Wednesday, August 31, 2011


OMG, I did it!  I didn't think it would be possible but, after my first day of classes, I made it to DIAURA's first one-man and back home again all in the same night!  HOMG............ what an adventure.

Obviously, an epic post of absolute epicness is comin' your way!  I'm working on it right now, so stay tuned!  The one from last week will get pushed back a little, and I'm still typing up the DIAURA one, but it's on the way! 

A fun little teaser: the craziest and most insane experience I've ever had at an indies concert happened at DIAURA's show.  Y'all are not gonna believe it.

Stay tuned ^_~

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Opening Ceremony

Well, classes haven't exactly started per se, but we've, like... kinda started around here.  We had our opening ceremony today, and our first teacher meetings, and our first school lunch, and stuff like that.  All these teachers seemed to appear out of thin air that I'd never seen before.  Um... I swore I'd blog at least a little about the school stuff.

Let's see...

The ceremony was pretty boring.  My source of entertainment was the group of third year boys who couldn't behave themselves to save their lives.  One of them... just kept dancing.  I don't even know why.  They were consistently told to keep their feet between these lines but that was a joke.  One boy kept acting out, so a teacher came and dragged him into the equipment room of the gym and disappeared in there with him for awhile.  The kid stumbled out, looking all upset.  Then, as soon as the teacher wasn't looking, he sprawled himself all over the line again.  Yeah... I think I've already figured out who the class clowns are.  One kid, when the teacher came over to berate him, curled up in a ball and rocked back and forth pretending to be scared.  Ha ha.  Some of the teachers had to prowl the gym with the sole purpose of waking up kids who'd fallen asleep.

Not that I blamed them.

I had to go up there and give a formal introduction about myself to 500 kids.  They all listened patiently, lucky for me.  It was just crap like, "Hi, nice to meet you, my name is ____________, I'm from ____________" etc. etc.

But afterwards... Alright, I dunno what it is, but I obviously exude some kind of aura of pinkness and candy and kittens because Japanese girls seem to think I'm the cutest thing ever and I have no idea why.  I mean ME of all people!  Outside the gym, some girls said, "hello!" to me, so I said "hello!" back and waved.  Then the girls dissolved into squeals of "kawaiiiiiiiiiiii!!!" ("cuuuuuuuuuute!").  What the hell?!  I did nothing to cause this!  As I'm walking away, a herd of girls are going, "omigawd, she's so cute!"  I don't understand this!  I got this when I studied abroad too!  Everything I did, Japanese girls freaked out and went on and on about how cute I am!  I don't understand!  I'm fat, and frizzy-haired, and I wear too much make up... what the hell is cute about that?!

We may never know.

Um, yeah, we had school lunch, which was huge, as expected.  Too much rice, and I hate Japanese chicken (I hit some cartilage and wanted to throw up the whole meal).  Lucky for me I love fish (even when it has bones) and I have no problem with things like pickled plums and seaweed and stuff.  I love Japanese food.  Just not the chicken.  When I need a chicken fix, I'll go running to the KFC in Kiryu.

The teachers here... some are nice.  Most don't want to approach me.  I don't blame them.  I wouldn't want to approach me either.  I rely on one or two to get by.  I have to start doing classes... Tuesday, I think?  Yet I haven't discussed the first lessons with any teachers yet, and they don't seem to care.  My policy is, if you don't care, I don't care.  People say I have to take more initiative.  I say the teachers are adults and they can deal with it.

But that's what I say about most things.

Uuuum... yeah, this post is getting boring, lol.  I'll be back again with another indies report soon!

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!  Puppies and kittens and rainbows!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Indies Report, 8/19, Shibuya BOXX

Well, it's time for another one of “those” indies reports.  You know, the ones where nothing made any sense, and I'm not even sure what to say about some of it.  I could “count the WTF” like I did that one time, but I think there'd be too much to count!

Today's reported show took place at a new venue for me called Shibuya BOXX.  I have no idea how, after a year of indies and about thirty shows, I never wound up at Shibuya BOXX.  Is it new?  I have no idea.  Anyways, the show was on a Friday at 4:30, which is an obvious issue.  On a Friday, MelJay and I would still be in our respective prefectures at work.  Well, classes haven't started yet, so MelJay and I both took a half day at work (cost me three whole hours of paid leave – the horror!) and left around lunch time to head to Tokyo for the show.  I was able to bail at noon and catch a 12:45 train.  I was at Shibuya's Hachiko statue by 3:30, where MelJay was waiting.  Then we used the directions I printed out by some past indies-goer who knew a lot of landmarks and used that to find the elusive Shibuya BOXX.  Turns out the venue's sitting in the same block area as C.C. Lemon Hall and Shibuya AX.  Who knew.

Anyways, we arrived just as doors were opening (at 4:00), not that it mattered.  There was only, like... twenty-five people there at first.  MelJay and I took a spot all the way on the right side where we could keep an eye on everything and jump in if we needed to (but still be out of backpack and purse-crushing territory).

When the first band started setting up, however, a certain problem became apparent: the sound system was too loud.  Now, it takes a lot for me to say that.  I like my music loud.  But this hurt.  Bad.  I was hoping, when the music actually started, it wouldn't be so awful.  But it was.  If the sound quality was a little better it wouldn't be a big deal, but... BOXX's sound system is kinda... meh.  The inside kinda reminded me of Ikebukuro Black Hole, however.  It felt like sitting in a big, black shoe box.  The barrier was also oddly far from the stage and padded like it was for mental patients.  I wonder if there have been, like... really bad accidents at BOXX in the past, lol.

Also, the band I was there to see – DIAURA – was listed first on the ticket, so they were the supposed headliner.  I also assumed this because, while we were waiting for the show to start, they were playing music from DIAURA's new mini-album.  I was excited to realize DIAURA sounded like Valluna... minus the aspects of Valluna's music I didn't care for.  Very good sign!

Around 4:30, the first band took the stage.  They were called Black x berry.  Aaaaand I tried everything but I just couldn't find a picture of them.  My pamphlets include a picture, but I don't have access to a scanner and I don't wanna be that person uploading personal photos onto the school computers, lol.  Sorry.  Don't worry, they're not that exciting to look at.

I'd say the band is rated N for N00b.

They were just kinda... okay, I guess.  The problem was, they were trying to be sooooo enthusiastic cuz they're the n00b band and they need to get fans, but... the audience wasn't really taking the bait.  The band had a saizen, but the saizen wasn't enthusiastic enough either.  When the band tried to do stuff like gyaku-daibu, it just sorta... didn't work out.  It's too bad cuz, musically, they weren't bad, and they definitely had some talent (as many n00b bands, surprisingly, do).  But they were new and they were kinda... trying too hard to be rawk stars.  I felt kind of embarrassed for them, so let's move on.

The next band up was ANOTHER DIMENSION.  Picture:

This band is rated D for... D.

No, seriously, I thought Asagi came on stage for a moment there.  If Nobro from VAJRA had a man-crush on Kyo, then this guy's got a raging man-crush on Asagi from D.  He was dressed exactly like him, with long, black hair pulled over one eye, a side hat, a “mad hatter” kind of coat, and he even had the same make up.  What's more, he was holding a conductor's stick to “conduct” the audience with, just like Asagi would do!  I was horribly amused.  They weren't really bad or anything.  They had a sort of atmospheric rock thing going on, from what I could tell through the terrible static of the sound system and the shredding of my ear drums.  The vocalist kept things interesting enough the way he “conducted” the crowd, and his band mates were pretty into it.  Shout-out goes to their drummer, who was crazy and awesome.  He's one of those drummers who drums like he just drank six Red Bulls and wants to break the whole set before the show's over.  In fact, when the band was done, the drummer stayed on and did a sort of... solo?  It was more like a drum set spazz-attack for a few minutes.  By the time it was finally over, the drummer seemed all disoriented and stumbled out from behind the set like he'd been shot up with horse tranquilizers.  He wound up tripping over something next to the drum set and nearly face-planted, then he stumbled dizzily across the stage while everyone cheered.  Then he staggered offstage, at which point there was a crash from behind the curtain as the drummer most likely tripped over something again.

