Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Unexpected Indies, 10/7, AREA

This show, man... was probably the weirdest show I've ever been to.  I hope you'll all be as amused reading this as I was writing it.

So, as I mentioned earlier, I wound up at this indies concert completely out of the blue, with little warning.  I'd known about the show for awhile, but it was on a Friday, and the same weekend as a major concert, so MelJay and I sorta shrugged the show off...

But then, Thursday night, MelJay sends me a message on Facebook saying the show didn't appear to be sold out, and that she kinda wanted to go.  I was pretty skeptical, however.  My schedule was changed that week and I didn't even know if I could get out of work.  Plus I didn't give the school any prior notice.  And it was less than twenty-four hours before the show, meaning we couldn't use a Loppi machine or anything to get tickets.  We'd have to go to the venue and hope for the best.  But eventually MelJay was like, "I want to go" and I relented.  We decided we'd be in Tokyo anyways that weekend, so I booked an extra night at the hostel, and we decided we'd take off work and go to the venue and pray.  If it turned out I couldn't get off work, or we couldn't get into the show, then we'd just go drink our sorrows in Tokyo later and hope it worked out better some other time.

To add crazy on top of crazy, I went out on a limb and texted an old friend of mine from the study abroad year: Caroline.  She's back in Japan as well and, with our busy schedules, I hadn't seen her since we both made it back.  I told her about the show and asked if she wanted to do something totally crazy and join us as well.  Spontaneous though it may have been, she decided to give it a shot too, lol.

Friday comes along, first thing's first... ask off of work.  The principal looked surprised, but told me it was okay.  I didn't give them a reason, but the students had midterm exams all day and I wasn't needed for the whole eight hours, so he probably figured I just wanted to gtfo.  I left even before lunch and caught a train around 1:00 to Tokyo.  Managed to get some food for the train and then started chugging caffeine to get through the ordeal.  Drank too much caffeine and tweaked out for most of the train ride.  Pretty sure the other passengers thought I had Tourette's.  I'm really caffeine sensitive :-(

By the time I got to Takadanobaba, MelJay's bus was running late, and Caroline was trapped on the Yamanote Line, which had stopped due to "passenger injury" in massive quotation marks.  If you don't get it, I won't be the one to explain it to you, hahaha.  There were some indies guys waiting around in the station with their guitar cases and face piercings and stuff, but I ignored them.  Fearful about our tickets, I ran to AREA to go scope out the situation.  I didn't see a line outside, which was good, but I also didn't see any staff members around.  The sign definitely said the show was playing (doors would open in another hour) but I wanted to know if I could get tickets.  I glanced around sneakily and then, with a shrug, pushed open the door and went downstairs.  Probably wasn't supposed to but whatever...

When I got down there, there were definitely some indies performers hovering around the merch booth and stuff.  They looked at me like I was crazy, lol.  I went up to the counter where the staff was chatting, and it took awhile for them to even notice me.  When they did, they looked kinda surprised, lol.

Me: Sorry to bother you, I just had a quick question.  Can I get tickets to this show?

Staff lady: Um... yeah, you can get tickets.

Me: Can I... get them now?

Staff lady: Um... if you come back in an hour when doors open you can get them.

Me: Can I get... three tickets when doors open?

Staff lady: Yyyyeah.

Rest of staff: [snickers]

Then I left and went back to the station to wait for the others.  MelJay made it in time for doors, but Caroline didn't.  I received many texts from her, cursing the JR Line to hell and back again for its speedy trains and lack of gates at the stations.  If you don't get it, I'm still not going to be the one to explain it to you, lol.  Not knowing what else to do, MelJay and I went inside at 4:30 and bought our tickets.  We'd been so worried about tickets because there were all these big-name bands playing...

But the venue was barely filled.  Just a couple hundred people in there.  But why?  A Friday night with -OZ-, DIAURA, NEGA... it made no sense.  We racked our brains, and then MelJay remembered.... BORN was having a one-man that night.  Aha.  Everyone was over at the BORN show instead.  Well, whatever, as long as we got in I didn't care.  And, luckily, Caroline showed up about ten minutes later.

