinda wavy brown hair and she's tall and she has somewhat creased eyes. She only speaks Japanese but I think she's half. Anyways, she really controls the show and pulls all the strings. And she's crazy. She's obviously a Nobro fan, and all the craziest sounds and wild jumping come from her.

The show continued on and it was clear that the band was putting their all into it. Nobro was spazzing and growling and both Kiyuki and Yuuri had looks of extreme concentration on their faces. I still can't get used to seeing Kiyuki's real face. He always wore that Hannibal Lecter mask, so I've only seen his face twice now. It's a nice face and all, it's just... surprising. Everyone really seemed to be giving it their all.

When it was time for an MC, Nobro didn't seem particularly interested in saying anything. Then again, he never does. He seemed to be waiting for 『L.』 to say something instead, but 『L.』's microphone was unplugged and he couldn't find the end of the cord. 『L.』 was standing there reeling the cord through his hands and laughing while Nobro stared at him like he was retarded. Eventually, 『L.』 got the microphone working and started talking. He teased us about seeming surprised to see him (obviously not everyone knew he would be there). He also teased Nesting Girl and called her his "copy." Yes... yes she is. In so many ways. He also commented on how strange it was to see so many guys at the show. He said it was a good thing and he was glad to see it. The boys in the back yelled their approval. The rest of the band was hiding smiles.

Anyways, they went back to playing music. At some point, 『L.』 came up to the crate beside Nobro and put his arm around him. Nobro kept glancing at 『L.』 with a very uninterpretable look on his face. I'd always sensed an odd tension between the two of them and now it seemed stronger than ever. It's like the two have a friendly rivalry of sorts. Nobro's glances weren't annoyed exactly but... I dunno, they weren't entirely hospitable either.

The band also played some new music that we'd never heard before. This meant we had no furi or other movements figured out ahead of time. This was the Club Leader's job to figure out. We all paid careful attention to what the half Japanese girl was doing and followed her. Even if some people started to do some furi, if the Club Leader decided to do something different during a certain part, everyone changed and followed her. It's kind of an interesting process.

At some point, Nobro started to lose his cool. He reached towards his chest to start clawing himself, then realized he'd covered himself in plaster and had no access to his skin. Instead, he just scratched angrily at the flakes, exposing the red paint underneath. Then he continued his Kyo mimicry and began to fish-hook, which is when you put your fingers in your mouth and scratch inside your cheeks until you bleed. Nobro bent over and cut inside his mouth over and over again. While he did this, 『L.』 suddenly looked up from his guitar playing and watched. This was the first moment where I began to feel uneasy with the show. Usually, 『L.』 stays in his own little bubble while playing, or he teases the crowd. But this time his eyes were locked on Nobro and he was watching him very quietly and with a contemplative look on his face. I'd never seen 『L.』 look like that before.

Anyways, remember how 『L.』 jokingly said we would kneel before him at the show? Obviously, he was kidding, but during one of his guitar solos, the entire audience suddenly dropped to their knees and began waving their arms in the air. Surprised, I fell to my knees as well. This alone was touching and sad but then the look 『L.』 gave us when he saw what we were doing... that's when it suddenly hit me how horrible his departure would be. He stared at the crowd and then knit his eyebrows together and stuck out his bottom lip in an exaggerated pout. It's like the face you make when someone tells you a really sad story. He looked so touched and so sorry all at the same time.

Eventually, the band left. Before they did, Nobro tossed his water bottle. Somehow, in a move that surprised even me, the bottle soared over my head and I reached behind me with my left hand (my non-dominant hand) and caught the bottle in mid-air. Even I surprised myself with that one (even though I've been known to catch things out of the air at shows). The audience was kind of staring at me like "wow..."

Now it was time to start calling encore. Ashley and I continued to clap and yell "an-ko-re!" ("encore!") with everyone. At one point we faltered and stopped calling and the girl in front of us turned around and started encouraging us to clap. Wow, we really are in the club all of a sudden, aren't we?

Eventually, the door on the side of the stage opened and out walked 『L.』. He told us that, because the rest of the band was taking a long time to get ready, he was going to come out and talk to us (though I'm pretty sure the band was stalling on purpose so that he could be alone with the audience). The whole time he talked, he played a sort of flirting game with us. He would say things like "ah, a few days ago I thought to myself, 'hmm, maybe I shouldn't quit...'" to which the entire audience would start screaming "Yamenaide! Yamenaide!" ("Don't quit! Don't quit!"). He even told us he had second thoughts that morning. The response? "Yamenaide! Yamenaide!" Still, he said he'd given it a lot of thought and he was definitely going to leave. He told us it's "fukuzatsu" ("complicated") and that it was time for a change. Then he decided to introduce the rest of the band one by one.

First he introduced Yuuri, who walked out on stage... without any make-up on! Whoa! Yuuri's hair was flat and he was make-up-less and wearing tight, purple pants and a t-shirt. Yuuri came on stage and smiled. The thought never even occurred to me that the members of VAJRA could smile, but that was a real smile. The audience started yelling "Ojiiiiisan!" at him. Huh, so apparently the VAJRA fans refer to Yuuri as "Old Man." What, is he like a whopping 25 years old or something? He's probably the oldest, though. Yuuri came out and stood behind his microphone stand. 『L.』 then began to explain his history with the other members. He said he'd known Kiyuki for two years, and he'd known Yuuri and Nobro for four years. Incredibly enough, he's known Rohan for five. He explained that he first encountered Yuuri and Nobro through an internet classified looking for a guitarist to be in a visual-kei band. He thought they looked really cool and wanted to join. 『L.』 started talking about how the members became like a family. As he explained this, I noticed Yuuri's lip trembling. A moment later, he grabbed his towel and started wiping at his eyes. Then I realized... oh god, Yuuri was crying... Oh god... 『L.』 didn't notice and kept talking, but Yuuri's whole face was red from holding back tears. Eventually, the audience stirred enough to cause 『L.』 to glance over and notice Yuuri's face. He was like "...are you crying?" Yuuri kept wiping his eyes with his towel and waving his hand in the air, signaling 『L.』 to keep talking. Still, 『L.』 seemed a little surprised and started expressing his amazement at how much his departure was affecting people. Yuuri kept waving his hand and the audience started yelling "Naite! Naite!" at him, which is like yelling at him to just cry and let it out. So 『L.』 did what he does best and said some silly stuff to make Yuuri laugh. At that point, Rohan and Kiyuki were introduced and brought out on stage. Kiyuki came out shirtless! Whoa! And neither of them had their make-up on! 『L.』 continued to talk about the band's history and how much fun they've had together. Kiyuki tried to crack jokes to keep the mood light while Rohan nodded and smiled in the background. I sensed that they just didn't know what to say about the situation. The whole time they bantered, Yuuri's chin was wrinkled and his lip was trembling and his face was red. Tears kept flooding his eyes over and over again. I felt so sorry for him. A couple of girls on the barrier were wiping away tears as well. There's nothing worse than seeing a grown man cry...

Eventually, 『L.』 decided it was time to introduce the band's resident psychopath: Nobro! Everyone started calling Nobro's name but... no one showed up. The band looked around, confused. 『L.』 just started laughing, saying it's just like Nobro to be totally antisocial and not even go out on the stage when he's supposed to. Finally, Yuuri went over to the stage door and peeked his head through it, looking for Nobro. He managed to hustle Nobro out on the stage and there was Nobro, his hair flat, the plaster gone, completely make-up-less. I've never seen him without make-up before. His resemblance to Kyo diminished quite suddenly. He also seemed a lot smaller like that, and I came to realize what a tiny guy Nobro is. He came out and took the microphone but still didn't have anything to say. 『L.』 continued to talk about his time in the band, and Nobro just stood there, sipping at his water bottle. Still, I have to give Nobro credit for one thing (which I've noticed before)... he is an unbelievably sarcastic person. Generally speaking, Japanese people don't entirely understand sarcasm. They can be taught it, but a lot of them don't really get it off the bat. Not Nobro. He wasn't going to play 『L.』's flirting game. 『L.』 kept making jokes like "aaaaw, but I love my band sooo much, they don't want me to leave, do they?" Then Nobro would raise an eyebrow, smirk, and say something like, "We'll be fine, buh-bye!" and wave 『L.』 away. This is what I mean about the tension between the two of them. Like, I don't think Nobro actually wants 『L.』 to leave, but he puts on this face like he can't get rid of 『L.』 fast enough. I think the two of them are having some private war with each other that they both secretly enjoy. 『L.』 smirked and told the audience that Nobro cried the day before because 『L.』 was leaving. Nobro didn't deny this, but he still raised an eyebrow and gave 『L.』 the driest look I think I've ever seen a Japanese person give. Still, a few times 『L.』 got Nobro to give us a legitimate smile. I've never seen him smile before. When he smiles, his resemblance to Kyo drops down to zero. He has a big, white-toothed, wrinkly-nosed smile that is painfully adorable. Some of the girls in the back started going "ah, kawaiiii!" ("cuuuuute!") which is kind of a no-no but still, I have to admit... Nobro really is adorable when he smiles. Yuuri just continued sobbing to himself on stage left.

