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.
Atama ga Zakuro
Mado Kara Ageta Love Song
stupid x cupid
Oriental BL Circus
Kanaria (acoustic version)
nameless night ~Namonaki Yoru~ (acoustic version)
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!