Well, anyways, let's get on with this, shall we?  This was quite possibly one of the craziest shows I've seen yet.  I'd play "Count the WTF" but I don't think it would ever stop, lol.

First band up is THE GALLO:

Sorry for the tiny picture, but I couldn't find any photo of this band that I trusted was actually them.  And their OHP was useless for photos.  Now, if you couldn't tell by the fact that the vocalist is wearing a hat covered in forks...

THIS BAND IS TROLLING.  No, seriously, I don't care what anyone says.  THIS BAND IS TROLLIN' HARD.  Also, I'm baffled by their name.  In katakana it's always written Gyaro.  But in English I always see it as THE GALLO.  Since I'm reporting in English, I guess I'll refer to them at THE GALLO but, in conversation, I call them Gyaro.

Anyways, back to their trolling.  The band came onstage to Liberi Fatali.  You know, that freaking opera song from Final Fantasy VIII?  This one:

Officially the nerdiest thing I've ever seen a band do.  To top that off, THE GALLO didn't just come onstage to Liberi Fatali, they marched onto the stage in a single-file line holding lanterns.  While they did this, their saizen pulled out pots and started banging spoons on them in time to the music.  Then the vocalist pulled out a pot and did the same thing.  Three minutes into the show and I'm already face-palming.  Plus the band decorated the stage with, like... Halloween-ish stuff.  There was a creepy doll propped up on the sound equipment, and they put the lanterns around the stage and hung them off the microphone stands and stuff.  There was other Halloween stuff up there, but I forget what.  What amazed me was that the audience wasn't even giggling at all this.  Like, the band apparently always acts like this and no one is even fazed anymore, lol.  Also, their vocalist's face is a pin cushion of piercings, and he has a massive gauge in one of his ears.  Perhaps because of the piercings, or perhaps because Caroline just didn't like the guy's face, she wound up calling him Busted Face.  This made me laugh so hard that I'm afraid I'm going to have to call him Busted Face on the blog until the next time I see them (which I believe is in November).  Sorry, Busted Face, I don't really think you're busted, but I don't usually use the names of band members until I've seen a band more than once.  And Busted Face sounds hilarious.

Besides Busted Face, there was also some red-headed creature on the right that I suppose was a guitarist, but looks more like a cocaine-addicted salamander in my memory.  I'm not sure what this creature was, but it played guitar, and it might have been insane, and it also had the longest tongue I've ever seen in my life.  This lizard thing flailed and spazzed and threw himself around, sometimes to the extent that he wound up rolling around on the floor.  And his tongue was sticking out about 60% of the time.  And his tongue could curl under his chin, it was so long.  I'm not sure how much of what he was doing was guitar-playing, and how much of it was dancing, and how much of it was a seizure.  The way he bugged out his eyes makes me think... all of the above.  And I couldn't decide if I was amused, terrified, or fascinated.  Besides him, the bassist could also high kick so high I thought he was going to knee himself in the face a few times.  But why was he high-kicking...?

Cuz this band be trollin'...............

Musically, they weren't bad.  They were of the rock music variety.  But I was so distracted by them and their stupid that I don't even remember their music that well.  Just that it wasn't bad, and it was stuff you could rock out to.  Now, if there needed to be any more proof that this band was trolling...  During the MC, Busted Face grabbed the doll off the sound equipment and did a duo-MC with the doll... via ventriloquism.

No, seriously.  No joke.  Busted Face learned ventriloquism and used it with the doll.  The worst part?  He was pretty good at it.  He definitely threw his voice to the extent that it sounded like the voice came from the doll.  And his lips didn't move at all.  The only slight give-away was that he kinda made a strange face whenever he threw his voice, but other than that, it was some pretty good ventriloquism.  He gave the doll a really high-pitched voice too.  I wasn't sure whether to laugh or.......... no, fuck it, I totally laughed.  MelJay was dying of laughter by this point.  Caroline was not amused, hahaha.  After the MC, the band continued to play, with Salamander getting so crazy that he managed to knock over a microphone stand, lantern and all.  He also tripped and fell at one point, and took to rolling around on the ground kicking his legs and laughing.

