Whoo, I'm back for more blogging about concerts! As mentioned earlier, I apologize for my absence from the blog. I know I can write about things other than concerts, but I had to move into a new apartment and I didn't have internet for about a week. But now I'm back, and just in time to talk about Dir en grey!
This particular concert was part of the Dir en grey and Apocalyptica couple tour. This tour was a rather interesting idea because both bands are foreign. Dir en grey are Japanese and Apocalyptica are Finnish. The opening act, however, was American. Anyways, other than their "foreign-ness" the two main acts don't have much in common, and I don't think their fanbases blended very well. Nonetheless, the tour brought Dir en grey back to America, and what more can I ask than that?
My friends and I began our adventure by driving three hours from Wisconsin to my parents' home in Chicago. I went along with my friends Hannah, Melissa, and Dylan, along with a friend of Hannah's named Tessa (whom I will now consider a friend, of course!). We headed out the night before, stayed overnight at my parents' place, then woke up bright and early on Wednesday to drive downtown to the House of Blues. Special thanks to Dylan for driving us between Madison and Sun Prairie, and a huge special thanks to Hannah for doing all the rest of that torturous driving (with an angry, pissed off car). We got to the House of Blues around 11:00 AM and there was only about six people waiting in line.
Okay, hold the phone, people. What's goin' on? What happened to the days when Dir en grey fans camped out? When hundreds of them lined up all up and down the block? Perhaps the "couple tour" thing turned fans away. Perhaps it's because school just started for most people. But I really can't help but find this strange. We had pretty decent weather (no blizzards like the last few times the band came to Chicago) and Dir en grey was still doing a setlist that lasts over an hour. So what's up, people? Well, whatever, doesn't matter. My friends and I only got there at 11:00 so we could do the Pass the Line package at 11:30. Pass the Line is just one of the many ways the House of Blues likes to rob people of their money and dangle false hopes in front of their faces. I've never liked Pass the Line, yet I always wind up doing it. Basically, at 11:30, you can get out of line, go inside, and buy either $15 in HoB merchandise or $15 from the restaurant and you get a Pass the Line receipt that puts you in a separate line indoors. You get to stay indoors for your whole wait and the Pass the Line group goes inside first. Except for this show where VIP tickets holders went in first. There was also a Crash the Barricade option. Do you see what's happening here? Basically, everyone spends money so that almost no one gets in ahead of anyone else. HoB gets lots of money so that lots of people can do what a few good punches in the pit could do anyways. But for $15 worth of shrimp po' boy and watermelon spritzer I did Pass the Line, figuring I could at least get better than fourth row (and have a tasty lunch).
I'm going to basically skip the six hours I spent in line. Why? Because I would wind up saying bad things and being mean and I'd like to be a better person than that. Call me easily annoyed, but I was finding many of the people around me to be... well, I'll just shut up. I have one word to describe a good chunk of the fanbase I sat with for six hours:
But we did make friends with this girl Jenny who was really nice! Thanks for being awesome, Jenny! One amusing moment was when Hannah decided to wrap herself up in a University of Wisconsin-Madison poncho and falls asleep in the corner by the door. She got a lot of strange looks, lol. Later on, she gave the poncho to Tessa and Tessa curled up and burrowed completely inside it, except for her boots. When a massive security guard came by to open a door next to her, Hannah asked if Tessa was okay where she was. The guard looked down and went "wait, that's a person?!" Then he laughed, lol.
Fast forward, fast forward... They lined us up on the stairs at around 4:30. We could still see some of the VIP meet-and-greet going on at the top of the stairs. Some might wonder why I, a raging Dir en grey fan, didn't do the VIP package. Um... it's $125. That's why. $125 to meet five guys I've already met. Just didn't tickle my fancy. Maybe some other time.