More and more I thought, "why?" Why, damnit?! Why is 『L.』 leaving?! The audience doesn't want him to leave... the band doesn't want him to leave... and, to be perfectly honest, 『L.』 doesn't seem to want to leave either. 『L.』 did a good job of hiding his feelings under all those jokes but every now and then he would suddenly choke on a word. Occasionally, he even started shaking. He was trying very hard to hold down his own tears. So why, then? No one wants him to leave! I was becoming more and more upset with the situation by the second.

Finally, the band decided it was time to get back to music... mostly because Nobro seemed annoyed with all the talking. 『L.』 asked him if he wanted to pick up the MC and Nobro was like "mmmm...no." Well, if Nobro has nothing to say, then it's music time!

Things got really nuts during the encore. A lot of the boys pushed up, especially because 『L.』 and Nobro kept encouraging them to push up. People were headbanging and throwing their fists fiercer than I've ever seen at an indies concert. The encore opened with a new song called Shousoukan Spiral ~ Toaru Harenohi no Zetsubou. Looooong title. Kind of a hilariously emo name, too. If I'm translating this correctly, the title would translate: "A Spiral of Impatient Feelings ~ The Despair of a Fine Day." I can't remember if it was this song, but I just remember that, when the song started, there was a funny clicking and popping sound which turned out to be Rohan's metronome. Rohan looked really embarrassed and the band stopped playing and checked around to see what was causing the sound. 『L.』 laughed and he was like "you guys weren't supposed to hear that." They got it fixed pretty quickly, though. Well, anyways, the song was very hard and intense.

So things were going along just fine and Nobro was shrieking and growling and singing into the microphone. Then, suddenly, the color seemed to drain from his face. In that instant, I remembered something Nobro had talked about on his blog. Apparently, he suffers from low blood pressure and even jokingly refers to himself as Misutaa Teiketsuatsu (Mister Low Blood Pressure). So yeah, the color literally just drained from Nobro's face. Although he was still singing, he reached out one unsteady hand and started groping blindly in the air for the crate. He finally found it and leaned down, holding onto the edge of it. He seemed to be trying to regain his composure... with little success. He sat down very slowly on the crate with a dazed, sickly look on his face. That's when I realized he was starting to pass out.  Anyways, Nobro is very good friends with Kiyuki, who must be used to these episodes. Nobro started fall down on the crate and Kiyuki, with shockingly fast reflexes, lunged forward and put his hands behind Nobro's head to cushion him and help him slowly lay down. At that point, Nobro just stopped singing and went limp (although he still seemed to be conscious). In my mind I was just going "oooooh shit." Anyways, Kiyuki stepped back and returned to playing his guitar once Nobro was lying down (which is definitely the professional thing to do). Yuuri also seemed to know how to deal with Nobro's low blood pressure and rushed in front of the crate and gently propped Nobro's legs up in a bent position to help bring his blood pressure back up. Then he stood there, somewhat blocking Nobro from view while he recovered. Poor kid... fainting is not fun... Actually, Nobro and the band were both so stealthy about the whole thing that I don't even think the entire audience realized what was going. If you can believe it, they almost made it look like it was on purpose. Nobro, still not entirely unconscious, must have realized this and thought of a great way to make the whole thing seem intentional. His eyes were rolling back in his head and, at first, it seemed it was just because he was passing out. Then I realized that the little fucker had somehow managed to unzip his pants and pull them down while he was still lying there. So... what was he doing? Um... masturbating, it seems. No, really, I'm not even kidding... I mean, I've seen other J-Rock vocalists do that kind of stuff now and then (Kyo used to stuff his hands down his pants a lot... or there's a video of Gara from MERRY pulling his pants all the way off and having a hand party on stage). Still, what Nobro was doing looked truly filthy. Kiyuki came back over to check on Nobro and see if he was okay, only to go a little bug-eyed and back away when he saw what Nobro was doing. Um, yeah, it seemed Nobro was a little more than okay. Nobro continued to gratify himself while lying on the crate and... he seemed pretty reluctant to stop. Eventually, he forced himself up and wandered around the stage looking frustrated while pulling his pants up and re-zipping. Um... wow... Thanks Nobro, that's not something you get to see everyday. I think he may have discovered the most effective way to get over low blood pressure quickly...

Anyways, other than Nobro fainting, the encore went along just fine. After a couple of songs, the band left yet again. Still, the lights didn't go back up and everyone started shouting for another encore. While we were shouting, a spray of water suddenly shot out from over the curtain against the wall and splashed all over everyone. We could hear muffled laughter from the other side. Nobro was shooting water at us from over the curtain, lol. Little bastard... See, the band's dressing room was actually just part of the audience floor with a curtain pulled over it. The band had been spying on us through the curtain and Nobro was standing right there, giggling as he chucked water at us.

Finally, the band returned. 『L.』 walked out alone again and ignored us as we all shouted. He turned his back to us and refused to acknowledge the audience's cries. Then he glanced over his shoulder at us and said "daikirai naaa" ("I hate you guys"). Everyone kept screaming while he looked angry and annoyed with us. Then he burst out laughing and he was like "kidding!" He's such a tease, goddamn.

Anyways, the band decided to replay a song they'd already played, namely that one VAJRA song that pisses off everyone for being a total rip-off of Dir en grey's Reiketsu Nariseba. It's one hell of a rip-off but... the song is hella fun live. They decided to get this song running for a good fifteen minutes straight, but I'll be damned if it wasn't really fun. And insane. All sorts of insanity happened during this song. First of all, stupid 『L.』 came through on his warning about getting us dirty. First, he did the very same thing he got in trouble for and started shooting water all over the audience and the floor in an attempt to get us to slip. And slip we did. People were tripping and crashing to the floor all around us (many of these girls were barefoot or only wearing socks or fabric shoes). I was surprised to see 『L.』 doing this despite the whole "being in trouble and getting put on house arrest" thing. But you know what? 『L.』 didn't stop there. Nooooo, he had to take it one step further. Suddenly, much to everyone's surprise and horror, 『L.』 whipped out a water bottle filled with some red liquid. It seemed to be Kool-Aid. Next thing we know, he's spraying the entire audience with fucking red Kool-Aid. Some people scattered but most, like me, decided that for 『L.』's last show, we could take it. Ashley and I got absolutely soaked head to toe in Kool-Aid. Worst part? I was wearing white. If I had read 『L.』's blog and noticed his little hint about us getting dirty, I never would've worn white. Oh well... Everyone was standing there laughing hysterically and dripping in red Kool-Aid. A bunch of girls had their school uniforms absolutely covered in the stuff. As disgusting and sticky as it was, it was pretty damn funny. My whole face and arms and shirt were covered in it.

The most shocking moment of the night came soon after that. Some might recall in my first ever blog post about VAJRA, I mentioned that Ashley had recommended that I see the band because the guitarist was so insane that "he punches people." I wasn't sure what this was supposed to mean, but I was assured that by "punching" Ashley meant "punching hard enough to send girls crashing to the floor." Unfortunately, I never got to see 『L.』 actually do this. Well, that is until yesterday... You know, I've seen a lot in my day, but I don't think anything could have mentally prepared me for actually seeing that one. 『L.』 came up to the front of the stage like his usual self and then, all of a sudden, it was like this black hatred clouded his face and, in that very instant, his eyes flashed and he punched a girl in the face as hard as he could. In that very same second he punched out the girl in the pink maid dress and Nesting Girl. They all got slammed straight to the floor by the sheer force of his blow. The first girl scampered out of the way, not wanting to be in 『L.』's warpath any longer. Pink Maid Girl and Nesting Girl both jumped right back up, but that black hatred still hadn't left 『L.』's face. He seemed to be possessed. His eyes were burning with black flames. It was truly terrifying. When those two girls got up, 『L.』 barely gave them a second to breathe before he suddenly kicked them each in the face as fast and as hard as he could. Nesting Girl got kicked right in the eye. The two girls both collapsed to the floor again, clutching their faces in agony. This time they didn't get up. They just continued to twist and writhe on the floor, clutching their faces. Nesting Girl looked like she was fighting back the urge to start crying. I stared at 『L.』, and his face still seemed possessed by some kind of demonic power. I've seen all sorts of things at indies, but most of it has been harmless or playfully violent in a way that's just for fun. This was different. For the first time ever, I felt afraid of a J-Rocker. That look on his face as he glared harshly upon the two girls writhing on the floor below him... he wasn't 『L.』 in that moment... After a few seconds, the blackness seemed to clear from 『L.』's eyes. He seemed to suddenly realize what he'd done. When he saw that the two girls weren't getting up, a moment of doubt crossed his face. Perhaps he realized he'd gone too far. So, what did 『L.』 do? Why, flee the scene, of course. He immediately ran to the other side of the stage and left the two girls clutching their faces on the floor. But I've got to hand it to them... within a minute, the two girls had gotten back up and were back on the barrier, throwing the horns and screaming as if they hadn't just been punched and kicked in the face as hard as possible by a grown male. I'd been told that Nesting Girl leaped back to her feet immediately when Ashley and my friend Megan saw her get punched out by 『L.』. I, myself, have seen Nesting Girl's amazing recovery time after getting her hip smashed on the barrier during a show (which also made her collapse to the floor). These girls... they're so resilient... When 『L.』 saw them safely on their feet, he made his way back over to the right side of the stage as if nothing had even happened.

