Note: If all this rambling prior to the UnsraW shows is too long, go to the end for a list of this post’s important points.
As I mentioned a few times before – usually buried ten pages deep in an unrelated report – I will be attending UnsraW’s last two concerts. I apologize for anyone who’s interested in UnsraW who didn’t know I was going sooner. I didn’t especially advertise it, and never even made a follow up post to the emergency post I made about getting tickets. Please consider this my belated follow-up post, where I’ll talk a bit about how I got the tickets and all that stuff I don’t want cluttering the actual concert “report(s).”
As many know, UnsraW’s last two shows are a bit of an… unusual circumstance. Over a year ago, the vocalist and band leader, Yuuki, became unable to continue with band activities. As near as we can tell, he had some kind of mental breakdown a few months after someone close to him died. And, because Yuuki was the band’s creator, song writer, lyricist, and supreme leader, UnsraW was officially over without him. So, with Yuuki’s withdrawal from UnsraW, so too did UnsraW end. Yuuki was so distraught, he couldn’t even show himself at the band’s last few scheduled concerts, and he made no appearance at UnsraW’s official last show either. Instead, Shou, Tetsu, Madoka, and Jin had to perform without him. It really seemed like Yuuki was gone forever.
However, several months ago, it was announced that Yuuki wanted to come back and do one last show to “close the gate of death” himself. From the sound of it, he felt really bad about not being at UnsraW’s last show, and felt he should be the one to end the band in person. He called up his ex-band mates, and everyone got on board, even though many of them had moved on (Jin was supporting Chariots, Shou was supporting Para:noir, and Tetsu was doing session bands with Riuki from Velbet. Madoka wasn’t doing anything we know of). So it was decided that UnsraW would do a last show exactly one year after their original last show, with Yuuki there to put on a proper final performance and end UnsraW for real.
Obviously, this is an unusual situation, and an awesome opportunity (although also very sad).
So I imagine there was some disappointment when I announced I failed to get tickets to UnsraW’s final performance. After all, I’m rather known for long-winded and extremely detailed “reports” of such events. Those who can’t go to the show, especially English-speakers overseas, have no choice but to rely on “reports” like mine, and I probably write some of the most long-winded JRock reports on the internet. Of course, no one was more disappointed than I was about the tickets. I was especially disappointed in myself. I thought I’d lost my Ticket Ninja touch. I thought the lack of ticket battles (especially now that DIR EN GREY’s on hiatus) had made me soft. It didn’t matter that I started tackling e+ at 9:59 and was met with a “sold out” message at 10:01. That wasn’t the point. The point was that someone told me “no.”
Anyone who’s read blog entries from when I studied abroad knows what happens when I’m told “no” about a concert. It’s not just that Ticket Ninja powers activate, it’s that I turn into some kind of vicious werewolf, rampaging through the night until the moon passes. That ability got me into a lot of sold out DIR EN GREY shows, and even got me into my first UnsraW show, even though tickets were sold out at all machines. After a brief period of “what the hell am I supposed to do?!”, I managed to pause long enough to remember how to fight. Then I was all over Japanese auction sites, ready to rampage. But this time, I had an equally vicious werewolf alongside me. Namely, MelJay.
MelJay became an UnsraW fan after I returned to America from study abroad and moved into an apartment with her. She, like me, held a lot of contempt for Japanese indies bands in those days. I think UnsraW was one of the first ones she heard that she was able to respect enough to become a fan of. When we were filling out applications and getting prepared for a shot at going to Japan, UnsraW was one of the things she most wanted to see when she crossed the ocean. But UnsraW disbanded in the middle of our application process, and their last show occurred a month before we arrived in Japan. MelJay was always bitter about it, and I always felt bad about getting her into something that was so quickly taken away. It was like giving someone a beautifully gift-wrapped present and then throwing it in a fire before they have the chance to open it. As for me, it was devastating, because I only got to enjoy UnsraW for a couple months in Japan and, during that time, they became my "favorite indies band." And then eventually a "favorite band", equal to major bands in my eyes. I wanted to see them in Japan so badly, and I knew it would never happen again. I fell in love too fast and lost them too fast, and it was awful.
I still remember waking up that morning – a school day, I believe – and shuffling out into the living room. MelJay was already on the couch with her laptop. In those days, I was pretty miserable. My best friend had died just a month or two prior, and I was simultaneously studying for finals, preparing applications for teaching abroad, and working as a dishwasher in the most disgusting cafeteria on campus. I didn’t care about much of anything in those days. When MelJay looked up from her computer at me standing there in my morning daze, she simply said, “UnsraW’s disbanding.” I don’t remember clearly, but I think I said something along the lines of, “of course they are.” Then I sat down, grabbed my own laptop, and pulled up pictures of lolcats. The issue didn’t come up for the rest of the day. I didn't even want to think about it.