At 5:00 they let the forty or so VIP fans go inside, then they finally dropped the gate. Yeah, we all kinda stampeded into the venue. For once, security really didn't try to stop us. I don't know if the Apocalyptica fans were as ravenous as the Dir en grey fans, but most Dir en grey fans are big on the "as close as possible" thing. I took third row immediately, in front of Die. I didn't have a plan for which member I'd go in front of, it just sort of happened that way. I had half a second to pick a spot, and I just grabbed that one. Anyways, we had a good 45 minute wait until the show would start. I was able to turn around and talk to Dylan easily, so we passed the time pretty well. I had this really annoying guy next to me, though. He shoved his way up there ten minutes after I got my spot, pushed me out of the way, then put his wife in front of himself. He was about fifty years old and absolutely wreaked of smoke and greasy food. His hair was a tangled mess of horror. I nicknamed him TrailerTrash. His wife was equally as disgusting and I nicknamed her SheBeast. Anyways, TrailerTrash kept trying to talk to me over and over even though I didn't want to talk to him. I could see immediately what he was doing: buttering up the Dir en grey fans so he could get away with taking second row during our set and not get grief for it. I acted nice back, but I knew I'd make him sorry once the show started, lol. He pushed his way up there, shoved me, then tried being nice to me. Uh, yeah, not gonna work on me.
At 5:45 the show began with our opening act, Evaline:
Evaline was a six piece act. As near as I could tell they had a drummer, two guitarists, a bassist, a vocalist (who looked like Orlando Bloom) who would sometimes smash the drums, and a sixth member who I think did some keyboarding, some guitar, and also random drum-smashing. A rather confusing setup at times, lol. In all honesty, I expected Evaline to be really bad and they really weren't. Perhaps not my cup of tea, but I wasn't mentally screaming for them to get off the stage. The drummer was very enthusiastic and played good rhythms and the bassist (who was wearing a Cubs shirt, might I add) was pretty into it as well. All in all, the instrumentals were actually really good. The vocalist, on the other hand... well, I don't know. Perhaps I just wasn't used to his style, but his wild flailing and falling and spazzing seemed a bit too reminiscent of a child having a temper tantrum. He was constantly putting himself between the stage and the barricade and rubbing himself on the girls in front row. That's fine and all, but sometimes I got the feeling he did it out of a sense of obligation to be daring and cool, and not because he was really "feeling" it. Flailing on the floor is fine if that's what you're trying to express, but I think this guy was just... flailing on the floor. But don't get me wrong, he wasn't really a bad vocalist. Just maybe not my style. And he was nice enough during the MCs and thanked Dir en grey and Apocalyptica a lot. Their set was short... only about five songs.
And then it was time for Dir en grey! Here are our lovely boys:
I'm not sure how long we waited, but Dylan and I kept each other amused. I noticed humanoid shapes kept pressing up against the curtain and rummaging around near the stage, but we could never see what was really on the other side (presumably, it was Dir en grey's roadies). I decided what was really going on was the band's attempt at keeping Toshiya busy. They hid all his picks and sent him on a scavenger hunt around the stage while the band set up. Every time someone pressed up against the curtain, Dylan and I were like, "ooh, I think he found one!" Yes, after seven hours of waiting around for the show, it had come to this...
Buuuut finally the lights went down and Sa Bir began to play. This felt like a throwback to me, since Dir en grey hadn't opened with Sa Bir the last five times I saw them in Japan. Still, I love Sa Bir as an intro and I couldn't help screaming immediately. The curtain opened and it was time to get the show on the road! The band members walked on one by one as usual. First came Shinya, who was wearing black pants and a white, button-down shirt that was unbuttoned so low that he usually had at least one nipple showing. Kaoru came next, wearing a black, three-quarter sleeve shirt, jeans, and the blingin' necklaces. And, thankfully, he didn't have a mustache. Toshiya soon followed, wearing a black, three-quarter sleeve shirt; a black, pleated skirt; and... loafers. Okay, lol. Die followed Toshiya, wearing a magnificently sparkly shirt. It was a tight, black shirt that was unbuttoned both downwards and upwards (meaning only a couple buttons in the middle were actually done). This shirt was covered in vertical, shiny stripes. Fabulous. And his hair, well... no need for me to jack more about that, we all know what I think. Last but not least came Kyo, rocking some low-riding khakis and a black, button-down shirt. His Backbone underwear was clearly showing. The band took up their instruments and surveyed the crowd. Kyo, in particular, was x-raying us with his eyes.