At this point, we were all so worked up that people were just saying fuck it to a lot of the furi and just headbanging and going crazy. I myself lost control and was headbanging so much that I came to realize I'd knocked a girl out of her spot without meaning to. At this point, guys were giving in to the blood thirst and rushing up into the crowd. Nobro was reaching out and grabbing boys by their heads and dragging them up to the barrier. 『L.』 finally lost his cool so completely that he hurtled himself off the stage and started running around amongst the crowd. Then he ran up to the front, shoved Nesting Girl and her friends out of the way and started jumping on the barrier himself. He even had some kind of wrestling match with Nesting Girl. It was complete and utter chaos.

And then, just as soon as it had all begun, it was over. Everyone was soaking wet with water and Kool-Aid. Nobro was snarling as people began to crowd in around him. Nobro began to take huge mouthfuls of water and spray it all over the audience. 『L.』 was dumping water all over people's heads. Everyone's faces were glowing with excitement and happiness.

『L.』 was waving at everyone and laughing. Nobro cast a glance at him, then at us, then left the stage without a word. Rohan came out from behind his drum-set and he and 『L.』 hugged. Then, before we knew it, the band had left the stage. Some of the girls started crying. At that point, the sadness crashed down on top of me and I started crying too. Some of my happiest memories in Japan were at indies concerts... and a large quantity of those happy memories came from VAJRA. And now VAJRA, this thing that made me so happy, was being amputated.

As people were milling around grabbing their stuff and using their drink tickets, 『L.』 truly did the right thing and came out behind the merchandise table to talk to everyone. Everyone crowded around him and started chatting. I wasn't listening in or anything but everyone's faces were glowing as they talked to him. It's obvious that he realized how much his departure was affecting everyone. At one point, he invited Nesting Girl behind the table with him and gave her a side hug. He also decided he wanted to go talk to the boys that showed up so he left the table and walked around, bowing and thanking fans and chatting with anyone who wanted to chat. Fans were giving him gifts and cards with well-wishes. Of course, 『L.』 is still 『L.』,so he continued to goof off with the fans. The fans goofed off right back. One fan took a swig of water and told 『L.』 to kiss her. He leaned in to give her a kiss and she spat the water right in his face. 『L.』 just laughed (as did everyone else). Back at the merchandise booth, Nesting Girl decided that, since she was dressed like 『L.』 and 『L.』 was busy, she was going to man the merchandise booth in his stead. The woman actually selling merch was laughing while Nesting Girl held up the photo sets and started yelling out prices at everyone. She's such a silly girl. Ashley and I were waiting for a chance to at least thank 『L.』, but it was almost impossible to get near him. He noticed us hovering but he was a little trapped. At one point, he started talking to The Club Leader and he used her as a way to test whether or not we spoke Japanese. He told The Club Leader that she's very "gaijin-poi" ("foreigner-like") because she's "tall" and "has big boobs" so she should hang out with "those two", and gestured towards Ashley and me. The two of us cringed a little and The Club Leader waved her arm towards us with a look on her face like "um, I think they speak Japanese." 『L.』 just made a face like "aha." Eventually, 『L.』 broke free a little and came up to us. He thanked us and Ashley and I thanked him as well. He asked us if we had any wounds. Wow. Ashley told him we were fine. Then he shook hands with both of us and we told him that we had a great time and that we were sad he was leaving. He gave Ashley a hug and patted me consolingly on the arm. Then he told us, with some of the only English he knows: "see you later yo ne" ("yo ne" is like the Japanese way of saying "yeah?" at the end of a sentence). It was one of the saddest things anyone has ever said to me. Then 『L.』 bowed and walked away and threw one last "ja mata!" ("see you later!") over his shoulder at us.

See you later yo ne, indeed.

After that, Ashley and I left the venue and went to Denny's (which is totally different from the Denny's in America). To get there, we walked around Shibuya soaked in Kool-Aid. We both looked like Carrie. We had streaks of red running down our faces. Luckily, Japan is a country that never asks why. When Nesting Girl was walking around in her 『L.』 cosplay, no one gave her a single glance. At Denny's they let us in without question. Then we went into the bathroom to scrub at least a little of the red off. Unfortunately, we forgot to lock the door. An old woman opened the door and muttered sorry. Then, when she saw what we were doing, her eyes widened and she repeated sorry again and ran away. Um... oops, lol.

I also came to realize that I was covered in battle scars. Wow. It must have come from the slam-dancing-turned-moshing that happened. At least, I think so... I don't know how else it would have happened.

Ashley and I also pulled out the free CDs that the band gave us to discover that one side is the new Spiral song and the other side was a CD... signed by all the members. Even 『L.』. Aw hell... Here, check this out:


I like how Rohan's signature is a kitty. Goddamnit, you guys... making me sad like this...

Anyways, Ashley and I finally left Denny's and dragged ourselves miserably home to continue to be depressed. On the way home, I ran into the neighborhood cat whom I've seen many times. He's a very fat black and white cat with a bell on his collar. Every time I see him, I manage to get a little closer before he runs away. One day, he rolled over for me but my bag fell off my shoulder and scared him off. But yesterday, as I was walking in a cloud of misery, the cat didn't move. He just watched me approach closer and closer. Finally, I held out my hand and let him sniff it. I saw on his collar that the fat cat's name is Hippo. Perfect. Anyways, he sniffed my hand and didn't move, but I wasn't sure so I held out my hand again. He batted my hand out of the way with his head as if to say "I said yes already, why aren't you petting me yet?!" Then he started rubbing against my leg and purring. I crouched down and started rubbing him behind his ears and under his chin and commenting on what a fat kitty he is. Then I petted him for awhile until I thought he'd get annoyed and went home.

And I guess.... that's my story. That's the post. I was able to wash out the Kool-Aid pretty easily. When my host family told me to take a bath, I smuggled the shirt in with me and scrubbed it down with a loofah and some shampoo. It took out the Kool-Aid stains within minutes.

As for 『L.』... So yes, as I said, he and Kiyuki are going to play in a session band on June 6th with a friend of theirs. 『L.』 also assured everyone during his MCs that he wasn't going to stop hanging out with the band and being friends with them. He said they were all going to remain a family and stay close. As for where 『L.』 goes now... I don't know, but he's already changed his name. His name is now Eru, which is pronounced exactly the same as his name was before (the Japanese pronouncation of the letter "L" is "eru"). His name is in kanji, however. For those whose computers can read Chinese characters, his new name is 絵流 which has a meaning of like "style of drawing" or "school of art" or something like that. But his name is still pronounced the same way as Eru. He used to write his name like that on the blog, but now he's credited that way on band schedules and at future shows. The 『L.』 spelling seems to be gone. I suppose Eru will be easier to type from now on. He's continuing on his blog as before and continuing to make announcements for VAJRA. And he still sounds doubtful about his departure, which is sad. But I guess it's too late to take it back now.

As some parting words on the subject, I translated Eru's blog post about the event:

Good morning. You must all be exhausted from the one-man at Shibuya Chelsea Hotel.

Yesterday was so much fun I almost died. It was a somewhat lonely, somewhat sad, very complicated feeling but...

As VAJRA's Eru, I think I became happy.

You are all my pride.
Just this one time, words have failed me.
It's an indescribable feeling of being touched, thankful, loved.

I truly have no words!

Anyways, so long as you were all able to have fun from the heart, I don't need anything more than that.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I love you all.

In a post the next day he joked about how we all looked like we were covered in blood after he was through with us. He also commented on how "fevered" the boys in the audience looked. He also mentioned how creepy it felt to wake up and not be a part of VAJRA anymore.

So yeah, I guess that's about it.

See you later yo ne.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Valluna Two-Night Tour

Sorry for this blog being so late! I'm on almost no sleep and this took me forever to write. Okay, let's go...

Iiiiiit's time for another adventure! Whoohoo! Today's adventure is two nights worth of adventure! Valluna was having two one-man concerts in a row and the tickets were so cheap that Ashley and I simply couldn't refuse!

You might recall the story of how I got these tickets in the first place... it was my first physical ninja-ing of a ticket. A show we were at was selling the Valluna tickets as a shuffle with both nights at a combined cost of only $40. But Ashley and I still didn't have enough money on us. This prompted me to run out of the venue, across a lot, into a convenience store, tackle the ATM machine, withdraw money, and run back to the venue before they stopped selling the tickets. And it was a success! Ashley and I grabbed our shuffle-tickets and ran away happy.

Anyways, both Valluna concerts were being held at Ikebukuro Black Hole, which is a venue I talked about when I went to the Kaya concert. It's the one that's like being inside a giant, black GameCube.

Anyhoo, let's get to the actual band, shall we! Today's (once again) featured band is Valluna:

We've had other adventures with Valluna, such as the free concert that was S&M-themed. We're not new to Valluna. Valluna is the kind of band that toys with my tastes. On the one hand, they're rather hard-core and the music has a good dark feel to it sometimes. On the other hand, they can be rather cutesy, with really silly, indies-type music. This type of combination tends to drive me crazy (my low tolerance for cuteness and silliness is well known), but Valluna's performances are always insane enough to lure me back in regardless of what I think of their music (which is really just a mixed bag with me).

Anyways, because this blog is going to cover two nights, I'm just going to detail amusing highlights and silly tidbits.

Day 1

Ikebukuro Black Hole is down a seedy side street with sketchy bars and clubs. Ashley and I were goofing off while waiting for the doors to open and found a totally awesome sign that we felt the need to pose in front of.

