Sunday, June 13, 2010

Arrows doing variation - UnsraW and Sel'm Two-Man

Phew! I did it! As can be seen by the story I posted below, I went through some pretty mad efforts to get tickets to the damn show I'm posting about right now. Arrows doing variation at Wild Side Tokyo was sold out, but thanks to some e-mail begging of the staff, I was able to get two tickets for the concert anyways. Why did I want to go so badly? Well, not for Sel'm, actually, even though Sel'm was the headliner. I was going to see UnsraW!

Today, I'm super-duper excited to introduce... UnsraW!

So who are UnsraW anyways? Well, because I adore these guys, I'm going to give some background on them. UnsraW is a five-piece metal band. However, UnsraW is sometimes considered a "solo project in disguise" (though I say that with a bit of hesitation). UnsraW really centers around the vocalist/band leader Yuuki. It's not just that Yuuki is the vocalist, he also writes, composes, and edits all the music. He can even play all the other instruments (and originally planned on being the drummer, not the vocalist). He also writes all the lyrics. If Yuuki's insane level of musical versatility alone didn't impress me, he also has the kind of screaming precision you'd expect of a fucking computer.

The reason I hesitate to call the band a "solo project", however, is because it really seems like Yuuki doesn't want the band to be a solo project. He always selects extremely charismatic and talented musicians to play alongside him.  If Yuuki wanted all the credit, he'd be more obvious about his control over the band, and he wouldn't try to incorporate all the band members equally into the band's image. So really, it's not a solo project because Yuuki makes sure it's not a solo project. Think of the band as a doughnut... and Yuuki is the jelly filling. Something like that. Hahaha, I just said Yuuki is jelly.

Unfortunately, in early 2008, the UnsraW Curse struck... and struck hard. I've seen some bands with bad luck, but UnsraW really takes the cake (or jelly-filled doughnut). In early 2008, while the band was on tour, Yuuki became ill quite suddenly. Really ill. After a lot of testing, it was revealed that Yuuki was suffering from a very rare strain of pneumonia that is extremely difficult to treat. The band had no choice but to go on hiatus until Yuuki improved. Months went by with no word on how Yuuki was doing. Not a word from Yuuki, and not a word from his band. Rumors popped up constantly that Yuuki had passed away. The more these rumors popped up, the more people started to believe them. After about a year, most of the fanbase seemed to have given up. Many believed Yuuki really had died and it was simply unannounced (this can happen. Japanese bands are extremely private sometimes). Actually, to this day, if you type "UnsraW Yuuki" into Google you get "UnsraW Yuuki dead" as a suggestion before simply "UnsraW Yuuki."

Now, you'd think things couldn't get any worse than having the band's leader/vocalist gravely ill, but the UnsraW Curse thought otherwise. That same year, on Christmas, bassist Jun was in a motorcycle accident. The accident messed up Jun's hand and required physical therapy. He became unable to play the bass without pain and decided to withdraw from the band.

Much to everyone's shock, however, Yuuki appeared suddenly on his blog after over a year of absence. Not only did he seem to be fine, he was starting up the band immediately, ready to release new music, and searching for a new bassist. Now how's that for a comeback?! Not only was Yuuki not dead, he was planning on starting back up as though the illness hadn't even happened. Eventually, Jun was replaced by the band's support bassist, Jin.

The UnsraW Curse had to jump in one last little time, however. A few months ago, guitarist Rai suddenly decided he could no longer remain with the band. He withdrew quite suddenly and left the band scrambling for a new guitarist. Rai came to be replaced by Madoka (who was previously of an oshare-kei band, as weird as that is).

Anyways, all that leads us up to today and me seeing UnsraW live. Ashley and I met up a few hours before the show so that we could get ourselves some real food. We wound up getting Chinese food and they had a new spicy noodle soup that I simply couldn't resist because I'm addicted to spicy food. Anyways, that shit was crazy. Look at how red the soup was:

I mean, is that radioactive or what? Anyways, we ate our food, got some ice cream, then headed over to Wild Side Tokyo to find out if they would back out on their ticket promise and, if not, give us the tickets before the show. We got to the venue by playing Follow the Goths. The place was tucked inside some kind of building next to a couple of liquor stores:

Anyways, we went down the stairs even though doors weren't open yet. When we got down there, a young man with a ponytail and a hat came out and told us we should wait upstairs till doors opened. I jumped in and asked him if I could buy "at door" tickets. Realization seemed to dawn on the man's face and he ushered Ashley and I into a hallway and over to the ticket counter. He told the woman working there that we needed two tickets for the show. As she was fishing for them, the young man turned to me and asked, "are you Kita?" I just about died, hahaha. I guess after all my back-and-forth e-mails, the guy remembered me, lol.  Then the lady behind the counter gave us a pair of nice, fresh, shiny, red tickets - victory at last! God, victory tastes good:

Now, these tickets meant that we couldn't get in until everyone else did, which was becoming a little terrifying as more and more people started to show up. Lots of people. To take the edge off, I amused myself by trying to figure out who was there to see Sel'm and who was there to see UnsraW. Sometimes it was obvious (like by t-shirt) and sometimes it wasn't. Sometimes it was obvious like when a girl walks by wearing pants with the word UnsraW on the butt, lol.

Eventually, after a lot of confusion, everyone got in. While waiting in line, Ashley and I wound up talking to a foreign guy wearing a Dir en grey t-shirt. He was a big UnsraW fan and told us he'd seen UnsraW eighteen times. Whoa damn. I'm a little bit envious, lol. Anyways, we chatted, and he seemed quite amused by us.  The hallway leading down into the venue was painted all funky:

When we got to the bottom of the stairs and went inside, however, we were shocked to be greeted by a wall of humans. Yeah... cramming a few hundred people into a venue that size was not a good idea. Not a good idea at all. Maybe they didn't realize the show would sell out. Anyways, the door into the venue was actually near the stage so... Ashley and I wound up near the front despite our shitty tickets simply because we couldn't get to the back. We couldn't squeeze through all those humans no matter what. I kind of felt like I was cheating by getting a good spot I didn't deserve but... to be honest, we didn't have a choice. So, Ashley and I shrugged and took our spots right there by the entrance. We were maybe ten rows back but we were waaaaay over to the left. I was hoping to get a chance to move closer to the middle as the show went on. But really, I didn't know what to expect from UnsraW fans.

The show started fairly late but then, finally, they pulled up the projector screen in the front, revealing the UnsraW banner. Then the creepy Zero introduction music from UnsraW's Guilty mini-album started playing. I think I kinda remember the setlist for the show... I think this is what they played:

Starving Moon
In The Fact
Dust to Dust
Black Out
Warai Oni

Uuuuh, I think? Probably out of order, and I might be missing a song or accidentally replaced a song with another. But I think that's what they played. I'm pretty sure those are the songs, though I'm not certain of the order at all.

Anyways, so I was pretty excited to see these guys in person for real. I'd been researching them and reading up on them for the past few weeks and I felt like I'd gotten to know the five of them pretty well. The first member out was drummer Shou, who was painfully adorable as always. My only complaint with the venue (and it's kind of a big complaint) is that there was no drum platform whatsoever. Literally none. This meant that I couldn't see Shou at all for the entire performance, which totally sucked because he's a really fun, peppy drummer. Next was the new bassist, Jin, who has beautiful red-wine hair. Then there was the new guitarist, Madoka, who looks like an insane person with cat-like make-up and fake claw-marks on his face. And guitarist Tetsu, who is also really adorable, although I don't think he wants to be.  And then came Yuuki.

When my friend Caroline heard that I was trying to get tickets to see UnsraW, she gave me three warnings about Yuuki:

1. Yuuki tends to seem stoned.
2. Yuuki throws a lot of water so you're going to get soaked.
3. Yuuki is a really big guy but he crowd-surfs anyways - so watch out.

Now, I could tell just by looking at pictures or videos of Yuuki that he's a big dude but nothing could prepare me for seeing his colossal size in person. My god, that man is a tank. He's got to be at least six feet tall if not more and he's built like a linebacker. The funny thing is, I don't think he's at all fat or overweight, he's just a huge dude. I guess his size is just proportional to his awesomeness or something, lol.

Anyways, the show itself... So yeah, Yuuki came out and he had freakin' Super Seiyan hair. His hair alone was about seven inches tall in every direction. Goddamn. He was also wearing silver grills, much to my amusement.

The band busted straight into -9- which is probably their most famous song. I'm not sure why it's their most famous song, though. Okay, I'll say this right off the bat, I probably have a slightly skewed opinion of UnsraW compared to other UnsraW fans. I love their metal music and the growling and the screaming, but I'm not one of those fans who yearns for old times. A lot of people didn't like the band's new release, but I did. It's lame if a band just churns out the same shrieking and brain-bashing metal over and over again. To me, -9- doesn't have nearly as much to offer as some of their other songs. However, I do think the song was a lot better live. The crowd was able to get riled up immediately because the song is very intense.