Here's our setlist:
Agitated Screams of Maggots
Gaika, Chinmoku ga Nemuru Koro
Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka de Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami
The initial feeling I got from the band was... somewhat melancholy. This didn't last for the whole show, but at the beginning the band seemed a little moody. This mostly came from Kyo and Die, actually. Kaoru seemed pretty into it, to be honest, and Shinya was, well... Shinya. Toshiya... well, I suppose he came off a little moody too, but he seemed to be trying to get over it. Kyo, on the other hand, kept staring at the crowd with a strange look on his face and continually skipped parts of songs. Whenever he skipped, he just looked sad. Die seemed lost in thought. He would gaze around the crowd, then just stare into the distance while playing. But this all cleared up a bit as the show went on.
Our first song up was RED SOIL! Now that is an awesome opener. I totally didn't expect it to be first. Sound trouble was immediate but brief. Kyo's microphone was too low but he quickly gestured for them to turn it up and it was fixed immediately. The song was wonderful, but that melancholy atmosphere definitely draped itself over the band. Also, I could tell right away that I wasn't going to get along with a lot of the people around me. In particular... TrailerTrash and SheBeast. I don't know if I've ever hated two people more than those two. TrailerTrash seemed to think he had some duty to protect his woman in second row. This involved elbowing, shoving, physically moving my arm, and taking up as much space as possible for the Dir en grey fans (of whom he was not one). He even tried whining at us to let up. Dude, you're third fucking row, what did you expect?! I was at a loss as to what to even do with him. I decided to fight fire with fire and gouge my elbow into his side for as long as possible. He was looking at me like, "hell, I thought you were nice." Yeah, well, same to you Stinky. Take a bath.
Anyhoo, after RED SOIL we popped straight into Agitated Screams of Maggots. Despite limited room or mobility, I tried to headbang as much as possible. I was honestly disappointed with how unenthusiastic Die's side of the audience was at the beginning (and I think he was too). The rest of the crowd was going crazy, but Die's side seemed strangely mellow. During this song, the crowd finally started to pick up the pace and the pushing got intense. I said goodbye to breathing and hello to fun. That's the spirit, people, go crazy! Toshiya was definitely into it and spent the whole song bopping around and being wild as usual. Kyo was very active. He would alternate between looking sad and melancholy and then suddenly flipping the shit and flailing around like crazy. I don't think I'd even seen him spazz out as much in Japan as he did at this show. His mood seemed all over the place.
Next up was Gaika, Chinmoku ga Nemuru Koro. Still awesome. Kyo's growls at the end were particularly fantastic. He was also flailing his arm around as if it was somehow not entirely attached to his body. It was really creepy.
After this came the new single: Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka de Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami. This was probably one of the best performances I've yet seen of this song. It was just so spot-on somehow. I can't put my finger on why, but the whole sound of it was album-level perfect. I clung to the back of the guy in front of me and rocked out as much as I could. Some of the song was disrupted by an unbelievably rude girl next to me, but I was able to make it clear to her that I was pissed off and she let up after that. Let's just say she was so rude that she made an enemy of everyone around her and nearly got her ass kicked in the process. She threatened to slap me and she's damn lucky she didn't try. It's like... I don't mind violence at concerts and whatever, but it was completely ruining an incredible performance of Hageshisa for me. I kept missing what was going on onstage because I was so busy dealing with asshats in the audience. I tried to completely ignore the crowd from that point on because it was the only way to enjoy the show. I figured anyone bothering to be a douche bag couldn't possibly have the energy to enjoy the show as much as I could enjoy it ignoring them. Thus, I decided to pity the assholes instead of fighting them. Except for TrailerTrash and SheBeast. I made a sport out of delivering them pain.