During the last song, Busted Face went to the side of the stage and grabbed a chocolate bar that was sitting on the sound equipment.  Apparently it was half-melted, because the vocalist squeezed the melty chocolate in his hand, jumped up onto the crate, continued to perform with a chocolatey hand, waited a couple minutes, and then suddenly smeared the chocolate all over his face.  Which was totally gross.  And hilarious.  Wanna see it?  Watch this video of THE GALLO and you, too, can enjoy Busted Face covering his face in chocolate:

We see 'em trollin', we hatin'?  Nah, to be honest, I don't think I could hate a band as stupid as THE GALLO.  If the band took themselves seriously and behaved like that, I would totally hate them, but the band obviously knows they're fucking stupid.  I can't hate a bunch of trolls.  Instead, I just let myself sit back and enjoy the ridiculousness.  And it looks like they're gonna be at another show I'm going to later, so... we'll see if the trolling continues, lol.

Moving on, the next band up is Vanish:

The vocalist was wearing obscenely tight, leather pants.  I feel like I saw too much, lol.  Pretty generic rock music.  I don't have much to say about them. It was a fairly uneventful half an hour. 

Next band up is Downer:

Meh, we've seen Downer before.  To be honest, we all decided conserving our feet was more important than watching Downer, so the three of us sat down.  Because of that, I have nothing to say about them. Really have nothing against them, honest, I just already knew what to expect.

And then along comes Elm................

Oh.  My.  God.  What.

Elm wins the award for leaving my mouth hanging open in shock for the longest of any band I've ever seen.  At least ten minutes.  So Elm........ I can only assume their name is Elm because of "A Nightmare on Elm Street"?  That's all I've got.  Basically, they're a Halloween-themed band.  But not just because it's October.  They're always like this.

The staff pulled the curtain aside and revealed a stage covered in Halloween stuff.  There was candles, plastic jack-o'-lanterns, buckets of candy, creepy dolls, etc.  A drag queen with blue hair and a bloody wedding dress came on stage with a man in a white top hat and coat, also covered in blood.  We all stared at them, waiting to see what they would do.  There were no instruments that I could see, just those two.  Then, suddenly, the man in white started "talking."  Except it was actually pre-recorded dialogue, with the man in white mouthing along and gesturing (very poorly.  None of these guys seemed to have their lines memorized very well, nor could they lip sync to save their lives).

And then I realized... these idiots were putting on a play.

I guess they forgot about that part where they're supposed to be a band.  But I've gotta say, the play was actually pretty funny.  So Top Hat and Tranny are going out on a date, and Top Hat - after declaring his undying love for Tranny - accidentally forgets his cell phone on top of the crate.  Cue very amusing scene with Top Hat patting himself down looking around frantically for his cell phone.  Needless to say, Tranny finds the cell phone and discovers - gasp - another woman!  He confronts Top Hat about it, and an extremely amusing scene ensues.  Top Hat tries to tell Tranny that the woman on the phone is, you know, just a friend.  I don't remember the dialogue exactly, but it went something like this:

Tranny: Who's Becky?!

Top Hat: She's just a friend!  Honest!

Tranny: [flips through Top Hat's contact list] What about Stacy?

Top Hat: She's a friend of my father's!

Tranny: And Emiko?

Top Hat: A friend of a friend!

Tranny: [still flipping through the contact list]  What about Rebecca?  And Kasumi?  And Anne?  And Mary?  And Hitomi?  And...

The name list went on for quite awhile, with Tranny's voice rising in urgency.  The audience was totally cracking up.  It was actually really funny.  Especially watching Top Hat flail while Tranny shouted girls names at him.  Finally, Top Hat is all like, "c'mon babe, you know you're the only one for me."  At which point Tranny starts screaming a lot of shit at him.  Then Top Hat pulls out a pistol.  Only in Japan can you pull out a fake gun that looks that real at a concert.  Man, you'd get fucking tackled in America for that.  Anyways, Top Hat pulls out a gun, and he points it at Tranny while he backs away in horror.  After a lot of pleading, Top Hat loses it and pulls the trigger, shooting and killing Tranny.  Tranny falls to the floor in a dramatic, puffy-wedding-dress death scene.