I should add that drummers tripping over something next to the drum set was about to become a trend for the night.  

The next band up... well, the ticket says their name is St. Rose, but... something's strange.  According to the pamphlet, their name is Scarlet Valse.  Any site that mentions the event has the band listed as St. Rose, but I've got two pamphlets from these guys and they both say Scarlet Valse on them.  I can see why they're being called St. Rose, however.  When the curtain parted, the entire drum set and all the mic-stands were wrapped in fake rose vines.  I did a little research, and I'm not positive, but I think Scarlet Valse is actually a session band, and St. Rose is... the real band?  What?  I read the description in Japanese several times and it still didn't make sense to me.  I couldn't find a picture of St. Rose, and the band itself was only advertising Scarlet Valse, so... here's a picture of Scarlet Valse, who don't look anything like St. Rose but... consists of the same members...?

This band is rated WTFFF for What The Flying Fucking Fuck.

I've been calling them the Desert Band because they came on stage looking like desert travelers or something.  They were all wrapped up in white cloth, some of them even around their faces.  And they... were just... what.  First of all, they had a Token Female who was the creepiest thing ever.  He was smiling in this weird, forced way, and always strummed his guitar like he was flicking fairy dust all over the place.  The member with the cloth wrapped around his face seemed to have mummified himself everywhere but his chest, because it was nip-slip for pretty much the entire performance.  A nice tattoo was poking through the fabric on his right arm, however.  And then... there was the vocalist...

What I don't even.

If ever a psychotic human being has been put on a Japanese indies stage, it's this guy.  He came running onstage like a maniac with curly hair extensions and wild eyes.  Their saizen was going totally insane, so the vocalist ran over to two of the girls, grabbed their hands, and started jumping up and down with them, his mouth hanging open like he was trying to catch flies.  This is a grown man we're talking about here.

Aaaaand thus began one of the most absurd acts I've ever seen.  I mean, what do I even say about them?  The music... wasn't bad... I guess...  The audience was pretty into them and their saizen was pretty wild.  But the vocalist was a complete nutball.  He hopped and danced around like the stage was made of hot sand, always with his eyes bugging out and his mouth hanging open.  He also really enjoyed picking on MelJay and me, and constantly initiated crazy staring contests with us.  At one point he bugged his eyes out at me and I stared back at him, smirking.  After a minute, however, it just got creepy and uncomfortable, so I glanced away.  When I looked back, however... he was still staring at me!  So creepy!  One of the more amusing things he did was, during gyaku-daibu, he backed up to the edge of the stage and sat himself down on the barrier so the girls could leap through the air and crash right into his back.  And, of course, he did all this while giggling like a maniacal school girl.  Aaaaand then there was the groping.  The vocalist really liked to, um... touch himself down there... a lot.  I think the  creepiest was when he held his microphone up at his crotch and started rubbing it and grinning at me n' MelJay.  Something is seriously wrong with this guy... 

At the end of their performance, he and his band mates tossed real roses into the audience.  And I believe their drummer tripped on something next to the drum set.

I think around this point I decided I couldn't handle the sound system anymore.  During St. Rose (?), it felt like something in my right ear burst from the loudness.  Not wanting to sacrifice years of my hearing, I pulled out my ear buds and stuck 'em in.  I decided I'd rather look stupid and have headphones hanging off my face than lose anymore hearing.

Alright, so who's up next?!

Uuuum... maybe it was Rubik?  Here's a (really out of date) picture:

Rubik is rated U for Unremarkable.  I don't really remember anything, sorry!  I know they weren't bad, cuz I would've had a sour memory of them if they sucked.  I just don't really have any memory of them, to be honest...  Pretty sure they also had a drummer who tripped over whatever mysterious object was trying to trip up all the drummers next to the drum set.  By this point, they had a roadie lying in wait for the drummers to trip, and she rushed over and detangled him from whatever mess was going on over there.

Next up was ArtCube.  Picture:

This band is rated B for Boring. 

I dunno... everyone stood up for them, so I thought there might be potential.  Their entire saizen was made up of gothic lolita-types, including two foreigners who appeared to be “official.”  But, for some reason, the band was just boring.  I'm not even sure why.  The band seemed kinda bored, and their audience wasn't exactly the life of the party either.  People who stood up seemed to have stood up because they'd heard of the band, and that was about it.  I swear to god the bassist died on stage and continued to play as a zombie, that's how bleagh the whole thing seemed.  I felt really antsy and wanted to sit down.  The only interesting thing was that the guitarist had this weird instrument... it looked like an antenna, and he waved his fingers around it to produce weird, electrical feedback noises.  I dunno what it was, though.

So... what was next?  Well, the next band started with a rather disinterested looking drummer sitting behind the drum set ahead of everybody, so I figured he was some band's support drummer.  As the intro music played, three members came on stage and received the best reaction from the audience we'd had all night.  Everyone was up, and we had about seventy people by then.  Several thoughts ran through my head at that point:

1. The vocalist is hot.

2. The screaming in the intro sounds familiar.

3. The guitarist also looks really familiar.

4. Actually, now that you mention it, the vocalist looks kinda familiar too...


I don't always herp, but when I do, I derp.

I believe I stared at the band for about a minute straight, watching them perform, before realizing, “hey douche bag, it's DIAURA you fucking idiot!”  I nudged MelJay in the side to say, “hey, that's DIAURA” and she kinda looked at me like, “no shit, Sherlock.”  And she's never even seen yo-ka before...  So............. I pulled out my headphones.

I'm ashamed of myself.  Shows you how long I've been out of the loop!  My brains have scrambled!

Anyways, here's DIAURA:

 This band is rated NC-17 for yo-ka.  Because.

So yeah, basically, I'm an idiot and didn't recognize Kei or yo-ka, even though I've seen them both live about ten times.  I was gaping at Kei like, “why do you look so familiar?!”  In my defense, yo-ka changed his hair from shock-blond to black, so I think that threw me for a loop.  And they were wearing crappy, generic, marching-band VK clothing.  I'm not used to those two being poorly dressed.  But I know it's because their band is in the process of getting new members, so they don't want to spend the money on real costumes until the lineup is established.  Also, I thought they were going to headline!  Between each band they were playing DIAURA's music, so I just assumed they'd headline!  But we still had one band to go!  Sooooo, yeah, pardon me for being confused, lol.

Anyways, DIAURA was the band I was really there to evaluate.  How did they stack up?  Especially in comparison to Valluna, who I saw about ten times.  Uuuum... I've gotta say, I think I like where DIAURA's going better than Valluna.  The thing with Valluna was that the band was kind of gimmicky.  Yo-ka is obviously into the “hard-core” stuff, but Valluna was always trying to throw a cute angle into their music.  I'd hear their songs and think, “this song is really good, but what's with this stupid part right here that doesn't fit at all?”  But, so far, DIAURA's not like that.  They're going for straight-up hard-core, which yo-ka seems happier with.  Even Kei, who I always thought was an oddly mellow guitarist for Valluna (which made me even more surprised when he, of all the members, followed yo-ka to DIAURA), seemed happier and more into it than he ever was in Valluna.  Oh, and they have a new member who plays bass!  His name is Shoya.  I wasn't sure what I thought of him just looking at pictures.  He looked kinda cute and out of place.  But Shoya is totally awesome.  He was really hyper and super into it (and he was pretty adorable).  I definitely like the new guy.