Next up... OBSCURE! Ah, well, epic of course. The audience definitely let out a huge scream before the song started. Kyo was rocking out like crazy. This was probably the last song in which I noticed his melancholy. He skipped the first set of screaming, frowned, and wrinkled his eyebrows at us. He seemed sad and perplexed, but then it seemed to clear and he never looked that way again for the rest of the show. After that, he was headbanging like crazy. This seemed to prompt Die to headbang even more. Toshiya was stomping and leaping around the stage. I think it was during this song that Kaoru did his first switchy. Usually Die or Toshiya start those, but those two didn't move from their spots. Kaoru came strutting over to our side and started nodding and making growly faces at us. I managed to get his attention by throwing the horns and yelling his name a lot, and I got a nod and a small snarl out of him. I think it was during this song that Die ran over and planted himself in front of Shinya's drum set. Of course, Shinya paid Die no heed, no matter how much Die wanted to get his attention. Shinya's too much of a drumming machine to even glance at Die, lol. My only complaint with this performance of OBSCURE was that Toshiya's bass came on too strong. I think his equipment was too loud. I love Toshiya's slap bass, but it was drowning out the entire song really badly. I think they turned it down after OBSCURE, however, and it was never an issue again.
After OBSCURE, we began what I believe was meant to be one of Kyo's -inward scream- solos except... it didn't really happen. The music cut out, the lights went down, the spotlight was on Kyo... but then he just hummed a few notes and fell silent. To the credit of our audience, most people really didn't try to scream or disrupt Kyo's solo like they usually do. Still, there was a sense that Kyo expected us to interrupt him so he cut himself off. Instead of singing, he bugged his eyes out and stared at all of us. He was scanning the crowd like his eyes could shoot laser beams. After about twenty awkward, silent seconds, he started nodding as if he was satisfied with what he saw. Kaoru, realizing that Kyo - for whatever reason - wasn't going to do his solo, came to our rescue with some very familiar feedback.
Ah yes, time for Shokubeni. Bad-ass as always. Kyo's screams and growls continued to be album-level perfection.
Next up was Bugaboo, which surprised me for some reason. I didn't think that was a regular on the U.S. setlists. This was undoubtedly an amazing performance of Bugaboo. Kyo was doing this freaky thing where he would flail his left around like crazy while he stomped and screamed, making it seem as if the arm was detached from his body or somehow acting on its own. This was different from when he would clutch one arm and flail it around... it was like he'd bend over while growling and his left arm would slash and claw at the air behind him. It was really creepy, actually. The end was odd. While Kyo softly sang the final notes, Toshiya suddenly clutched his face with his hand and looked like he was going to cry. He slowly pulled his hand down his face before turning away from the crowd entirely. Huh.
After this, Kyo finally went into a real -inward scream- solo and he didn't cut this one off. This solo consisted of chanting and mumbling for the most part. When Kyo finally hit the really long, loud notes, the audience burst into screams. Kyo didn't seem to mind, though. I'm usually somewhat disapproving of the audience making noise during the solos, but this one scream didn't really seem out of place, exactly. TrailerTrash started talking and laughing during the solo, but I think someone shushed him and he shut his damn mouth (probably fearing more retaliation).
The solo melted directly into DOZING GREEN, which was amazing as always. My view of Die was getting somewhat blocked, but I did the best I could to see everything. Toshiya seemed totally fine - as if nothing had happened before.
Up next was Vinushka! Ten minutes of epic! Another big scream from the audience. This was a fantastic performance of Vinushka, however, it was during this song that a bunch of people decided that the Dir en grey show needed crowd surfing. You know... I wouldn't really care much except that they would consistently do it during slow parts of songs when there was absolutely no reason for crowdsurfing. My friends said the guys doing it wreaked of alcohol and consistently pestered the people around them to crowd surf. It was frustrating because we were all getting kicked in the head by these people and the security guards were looking severely pissed off. Well then kick them out! The same guys kept doing it over and over so, instead of putting them back in the crowd, kick them out! Anyways, other than being kicked in the head, Vinushka was awesome. Toshiya was stomp-dancing and running around and Die was headbanging and tossing his beautiful hair everywhere.