But wait!  Alerted by the sound of gunshots, a third person enters the stage!  It's a man in a velvet cloak and a huge necklace with a pretty face.  We'll call him Pretty Boy.  Pretty Boy enters, and Top Hat gasps, declaring it's the band's manager!  He tries to hide what he's done, but Pretty Boy sees Tranny's body!  "You've killed Tranny!" he cries.  At which point Tranny intentionally flails a little and makes the audience laugh.  Top Hat tries to cover up what he's done and begs for mercy, but too late!  Pretty Boy grabs the pistol and shoots Top Hat!  Top Hat collapses to the floor, half the band is dead, oh the humanity!

That was basically the play, lol.  I hope you liked my dramatic reenactment of it, hahaha.

So, okay, you're probably wondering if these fools actually played any music.  The answer is yes.  After that ten-minute play, something crawled along the back of the stage and popped up behind the drum set.  A guy in pumpkin-clown make up.  Iiiiintereeeestiiiiiing.  Tranny went to the right and grabbed a guitar.  Pretty Boy took bass.  Top Hat was the vocalist.  Then they actually played music, lol.  Aaaaaaaand their music was about Halloween, lol.  It was this symphonic-driven, dancy rock music with lyrics about Halloween and pumpkins and candy and stuff.  Damn, these bitches really like Halloween, lol.  In fact, while Top Hat was up on the crate at one point, his shirt kinda slipped out and we could see his boxers and... he was wearing orange Halloween boxers under his costume.


Just when I thought this couldn't get any stranger, two songs into it, Pumpkin Face comes out from behind the drum set and the rest of the band drop their instruments and form a line... and start synchronized dancing.  Yup.  The song was completely electronic with dance beats.  Top Hat was still singing, but the four of them danced for the entire song instead of playing instruments.  Complete with twirling.  Pretty Boy very obviously did NOT want to dance.  He was as unenthusiastic and dry-faced about it as possible, lol.  Can't say I blame him.  But the rest of the band seemed cool with it, lol.  The last few songs, they did take up their instruments again.  But still.... I'd say Elm is more a performance act than a band.  It kinda reminded me of old Malice Mizer, but with Halloween, lol.  Pretty damn old school, I must say.  Not exactly my cup of tea, but I'll be damned if I wasn't amused!

But for me the whole thing turned out to be a mind-fuck.  Turns out I've seen Elm before.  I saw them at a show about a year and a half ago when I was still studying abroad, but I didn't remember until I started writing this post, lol.  It was driving me crazy why the concept of Elm sounded so familiar, and then it dawned on me while I was working on this.  They were the band where the vocalist had Edward Scissorhands fingers and danced around with them and I said he reminded me of Voldo from Soul Calibur.  But Ashley and I stayed outside in the bar that day and watched Elm through a little window, so I really don't remember anything about them, except that I was too grumpy to enjoy them that day.

Buuuut anyways, now the show takes a huge turn.  The first few acts of the night were all weird horror-themed stuff, but then the bigwig bands stepped in and turned the show back into a rock concert.  Next up is our good friend DIAURA:

Who was in a very strange mood.  Yo-ka sounded very excited about the show on his blog in the days leading up to it (because he hadn't played with NEGA in awhile and was excited), but he came on stage seeming lethargic and distracted.  I've never seen him like that before.  He's usually 140% on top of his game because he's yo-ka, and that's what makes him amazing.  Kei seemed fine, but Shoya also seemed a little less bouncy and smiley than usual.  And Yuu was just Yuu, lol.  As usual.  But it was weird to see yo-ka acting so strangely.  MelJay and Caroline and I had moved down into the front area and I was excited to rock out, but I was hoping yo-ka was up for it.  The band started with Master, which is one of their roughest songs, so we all headbanged and put our all into it (pretty much the whole crowd was up and down there for DIAURA.  The band is getting seriously too big for these little venues).  For all of Master, however, yo-ka just seemed distracted.  Then, during the part where the song suddenly drops off into piano, yo-ka totally blew it and forgot to sing.  He seemed confused and whipped around and glared at Yuu.  Oho, yo-ka, don't go blaming your mistake on the drummer.  Yo-ka managed to jump back in and did a quick save that made the whole thing look almost intentional.  Caroline said if I hadn't told her he messed up, she never would've noticed.