Anyways, no report involving yo-ka should ever be without a “stage antics” section, so let's get to that.  Yo-ka was, as usual, up to his sadistic theatrics.  One of my big concerns about DIAURA was that the label would force the band to be more mellow than Valluna and yo-ka would be forced to tame down his usual performances.  Buuuuuuuuut that's definitely not the case.  For the first couple songs, he was just singing and blah blah blah and I thought somewhere between the switch from Valluna to DIAURA, we'd lost the real yo-ka.  But no, as the show got more intense, yo-ka stepped it up.  Lots of glaring all spooky-style at audience members, lots of getting all up in peoples' faces to scare them.  I definitely had a couple staring contests with yo-ka but, luckily, I stayed in the third row and wasn't close enough for him to do anything (next time I'm movin' up, though!).  As usual, it was during gyaku-daibu that yo-ka's incredible ability to make magic out of any audience really showed.  He was able to get full gyaku-daibu going, despite the rather unenthusiastic crowd we'd had so far.  First, he riled everyone up by literally pointing at each member of the audience and snarling something at them (which took several minutes).  No one escaped his glare.  Then, as gyaku-daibu got more and more intense, he started reaching out and dragging people forward and forcing them into the saizen.  One of my favorites of the night... yo-ka prowled along the edge of the stage with a bottle of water and, every time a girl jumped into the saizen, he took a big mouthful of water and sprayed it at her as she hit the saizen.  I'd never seen him do that before, and I thought it was really funny.  To me, the scariest thing he did all night was also during gyaku-daibu.  One girl jumped into the saizen and, while she was in midair, yo-ka lashed out and caught her in a stranglehold around the neck!  Then he held her in a headlock up in the air on top of the saizen girl.  Luckily, yo-ka supported her shoulder enough that she didn't get strangled or seriously hurt or anything (yo-ka's crazy, but he's not stupid).  Still, it looked pretty freaky from where I was standing!

Also, yo-ka totally took his shirt off, hehehe.  I was headbanging, so I didn't see it happen, but MelJay started poking me repeatedly to get me to look, lol.  Let's just say, if possible, yo-ka is even more physically impressive than he was a year ago.  We all know what I think about yo-ka, so I'll just leave it at that.  But seriously.


MelJay's convinced he's paying for a trainer.  Hell, he probably is, lol.

Anyways, enough about DIAURA.  I'll see them again soon, so I'll hold off until the next show.  The bottom line is, I felt extremely positive about them by the end of the show.  Kei is definitely more fun in DIAURA than in Valluna, Shoya seems really awesome, and yo-ka hasn't changed a bit.  I'm going to buy their new mini-album and see how it stacks up but, so far, I really liked how it sounded.

One more band to go!  The band that for some reason headlined was SWEET MADONNA.  Picture:

This band is rated IP for Inappropriate Pants.

Uuuum... I dunno.  They weren't really my cup of tea.  They were kinda boring, and half the audience left after DIAURA, so it was just sorta meh.  The vocalist was wearing... inappropriate pants.  They were open about two inches on each side, all the way up to his belt, with laces criss-crossing it.  Which meant he obviously wasn't wearing underwear.  Which was... obvious.  And disturbing.  He just... didn't really have the body type for those pants...

The only really amusing thing was, during the MC, the band brought out bags full of popsicles.  Why?  Well, according to them, “cuz it's summer.”  So yeah, they threw popsicles into the audience.  At least fifteen of them.  I didn't get one, but I kinda wanted the SWEET MADONNA fans to have them.  It would be kinda mean of me to take one, lol.  I'm not sure, but it looked like those really tasty blue popsicles they have in Japan.  I think they're Ramune flavored?

Anyways, yeah, they just weren't that interesting, so MelJay and I ducked out before encore.  On the way out, the freaky vocalist of St. Rose/Scarlet Valse was outside handing out more pamphlets.  There was absolutely no escape, so MelJay and I awkwardly accepted them.  Then, as we were walking away, the vocalist shouted, in English, "I LOVE YOU!!!" after us.  All MelJay and I could do was giggle and run away.   

Then I introduced MelJay to the wonderful, cheap, delicious, and awesome restaurant that is Saizeriya.  If I ever make an actual “How to Indies” post, one of my main pieces of advice would be to find every Saizeriya in Tokyo.  For 180 yen you can have endless drink bar to rehydrate after a show, and the food is super cheap and super tasty (only 400 yen for a pizza!)

Oh, and MelJay and I kinda went on an adventure the next day since our Saturday was free.  We went to the Square-Enix Store and gaped at Sephiroth's corpse under the floor (and MelJay bought an adorable Moogle cell phone strap!).  Then we went to the Pokemon Center, where I bought a Snivy stuffed animal!  I'll take pictures later.  I totally love Snivy.  He (well, actually the one I have in my game is a she), is just so cute and smug!  I know Snivy is supposed to be a “grass snake” Pokemon but... I think he's more of a “bitchy”-type Pokemon, lol.  Sooooo cute.  Oh, and we went to Sweets Paradise.  I don't always eat cake, but when I do... diabeetus XP

Anyways, I will be back again this weekend.  Yes, again.  How much longer can I keep this up?  Who know?!  Who cares?!  Let's just do it!  MelJay and I are going to MelJay's first “super indies” show.  We're going to see BORN!  Other acts include -OZ-, Para:noir, HERO (yuck), and a few others that I've at least heard of.  Should be interesting!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Life So Far...

Greetings from Kiryu City!  My apologies for no updates!  As I’ve already mentioned several times, I haven’t had internet in weeks.  I’ve been writing this blog update in a document on the side in the hopes that I wouldn’t forget anything, but I didn’t even get to my computer for at least five days, so a lot of my first memories on The Program may already be lost.

Speaking of which, I’ve made some changes to Twisted in Tokyo, mostly in an attempt to keep my private life and my professional life separate.  I won’t say what some of the changes were because drawing attention to them defeats the whole point, but I assure you they don’t affect any of the previous content on this blog and nothing content-related has been changed at all.  Things that have been changed are, like… some names of people, or the omission of some names or locations.  The only really obvious change is that I’ve taken my real name off the blog completely.  I’m now going by the name Kita temporarily.  If you remember what my real name is, just forget it, lol.  It’s Kita for the moment!

Anyways, here’s the lowdown of what’s gone on so far.  Before leaving for Japan, my friend MelJay, who was also joining The Program, came over to my home near Chicago the day before we had to leave.  At that point she discovered that I hadn’t done much in the way of packing up for a year of my life, so that was interesting.  The next day, we got up early and headed off to the airport to leave for Japan.  The flight was only about thirteen hours, which really isn’t bad for a flight from O’hare to Narita.  It was made even better by the fact that MelJay and I got to Narita before anyone else and managed to get two seats alone together in the front row.  Hello leg room!  During the flight, I watched Sucker Punch, which I thought kinda sucked.  Good idea, terrible execution.  Then I watched Jane Eyre, which was much better, except I took a sleeping pill during it and wound up tripping balls and losing the last twenty minutes of the film.  Always try out a sleeping pill before you really need it, lol.  The food was a combination of Western and Japanese, like beef and mashed potatoes and sushi.  After a few hours of staring straight ahead like a lobotomy victim (MelJay practically had to unwrap my sandwich for me), we finally arrived in Narita.  People from The Program were quick to help everyone get to where they needed to go.

We got to stay at a fancy hotel in Shinjuku for three days for orientation stuff.  Here’s how that went.

Day 1: Went to karaoke.  Realized my singing voice had gone to shit.  Ate at Coco’s Curry and it was awesome.

Day 2: Boring.  Falling asleep during orientation.  Indies concert I wanted to go to was sold out.  Too tired to Ticket Ninja (or move, for that matter).  First ever concert fail left me irritable.  Spent the night watching TV in the hotel with MelJay.  Watched a show about a guy putting his arm in a jar full of mosquitoes.