Up next was The Final. The audience screamed and the performance was great. Crowd surfing continued, however. Really? During The Final? Well, what can ya do. Kyo held the final "sa" a really long time and the audience started screaming before the note was completed. Definitely creates a different atmosphere from the intentional silence this note receives in Japan. Neither way is right or wrong, it's just interesting.
From here on out it became a storm of insane mosh-music. The next song up was Reiketsu Nariseba, which meant it was time for some serious headbanging and making TrailerTrash's life a living hell. Something interesting I noticed... during the slower part, Kyo turned his back on us immediately and held out his arms, allowing us to see his massive back tattoo. That's not new, he always does that. However, what I found a little perplexing was that the rest of the band (minus Shinya) turned around as well. I noticed it because of Toshiya. Toshiya never faces away from the crowd unless the band is taking a break. I was really confused, till I realized Kaoru was facing away as well. So now I had to see what Die was doing. This required some effort because I was being blocked by a very tall guy in front of me, but once I was able to see I realized that Die, too, had turned his back on us. Interesting... They were still playing whatever was needed for that part of Reiketsu Nariseba, just facing away from us. I wonder what that means?
Well, when the song was over, Kyo began to scream "last song! Last song!" over and over. We cheered each time he yelled it, and I cheered as well, but in my mind I'm thinking "why am I cheering, it means the show is ending!" Oh well, lol.
Not wanting to slow up the pace, Dir en grey finished up with Rasetsukoku. Things got pretty crazy here. Kyo was headbanging like crazy and doing the flail-arm again. He crawled in front of the crate and roamed the edge of the stage in the middle, making nasty faces and pointing at his eyes and then at the audience. A lot of people who had been more mellow in the audience began to headbang more. Kaoru came rushing over to our side to do switchies again. Die quickly followed suit and swapped to the left. Toshiya, unable to pick a side, decided to run up to the center and take over Kyo's crate. This was actually kind of funny. Kyo realized his crate had been overrun and kept one hand on it as if making sure his territory wasn't up for dispute. Toshiya was all smiles and he kept putting his hands next to his ears to urge us to scream louder. Kyo held onto the crate and headbanged beneath him while Toshiya grinned and egged us on. When it was time for the string section to yell "jaki!", Die started looking over at Kaoru to figure out if they should reverse the switchy and get back to their microphones. However, Kaoru opted to stay on Die's side and use Die's red microphone, so Die resorted to yelling "jaki!" into Kaoru's black microphone. It felt a little strange, lol. Eventually, all the band members returned to their proper spots. I rocked out as much as possible and tried to use my aggression towards the people around me as fuel for my intensity. It was awesome!
Then the band left, but the house lights didn't go back up, so I knew we would have an encore. Many of us yelled "Dir en grey!" over and over. It came and went in waves. The band came back after only a couple of minutes, looking so fantastic it was as if they hadn't just played hard music for over an hour. I have to admit, in my head I was going, "please play Zan. Please play Zan. Please play Zan." Then Kyo let out a gut-wrenching growl.
Zan! Yes! What can I say, I just love to end with a good smasher. I went totally crazy and rocked out as much as humanly possible. The band was on fire. Toshiya was running around and rocking out, Kaoru was nodding smugly at everyone, and Die was suddenly bursting with enthusiasm. He started headbanging like mad. Kyo's growls were spot on and I used the insanity of the song to just, well... flip the shit like I always do.
But all too soon it was over. Kyo wound up really taking me by surprise. He stood up on his crate and clapped for us, which isn't abnormal, actually. However, after clapping, he suddenly broke into a full, toothy grin. Wow. I think this is the first time I've ever seen Kyo smile with his teeth showing at a concert. All his crazy, misaligned teeth popped out as he gave us a huge, crinkly-eyed smile. Then he held one hand up near his face, wiggled his fingers at us, and mouthed "bye bye" before jumping down and leaving the stage.
Totally unexpected, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't warm me up from the inside out like a good cup of hot chocolate. "Bye bye" to you too, man! It was great!