There were warning signs, I admit. At the second of the three UnsraW shows I saw in Japan when I studied abroad, Yuuki was… I don’t know… He wasn’t himself. I have theories, but I won’t share them here. The point is, I knew something wasn't right, and this was long before he could’ve known that unnamed person in his life was going to fall terminally ill. There were more warning signs even after I returned to America. The comment DVDs were short and cold, and Yuuki seemed uninterested in them. He stopped writing on his blog for months, and Madoka began writing frustrated blog entries that seemed directed at Yuuki, even if he didn’t use his name. I started to wonder why Madoka couldn’t just tell Yuuki those things to his face. And then UnsraW put out some singles, and Yuuki wasn’t credited as the song-writer, even though he’d written every UnsraW song ever up to that point (although Shou co-wrote some of them). That was when I grew really worried. Yuuki’s withdrawal became more and more obvious, but I shrugged it off, because Yuuki’s always seemed like "that kind of person." It was his "dark" personality that made him so good at writing the kind of music he was known for.
I just didn’t think, after everything that happened to UnsraW (losing a bassist due to a hand injury from a motorcycle accident, losing a guitarist, Yuuki’s year-long lung illness), that Yuuki would actually quit. I didn’t think he would break a band he dedicated so many years of his life to, even going so far as to tour Europe twice and appear in a movie. To me, it spoke volume that being bed-ridden with pneumonia didn’t defeat Yuuki, but the death of someone close to him did. Personally, I don’t think that death was the entire reason Yuuki left. He’d been withdrawing for awhile. But even the Big Man himself had to have a breaking point, and that point finally arrived. It wasn’t sudden, either (despite how his band mates portrayed it). After all, the unnamed person died before the Europe tour; Yuuki said they left for Europe the day after the wake. So I can only assume Yuuki spiraled deeper and deeper into depression for a long time, until he was so deep in the rabbit hole, he couldn’t even crawl out long enough to appear at UnsraW’s last show. And Yuuki did that knowing full well that many fans would never forgive him. It's one thing to break up an entire band, it's another to not have the courage to face the fans in person. I imagine some fans honestly never forgave him.
So, of course, when I discovered that - a year after UnsraW’s disbandment - Yuuki was ready to finally face the fans and close the gate on UnsraW (and that show even happened to fall on a Saturday) it was practically all I could think about until the day tickets went on sale. For a lot of personal reasons (that I might get into in the report, or might not, we’ll see), I needed the closure of seeing UnsraW finish. Yuuki’s sudden disappearance and inability to attend the last UnsraW shows always felt like a raw wound that wouldn’t close, even if I didn’t attend those shows personally because I was already back in the states. The thought that someone could finally stitch up that wound was too good to be true. So, as you can imagine, the moment I failed to get the tickets, I simply couldn’t let it go.
In order to go to the Saturday show, I needed three tickets. One for me, one for Peachy (who was my UnsraW concert companion during study abroad), and one for MelJay. One ticket I won through an auction battle. Sadly, that was after losing at least two others because my Ticket Ninja skills were so rusty.
The auctions were scary. Saizen number tickets (particularly 1-10) were going for as much as 30,000 yen (that’s about 300 U.S dollars and almost ten times the original ticket price). And even crappy numbers in the mid-200’s (there were only 250 tickets available) had “buy-it-now” prices of 20,000 yen. Obviously, some raging assholes anticipated the success of the show far better than UnsraW did, and bought the tickets just to scalp them. There’s a special place in Hell for those people. Other people put in the maximum number of tickets on E-Plus (eight tickets, I believe), so they had a bunch of extras to sell for too much money, since their seven friends probably went in for eight tickets each too. If it was an accident, oh well, but those who did it on purpose also have a special place in Hell awaiting them. Sometimes, I would check the bidding history on a ticket and see that nineteen different people had already placed bids. How could I compete with so many?!
But, in the end, I won one ticket off of MBok after a furious, late-night battle. Unfortunately, the ticket cost quite a bit of money (although I assure you it still wasn’t even close to 20,000 yen. Fuck anyone who put down a buy-it-now price that high). I was so stunned when the battle was over that I didn’t even know if I’d won, and I couldn’t bring myself to look. MelJay had to do it for me.
The second ticket was a joint effort by MelJay and I. We found a ticket on Yahoo Auction with an awesome number that no one was bidding on because everyone was busy over at MBok. But you can’t bid on Yahoo Auctions without a Japanese credit card, and you need to live in Japan for at least a year before you can apply for one. However, there was a service that, for a small fee, would bid on the ticket for you and mail it to you. We decided it was worth it, so we co-wrote an email to the service and the company won the ticket for us at close to the original price.