Day 3: So sick of orientation I could scream.  Snuck out of the hotel and ditched the entire afternoon of orientation and went to Shibuya with MelJay instead.  Went up and down O1O1 (oh gawd, I swear the clothing has gotten even more awesome than ever before!) and ate dinner at First Kitchen.  Fuck yeah shrimp burgers.

That was orientation.  The following morning, I said goodbye to MelJay and she headed off to Chiba prefecture, while I headed off to Gunma.  Bus ride was surprisingly short.  Landed in Maebashi, which is a huge city.  At that point, we had to go to the big city hall to do this formal welcome thing.  Met the awesome man I will henceforth call Supervisor-san, as well as two other girls heading to Kiryu City.  Supervisor-san took us to Kiryu by car, along with two awesome girls who were already veterans at the whole Program thing.

I finally got to see my apartment, which is huuuuuuge.  And new (built in the last five years).  At first I hated it because it seemed cold and empty and creepy, but I’ve started decorating (with copious amounts of pink and black) and the place is starting to look at least a little bit like a home.  A home covered in garbage.  I need to get on that.  Honestly, the place is a little too big.  I don’t actually know what to do with all of it.  I think there’s going to be at least one empty room with nothing in it.  Maybe I’ll store all the garbage in there, hahaha.

Oh, anyways.  Um, the other two n00bs couldn’t move into their apartments yet, so they stayed with me.  The next few days involved Supervisor-san taking us everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  We went to office after office, making bank accounts, applying for cards, speaking with real estate agents, meeting our principals, and lots and lots of shopping.  Especially in my case, since my apartment was empty. 

Let me give you an example of Japanese hospitality.  When I needed to get a bunch of my shopping back home from downtown, but I also had my bike with me, Supervisor-san agreed to take all of it in a car back to my place.  But what about my bike?  I didn’t know how to get home yet.  So Supervisor-san asked one of his staff members to take his bike and guide me to the train station and show me how to buy tickets and stuff.  So that was awesome.  He even waited on the train with me till it left.  Then I figured I’d wing it from the station to my home, where I thought Supervisor-san was waiting.  Nope.  As it turned out, Supervisor-san was waiting for me right at the station and drove his car alongside my bike to make sure I got home!  Japan… you are crazy.  Awesome crazy.

So the other two n00bs had semi-furnished apartments.  In fact, one of the girls pretty much had a pre-decorated, pre-everything-ed apartment.  But not mine!  There were no lights, no curtains, no clocks, no furniture…  It was a sad desert of hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling windows exposed to the entire neighborhood.  I should add that the view from my apartment is rice paddies and a cemetery.  Yay Japan!  I’ll post pictures once I get internet in my apartment.

Aaaaaaaaaanyways, I have lots of observations so far. 

1. People in Gunma are very nice, but the women are definitely more intense than Tokyo women.  Like, they’ll talk back to customers and stuff.

2. Many people in Gunma are… how do I say this?  Um… fat.  I read that 7% of Japanese people are overweight, and I’m pretty sure they’re all in Gunma.  Is it because they all drive?  Or is it because they aren’t as diet crazy as Tokyo?  Who knows.  All I know is, all the department stores and strip malls around here have plus-size stores or plus-size sections, and people are definitely shopping in ’em.

3. No one will greet you or smile at you unless you’ve been formally introduced.  After that, you might as well be BFFs.  Seriously.  The n00bs and I walked through the Board of Education department and no one even glanced at us or smiled at us.  Then we went to each section and formally greeted ourselves (shit like, “Nice to meet you.  My name is ______.  I’m from _______.  I’m teaching at _______ school.  Yoroshiku onegaishimasu”).  After you do that, you can’t even walk by without everyone being like “Heeeey!  How are you!  Hiiii!”).  At school, I’d been too shy to do the customary shout of “ohayou gozaimasu!” (“good morning!”) when I walked into the staff room.  Then, one day, I decided to do it and a teacher who’d been kinda cold to me brought me green tea while I was at my desk.  Damnit Japan.  You are messed up.

4. There’s no unsuitable place for a rice paddy.

5. It never stops raining or being cloudy in Japan.  I kinda already noticed that in Tokyo, but I thought I’d mention it again.  I have actually seen lightning in a clear sky here, followed by rain with no clouds.  Just cuz, I guess.

6. Lots of dogs in Gunma.  And probably 50% or more are Shiba Inus.  I kinda want one.

Anyways, yeah, recently I’ve been doing nothing but excessive shopping.  Now I have, um… a small table.  A single chair.  Some curtains, but not enough of them.  Uh… I have some cleaning supplies.  Yeah, it’s not too exciting.  I really want some internet.  Seriously.  Oh, but I got an awesome TV!  I was at a Yamada Denki and this huge, gorgeous TV suddenly went on sale because it was the display model, out of its box and used, and they were switching the display.  The TV was originally 75,000 yen, but I got it for less than 30,000!  A crowd was forming around it when it went on sale, so I leaped on a sales employee and was like, “I’LL TAKE IT!”  You should’ve seen the pissed/disappointed faces of the other people closing in on it, hehe.

So I’ve started going to school, which is… not very interesting, honestly.  The principal is super nice, and the English teachers seem nice too, although they don’t actually seem to know much English.  That, or they’re too shy to use it around a native speaker.  I’ve been told when English teachers in Japan get drunk, they’re suddenly fluent in English, so we’ll see how it goes at our first enkai (party).

Anyways, the school is really big (about five hundred students) but the place is pretty run down.  Nonetheless, it’s pretty well equipped for a Japanese middle school and the classrooms even have air conditioning (though I have no idea if they’ll actually use it or not).  For the next month or so, I have to come in every day and sit in the staff room with nothing really to do.

Another lesson in Japanese Hospitality 101: When I told the first-year English teacher that I didn’t know how to use my microwave or laundry machine, she was like, “oh, well let me drive you home when you leave all super early and shit today, and I’ll show you how to use that stuff.”  The problem is that my apartment is the most disgusting, garbage-infested thing you’ve ever seen right now, so that was super embarrassing.  I offered her some free oolong tea in the hopes that drinking tea would distract her from the fact that my apartment makes me look like an otaku swamp monster.  I assured her it would be clean by the next time she comes over, and she was all like, “yes, I would love to come over when it’s clean.”  FML.

As for the students.  Dayum.  They’re pretty rowdy.  Well, actually, it turns out my school has the lowest test scores in the city and the lowest English test scores in the whole prefecture (which has two million people, I should add).  Sooo… they’re not exactly the most motivated creatures ever.  But I was still surprised by the chaos they seemed to exude.  At first, children who saw me seemed apprehensive.  I got a lot of confused or worried looks.  Then, while I was wandering aimlessly trying to find a front door that wasn’t locked, I passed a classroom full of girls who started whispering excitedly amongst each other.  Then they started calling, “hello!” at me through the window.  They must’ve sent some kind of Bat Signal through the school because I started receiving similar reactions after that.  At one point, I walked into the gym and was watching kids doing gymnastics and basketball and stuff and a group of first-years spotted me.  The next thing I knew, they came running over in a mad stampede and formed a semi-circle around me.  It kinda went like this:

Kids: Konnichiwaaaa!!!

Me: Konnichiwa!

Gym Teacher: [in Japanese] This is the new English assistant!  Formally greet her!

Takeshi (not real name): Hajimemashite, Takeshi desu.  Yoroshiku onega-

Gym Teacher: [in Japanese] Use English, of course!

Takeshi: Oh!  Uh… [looks helplessly at gym teacher]  Hello… my name is… Takeshi… Nice to meet you too.

Me: [snort]

Gym Teacher: [in Japanese]  You don’t put “too” at the end!  That’s her part!

Takeshi: Oh!  Uh… Nice to meet you too.