Here's Ashley posing in front of the Hyper Sexy Club:

Aaaand here's me in front of the Hyper Sexy Club:



Anyways, we were goofing off trying to waste time. Goofing off involved singing the opening theme to Pokemon, which prompted the other Japanese girls in line to start watching us and giggling. Ashley's umbrella also broke, so we hid it behind someone's bike, lol.

Eventually, a staff member came out and started calling numbers individually. The tickets were done by shuffle, meaning we received numbers at random. Ashley had the better number the first night with ticket #30, while I had #83.

Eventually, I got in and saw Ashley sitting in the third row all the way on the left (because we really like the left with Kirimaru and SAKURA). I quickly joined her, and we began lamenting what appeared to be a very small crowd. A very small crowd. Maybe only seventy people or so. We figured it was because it was a weekday. Oh well. Black Hole's staff also continued to be assholes like at the Kaya concert. The barrier at Black Hole is tall, metal, and un-padded. Naturally, the girls on the barrier put their jackets and sweatshirts over it to give the barrier some cushioning when they need to jump on it or do saizen (the booty-bumping). But no, the staff told them they couldn't put stuff on the barrier! What a bunch of bullshit! That barrier fucking hurts! Well, everyone hid their shit and put it on the barrier anyways once the show started.

The intro started and the band came out. As always we have shy, stoic Kei on the right guitar; girly, cutesy KANADE on the drums; totally insane, freaky, super-pierced Kirimaru on the bass; tough, manly SAKURA on the left guitar; and scary, bug-eyed, sexy yo-ka on vocals. They make up quite an odd group. I really like these guys... except KANADE. He keeps trying to be cute to make the audience like him and it's obnoxious. If you're going to act like an idiot, I'm going to treat you like one.

Anyways, as always, there was lots of crazy head-banging and jumping. But, because it's Valluna, we also had really stupid side-stepping and other cutesy activities. Oh, Valluna...

Amusing tidbits...

Okay, so I adore Kirimaru and all but he's totally blind. His vision is horrendously bad but he always insists on wearing really insane contact lenses to look crazy. In fact, here's a picture of him with his contacts:


This wouldn't be a big deal except that Japan doesn't have prescription colored contacts - especially not for contacts that fill your entire eye. The result is that Kirimaru looks cool... but can't see anything. According to his blog, he fell down the stairs before the show even started because he couldn't see. Then, during the show, he consistently walked head-first into the dangling microphone and knocked his brains out. Sometimes a band member would come up to Kirimaru to be all buddy-buddy and put an arm around him but, because Kirimaru can't see, Kirimaru would jump out of his skin in shock at the sudden touch. The contacts are cool and all but... Kirimaru, I think it might be better if you just wore your glasses, lol.

Yo-ka was also up to his usual insanity. He seems to have gotten into hair-pulling. I mean, he was always pulling girls' hair but now he does it more than usual. Normally, he just grabs a girl by the hair, tugs her around a little, then lets her go. But this one girl... this one girl just wouldn't give in. Yo-ka bugged out his enormous eyes and glared at her and she stared right back. Trying to intimidate, yo-ka grabbed her by the hair and shook her violently, then bugged out his eyes again. Surprisingly, not only did the girl not look away, but she had the audacity to throw the horns in his face while he still had her hair. He backed up, surprised, but still stared at her. Somehow the two came to a draw and yo-ka pulled away. But I think yo-ka really wanted to win that intimidation contest because later on he went up to the same girl and spat water right in her face, hahaha. Props to you, girl, for standing up to him!

The band was really into the show despite the small (and kinda obnoxious) crowd. SAKURA decided not to tease Ashley and me about sucking at the furi hand motions. We had the motions down better this time so he left us alone other than smiling or nodding in our direction. Yo-ka, as usual, tended to grab girls by their heads or put his body out into the crowd. SAKURA decided to join in on this as well. At one point, however, he wound up leaning his whole body onto one of the barrier girls and the result was one tiny girl holding up most of SAKURA with her back. She was facing the audience and laughing while she propped SAKURA up on the barrier but... it kind of looked like she was getting crushed.
Yo-ka also did his usual "make orgasm noises and shake and go cross-eyed and be crazy" routine. Not to be outdone, Kirimaru spent most of the show twitching and jerking in the background and generally acting like he was being electrocuted. And chewing on his lip rings and waggling his pierced tongue at everyone. Sometimes I think he might have a few screws loose. Or he was missing some screws to begin with. Ashley and I have sometimes pondered whether Kirimaru is superficially crazy or actually crazy. Is he just pretending to be insane for fun, or is he really nutty? Things became clearer last night when Kirimaru decided to unbutton his shirt and claw his chest to bleeding point for seemingly no reason. I hadn't expected it and was quite stunned.  Later on, he posted a picture of what he did and wrote "my chest hurts." Well noooo shit, Sherlock. So I guess our theories that Kirimaru might not be all right in the head are holding up quite nicely. Don't worry, Kirimaru, we like you crazy anyways.

When the band came back for MC, Kei got tangled in SAKURA's guitar wires and couldn't get out. Poor chap looked really embarrassed. Kirimaru appeared on stage with a giant, white mannequin-doll thing. I mentioned these dolls in the Valluna free live blog and I was surprised to see the band still had these things with them. Anyways, continuing with our theories, Ashley and I have always suspected that Kirimaru doesn't like that the audience thinks he's more cute than scary. Well, Kirimaru decided to come out dragging this doll and everyone was being all like, "Yay! Kirimaru! Kawaiiii!" and making cute sounds. Kirimaru's response was to swing the doll up over his head and smash it down on the crate as hard as he could. The snapping sound was horrible, and the whole audience jumped in surprise. Hehehe. Then Kirimaru started holding up the doll and being weird. SAKURA smirked and high-kicked the doll out of Kirimaru's hands. Kirimaru, who is blind, seemed a little surprised. Kirimaru then proceeded to slide the doll over the drum set and hand it to KANADE. KANADE looked legitimately creeped out and was looking at Kirimaru like, "what do you want me to do with it...?" Kirimaru kept pushing it towards KANADE, who was finally forced to frown and take the doll and put it behind the drum set. Weeeeeird.

Anyways, for the MC, yo-ka had some important announcements. He says the band is going to embark on a "zenkoku tsuua" which is a tour all across Japan. He says the band is going to play from Hokkaido down to Okinawa. This is a pretty big deal for an indies band, especially when you consider the huge exposure you get. He also announced that the band would be doing a show in... New York! Huh. Fancy that. I don't know any details other than that but... sounds like the band is going to take a peek at America, lol. As an amusing side-note, when yo-ka paused during his MC, this one girl in the back shouted out "yo-ka kakkoii!" ("yo-ka's hot!"). Yo-ka snorted and said "shitteru, shitteru" ("I know, I know"). Oh yo-ka... Well, he is...

Anyways, general goofing off ensued after the MC. At one point, Kirimaru decided to kiss yo-ka, which was a little surprising. It made all the stupid pre-teen girls jump up and down giggling. Yo-ka also decided to spit water in Kirimaru's face but, because Kirimaru's blind, he didn't realize it till the water splatted all over him. The look on Kirimaru's face was priceless. It's like the look a baby gets on its face when you feed it something disgusting. It was pretty awesome.

A moment of vengeance for the audience... Yo-ka got us all to do the sideways slam-dancing where everyone hops in a big crowd across the front of the stage back and forth. This is hard to do, and someone almost always falls and gets trampled. Anyways, stupid yo-ka started hopping with us and tripped, wiped out, and fell right on his ass. No worries, though, he hopped up immediately and laughed (the whole band was laughing at him). Now he knows how it feels!

Anyways, when the band was finished, the usual pick-tossing occurred. SAKURA threw a pick but it landed on the ground between the people in front of me. No one noticed it was there, so I shrugged and crouched down and picked it up. It's very shiny and has the band's name and SAKURA's name written on it in red. I have a picture of the pick at the end of this post because there's a funny story that goes with it. Anyways, I didn't know what to do with the pick so I stuck it in my boot for safe keeping. When the show was over, I took off my boot and saw the pick sitting next to my shoe. I thought that was kind of weird but it must have been stuck to the bottom of my foot. I picked it up and put the pick in my wallet, then put my boot back on.

Anyways, that was basically Day 1. If I seem unenthusiastic above, it's because Day 1 wasn't that great (not the band's fault, I just hate small crowds). Anyways, Day 2 was a billion times better, so let's move on, shall we?

Day 2

So Ashley and I were back in school since it was a Tuesday. We were wasting time between classes and decided to eat at a place near campus. On the way back, something in my shoe was driving me crazy. It was making me totally nuts. A strange thought struck me and I took off my boot as soon as we sat back down. Sure enough... I found SAKURA's pick in my boot! But wait a minute... I whipped out my wallet and found... the other pick! Wait, two picks?! It suddenly dawned on me what had happened. When I took off my boot and saw a pick near my boot, I thought it was the same pick. I picked up that pick and left the original in my boot. The result was that I walked around with SAKURA's pick in my boot all day without knowing it, lol! And now I had two picks! I gave the second pick to Ashley. I'm still not posting a picture yet because the pick saga continues later.