With Kyo gone, the band began to throw picks. Toshiya roamed around smiling adorably and tossing us picks and waving. Kaoru went back and forth throwing picks and nodding at us. Die, completely free of his previous bad mood, finally started to get flirty with the audience. He started grinning and sticking his tongue out and throwing water on us. He even looked into the crowd a few times and licked his lips at us while throwing water. Hot damn. I couldn't catch any picks, though. Shinya came out from behind the drum set (and I have to admit, I caught him nearly tripping over the drum platform. It's nice to see The Machine being a little less than perfect, lol) and began to toss some drumsticks at us with his classic, stoic Shinya expression. As they all began to leave, Kaoru wiped down his face and threw the towel into the crowd. Toshiya clapped for us, then put his hands together and bowed before departing. And then they were all gone.
As of today, Toshiya wrote a bit about the Chicago show on his blog and basically summed up how I was feeling about the show. Here's what he wrote (translation credit goes to Nao from Orchestrated Chaos):
Today’s live was... something even I, myself, cannot understand.
It was lively but... it was like... how would you say it?
It’s a feeling I can’t seem to explain.
I think it’s best for the people who watched today to decide for us...
Well, decide I did. Then I wrote a lengthy blog about it, lol.
Anyways, it turned out Melissa had been on the other side of TrailerTrash the whole show. While we stood there behind him, she started going on about how much she hated him and how much rage she was feeling towards him. I guess she'd explained kindly to him that the show was going to get rough and told him he could take her spot when she left for Apocalyptica if he'd just give the Dir en grey fans a little room. He refused and instead whined at her to stop being so rough around his wife. Melissa got pretty angry while telling me about this. Unable to stand it any longer, Melissa suddenly grabbed TrailerTrash by the arms and slammed her knee into his back. Ahahahaha, OMG my hero!
My friends and I managed to regroup and head over to the merch table. I bought the t-shirt and the poster, both of which feature the picture of Dir en grey I posted above. The merch guy practically threw the poster, unrolled, at me. I moved away to roll it back up and noticed there were two hideous slash marks across it. I went back and asked if I could have another and he refused! He claimed I walked away from the table, so it's too late because he can't prove I didn't scratch the poster myself! Well of course I fucking walked away, I had to fucking roll it up since you couldn't fucking do it yourself! And it's only in rolling it up that I can see that you mauled it! I gave him the best puppy dog eyes I could and tried to make it look like I was going to cry. He decided to find a beaten up poster that I could have for free if I wanted. He dropped it on the way over, causing a girl next to me who'd seen the whole incident to laugh darkly and roll her eyes towards me like, "wow, unbelievable." The poster was absolute shit and I refused it, so I had to take my leave with a goddamn fifteen dollar poster that he ruined. Piece of shit. Luckily the scratch marks aren't on the band members. But it's the freakin' principle of the thing!
Anyways, we decided to at least see what was up with Apocalyptica. The five of us had listened to their latest album on the car ride to the venue and weren't... particularly impressed. But we figured it was worth watching a little. This is Apocalyptica:
They're a Finnish band that consists of three members who play cello and one drummer. They have guest guitarists and bassists and they get guest vocalists to do vocals for some of their songs. Some of these guest vocalists include Corey Tailor of Slipknot, Adam Grontier of Three Days Grace, Ville Valo of HIM, Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, Lacey Mosley of Flyleaf, and Till Lindemann from Rammstein (OMG yay!). Anyways, it sounds interesting and all, but I wasn't particularly impressed with the little we watched. Perhaps I passed judgment and left to quickly, but as near as I could tell, Apocalyptica consisted of three guys playing virtually the same shit as each other on the cello while spinning their hair in circles or running around the stage. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I really think the band would be more entertaining if they would hire some actual guitarists to join them, or get themselves a vocalist for when they perform on stage. Everything was prerecorded and gave the performance a somewhat fake, plastic, pre-rehearsed feel to it. Most of my friends seemed to feel similarly so we left before the first song was over.
Then we hit the highway and started our three hour journey back to Madison.
Hope you enjoyed! I'll try and post to this blog more often from here on out. Probably about non-concert related content, if I can. Here's to hoping!