Gym Teacher: No “too!”

Takeshi:  Hai, uh… Nice to… meet yooooooooouuuuuu.

Kids: [excessive giggling]

They’re like that.  And they’re not particularly afraid of authority, either.  My principal walked me into a club that was having a meeting and the kids didn’t bother to settle down while he was in there.  They made an open display of not knowing kanji and didn’t even hesitate to scream or slap each other in front of him.  Principal-san, for his part, just watched them with a small smile like a doting father.  These kids will probably be a handful, but they seem pretty lovable.  Some of the first years are sooooo tiny, though!  Puberty hasn’t hit some of them yet, so they look like seven year olds!  On the other hand, some of the third years are getting very tall and their attitudes seem to be growing with them.  A lot of them are definitely trying to give off the “I’m a badass” vibe.  Well, we’ll see about that!

Oh, and I was always told conservative dress is big at Japanese schools.  Well, bullshit for my school during the summer.  The entire staff is wearing Adidas track suits - even the women!

Anyhoo, for the most part, the time we Program people spend at school for the first month is painfully boring.  I spend about six to eight hours a day sitting at a desk doing nothing.  I should have internet in theory, but I haven’t figured out how to make it work yet.  So… for the most part, I just sit here staring at books my predecessor left behind or doing things like, um… typing this blog.  I’ve also been reading middle school ESL versions of famous books like Dracula.  I need a life, hahaha.

I’ll have some more updates coming soon!  I’ll should have a lengthy, picture-tastic post about Kiryu’s Yagibushi festival soon!  And I’m going to more indies shows this weekend!  Hurrah!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Indies Report, 8/13 at Takadanobaba AREA

WHO’S READY FOR AN INDIES REPORT?!! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? At least… a year, I’m pretty sure!

For starters, how did I get to Tokyo? When I first found out I’d gotten into the English teaching program, I was worried about the future of my blog in relation to its previous standing. After all, the blog is called Twisted in Tokyo. You can’t really keep a blog named Twisted in Tokyo if you’re not even in Tokyo. However, I soon discovered that traveling from Gunma to Tokyo is easy as pie, so the name stayed. I could go to Tokyo every single weekend if I wanted to (and I just might, hahaha), and I can even go on a week day so long as I'm careful.

This was my first time traveling to Tokyo on my own, but it wound up being really easy, thanks do semi-express trains.  MelJay booked us a night at a hostel in Asakusa. We met up in Asakusa, dropped off our stuff at the hostel, then went off to Shinjuku for lunch. Ate at Miami Garden (Bismark pizza = delicious) and they totally had kabocha pudding, squeeee! We dicked around for awhile by going to Like an Edison (they’re all out of MERRY’s new DVD! Fail!!!) and indies shops. Then we picked up some liquid sustenance and went off to Takadanobaba AREA, my dear old “friend” (as in, love the venue, hate the staff).

A couple of things made this particular show different from the others shows I’ve seen in the past. Those two things were:

1. I was going with my dear friend MelJay, who’d never seen an indies show before.

2. There wasn’t a single band I was there to see.

So why go? Well, MelJay really wanted to start trying out indies, and she and I hadn’t seen each other in weeks since we separated in Tokyo to move to different prefectures. So then why this particular event out of all the other possible events going on in Tokyo? Allow me to explain my 2-3 system. The 2-3 system means I won’t go to an indies concert unless there are at least two bands I really like, or three bands I sort of like, and any combination of that. Basically what that means is, I won’t go to a show to see just one band - there has to be something else. Since summer tends to be an indies dry spell (and involves waaaaay too many session bands), and MelJay and I were desperate to see something, I took a peek at my 2-3 list and discovered the band DEPAIN would be playing at this event. They’re a 3 but, in such a desperate situation, a 3 was enough incentive to go. That and DEPAIN is kinda hardcore, so I thought the other bands might be on the harder side as well. The other thing of note was that Shun from the band Vidoll was going to be in one of the session bands of the night. I never followed Vidoll at all, but I knew him being at the show was kind of a big deal.

I must say, my 2-3 system worked out quite well for this show. It was a surprisingly good show, and I saw a couple of really promising acts.

For MelJay, indies was quite a new experience. We went into AREA and sat down in the back section, behind the second barrier, and I explained the “ways of indies” a bit to MelJay. As I talked, she looked around at all the girls roaming around doing what they do before indies. After a moment, MelJay said, “this is weird,” which made me laugh. When I asked her what was weird about it (after all, nothing had happened yet), she said she felt like she was in some kind of house party. Later on, she chose to rephrase that description, saying that the pre-indies atmosphere felt more like a flea market than anything else. Now that made me laugh. Her reason for saying that is because girls at indies shows spend the first half hour walking around talking to circles of friends like they’re checking out various shops. Also, members of various saizens are walking around discussing and planning saizen stuff and having mini-conferences with each other. In a way, it really does kind of look like a flea market. I’m no better. The whole time MelJay was observing the weird market atmosphere, I was looking around taking stock of what kinds of bands might be playing based on the audience members and merch desks set up behind us. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make out anything from the audience (which is unusual) and gave up.

After a brief wait, the lights went down and our first act of the night began! The evening’s first act was called Le-vert (I’m kinda guessing on the English spelling. Their named is written in katakana as reeveruto, which I think is supposed to translate as Le-vert. You’ll have to excuse possible inaccuracies during this post. Without internet, I’m unable to achieve the high quality of accuracy I usually aim for.  If an inaccuracy is pointed out to me, or I notice one later, I'll edit the post!). Here’s a photo of Le-vert (uh... sorry it's a casual photo.  I couldn't find their promo picture so... you'll have to make do with a picture of them looking like dumbasses, hahaha):

From the moment Le Vert stepped on stage, I knew they were our resident n00b act. Even MelJay was giggling at how cheap and sad their costumes were. Later research revealed that Le-vert only formed in March, so they’re only about five months old and they seemed kind of nervous.  MelJay and I stayed seated for the first few seconds, but stood up when we realized Le-vert was actually pretty good. Despite their dinky outfits, their music was leaning towards more hardcore rock, and they could actually play their instruments pretty well. They already had a small saizen who was really into them, but their good beats and intense music got the whole audience pretty into it. Even the people in the back were nodding their heads to the music. I asked MelJay if she wanted to try furi, then I started doing standing and hands-only furi (meaning no head banging or anything like that) as a demonstration, and she joined in.

So, stuff about Le-vert… holy daaaaaaaang is the vocalist tall! Definitely 6’2” at least, and skinny as a bamboo pole (wait, I just looked it up.  Their site says he's 189cm!!!  So he really is 6'2"!!!). He was really good and really into it, though the audience interaction thing seemed to make him kind of nervous. I think he’s still in the stage where he thinks the girls will bite if he gets too close. Also, their red-headed guitarist had some of the worst on-stage technical difficulties I think I’ve ever seen at indies. First his guitar strap broke, so he had to be out for most of a song. After awhile, he had to step off stage entirely for most of a song and get the guitar properly fixed. When he came back onstage, however, he didn’t even get one note in before the strap broke and the whole guitar flew off. While he’d previously been smiling his way through it, he finally broke down and stared up at the ceiling like “why god?!” He had to step out yet again. Le-vert paused at the MC and the vocalist apologized for all the “trouble” they were having. To Red-Head’s credit, he didn’t freak out or get nasty about it, so he handled it fairly well for a n00b.

The thing that most impressed me about Le-vert was that they actually attempted gyaku-daibu, despite being the first act, and a n00b act. That’s the thing where they have the saizen drape themselves over the barrier while the other girls leap and tackle them. The thing is, gyaku-daibu only works if you have enough fans and the audience is really digging the music. I’ve seen n00b bands who aren’t even going first attempt a gyaku-daibu song and have the whole thing fail, so this was pretty ballsy of Le-vert. Even more impressive was that it actually worked, and pretty well.