Anyhoo, when we got to Ikebukuro Black Hole around 6:30 we burst out laughing when we discovered... Ashley's umbrella was still sitting under the Hyper Sexy Club sign, right where we left it. Hahaha, awesome. We waited around being silly again, and started to realize that a lot more people were showing up for the second night. Thank gawd. I had the better ticket number the second night at a whopping #17. Ashley got my old ticket number and was #86. We were hoping my number would get us second row this time instead of third but... believe it or not, the two front rows were still overrun with everyone before me holding spaces. Oh well... Ashley and I wound up taking the exact same spot as the day before: third row as far to the left as possible.

Well, the crowd basically doubled in size the second night. Many, many more people. I was really glad for that.

Back to the band! Anyways, the show started quite suddenly when the curtain was pulled back and the band was already on stage. They ripped right into the first song except... yo-ka wasn't on the stage. Which was weird because we could hear him, uh... yelling and screaming. Everyone shrugged it off until we heard people making noises in the back. We turned around to discover that yo-ka had been hiding in the back of the venue and was now stomping through the crowd, shouting and screaming. A lot of the girls seemed afraid of yo-ka and were jumping out of his way. I, for one, just thought it was funny.

Anyhoo, yo-ka climbed back onto the stage and the show continued on as usual. Kirimaru was wearing totally different make-up and hair. And he still can't see shit.

Um... not that different from the first night, obviously (other than the part where it was way more fun). I'll just do the amusing tidbits and highlights talk...

Let's see... Ah, well, I was talking about how yo-ka scares some of the girls, right? Well, I dunno what went wrong here but at one point yo-ka ran up to this girl on the barrier, grabbed her by the hair, forced the microphone into her face, and made her scream the screaming part of the song. All that came out of her were some really pathetic, terrified noises. Then yo-ka let her go and ran off. Well, I think he must've literally scared the piss out of her because SAKURA looked very concerned and kept patting the girl on the head. A minute later, I guess she still looked traumatized because SAKURA crouched down and held her chin and was wording "are you okay?"-type things at her. Geez. I mean, yo-ka's crazy, but he's not gonna hurt anybody. I don't know why they're all so afraid of him.

During gyaku-daibu, when the girls in the front hung themselves over the barrier, the second row naturally moved forward and jumped backwards onto them. This one girl decided to disregard all etiquette and jump and then not get out of the way for other people. Second row wasn't quite giving us room either but eventually I just got annoyed and pushed them out of my way and jumped on the girls anyways. Ashley and I started clearing enough room to get some jumps in. Unfortunately, the girl just continued to block everyone. Well, I dunno how this happened so fast but... one minute I was moving forward, the next minute something knocked into me hard and I jumped out of the way. I looked over and what do I see? I see the annoying girl flying sideways, arms flailing, a look of shock on her face. And there's Ashley in a very obvious "I just lost it and slammed that girl" pose. Yeah... Ashley finally lost her cool and pretty much threw the girl all the way to the other side of the stage. Wow, lol. I didn't know a girl could fly so far, hahaha. The only problem was that I couldn't stop laughing. For at least another song, I would picture the moment over and over and start laughing uncontrollably.

SAKURA decided to pick on me again and started doing the whole "I can't heeeear you" thing at me. Look, I know I can't project to save my life, but teasing me for a good thirty seconds straight is embarrassing! I know he's like the "fatherly" member but... I'm going to suck no matter how much he encourages me, lol.

Oh, and Ashley and I have come up with a game so tedious, I gave up on it only a few songs in. The game is called: How Many Times Can You Count Yo-ka Looking in the Mirror at Himself. I'm not making this up... within three songs, he'd gone over to check himself out in the mirror seven times. Seven. I stopped counting after that. He's so obsessed with it. His hair and make-up have to be absolutely perfect at all times. I can't tell if he's vain, neurotic, or what.

Hmm... blah blah blah they did an MC... didn't say anything new. Kirimaru wandered dizzily back onto the stage as usual, paused, then seemed confused. Then he ran off stage and came back with something rather important that he forgot... namely, his bass. Then Kirimaru started tugging at the chains hanging from the ceiling as decoration, and accidentally ripped some of them down, leaving them dangling right in his face. Kirimaru looked a little surprised. Thankfully, the roadie is very smart and realized that Kirimaru would undoubtedly walk head-first into the chains. Said smart roadie ran out and removed them immediately. Also, at some point during the MC, Kirimaru pulled some leather strap off his outfit and started chewing on it like a rabbit. Everyone started laughing even while yo-ka was talking, so yo-ka abruptly stopped. When he realized the cause of the laughter was Kirimaru, he whipped around and was like "nani yatteru no?!" ("what the hell are you doing?!"). SAKURA smirked and was like "tabeteru" ("he's eating something"). Kirimaru pulled the leather out of his mouth and whipped around with an innocent look on his face like "nothing, nothing." When yo-ka figured out what Kirimaru was chewing on, he grabbed it and threw it into the audience, lol.

Probably one of the most amusing moments of the night came after the MC. Because we had a much larger crowd, yo-ka was able to do one of his favorite pastimes: crowd-surfing. Well, if you could call it that. Sometimes he just drapes half his body into the crowd and lets everyone grab him. Sometimes he sorta... dry humps everybody. And sometimes he throws his whole body into the crowd and rolls around. Well, for some reason he decided to be very trusting and jumped right into the crowd even though it wasn't a really big audience. There was, however, a problem with this... everyone's afraid of yo-ka, remember? So basically, he jumped into the crowd and... everyone fled. Can you believe that? I mean, if you like this guy, why wouldn't you try to help him avoid falling face-first onto the floor?! Anyways, yo-ka's very lucky that Ashley and I were there and not afraid of him. He jumped, everyone scattered, and Ashley and I wound up taking the full weight of yo-ka landing right on top of us (we had one tiny Japanese girl in between us who also tried to help). Now, I know people are always like "oh my god, yo-ka from Valluna is soooooo skinny." Well, he is but... he's not. He's the most solidly muscular person I think I've ever seen. Every inch of him is rock solid. He's so ripped that his thighs and stomach are completely submerged in bulging veins and he has a fully visible six-pack. He's lean, but he's also got the muscle/body fat percentages of a body builder (because he obviously works out like crazy). So what should be a very skinny man weighs a good 20-30 lbs more than normal so... it was like a solid brick of Asian landing right on top of us. Ashley grabbed yo-ka by the chest and I got him by the thighs. Then he started laughing hysterically and rolled onto his back. Now Ashley was holding him up by his shoulders and I was holding him up by his, uh... ass and thighs. I mean this literally. Like, the only thing holding him in the air was the two of us and a small girl in the middle. And he was so fucking heavy. My arms were shaking under the weight of trying to support him. Not to mention his laughing and wriggling and extreme sweatiness wasn't helping. Ashley and I were staring at each other with a mixture of horror and laughter.  Now, as nice as it was to have a handful of yo-ka, I felt like I was gonna collapse under his weight.  Eventually, the roadie reached out into the crowd to try and rescue us. Ashley pushed yo-ka's back up a little and rolled him towards the roadie. I tried getting his legs to roll with the rest of him. Somehow, the roadie managed to drag him back onto the stage... at which point yo-ka just rolled and flopped onto the floor, laughing. Wow, way to be unhelpful, yo-ka. Lol...

Because we had a lot more people, we were able to get the whole crowd to do the dog-pile move where everyone runs forward together and jumps and slams into a big pile. It got a little crazy and, at some point Ashley, and some girl both got hurtled to the floor. Also, some fat chick decided to take a running leap onto me on two separate occasions. Both times her sheer mass knocked all the wind out of me. It's like having 200 lbs of silly puddy tossed at you. Ow...

Anyways, that was mostly the end of the show. The band decided to do a group jump with the audience and, for some reason, they made shy Kei do the calling. It took Kei almost a minute to properly count to three and get everyone to hold hands and jump together. Seriously, why do indies bands always insist on making their shy, nervous members do these things?

During pick tossing, SAKURA threw a pick and, for some reason, time just slowed. I watched it arc overhead and then, so nonchalantly that I surprised even myself, I just reached up and clapped it between my hands. Everyone looked over in surprise, lol. Wow... sometimes my reflexes surprise me (like the time I air-grabbed the drumstick at a Lifehouse concert at Madison's Halloween Freakfest). So yeah, in two days I managed to get three of SAKURA's picks, lol. I still have two of his shiny, pretty picks. Picture time!

Woot! Anyways, after the show was over, we grabbed all our stuff and went to use our drink tickets. I got myself a cassis oolong (black currant liqueur mixed with oolong tea) which was surprisingly delicious. Anyways, as we were drinking our drinks, we heard strange sounds coming from back inside. Ashley and I went back into the venue to see what the hubbub was about, only to realize that Valluna had decided to do a surprise encore! People were throwing down their shit and running back up to the front for one more song. I had to abandon my drink and go running. Some people had already left the venue before this even happened. Anyways, yeah, we all dog-piled and had a crazy time. Kirimaru had taken his contacts out and he was pointing happily at his free, unhindered eyes. The eye that had the full contact lens was really red and angry looking, though. So yeah, we all piled up for one last song and then... it was officially over.

Phew!