Anyways, it really was a great setlist in my opinion. They played a lot of good shit I really wanted to see live. They played Starving Moon which is a pretty cool song, and it's fairly old in indies terms so I was surprised to hear it. I'd been really excited to hear WITHERING BLOOD off their new release and I thought it was awesome live. Yuuki is such a perfectionist... even though he does the growls almost perfectly on stage, he has an audio track playing in the background that plays the growls layered on the CD. That way, nothing gets lost between album and live.

The two chicks in front of us were rocking the hell out. Even if the rest of the crowd stood still for a quieter song, these girls just kept moving like crazy. There was this one guy in the crowd who had green hair and a green contact lens who was jumping up and down all the time even if no one else was jumping. Also, there were certain songs where I was so sure there would be some kind of hand-waving furi but, no... that kind of thing was always replaced by everyone throwing their fists instead. Also, lots and lots of jumping up and down. It was really enjoyable because the whole band (except drummer Shou, obviously) would jump up and down with us. I don't tire out as easily if the band jumps too. It's like, hell, if they have the stamina to jump up and down with instruments, then I have the stamina to keep going too!

I was really surprised to hear In The Fact. I don't know why, but I didn't think they were going to play it. This song was also really cool live. I was excited to see firsthand that Yuuki can blast that explosive scream live with perfect accuracy. I've seen people online saying that Yuuki's voice seems to have changed or that his growling ability has diminished since his illness, but I don't think it has. Maybe he's changed his style on newer releases, but his lung disease had nothing to do with it.

I was also surprised to hear Dust to Dust, but it was a lot of fun. Got the guitarists to shout along with Yuuki, and everybody was throwing their fists like crazy. The girls in front of me were jumping up and down when nobody else was, prompting me to jump, and prompting other people to start doing it too.

I believe they did an MC at some point around here. Yuuki was too out of breath to talk, though. He probably should've handed the mic over to someone else but he decided to gasp out an MC anyways. I blame that stupid bulky outfit he's wearing. He was all sweaty and red. He needs a new costume. Anyways, he didn't have much to say so he just said some crap to make the audience laugh and then moved on.

UnsraW also played GUILTY, which I was certainly expecting since it's their latest ballad. You know, people were really critical of UnsraW's new mini-album and I feel like the criticism was way out of hand sometimes. It seemed like there was a lot of unnecessary whining coming from a fanbase butthurt over a band trying to experiment a little. I personally thought GUILTY was a really beautiful song. Now, a lot of people said Yuuki's high notes at the end ruined the whole song for them. A lot of people seem to think he marred his beautiful voice during the last few seconds. Um... first of all, what beautiful voice? His singing was never that fucking good to begin with. I'm sorry, it's just not. He's not bad, but he's not exactly the highest quality singer in the scene. Second of all, people saying a song is ruined by a moment that lasts less than three seconds is really sad. Maybe I've been listening to too much D, but Yuuki's high notes didn't even faze me. I hardly noticed it. Anyways, that song is really epic live. I think people would stop having such a shit-fit if they could see that stuff live. The song was really amazing. Madoka got out the acoustic guitar, and Yuuki pretty much cried for the entire song. I don't think I've ever seen such a tragic face in my life. His whole face was wrinkled up in absolute misery and he kept covering his face with his hand. He sang wonderfully (for him) and it was really beautiful. And guess what? Yuuki didn't even sing the fucking high notes live (he lowered them a good octave). At the end of the song, Yuuki put one hand on the crate and started headbanging over and over and over with the music. I was feeling light-headed just watching him do this. He kept lurching over and over with that horrible look on his face and it seemed like he would never stop. Eventually, Yuuki paused, thinking the song was over, but it trickled on for a few more measures. At that point, Yuuki just collapsed onto the crate. All I could see was the big fuzzball of his hair. Every now and then the fuzzball twitched so I knew he was okay, lol. When the song was over, it went dark and Yuuki began whispering "koroshite ageru... koroshite ageru..." meaning "I will kill you..." Creeeeeepy.