Over all, I’d say I was just really impressed with Le-vert as a n00b act and I’m going to keep my eye on them.

Anyways, let’s move on before this gets too wordy (too late!). The next band up was LucaRia. Picture:

They were just “whatever” in my book. Typical band leaning towards oshare-kei. Nothing much to say about them. MelJay and I sat most of it out. While they were playing, however, several members of Le-vert went behind the merch booth and stood around chatting with people. I found watching them more interesting than LucaRia, lol.

After LucaRia was done, I noticed a sudden change in the saizen. While previous saizen girls had been wearing floral pattern dresses or had bows in their hair, the saizen suddenly became a row of girls wearing black, with lots of black make up. Not only that, but the saizen seemed miserable. All the girls were talking to each other with this look on their faces like, “hey, how was your day? We didn’t die, so that’s pretty cool, I guess. By the way, I saw a dead bird in the street.” I turned to MelJay and was like, “man, that is one sad looking saizen.” I told her that was probably a good sign, hahaha. I mean, a sad saizen usually means more hardcore music! I told her I had a feeling DEPAIN was next, judging by the saizen.

Since this was my 45th concert in Japan, it should come as no surprise that my intuition was correct and, yes, DEPAIN was next. Picture:

I’ve reviewed DEPAIN a couple times before. They’re still on my 3 chart. I don’t really find them that good, but they put on a good show. I started off by doing just hands-only furi, but DEPAIN’s music is really intense and I found that I couldn’t just stand there for the entire act. I graduated the band towards the end and started head banging to my heart’s content (which I think took MelJay by surprise a little. Sorry!). But a band like DEPAIN is fairly hardcore and just standing there waving your arms around while strobe lights are flashing and the vocalist is screaming and everyone’s whipping their hair around… I just can’t do it. I get overcome by the music, lol.

I will say, though, that the vocalist was a little off. He actually sang a lot better than he has in the past (I’ve always joked about how DEPAIN’s vocalist can’t sing to save his life). He was really on key for once. But he just seemed out of it. Like he was overtired, or kinda sick, or… hung over, lol. I mean, it was a Saturday. He just wasn’t as ferocious and crazy as usual. Oh well, maybe next time.

By now, LucaRia was behind the merch booth, but… Le-vert was still there too! Friendly bastards!

So let’s move on. I noticed at that point that the order of the bands was going backwards in the order they were listed on the ticket (instead of in a totally random order like usual), so I assumed the band Downer (katakana-ed as Daunaa) was next. Judging from their merch table, I didn’t think I’d like them, so I told MelJay that we should prepare for another sit-out. However, when the next band’s intro music started to play, a creepy voice in the song whispered, “Acid Cherry King…” This was one of the other bands listed on the ticket and one that looked promising in the pamphlet pictures, so I gestured for MelJay to get up. However, she didn’t hear the voice say “Acid Cherry King,” so she was really confused and thought I was psychic for a moment, lol.

So our next band up is Acid Cherry King:

This band wins the award for Best Surprise Band of the Night. I totally wasn’t expecting them to be awesome. But then they were. When they first came on stage, I’ll admit I raised an eyebrow. The intro music implied that the band wanted to be all hardcore and stuff, but the vocalist… it’s like he was too pretty for the role. He had such a pretty face and pretty make up. The rest of the band was trying to be scary, but they also seemed… like they didn’t fit the part, or something. But then the first song was a sort of mellow, sad rock song, so I figured the band was going for the emo thing. Nope. After that first song, the band took a sudden turn down Hard Rock Alley. The pretty little vocalist suddenly started acting like a feral animal, snarling and shaking his head around. The saizen started getting really into it (actually, the whole audience was really into it, which made me think the band was doing really well during the year I returned to America, and I’ve just been out of the loop). At one point, the whole saizen climbed up onto the barrier, straddled the bar, and started head banging in a circle. I nudged MelJay the moment I noticed the girls were up to something, and then we got to spiral headbang too! One of the most surprising moments was when gyaku-daibu was going on (the gyaku-daibu got rather intense during Acid Cherry King, with some girls diving into the saizen girls so hard they bounced off and nearly went flying). The little vocalist suddenly dove off the stage during the gyaku-daibu and started roaming around the audience, stirring everyone up. And then, to my great amusement, he actually started throwing himself at the saizen girls too. The mask-wearing bassist got too riled up watching all of this and dove off the stage too. While the vocalist was still roaming the audience, he suddenly grabbed a foreign girl and hurled her at the saizen. Where in the world did that little guy get all that strength?! I think he kinda scared the foreigner though, haha.

Because this band was being so awesome, I wound up head-banging like crazy for the entire thing. Unfortunately, I’m really out of practice, so my neck is still killing me two days later. It was totally worth it, though. Acid Cherry King gave us a great time. I would best describe their music as atmospheric hard rock. MelJay and I agreed that it kinda reminded us of old D’espairsRay. Even their look is D’espairsRay-like. I highly recommend giving them a listen (once they, uh, put something online).

Moving on… the next band up was the actual Downer. Pic:

Sorry, I think the picture is kinda out of date.  I think they only have four official members now, but I couldn't find their latest promo picture.

Anyways, this band confused the hell out of me. By the time MelJay and I sat down after they were over, we were looking at each other like, “what the…?” A lot of VK indies bands are genre-benders - it’s not uncommon at all. Many of them are really cute but have some hard songs, or play hard music but have cute songs. That kind of mashing isn’t unusual because indies bands are trying to reel in as many fans as they can. But Downer… just… what the fuck. They were hard core and adorable simultaneously in a way that made no sense and made my head hurt. I didn’t know if I should sit down, stand up, rock out, or throw paper hearts at them. They just… didn’t make any sense. I don’t even know what to say about them. By the end of it, MelJay and I decided we’ll just have to give them another try some time when we actually know what to expect.

Oh, and Le-vert was still standing in the back! I guess those guys didn’t have anything better to do. To my amusement, the vocalist and masked bassist of Acid Cherry King were also standing in the back, chatting with fans and watching the show. ACK vocalist… you are too cute and adorable. How could someone who threw a foreigner into the saizen have such an adorable smile??

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand the show kinda went downhill after that. Virgil played next. Pic:

I wasn’t impressed. Too oshare for me. I started standing, then sat down a couple songs in. To the audience’s credit, so did a lot of people, hahaha. Probably the DEPAIN fans, lol. Le-vert, standing in the back, looked pretty disgruntled, lol. They were glancing at each other and making faces, haha.

After that was the session band of Shun from Vidoll. I can’t offer a picture since it was a session band, obviously. Let’s just say, um… Shun… for shame. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe I suffered through that horror. The music was just… annoying, is the only way I can describe it. The band members were all dressed in flashy yukata-type things and the vocalist… he was undoubtedly the most annoying part of it all. He stood up on the crate and did these stupid, annoying para-para things the whole freaking time. He was flailing his arms around like… has anyone here ever seen that movie Team America: World Police? Remember the secret signal they had if something went wrong, where they would flail their arms above their head in a panic? It looked like that. Even the girls in the audience were having a hard time taking it seriously and a lot of them were giggling and glancing at each other instead of participating.

That vocalist… he just isn’t allowed to have his balls anymore. They’ve been metaphorically sacrificed in my opinion.

The last band of the night was the show’s host, Ziggrat. Pictuuuuure:

Um. Wow. I don’t even know what to say. When that curtain was swept aside… if I’d been drinking something, I would’ve spat it all over the floor. First of all, it looked like the 80’s took a massive shit all over the band. They were wearing the most insane, brightly colored, absurd outfits I’ve ever seen. And their stage-right guitarist, wearing a halter top, was standing there with his hand on his hip and a look on his face, like… I’m pretty sure if someone looks up the expression “bitch please” in a dictionary, a picture of this guy shows up. They were also too oshare for me. After the first couple of songs, MelJay and I decided to bail, lol. We crept out of the venue as quietly as we could and went to McDonald’s instead.