As a brownie point to the band, I should add that both nights lasted for two hours with virtually no filler. Valluna tends to waste lots of time with backstage videos, long-winded MCs, and other filler nonsense. Like at their free live they wasted twenty minutes on a video of them having an arm-wrestling competition. But these two shows were a total of four hours with no unnecessary filler. Good job, Valluna.

Aaaand then Ashley and I went off to get burgers, lol.

What a run! That took me forever to write! I hope you enjoyed! If you read all of this, thanks for sticking with me! Hope you enjoyed!

Tomorrow I'm going to VAJRA's second one-man, which might be a very depressing show since 『L.』's leaving the band. Anyways, stay tuned for that report as well!

See you all soon!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

DIR EN GREY Fan Club Only Concerts... The Saga

Dir en grey... the moody, eccentric, pissed-off masters of J-Rock.

They're a band that likes to break records, set trends, and sell tickets to impossible concerts. What I mean is, their fan base is huge. They have more fans than anyone knows what to do with. Their fan club alone is terrifyingly massive. Every year it becomes harder and harder just to see these guys. People travel across the country to get to their concerts.

They're also the masters of hype. Let's observe the events of the last few days.

Dir en grey have been hiding in the studio, working on new music for some time. About a week ago, they suddenly announce that they're having some fan club only concerts. And by "some" they mean... two. Two concerts... in one city. You've got to be kidding me. So I did what thousands of other eager little fans did and entered the online lottery for tickets.

Things were a little complicated, though. I needed things to be rather specific. I needed two tickets, first of all (gotta have Ashley with me), I needed first floor standing (I don't do that balcony crap), and I needed the tickets to be on Tuesday and not Wednesday. Wednesday is the Lycaon concert that I already had tickets for (however, if it became clear that I absolutely couldn't get tickets for Tuesday, Lycaon would have been tossed aside like a chewed rubber chicken... no offense to Lycaon).

Anyways, they say it's easier to win a real lottery than a Dir en grey lottery. But I am the Ticket Ninja, after all, so I prayed and prayed and prayed that the gods of J-Rock would grant me my one small wish and get me these tickets.

Anyhoo, 12:00 rolled around this morning and the lottery results came online!

Congratulations to me! I'm truly the chosen one! I got two tickets, first floor standing, for Tuesday! Holy crap! I may truly be a chosen prophet... the Ticket Ninja!

I'm excited... and then my phone buzzes.

Allow me to "accurately" translate what Dir en grey's message said:

"Congratulations, blindly following meat-sack - er, I mean, fan! Don't worry if you just won or lost the lottery two seconds ago, that lottery was useless anyways! We're doing a full tour in July! Surprise! Now scramble over to the lottery, blind meat-sack! Scramble!"

Oh you fucking bastards. They planned this all along! They waited until everyone was hyped up and excited/depressed over the lottery results of this impossible show, just so they could announce, naw, we have more shows anyways, run, run, run! And give us your money!

So yes, my momentary excitement over winning two tickets to see a Dir en grey fan club only concert in June had to be shoved aside so that I could go "bwuh?" and run over to enter yet another lottery. Fucking hyped up bastards. Anyways, that lottery is also a big punch in the face. They're ending the tour in Tokyo with two more shows at Studio Coast (they seriously love that place. I think Kaoru said it's his favorite Tokyo venue or something). Trouble is, the tour ends in late July, smack-dab during finals. Hmmmm... finals, Dir en grey, finals, Dir en grey, finals, Dir en grey, finals...

DIR EN GREY

Yeah, I entered the lottery. I don't care. Even if it conflicts with finals, I'll make it work. Neither of the shows would be during a final exam, it would just affect studying a bit. No biggie. So yeah, we'll see how the second lottery goes. But no matter what happens, I will always know that I reigned victorious for the rare, two-show lottery in June!

Ticket Ninja indeed.

Btw, no offense meant to Dir en grey in the above post. I still love you guys. You're lovable bastards.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Update on 『L.』 Leaving VAJRA

I just want to clarify the post below about 『L.』 leaving VAJRA. I know he says he's leaving due to "musical differences", but it seems that's not the case. Having checked the blogs of all the members of VAJRA, a very different story comes to light. I've mentioned on the blog before that 『L.』 liked to participate in rather rough activities with the audience. He'd punch fans, pull girls around by their hair, baseball-pitch water bottles at girls, and other such behaviors. He also, on several occasions, waited until the audience was "slam-dancing" across the front of the stage to spray water on the floor and cause people to slip and fall over each other. Well, it seems that 『L.』 did something with water at a concert in Sendai and... people got hurt. I'm making these assessments based off the band members' collective blogs (because, again, I wasn't there and can't say anything for certain). What I can make out is that some people were hurt or almost hurt, this caused trouble for the staff, and embarrassment for VAJRA, as well as the hosting band.

All the members apologized profusely, and Kiyuki in particular made a point to mention that the band had warned 『L.』 on several occasion to be careful, but he didn't listen. Kiyuki also felt that the band was responsible because they should have simply told 『L.』 to stop doing such rough behaviors.

Anyways, in Yuuri's words, the band put 『L.』 on "house arrest" and barred him from future lives as "punishment" until they could figure out what to do. My guess is that the band either decided to save face and kick 『L.』 out, or 『L.』 decided to save his own face and leave, stating "musical differences."

So that seems to be, more or less, a more accurate picture of why 『L.』 is so suddenly leaving VAJRA. It's a shame that things had to turn out that way (especially because there are hints on 『L.』's blog that he didn't really want to leave). But I guess that's how it has to be. Indies can get a little rough sometimes, but at its core it's always supposed to be fun. 『L.』 liked to dance dangerously close to the line between "dangerous" and "fun" and, unfortunately, it seems he finally tripped over that line. So, again, it's a shame that this happened but I wish 『L.』 the best wherever he winds up, and I wish VAJRA the best as they move on without him!

『L.』 Leaves VAJRA

Well, it's official. I've been hearing about this for a few days, and Nobro made some rather strange blogs about it, and it's finally declared official. 『L.』, the violent, unpredictable, ink-spitting guitarist of VAJRA has decided to leave the band. Here's what he had to say about it on his blog (translation credit goes to the staff at Shattered Tranquility because I was too lazy to do it myself):

Thanks for all your hard work! We’ve finally finished up with the first round of a long, raging live schedule! We’ve had lots of problems and troubles along the way, but because of our warm fans, the members and staff members, we were able to overcome them.
Thank you very much!
Today, I have some information for you all.
For a while now, we’ve had a lot of discussions between the members and our management. From talking with the members and our management, I have decided to leave VAJRA.
The reason is due to musical differences, and a difference in the paths that we want to follow.
We will announce the schedule for when I will be leaving the band at a later date.
We will be making more announcements regarding the future schedule, so please keep an eye out.
Thank you.



As for 『L.』, he was undeniably one of the most entertaining guitarists I've seen in indies. It's a shame that he wasn't compatible with VAJRA because he really added a touch of humor and madness and unpredictability to the band. I wish him well, wherever he winds up. And I hope that VAJRA will have a new guitarist by the time of the one-man concert. Good luck to you all!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Random Blog Translations

Here are two random blog translation from Chihiro of Ha;qch! He posted these both today and they made me laugh so... here goes (as always, not fluent, apologize for mistakes, blah blah blah):
First post:

My teeth itch.
It's something like an itch.

Do you ever feel something like that?

I want to eat cuttlefish.

Second post:

I'm tired.
My stomach is soooooo empty.

I want to eat something fried.

I'm tired of curry so I want to eat something deep-fried.

I'm thinking today's meals will be side-dishes.

And there ya go! Chihiro makes me laugh. He's always talking about food and complaining that he's hungry because he's a health nut who never eats what he wants or as much as he wants. And he says really weird and random things. Gotta love 'im!

Anyways, that's all for now! I hope you enjoyed all the pretty pictures! See you soon!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Random Indies Blog Translations: A Word from Chihiro of Ha;qch Concerning Smokers

Hello all! I've been meaning to flex my terrible Japanese skills for quite some time by doing "random Indies blog translations" just for kicks. I figured the blog post written yesterday by Chihiro of Ha;qch would be an amusing place to start. We haven't seen Ha;qch in awhile because the band is in the studio. However, our horribly bored Chihiro continues to blog (sometimes several times a day). Since a lot of these guys in indies have really funny blogs that are only in Japanese, I figured I could throw around random blog translations every now and then for your amusement!

Today's blog translation features Chihiro! Chihiro says hi! Well... in his own special way:


Okay, here we go... As always, I'm not a fluent speaker of Japanese, and I've never taken a proficiency exam, so I'm not responsible for any mistranslations on my part because you've been warned! If you re-post these translations, be sure to remind people that I'm not fluent, and that I'm only practicing! Here goes!

(Note: The legal adult age in Japan is 20, which is when one can legally drink and smoke. It seems Chihiro has been a legal adult for less than a year)

Defiance

Lately, I've been mourning the fact that my chin is developing a cleft.

This is growth.
It's a sign that I'm becoming an adult.

I've become capable of eating bananas, which I used to hate.
I can eat what is considered a single portion of vegetables.
I've come to love things like raw fish.
I'm allowed to drink alcohol.
I'm also allowed to smoke.

If we're talking about smoking, the recent persecution of smokers by non-smokers has been horrible.

You see "No Smoking!" signs everywhere, and the increase in cigarette taxes and the decrease in designated smoking areas is terrible.