Anyways, they also played SALIVA OF GOD from the new release. I've seen mixed reviews of this one as well, though they were pretty positive for the most part. It's a lot of fun live, and lots of jumping. They also played ROSE OF SORROW and Yuuki actually raps a lot better than I thought he would. He put his hand on the crate and kinda bounced to the beat, lol. I know some people online said that Yuuki rapping is stupid because UnsraW shouldn't rap. I'd like to remind those people that Yuuki rapped in their older song S.I.G. so I don't really see what the problem is. It got everyone jumping, and it was really fun. I was also really excited that they played Black Out from one of their older releases. That's just a freakin' cool song. Everyone jumped up and down nonstop and it was totally awesome.

The big moment of insanity came when UnsraW busted into Warai Oni. I'd heard stories about how shit goes down for Warai Oni. Every Japanese indies band (and even many major bands) have at least one song that they write for the soul purpose of making the audience crazy for an extremely long period of time. Usually the song is written in a way that it can be repeated over and over again. Lots of bands do it. D has Toki no Koe. D'espairsRay has MaVERiCK. For UnsraW, it's Warai Oni.

At first, nothing much happened, and everyone rocked out as normal. Still, there was a mounting tension forming in the crowd. Then, suddenly, Yuuki rushed forward and held his arm out into the audience. Apparently that was the signal. Suddenly, everyone surged forward as fast as humanly possible. People even pushed each other out of the way and raced forward, then leaped onto each other in a big dog pile at the front of the stage. Yuuki reached into the crowd and began dragging people forward. Ashley and I didn't even hesitate to knock a bunch of school girls out of the way and go racing towards the front of the stage. Yuuki was spitting gargantuan amounts of water onto the crowd and dumping bottles worth of water onto people's heads. I have to admit, it was rather intimidating to wind up only a couple rows away from Yuuki. He's just so huge.

Oh, also, Ashley and I had this little theory that we wanted to test and it yielded interesting results. I've heard at least three separate stories about Yuuki giving his water bottle straw to any girl in the audience with her cleavage showing. Ashley and I decided to wear low cut tops to see if this was true. Unfortunately, I was behind Ashley so I never got to show Yuuki my boobs but, sure enough, Yuuki handed his straw to Ashley. Goddamn, I can't believe we proved it true! Wow, hahaha! What a perv, lol. There were also some moments when Yuuki would hold his microphone down by his crotch and act very suggestively with it.

Anyways, Yuuki started to reach out into the crowd at one point and then leaned his whole body in. I realized Yuuki was probably testing the waters... and sure enough, not even a minute later, Yuuki suddenly jumped backwards into the crowd. I wound up catching him with my hands and... oh holy balls is he heavy. Oh my god. I remember reading about how, when the band played in the Netherlands, the crowd actually dropped him during one of his stage-dives because he's too heavy. Even though every person in the crowd made sure to catch him and hold him up, everyone immediately started pushing him back as fast as possible. Caroline wasn't kidding about her warning... it's like having a boulder land on you.

Once wasn't enough, of course. Once he was back on stage, Yuuki moved over to the right and then dove back in. This time he wasn't on top of me, so I took advantage of having him next to me and reached up and squeezed his arm, lol. I dunno why, I just wanted to squeeze his arm. Damn, he's solid. Everyone immediately tried to sit him up and shove his mass back onto the stage. He continued to roam around, spraying us with water. He would also go over to these little ledges in the crowd and jump onto them, then loom over the audience with his crazy eyes and growl with his shiny grills showing. The only problem with those grills is that, because Yuuki can't feel his teeth, he kept drooling all over himself, lol. Eventually, Yuuki wandered back over to us and.... dove right back in! At first he wasn't far back enough to be on top of me, but then the stupid audience wound up rolling him back. I caught him with one hand under his back and the other on his side. Not gonna lie, I gave his ribs a squeeze too. I couldn't help myself. Wow, still totally solid. What a brick. He would just lie back and lounge into the crowd like dead meat and make us support him. Unfortunately, I could not hold him up like that. I had the top of my head under his back to help hold him up along with my hands, but my knees were buckling and I felt myself sinking underneath him. I just kept thinking "oh god, somebody please get him back onto the stage! I'm going to drop him!" Eventually we did return him to the stage, but my head actually hurt from trying to hold him up.