MelJay bought the third ticket off an MBok auction for a buy-it-now price that was a bit more reasonable than 20,000 yen. Granted, it was still a lot, and tickets started going for a lot less money soon after that, but there was no way we could've known that at the time. Plus, we were too nervous to take any huge risks. What if we waited too long for prices to drop and couldn't get anything at all?! There was no way to know how many tickets would show up on MBok, or how many people were still willing to bid through the roof on them.
Now, you’re probably wondering about the Friday show. Goddamn the fucking Friday show. So, as UnsraW fans probably heard, UnsraW realized they really screwed up by having their last show be at Ikebukuro EDGE. It was utter madness for them to think only 250 people would want to go to this thing, and shows how low their confidence was in the reunion. I mean, there are some kinda ugly theories out there, such as Ikebukuro EDGE purposely requesting UnsraW in order to take advantage of the impending publicity the venue would get when the shit hit the fan. But, either way, it was stupid, and UnsraW got flooded with messages from fans saying they couldn’t get tickets to the last show. MelJay actually wrote one such message and sent it to Shou, since Shou was like Yuuki’s second-in-command and seems like a very sweet guy. Within the hour of sending Shou that message, Shou peta-ed MelJay on Ameblo for the first time, which I guess was his way of saying, “don’t worry, I heard.”
So UnsraW set up a second show to occur the day before the final show. The show was called RIWIND because, even after a year, Yuuki can’t spell to save his life (seriously, anyone who’s ever followed his blog or read his lyrics starts to wonder if he’s dyslexic). Now, my original plan was not to go to this show. Why? Well, think about it. Before, there were 250 tickets, now there were 500. But there could easily be 500 people that wanted to go, and that 250+ people who didn’t manage to get tickets for Saturday were the ones who should go on Friday. The second show was for them. Anyone who stole those tickets away when they already had tickets for Saturday was well… a douchebag.
So here’s what happened. None of my friends and I could get on E-Plus at the time the Friday tickets went on sale (a Thursday?! What the fuck UnsraW, a Thursday?!). But we thought we’d try anyways, for shits and giggles. By the time MelJay got on E-Plus, twenty-five minutes had passed. From what I heard, the tickets didn’t sell out in thirty seconds like the first night, but they were still gone within the first five minutes or so. “Oh well,” I thought. “We shouldn’t go anyways, and now we won’t have to go through the effort of finding people to give them to if we did win” (for the record, I would’ve handed them out for original price. I’m not an asshole).
So how did all that turn into me going? Well…….. That night, Peachy came home from a long work day with no internet, went on E-Plus, and saw that one ticket was available. Obviously, someone at that very moment cancelled their order. Peachy got a little too excited and bought it, then looked to see if MelJay and I got any that morning.
Well, fuck. I was so stunned when I saw Peachy’s message about the ticket that I let a bowl of popcorn in the microwave keep going for about three extra minutes, until the bottom of the bowl was permanently burnt black. I just… I had thought… if none of us had a ticket, then that was that… Good riddance, and the battle could finally be over. But now Peachy had a ticket for the original price. What do we do? Do we keep it? Do we sell it?
We decided to compromise:
Peachy would pick up the ticket. Then we’d wait and see just how many people wanted tickets for Friday to determine if going to both shows would make us jerks. I watched the auctions, I checked Ameblo posts from fans, and I waited. What I discovered was that the frenzy for tickets was not nearly what it was for Saturday. Buy-it-now prices had dropped to around 10,000 yen, very few people were bidding, many tickets were being won with one bid at the original price, and no one online was weeping about being unable to go to either show (unless they were someone who just lives too far away or has a job that makes them unable to go). Anyone who still cares about UnsraW after everything that happened (and isn’t too angry at Yuuki) seemed satisfied. I asked a friend of mine who was only going to the Friday show if it was right or wrong to go to both, and she seemed surprised that I ever thought going to both shows was such a bad thing.
So here’s what I concluded: UnsraW could’ve easily moved the final show to a bigger venue (Takadanobaba AREA used to the be the main venue they played at, and the band called it their “home”). If they did that, then the original EDGE tickets could be A tickets, and the added tickets could be B tickets. There, problem solved. But they didn’t move it to AREA. They made a second show at the same insanely tiny venue. Why would they do that? I think it’s because they wanted overlap. They didn't have enough confidence in their ability to sell out a bigger venue, but if they did a second show at a smaller venue, they’d sell out because just enough tickets would get sold to people who were screwed out of Saturday, and just enough would be sold to overlappers going to both shows. I mean, I can guarantee the saizen girls will be at both shows (for the record, saizen tickets for the RIWIND show still went for over 20,000 yen in some cases. Saizen girls be scary). So I think UnsraW was anticipating, and hoping, that some people would go to both. After all, the money for any unsold tickets comes out of the band’s pocket, so it’s highly in their favor to sell out. And so many tickets on the auction sites were just sitting there, not being bid on (some of them didn’t get bid on at all and had to be put up for auction again), that it would be stupid to just let them go when we could easily take them for the original price. In the end, that’s exactly what we did. We bid on two more tickets and got them without any problems or opponents. My conscience felt a little clearer.