Particularly the increase in taxes.
It's not just a little bit.

People wonder what kind of intention these brutes have, but I somehow understand their reasoning.

It's a completely physical habit.

The fumes surrounding smokers, the bad breath, the impossibility of visualizing the act of smoking... there are probably many reasons [for the above offenses against smokers].

Particularly the bad breath. It's undeniable.

I don't doubt that my own breath when I woke up this morning smelled incredibly bad.

Soon, when I shout, the fans in the front row will pinch their noses.

But still, please don't be cold to me.
Smokers are people too.

Because I brush my teeth, please allow me to smoke.

What do you think? Chihiro's a pretty amusing guy. His blogs are enjoyable because he likes to say whatever he's thinking, straight to the point. I plan to translate more from him, along with translations for other indies JRockers that I find funny. I'm going to post translations pretty randomly, so check for them whenever and see what's up!

See you soon!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Merry or Die ~XXXX~

Whoohoo! Time for a major concert! Haven't had one of those in awhile! Today's featured band is an old friend of ours: MERRY:



Today's show was entitled Merry or Die ~XXXX~. Of course, this prompted me to decide, well... if it's a choice between Merry or Die... then I guess I'll Merry, lol (no offense to Die from Dir en grey). The show was held at Akasaka Blitz - a venue I'd been dying to go to because, well... who doesn't want to go to a venue called Akasaka Blitz?! That's just a cool fuckin' name! I'd already been to Yokohama Blitz, which is basically the same venue in a different location, but Akasaka just has a cooler ring to it. Also, Akasaka Blitz has a capacity of about 1500 people and... this show was completely sold out, since it was MERRY's only scheduled concert for now.

So let's get to it! Ashley and Geri and I met up in Akasaka early to get merchandise, but the stupid merch booth wasn't going to open for another hour so we went to Jonathan's to get food (and I happily indulged in a shrimp macaroni gratin and some green tea ice cream). We wandered around after that, looking at all the MERRY fans loitering about. They were there in droves with dyed hair, piercings, and strangely punkish clothing. Also, almost everyone was wearing a MERRY t-shirt, which isn't something you usually see. I think the reason for that is because MERRY t-shirts are very punk-like and look like something you'd buy at Sex Pot Revenge. We also saw a pretty good group of cosplayers dressed in top hats and black suits and platform boots. There was an outdoor Starbucks which the MERRY fans had quite literally overrun. There was also an amazing stand selling flavored cream puffs, and my friends and I just had to try the sakura cream puffs. They were soooo amazing, and the cream was chilled.

An amusing tidbit about MERRY fan demographics is that, upon initial inspection, the crowd is over 95% female (not uncommon for JRock bands unless you count bands like Dir en grey that are only 60% female). However, this is a very false reading at first. I noticed this the last time I saw MERRY, but the band actually has a sizable portion of male fans for a semi-visual band but those males, probably embarrassed by the disproportionate size of their numbers, tend to show up last minute before the show starts. You see nothing but girls for hours but, once the doors start opening, boys begin to show up in packs. It's kind of funny.

We also checked out merchandise. Now, most of the merch has shifted from other shows I'd seen, which I thought was strange, but we'll get to that later. Anyways, they were selling a coin purse with MERRY's ram logo on it, and it was so shiny and cute that I couldn't resist:

Other than that I didn't buy anything. I did think the merch was funny though. They had tour towels that said MERRY OR DIE and they had t-shirts that said MERRY on the front and OR DIE on the back.

Anyways, we were getting kind of cold and it felt like forever before doors opened. We had B tickets, but they were low number B tickets (19-21) so we got in ahead of at least a third of the audience. But the fan club section was over a thousand people, so that was quite... a lot of people, lol. But we finally got in! First thing we noticed was the crazy lighting effect going on in there. There were all these spinning lights on stage that were spelling out the phrase MERRY OR DIE. It was creepy because, against the smoke and the scrim, the words seemed to be floating and twirling in midair around the stage. Also, MERRY was playing a lot of really good, hard rock music before the show. Last time I saw them they played Marmalade Chainsaw by Dir en grey. This time they won us over by playing Wish by Nine Inch Nails. Damn fine choice, boys! Anyways, right away we began our mission to push up as far as damn well possible. We started pretty far back, but every time someone shifted out, we shifted in. You get really crafty at this after going to as many concerts as we have. We started far back but, by the time the show was underway, we were only second or third row from the middle barrier. We're stealthy! It took forever for the show to start, though. I think they started late. Also, there was a balcony at this venue and very suspicious looking people kept filing in, prompting the audience to gaze up there a lot.

Setlist:

Kuroi Niji
Japanese Modernist
Atama ga Zakuro
Mado Kara Ageta Love Song
Gesshoku
Akai Kutsu
stupid x cupid
Fukinkou Kinema
Enzetsu ~surrealism~
[human farm]
Oriental BL Circus
midnight shangrila
Lost Generation

Encore 1:
Kanaria (acoustic version)
nameless night ~Namonaki Yoru~ (acoustic version)

Encore 2:
sweet powder
Friction XXX
T.O.P.
Yellow Girl
Violet Harenchi

Encore 3:
Gekisei

For those of you familiar with MERRY, this may seem like a very odd setlist. And indeed it was an odd setlist. There is a very obvious lack of music from MERRY's latest album Underworld (including the complete omission of the song Underworld itself), the music is extremely scattered across their discography, and the songs are almost exclusively fast-paced. Very curious. I can't complain about a show comprised almost entirely of fast-paced songs but... wow, what a ride, lol.

When the show started, everyone surged and pushed forward. Luckily for those of us trying to get closer, some people chickened out when the pushing got bad and began ducking out of their spots and into the back. Which meant we could take their spots! Yay!

The show opened with Kuroi Niji (the song title means "Black Rainbow"). There was virtually no opening music other than the circus beats that signal Kuroi Niji. The lights went down and the song began to play in complete darkness. We couldn't see the band at all and the audience was kinda like "huh?" Eventually, a spotlight came down on Gara, who was standing still behind the microphone, blurred by the scrim. Now, as serious and epic as Kuroi Niji is, the audience kinda started giggling when the spotlight came down on Gara. Gara's known to have some puffed up hair but... his hair was standing up so tall and sticking out so far on the sides that he kinda looked like he had pineapple leaves for hair. But that's okay, once the initial giggling was over, everyone settled into basking in the emotional epicness that is Kuroi Niji. It's one of my favorite songs off Moderngarde, so I was really excited and pleased by this choice.

Buuuut this stand-still pace didn't keep up for long. Immediately after Kuroi Niji, the band busted straight into Japanese Modernist. As if to truly rile us up, they played a brief techno remix of the song before jumping into the real thing. During the remix, the lights went up completely so that we could see the entire band! On drums we have Nero, who cut his hair very short and got rid of all his dyed hair and extensions. He was also wearing a red kilt, lol. On right guitar was Yuu, looking kind of adorable but putting on his best "tough, band leader" face. On the other guitar was Kenichi, who also looked adorable with his permed hair. On bass was Tetsu. His hair is almost down to his elbows now, and he was wearing a pimpin' top hat. He's too bad-ass for his own good. And on vocals we have our beloved Gara, who was rocking the stripper clothes again. He was wearing tight black pants and a mesh scarf along with knuckle-length leather gloves and a heaping portion of black make up around his eyes.

Also, I've discovered a terrifying bit of trivia while preparing this blog... Do you remember in my last post (it was an indies post) I talked about a band called SMOKY FLAVOR that was so bad, so painfully bad, that for the first time ever, I wouldn't put up a picture of them? They were a bunch of middle-aged men with a vocalist that looked like KISS meets Chuckie. Anyways, as it turns out... our dear Nero used to be a drummer for that band before it was really active... I'm not even joking. Oh my gawd, I died inside when I realized it. Nero, why? Ugh, thank god Nero figured out his true calling before it was too late, lol.

Anyhoo, so MERRY went into Japanese Modernists and the insanity began! The crowd pretty much spent the whole show jumping up and down repeatedly like crazy people. Of course, Japanese Modernist is a good way to get the water boiling. It's a pretty intense song and probably one of the band's biggest crowd-pleasers.  But I think it was around this time that I noticed something felt strange about the show. I think a lot of the difference lay in Gara's performance. The last few times I saw MERRY, Gara's performance was sort of like a romp through Spazzland. He would flail, fling himself around, make crazy faces, and act like he'd basically lost his mind. He did lots of "antics", like somersaults and dumping water down his pants and headstands and jumping off his crate as high as he could and crash-landing on the floor. There was none of that this time. There was a sort of "reservation" in Gara's performance. The intensity was still there, but the "zaniness" seemed removed (I think it was deliberately removed). But, well... not entirely removed, of course. During Japanese Modernist, Gara made the audience sing as usual but, just like the last few times I saw MERRY, Gara took our singing time as an opportunity to violently bludgeon himself in the head with the microphone. Ugh, it's such a horrible sound.

But the surprises continued! After Japanese Modernist, the band blessed us with one of MERRY's oldest crowd pleasers: Atama ga Zakuro (meaning My Head is a Pomegranate). Now this song is fucking nuts.  And our show was no exception. Gara was doing all sorts of slutty stripper dances and rubbing his thigh and crotch. Something I find really amusing was that the audience was doing those silly high notes that pop up during the song. It's so stupid that it kind of works.