Buuuuuut yo-ka's mood completely shifted after that.  To one of anger.  And this was when yo-ka reminded us all why he's still one of the best frontmen out there.  Yo-ka took whatever was bothering him, compressed it down, and exploded.  The rest of the set was one of the most intense displays of yo-ka's onstage fury.  He didn't take it out on the crowd like he usually does, but rather took it out on himself.  He was wearing a white wife beater for most of the show, although he went shirtless later, and his skin was red with anger.  He screamed his way through every song, sometimes when it didn't even call for screaming, and yanked furiously at his hair until the style was gone and he was left with a flat mess on his head.  I know from the Valluna days that yo-ka loves pulling the hair of audience members (something he doesn't do in DIAURA), but I'd never seen him direct this angry hair-pulling at himself.  I remembered a strange article yo-ka wrote in a magazine recently where he referred to himself as SadisticMazo (literally written as sadisutikko-mazo, which is the Japanese katakana for Sadistic-Masochist).  In the past, yo-ka has always seemed like a raging sadist to me, and he still was when I first saw DIAURA a couple months ago (when he headlocked a girl in midair).  But in the article, he was trying to explain that he feels masochism creeping into his system.  Never was that more apparent than at this show.

In general, he was just acting strange.  During the MC, yo-ka just stood there, zoned out, muttering quietly into the microphone.  The opposite of his usual self.  His eyes were searching around the crowd as if he was looking for something in our faces.  At one point, he locked eyes with me while he talked, and stared at me like he was trying to puzzle out where he'd seen me before.  Uncomfortable, I looked away, but when I looked back, he was still staring.  The whole thing was just odd.  Once they started playing music again, the odd didn't stop.  At one point, yo-ka ran over to Shoya, grabbed his head... and kissed him right next to the lips.

......I have never seen yo-ka fanservice on stage before.  He sometimes puts an arm around a band member, or something equally innocent, but never something like that.  Some of the girls in the crowd squealed with delight.  Shoya didn't react much (perhaps he was too surprised?), and yo-ka carried on like nothing had happened.  I just scratched my head, baffled.

Speaking of which... during the song Beautiful Creature, yo-ka finally unleashed his chaos.  On himself.  For the first time I've ever seen, yo-ka flipped the shit, dug his nails into his chest, and scratched until furious welts blossomed all over his skin.  It was awful looking.  I never thought I'd see him do something like that.  He looked like an absolute mess with his hair in disarray and the red claw marks all over his skin.  He was screaming so much his face was red and veins were popping out all over his body - even across his shoulders.  I don't know what yo-ka's problem was, but he was totally nuts.  He pretty much left the stage the moment the set was over, too, so the rest of the band had little choice but to wave at us and follow.  Weeeeeeeird.  That night, yo-ka blogged and thanked everyone and said it was fun and all the usual shit he usually says.  It was like he totally forgot how it all went down or something.

Hmm.  Well, anyways, the the next band up is -OZ-:

But I need to make a correction to that picture.  -OZ- was at this show because they were making a "yuujou shutsuen," meaning "friendship appearance."  Basically, they were there because they're friends with NEGA and NEGA invited them there.  But apparently "friendship" has a fancy meaning for -OZ- and NEGA that I wasn't previously aware of, because -OZ- came on stage dressed like this:

Meeeeaning -OZ- was wearing NEGA's costumes, lol.  I remembered seeing pictures of NEGA in those outfits, so when -OZ- came on stage, my brain was completely flipped upside-down and I thought it was NEGA on stage for a moment.  Except I recognized the members of -OZ-.... meaning I was just very confused, lol.  At the risk of saying something shallow for a moment (oh, we wouldn't want that, now, would we?), Natsuki looked fucking fine in Jin's costume.  MelJay and Caroline wholeheartedly agreed.  Usually, Natsuki wears tons of layers of clothing, but in Jin's costume he was finally wearing something form-fitting.  The combination of vest over tight shirt and hip-hugging pants accentuated all the right things about Natsuki's figure.  I didn't even know he had a figure.  And the make up looked perfect on his face.  I'd never noticed much about Natsuki's appearance other than the fact that he looks like Lightning, but now I was suddenly like, "oh damn, Natsuki's hawt."  Also, we were laughing because one of the members of -OZ- was wearing the dress of one of the members of NEGA.  Except -OZ- doesn't have a token tranny, meaning one of them was forced into a dress, lol.  We decided they must have drawn straws over it, hahaha.

The thing that was really interesting, however, was the transformation that came over -OZ- when they put on NEGA's costumes.  Some might recall that I've been disgruntled with -OZ- recently for their lethargy and seeming lack of interest on stage.  A band that I'd been told was pretty hard core seemed pretty unenthusiastic at all the shows I'd been to.  I was getting frustrated with them after all the good things I'd heard.  But, for some reason, donning NEGA's costumes suddenly turned -OZ- into a bunch of badasses.  They played almost exclusively old, hardcore songs, and they totally rocked da house.  I'd put -OZ- up there with DIAURA for one of the most intense acts of the night!  It was like a whole other side of -OZ- I'd never seen before!  There were no, like, memorable instances or anything, but it was just a lot of fun.  The band was really wild and into it and there was lots of headbanging and jumping around and just having a good time.  Natsuki actually looked... dare I say, fierce?  Never would've thought, lol.  It made me curious, so I looked up some of their old music videos.  My gawd, they used to be a completely different band!  They used to be so... hardcore and gawth and shit.  What the hell happened to that -OZ-?!  The band in those videos is all screamy and angry and violent and wearing black.  The -OZ- of today wears white and stands still on stage looking bored.  How can it be the same band?!  I know people say VK bands lighten up to get more fans and be more mainstream, but that can't be right.  -OZ- used to be super indies and played at all the big name concerts.  Now they can barely fill a pit at AREA or Black Hole.  If someone told them lightening up would get them more fans, that person gave some seriously bad advice, and -OZ- should really stop listening to it.

Anyways, after -OZ- came our headliner, NEGA:

Uuuuuuum....... I guess NEGA is suffering from the same Lightening Syndrome as -OZ-.  I'd been told that even before I went to the show.  I guess NEGA took off a year or so to go be another band, and then reformed NEGA just recently.  But, from what fans tell me, the band just hasn't been the same.  From what little I know, I would have to agree.  I watched a couple music videos to prep myself before the show, and that was not the band I saw on stage.  NEGA was just...... meh.  They weren't bad.  I enjoyed myself and stayed through their encore, but it wasn't all that exciting either.  The most amusing part of the performance was when the audience decided to move side-to-side across the pit.  Except NEGA fans don't hop.  They stampede and slam each other across the pit.  So what do you think happened?  Surprise, surprise, a girl hit the floor within two seconds, then another girl tripped and fell onto her, then a third girl domino-ed on top of them.  Then they all got trampled.  Le sigh.  What a bunch of idiots.

So yeah, NEGA was just "fine" I guess.  Neither boring nor awesome.  Oh well.  But I still wouldn't count them as a bad ending to the show.  Overall, the entire event was just........ wow.  Hard to top chocolate bars, ventriloquism, dancing clowns, and costume changes.  

Oh, and on the way back to our hostel, MelJay and I passed a group of about fifteen hardcore X Japan cosplayers in Shibuya Station, and they were all boys!  They were super well-done cosplayers.  Then, on the train, a hide sat next to me, and a Yoshiki beside him.  L-O-fuckin'-L.  It felt weird cuz the hide next to me looked so legit!  Tokyo is such a strange city........

Next up will be my MERRY post!  See y'all soon!

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