Then my friends and I split the price evenly on the six tickets. The lower cost of the Friday tickets helped even out the price of the Saturday tickets, so none of us had to spend too much all together. Seemed the most fair, although it made us look like suspicious drug dealers in the middle of a café, passing around the goods and exchanging money between us.
Now, one of my concerns was that a group of foreigners at both shows would be received way worse than some Japanese girls attending both. It’s a double-standard, obviously, but it’s a legitimate concern. How dare the n00b foreigners take tickets away from Japanese UnsraW fans who’ve been seeing the band since 2007 or whatever. However, I actually encountered a lot of surprising kindness from the Japanese UnsraW fans.
First of all, thank you to the couple of blog readers who emailed me about tickets to the show. I really appreciate that you tried to help me come up with ideas or told me about places where you’d seen tickets being handed out on the internet. Second of all, a thank you to the Japanese girl who saw my post on Ameblo and emailed me with a ticket offer. Someone else claimed the ticket before I saw her email, but it still meant a lot to me that a Japanese girl was color blind enough to offer the ticket to a foreigner as if I was no different from the other people she emailed. I also want to thank the Japanese people we won tickets from who weren’t scalpers. They were all very kind and patient, and didn’t dumb down their Japanese or talk to us like we’re stupid. Even when MelJay had some difficulties with the shipping on one of the tickets, the girl (who was obviously an actual, non-scalping UnsraW fan) didn’t give MelJay any grief and was very nice about it. Also, auctioneers can refuse the person who won the auction and give it to the next person in line. I’ve heard of auctioneers doing that to foreigners in the past (and I once had a girl on Mixi suddenly turn me down on an agreed ticket sale because she realized I was foreign). But the UnsraW fans gave us these tickets, no questions asked, and that was awesome of them.
I remember when I used to see UnsraW during study abroad, the UnsraW fans never made me feel unwelcome. Even when I was second row one time, no one gave me a second glance. Possibly because UnsraW toured Europe, the Japanese fans were more understanding about Westerners being interested in the band. But overall, UnsraW fans have always seemed very chill to me. I don’t know if that’ll be true for these last two shows when tensions are running high, but I’m grateful the Japanese didn’t give me a hard time when it came to at least buying the damn tickets.
Anyways, about the reports I’m gonna write… First of all, I haven’t decided if I’m gonna write two separate reports, or if I’m gonna put the two together into one long report. It’ll depend on how different the shows are, how much I have to say about either one, and how long I think it’ll take. In the past, it’s always been a crap-shoot when I go to two-night events. This will really depend on UnsraW. It will also depend on how fast I think I can write. I think it’s important for me to write up this report as fast as possible. I think there are some overseas UnsraW fans who will be on the edge of their seats wanting to hear about the shows. It wouldn’t be fair of me to make them wait a week to get a report out of me (I know I probably won’t be the only foreigner writing a report about the show, but mine will probably be the most horrifically wordy, lol).
However, if the band makes any important announcements (although I’m not getting my hopes up), I’ll put it on this blog immediately, even if a report isn’t written. Also, if anything serious happens, I’ll put that here immediately too. So, UnsraW fans, check this blog immediately during the weekend, because it’s possible I’ll have said something.
Obviously what I’m saying is, I have no idea how these shows are gonna go. Will they have identical setlists to be fair to the fans who could only go to one show? Which costumes will they wear, the military uniforms, or the black dresses? Will they play songs that were released after their disbandment? What if Yuuki gets cold feet right before the show and suddenly can’t do it? Of course, I don’t even want to think about that, but it’s a legitimate concern. He tried blogging again a few months ago and sounded positive, but then he had a post that said, “someone, please save me” and vanished. He hasn’t been seen on his blog since. So, obviously, I’m a little worried.
Anyways, I’ve rambled way too long. The important points of this post are:
- I will be at both shows.
- I will get the posts up ASAP.
- I don’t know if I’ll make one post or two.
- I will put any urgent information from the show (important announcements or incidents) on the blog immediately, even if no report’s been written yet.
See y’all for UnsraW!