After sitting in McDonald’s eating and chatting and rubbing our extremely sore necks for awhile, we finally left to go catch a train back to Asakusa. As we exited the McDonald’s we almost ran smack-dab into the vocalist of Le-vert, who was standing outside chatting with some fans. What the fuuuuuck? Is Le-vert going for a Friendliest Band in the Universe prize?! We managed to skitter past him (gawd, he was like a foot taller than all the girls he was talking to) and went to the train station, where we almost ran head-first into the red-headed guitarist from Le-vert, who was… coming back out of the station for some reason…? He looked surprised, then smiled kinda awkwardly at me. I smiled awkwardly back. Next time I’ll actually “rock out” during their set and it won’t be so awkward, lol. When I turned around, however, I realized the vocalist had been following us the whole way to the station. Now we were surrounded! VK AMBUSH! The whole thing felt really awkward, so MelJay and I rushed to our platform as fast as possible, lol.

And that was our day! I gotta say, it felt soooooo good to be back in the world of indies! It was like breathing in fresh air with, um… chocolate in it? I dunno… I’m not a poet, lol. Also, MelJay totally loved it, so now we’ve been pouring over schedule after schedule, looking for more indies we can go to.

I believe, as I type this, MelJay is on the hunt for tickets to a show at Shibuya BOXX on Friday! The reason we chose this one? Because the band DIAURA is playing. Who the hell is DIAURA, you might ask? It’s the band that yo-ka and Kei from Valluna are in! That’s plenty of reason to go!

Anyhoo, I’ll have more blogs up soon! Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Belated DUM SPIRO SPERO Review

Warning! Major tl;dr ahead! I was bored at school with nothing to do for hours, so I had nothing to do except sit on a computer and think! Lots of words and philosophical babble coming your way!

Onto the review (or, more accurately, my impressions)…!

If one is seeking peace and harmony, DIR EN GREY’s DUM SPIRO SPERO is not the album to turn to. In fact, if someone is seeking “music” the way most people have previously thought of it, DUM SPIRO SPERO is not the album to turn to. In DSS there is chaos, discord, and dissonance. DIR EN GREY makes that clear right from the opening song - the album begins with a lovely piano intro that collapses into a cacophony of screams, feedback, static, and noise.

After Kyoukotsu no Nari - the monstrous opening song - the CD grinds its way into The Blossoming Beelzebub. As I laid there listening for the first time, I began to realize over the course of that 7 ½ minute song that there was no chorus. It simply wasn’t coming. There were no recognizable “parts.” More and more I was feeling like the song was feeding me a story. A story I couldn’t understand. Even understanding Japanese, the story was indiscernible. As the next song and the song after that played, I realized DUM SPIRO SPERO is an album nearly devoid of choruses or patterns. There’s little repetition to enforce which song is which, nor are there any “catchy” parts to cling onto. During The Blossoming Beelzebub I was first struck with the feeling that I was listening to a soundtrack, and that feeling pervaded all the way to the end of the CD.

If you’ve ever listened to the soundtrack of a video game you’ve never played before, you might know what I mean by this. The music flows from one song to the next, each portraying feelings that were associated with certain actions and moments. However, if you haven’t played the game, you’re left wondering what it all might mean. It’s different from listening to a movie soundtrack, because a video game soundtrack is putting music to pre-rendered scenes as well as actions that the player is expected to take.

I don’t know how to explain what I mean very well. When I explained my thoughts to my friend Melissa, she told me that, when I say “video game soundtrack,” I’m just using a juvenile term to describe a “concept album.” Perhaps that’s the case. At least partially. DUM SPIRO SPERO is obviously a concept album. After Melissa used that term, I thought long and hard about the “concept.” I’m still not sure what it is but, then again, the CD doesn’t seem to want us to fully grasp the “concept.” DIR EN GREY knows this and even asked the fans to give the CD several listens before making any judgments.

In the past, Kyo’s lyrics have always been stripped down in a way that makes the full story impossible to grasp. It’s like he takes a farm animal, slaughters it, strips off all the meat and fat, removes the organs, and throws the carcass on the floor in front of you shouting, “what animal was this?!” You might have some idea but, in the end, it’s still just a pile of bones with all the meat removed. In the past, I’ve never felt that way about anything in DIR EN GREY except for Kyo’s lyrics. However, in DUM SPIRO SPERO, I feel like the other members have done what Kyo does, but with instruments instead of words. As I listen to DSS, I grasp feeling like pain or sadness, but there’s no context to put them into and the feelings are quick and fleeting. There are deep, angry guitar riffs that seem to cut off suddenly and twist away. The drums constantly change rhythm. The bass is sometimes keeping rhythm, sometimes melody, sometimes joining in, then leaving, all of it without a rhyme or reason that I, personally, can understand.

This is not a bad thing. I’m not saying any of this negatively. What I’m saying is that DSS is a concept album and a puzzle all at once. I don’t currently have easily-accessible internet, but I asked Melissa what the online opinion of the DIR EN GREY fans seems to be. According to her, many of them feel the same way I do. They feel like they’ve listened to the album several times, but they’re still unsure of what they’re hearing. The CD is difficult to bond with. Even after five listens now, if someone asked me which song Diabolos is, I’d shake my head and say I didn’t know. If they told me to sing Amon, I’d shrug and say I have no idea where to begin. For many, this has been a negative thing. Many fans have expressed distaste towards the album, saying they can’t connect to it. Before the album was released, DIR EN GREY themselves said many fans probably wouldn’t like it. For me, there is the feeling that I love what I’m hearing, but I don’t know what it is.

DSS is like a book with half its pages removed. Each song is disconnected in some ways, yet there are just enough similarities to bind them all together. It’s always hard to tell what a new DIR EN GREY album will sound like based on the singles leading up to it because it usually doesn’t paint an accurate picture. In the case of DUM SPIRO SPERO, I would dare say the B-side Tsumi to Kisei was the best hint as to what to expect, though I didn’t know it at the time it was released. Because of that, more so than previous albums, the singles almost seem out of place in the greater story. I was amused by the little intro that was added to the beginning of DIFFERENT SENSE, binding it to The Blossoming Beelzebub. It was like DIR EN GREY was pointing wildly at the song shouting, “it does fit! See!”

The layout of the regular edition booklet only enforces my feeling that DUM SPIRO SPERO is a disjointed story. Each page of the booklet is decorated like an old story book with a conceptual border. For example, one page has a skeleton on the side with a border made out of bones. Each page looks similar with its decorative border, yet each one has its own picture and lyrics.

As I listened to the first half of the album on the way to school today, however, one thought did occur to me: there’s no point trying to discern what the story is. Or, more accurately, there’s no point trying to make sense out of it. The reason, in my opinion, is because one of the main elements of DSS is dreams. There’s a song called Yokusou ni Dreambox, and several of the songs have dreamlike imagery or mention dreaming, reality, etc. One song even makes a reference to “Alice.” When I listen to DUM SPIRO SPERO, I get the feeling all five members of DIR EN GREY went to sleep one night and had the same wild dream, then talked about it and put it to music. In fact, the very last thing Kyo says at the end of the album is “wake up.” If we interpret the album as a dream, it no longer needs to be confined by anything, and it begins to make sense. Dreams don’t have strict, rigid patterns, and they don’t necessarily start or end in a way that’s clearly defined. What’s more, they don’t have to make complete sense. When I listen to the album after realizing this, the dreamy guitars and strange, indescribable sounds begin to form a picture of something that isn’t a part of reality, but still exists. That, and only that, makes sense to me. I may not be right or wrong, but it’s the only way I can make any sense of the album.