Madoka also started roaming the stage. I must say, Madoka is a really fantastic addition to the band. I know some people are mistrustful of new members and just whine on and on about how much they miss Rai and Jun but, you know, Madoka fits in perfectly (even though he came from an oshare-kei band). He was running around looking crazy and making totally deranged faces at everyone. At one point, he started reaching into the crowd and pulling people forward. And he was rough about it, too. He stared at me and held out his arm so I reached out and grabbed his hand. Then he pulled me forward, grabbed my arm, and yanked as hard as he could. It hurt enough to make my arm tingle and I later found scratch-marks on my arm from him. Still, I don't care, I like a performer with some bite, lol. Madoka's actually really scary in his own strange way. I really like Jin as well. He tries really hard to look stoic but then he just gets these funny looks on his face when he's not concentrating. When he realizes he's making a funny face, he tries so hard to make his face go stiff again. It's really endearing. At one point he ran over to Yuuki and leaned his back against Yuuki's side. Jin's stoic act broke down entirely and he just started grinning like crazy. I like the new guys - I think they fit in really well. They seem super excited to be there.

I really wish I could've seen Shou. All I could ever see was Shou's hair bouncing around occasionally. I can't believe there wasn't a drum platform! Also, Tetsu was adorable. Yuuki tends to avoid looking at the crowd (it seems to make him nervous), but Tetsu always looks around the crowd as if he's curious and we're very interesting to him. He smiles a lot too. Madoka just makes spazzy faces and looks around like he's crazy, but he's easy to make eye-contact with and he loves to do stare-downs. Jin is just adorable. He's so tiny, but he obviously enjoys himself (and doesn't want to let it show). Still, I can tell!

But alas, all too soon it was over and the band was heading off the stage, throwing picks and drum sticks in their wake. I was surprised the setlist was so short but I guess the band can only play for the time allotted by the venue.

At that point, Ashley and I moved out of the front, dripping wet from Yuuki's water, and moved towards the back to let the Sel'm fans move up. Anyways, I'll be brief on Se'lm... this is Sel'm:

Picture's pretty misleading, though... they don't really look like that. They looked pretty typical. Anyways, I give them a mixed review.

The good:

They're good musicians and they seem talented. The songs were pretty solid, and the vocalist is pretty amusing, and the members seem to enjoy themselves. And the audience was really into it.

The bad:

The band members have no connectivity with each other. And not much with the crowd either. I felt like the majority of the "fun" was being created by the audience itself. I almost wonder if the band members don't like each other very much. When the guitarist was having tech problems, he kept looking at his band mates fearfully. That doesn't seem normal. Usually, bands laugh that stuff off, but this guy looked afraid of his own band mates. Also, the vocalist can't actually growl. Every time the song called for growling, it was done either by the string section, or pre-recorded. Um... cop out?

The foreign guy told me Sel'm is actually less interesting on CD than they are live, but I'd have to give them a try outside the concert setting to really judge. Unfortunately, they played for about two hours, and I lost interest so badly that I was ready to stab myself in the face. Thank god the drink bar had cherry brandy for me to enjoy during this time. My feet hurt and I was getting seriously bored. This one foreign girl was in the crowd rocking out and even she crapped out, moved back, and went to the bar to get a drink instead. I dunno, Sel'm... I think you overstayed your welcome. Two-man concerts aren't supposed to be so uneven in their timing. It wound up looking like Sel'm with UnsraW as an opener, and two-mans aren't supposed to work like that.

Fun facts about Sel'm: the vocalist used to be the singer for Girugamesh, and two of the other members used to be roadies for Dir en grey. Maybe they should've stuck with that... those two bands are far more successful, lol.

Anyways, yeah, I felt like my mood was too sour to judge well, so I'm just gonna leave Sel'm at that.

When Sel'm was finally done, Ashley and I squeezed our way through masses of people. I checked out the UnsraW merchandise and couldn't resist picking up a few things because their stuff was super cheap. I bought two (one for me, one for a friend) of the bad-ass wristbands with the UnsraW symbol on it (Ashley and I have decided UnsraW's symbol looks like the Bacardi symbol on fire):

I also bought a cell phone strap because I collect them, lol:

Aaand then Ashley and I took our leave of the venue. I still had a bad headache from trying to hold up Yuuki, but we found a super cheap Italian restaurant and enjoyed some $4 pizza and chatted about the show. We both agree that we want to get a bear-hug from Yuuki. It seems like it would be the most epic hug ever. The band was awesome live, and Yuuki's performances are known to change from show to show, so I'm exited to see them again. They're not playing again this month but they have some shows in July and I already have a ticket for one of them. So at least I now know I can see them again! Yaaay!

Hope you enjoyed!

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