MERRY also performed Gesshoku. Mmm... one of my favorite songs off Underworld. That song is like a slow, jazzy stripper song. I really enjoyed how the whole audience slow headbanged together for most of this song and enjoyed Gara's smooth moves. He's so slinky and seductive. Plus, I was enjoying the way Tetsu leers into the audience through his hair.

After that was time for some more circus music with Akai Kutsu. But then...

Stupid x cupid! Oh fuck yeah! Probably one of MERRY's most ballistic songs. Basically, Gara just gets to make noise and spazz around for five minutes.  Last time I saw this song live, about half the crowd pulled out fancy panties and spun them around. This time, only a few people did that (mostly with thongs, I noticed). That was too bad because I brought some panties with me just in case, but decided it wasn't worth using them. But when the first chorus started up, some overly enthusiastic fan flung their tour towel up into the air and sent it flying over the audience, lol. Some circle-of-death moshing started up at our show as well! The fans get overly excited and the next thing you know everyone's pushing and slamming into each other like pin balls. The A section up front was moshing pretty intensely, and a large group of girls behind us started doing it, causing us to get pushed forward quite a bit. Not that I'm complaining! MERRY is the only major band in Japan where I ever see moshing (and crowd-surfing, last time I saw them) and I enjoy a bit of violence with my concerts so... mosh away, MERRY fans, mosh away! When the song ended, some people who didn't pull out panties during the song whipped them out and waved them around for one last hurrah, lol.

We also got to enjoy another rousing rendition of Enzetsu ~surrealism~ complete with Gara wearing the creepy bunny head! I've definitely posted this video before, but if you want to see what the bunny head looks like, fast-forward to the 35 second mark of this video and take a look!



This time, however, Gara didn't even hesitate to start dancing in the bunny head. He danced his way onto the stage, flailing around his megaphone and being creepy. As per usual, I couldn't understand a damn word he was yelling at us through the megaphone, but that's okay! I just enjoy watching him flail. Whenever Gara stops dancing to start yelling his "enzetsu" (enzetsu means "speech"), everyone holds up their right arm and salutes him. At one point, Gara got sick of having to tip back the bunny head to give his speech so he somehow managed to wedge the megaphone into the bunny's mouth so that he could yell his speech from inside there. It kinda looked like he had a hard time getting the megaphone back out, though, lol! And, as always, Enzetsu ~surrealism~ ended in Yuu yelling "welcome to the human farm!" meaning it was time for...

[human farm] of course! Another one of my favorites off Underworld. Everyone was clapping like crazy and jumping up and down. I don't think Yuu gets enough credit for all the back up vocals he does. Playing hard rock guitar while doing vocals is really difficult, and Yuu contributes so much singing and yelling to the band. Props to you, kid! Same thing for Oriental BL Circus which came next... Yuu does a lot of backup vocals! Thanks Yuu, lova ya!

Oh, and they played Lost Generation which definitely made the audience go fucking nut! Once again, that song is insanity and intensity at its finest! It's amazing how Nero can keep up on the drums for an entire MERRY show. I mean, he's back there beating the shit out of those drums to such an extent that he's just bouncing up and down in his seat for the whole show. And, as we all know, Nero loves to have his mouth open making crazy faces the whole time he's playing. He looks like a total spazz, but his energy is too infectious to ignore! Kenichi was bouncing up and down the entire song too. And Tetsu got to do a sexy bass solo and give everyone his best bad-ass glare.

And then, before we knew it, the band was exiting the stage! Phew, encore time already.

Now, I must say, the audience really fucking sucked at calling for encore. I think it was either because the audience was completely exhausted from all the jumping and spazzing required for a MERRY concert, or because they sensed the weird reservation and stand-off-ish-ness  in Gara's performance. But still, if you want an encore, you have to fucking shout for it! There was this one guy towards the front wearing gloves with skeleton-hands on them who kept clapping over the audience to try and get us to shout with him. He sorta became our encore conductor, lol. The band took forever to come back and, well, I don't blame them.

But MERRY did come back, and quickly set up acoustic instruments (including floor drums up at the front for Nero). Yay, acoustic time! At the last show I saw, they played an acoustic rendition of Tick Tock. Today it was... Kanaria! Oh wow, it was so beautiful. Kanaria was another song I loved off Underworld because it was so pretty, so seeing it acoustic was really amazing. They also played nameless night ~Namonaki Yoru~ which was also really beautiful. At first it was only Gara and Yuu performing with the spotlight on them. It was kind of funny, but... well, Nero and Kenichi and Tetsu had nothing to do, right? Well, Tetsu was continuing to try and glare like a bad-ass the whole time, but eventually he got bored and he started staring around at the ceiling and stuff, lol. I think he thought it was too dark to see him, but it was pretty funny to see stoic Tetsu gazing around at all the pretty lights, lol. But then the whole band got to join in on the song and Tetsu wasn't bored anymore. I really wish MERRY had given us a copy of Kanaria acoustic because it was soooo pretty. They gave us CDs with Tick Tock acoustic last time but... no CDs this time. Maybe they'll put it on their next single.

And then the band left again, and the audience went back to totally sucking at calling for encore. Luckily, Mr. Skeleton Hand Conductor continued to try and help out. Thankfully, MERRY did come back (everyone dressed in the tour shirts, except Gara who stayed shirtless, and Tetsu who's too cool for that and continued to wear his pimp hat) and gave us a rousing explosion of music. Some of their most intense tracks possible occurred during the second encore, causing the audience to turn into a big bubbling pot of crazy people. We had sweet powder into Friction XXX into T.O.P. Dayum. Then we had Yellow Girl. I didn't realize how much people love that song. When Yellow Girl started up, the whole audience was like "whaaaaa!" and everyone started going crazy. People were slamming into each other and going totally ballistic! And then, of course, we had Violet Harenchi. It's not a MERRY concert without Violet Harenchi.  Everyone was going nuts and jumping. At one point, Gara stuck the entire microphone into his mouth. I don't know if people realize it but... you have to have a seriously huge mouth to be able to do that. If I hadn't seen him do that at the last show, I would've been worried that he couldn't get the microphone back out!

Anyways, then MERRY left again and I figured, well... they played Violet Harenchi, that must be it, right? I mean, Nero held up his towel and bowed and stuff. But the house lights didn't go back up and everyone started calling for encore again. This time people seemed a bit more adamant about it.

And, of course, MERRY graced us with their presence again! They came back on stage (and changed clothing again), and Gara decided to give us a brief MC. He basically told us the band was going to come back more awesome than ever before. Quick and to the point. Then some crackly music started up in the speakers and MERRY launched into... Gekisei. Ho boy, Gekisei. That song is fifteen minutes long. While the band played, they began to unleash pink smoke from offstage. Now, this wasn't any normal amount of pink smoke. As the song went on, more and more smoke began to fill the stage and drift into the crowd until the entire band was completely obscured by smoke, and the entire crowd was standing in a pink cloud. Now, the smoke kind of smelled like a mix between molasses and sulfur, but it wasn't really that bad. But for some reason, some people in the crowd were being whiny little pussies and complaining like crazy about it and waving their hands in front of their faces or putting the tour towels over their noses. Oh please. Don't be such a wuss. Most of those little wusses are probably smokers anyways.  It was a cool effect because the band slowly vanished into the pink smoke while Gara continued to scream and freak out for the whole song. By the end, you could barely see the people around you. When the song ended and Gekisei's creepy carnival music box music started playing, strobe lights went off inside the smoke and made you feel like you were standing inside a storm cloud. I thought it was pretty cool.

When the smoke dissipated, we realized the band had exited the stage, obscured by the smoke, and vanished. Was the show over? Well, sort of... except...

A giant screen suddenly came down and began to play a video! MERRY announced a new single! It's called The Cry Against... and they played us a sample of the new music video! The official website also has a sample up (unfortunately it's only about half as long as the one we got to see)! The song sounds like it's going to be really hard core!

One thing that was kinda funny... it's not included in the sample but, at the beginning of the video, there's a naked guy running with an Olympic torch and all the people in the audience started going "Dare?! Dare?!" ("Who's that?! Who's that?!")

Anyways, after the show was over, we made the slow and arduous journey out of the building. We also picked up the flyers being handed out, as seen here:

The flyer says "merii kara MERRY he", which means: "from merii to MERRY." Suddenly, it dawned on me what was going on and why things seemed so strange. The band has changed its name! The band's name used to always be written as merii in katakana, but now they've changed it to the English, capital spelling MERRY. Hmm? And the name of the new single is in English too. In the past, most MERRY songs are either in Japanese, or English words spelled in katakana (for example, Japanese Modernist is actually correctly written in katakana as japaniizu modanisuto). But this new single has a full English title.

The whole thing got me thinking back on the show and how strange it really was. It wasn't just Gara's reservation and composure during the show... there was more. Like, for example, Nero never MC-ed or even said or shouted a single word (he did throw a signed drum head into the crowd, though). The band didn't have a flag for fans to sign. I'm not even sure if Gara had his school desk on stage. And, if he did, he hardly ever stood on it. My best guess about all this is that the band is trying to change its image. They have a new website, a new name, and... perhaps a new type of performance?

I guess we'll find out!

And that's my report! I hope you enjoyed!