For any other band I’d say I was thinking too hard about this, but with DIR EN GREY, that isn’t the case. It’s what the band wants (according to interviews, at least). Personally, I find it refreshing to have to think about something for once. Don’t get me wrong, I listen to plenty of music that’s brainless and I love it dearly, but DIR EN GREY is the band that makes me think, and I love them for that.

Of course, I’ve been doing nothing but spouting philosophical babble without truly saying what I think of the album. The reason is that I don’t know the answer to that yet. Truth be told, I’ve never heard a DIR EN GREY album I liked on the first listen (except maybe THE MARROW OF A BONE). That’s probably a very surprising piece of information about me, considering I’m such a die-hard DIR EN GREY fan. However, I’ve never listened to a DIR EN GREY album that I didn’t wind up liking after a few listens. My first DIR EN GREY album was GAUZE, and I found it grating and noisy on the first listen. On the second listen, I loved it. Some albums don’t grow on me that fast. The first time I heard UROBOROS… I would say I actually disliked what I heard. It was weird and different and the songs didn’t fit together in a way that made sense to me. After three or four listens, however, it became my favorite album of theirs. So what’s going to happen with DUM SPIRO SPERO? I honestly don’t know. I know that I like it, and I even enjoyed what I heard on the first listen. A lot. But my opinion stops there. The album is so hard to grasp that I simply don’t know what I think. Is it pretty? Sometimes. Is it intense? Sometimes. Is it rock? Metal? Soft? Loud? Well, it’s all of that. Sometimes. There aren’t any songs that could be defined as one thing. Even the one song that is ballad-like sometimes sounds more like a ballad than any other DIR EN GREY song I’ve ever heard, but other times it suddenly stops sounding like a ballad at all.

I will say, however, that, regardless of what I think, the members of DIR EN GREY deserve massive praise for what they put together with DUM SPIRO SPERO. The guitar work by both Die and Kaoru is stunning, both of them creating sounds and melodies that I’ve never heard from them before and which cover every possible emotion that could be squeezed onto the album. And they do it without pushing and shoving each other. They work together with perfect accuracy. Toshiya, again, demonstrates his versatility on the bass. He’s neither a rhythm nor a melody, but a piece of the story itself. He’s in and out all the time, sometimes blending in so well with the guitars that he seems to disappear, and sometimes becoming the most prominent part of the song. And Shinya, of course, is amazing. His drumming changes rhythms on a dime and drives the story through every possible feeling. And Kyo. Well. What could I possibly say about Kyo? I’ve glanced at a couple reviews of DUM SPIRO SPERO and I feel like every one of them has already said what I would say: Kyo is amazing. He’s outdone himself this time. He sings, he screams, he growls, he whispers, he chokes, he chants, and he even yodels like a female Indian singer. There’s a feeling that he broke down any barrier around his voice. There’s nothing he’s unable to do at this point. During The Blossoming Beelzebub, Kyo spends the first minute or so just singing. No words. Just singing. And that was enough.

In fact, I feel as if all five members of DIR EN GREY have become liquid. In the “old days” of DIR EN GREY (when they were Dir en grey), there was an obvious separation between the five members. Let’s face it, Kyo, Kaoru, Die, Toshiya, and Shinya don’t have much in common as people. Even their musical tastes are extremely different. In the visual-kei days, the members separately wrote and credited themselves for different songs, and it was always obvious who wrote what. Poppy songs were Shinya. Bass-driven songs were Toshiya. Die loves acoustic-driven music. Kaoru likes melody. Die and Kaoru always worked together, but their guitars were always very separate from each other, almost like they were having a battle. That was a trademark of Dir en grey’s sound. Around the time Withering to Death came out… well, I know my opinion is my own and no one has to agree with me, but the fact that the five members of DIR EN GREY weren’t getting along became painfully obvious in the music. There’s a massive disconnect in sound on that album, as if the members all sat in separate corners, wrote what they wanted to write, then threw the papers into the center of the room and stormed out. It wasn’t until THE MARROW OF A BONE that their music began to achieve some kind of unity (which was necessary to save the band at that point. What was once their trademark quality started to destroy them). With UROBOROS, that unity became very strong and created a beautiful, unique album. With DUM SPIRO SPERO, however, I’m feeling a complete oneness between the members for the first time. Again, it’s like liquid. Even Toshiya has said in an interview that DUM SPIRO SPERO was built on the foundation of trust between the five members. I feel as if Kyo, Kaoru, Die, Shinya, and Toshiya truly got each other with this album. Like I said, I feel like they all fell asleep one night and had the same wild dream.

Of course, I know that’s impossible, and that’s why I feel like there’s something worth getting out of DUM SPIRO SPERO. There’s no way the five members all had the same dream, but they were able to communicate an idea amongst each other through music. If they could understand each other at least a little bit through music, then there’s something for the fans to understand in the music as well.

For the record, though, I love Akatsuki. That song is so sneaky and evil and I love it. I’ve heard Juuyoku is the big hit with the fans so far, but Akatsuki just hit me in all the right places. Also, the new version of Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka de Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami… it’s not bad, but… what was the point? If it made it fit better into the DUM SPIRO SPERO story I would’ve understood it, but it didn’t. There’s nothing wrong with the edit and it sounds fine on its own (I mean, I still like the original better, but the edit isn’t bad), but it just seems kind of unnecessary to me. It’s like the time they re-edited CLEVER SLEAZOID. I mean, why? It was great on its own. It’s one thing to remake old songs like they’ve been doing, but editing a single drastically when it was already going to be on the album anyways is just kinda… there’s no point. Also, I’m hearing people really dislike Decayed Crow. Um… I think it’s kinda cool, hahaha. Then again, this is coming from the girl who loves THE MARROW OF A BONE! As always, to each his own!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I'm Alive!!!

I just want everyone to know that I was not killed by Godzilla! I am actually alive! However, as I've warned everyone a few times, I am without internet, and may continue to be without it for awhile yet. I'm currently stealing my school's internet, lol (just gotta wait till no one's in the staff room so no one sees me hogging it, hehe).

I also want everyone to know that I certainly haven't forgotten about this blog! I've been writing posts in a document on my laptop on the side, even without internet, so I will get some detailed posts up onto the blog in the next few days (probably by flash-driving some stuff onto a school computer when no one's looking. LIKE A BOSS). There will be a post all about general stuff, like life in Kiryu and the bone-crushing boring-ness that is working at a school during summer vacation. I also spent three full days at the Yagibushi Matsuri, which is Kiryu's annual festival. Let's just say it was fucking awesome and I will make a post with epic pictures (including lots of food!) as soon as I can!

Also, two weeks after it leaked and a week after it was released, I only just now got my hands on Dir en grey's Dum Spiro Spero album (thank you Tower Records in Takasaki! You saved my life! Takasaki also has a Black Peace Now and an Algonquins - squee!). I'm currently using my time in the staff room writing a review of the album, lol (I've got nothing better to do!). I've only listened once and I'm gonna listen again tonight, but I'm pretty sure it's fucking epic. That's what I think so far, lol. I just need to be more awake this time. I'd been up since 6:30 am and I'd been walking around a new city all day and ridden my bike for 45 minutes and not gotten home until midnight. Then I listened to the album. I was nodding off so badly that it took about halfway through the song for me to notice that Hageshisa to Blah Blah Blah was redone.

ANYWAYS, yes, I'm alive and kicking and having a pretty good time so far. Already planning to go to Tokyo this weekend to see some indies, so... yeah, the concert-reporting madness will continue on this blog.

Thank you to everyone who still follows and reads my blog despite wordiness, tl;dr, and the fact that I've been disappearing for long periods of time lately! It's because of all you that I'm so excited to get some internet and make this blog awesome again!