D’espairsRay Live in NYC: Human-clad Monsters

Acey Slade and The Dark Party took their bow, in a manner of speaking, and with a word to prep us for the madness to come, left the stage. A slight hum returned to the crowd as everyone lingered in that strange twilight zone of neither relaxing and just chilling, nor spazzing out totally (aka shrieking their heads off every time a sound guy appeared on stage. This audience, unlike others I have experienced, actually seemed to be able to recognize the band members themselves…well, that is, aside from when Tsukasa came out to check his drum set and everyone was murmuring “is that Tsukasa? I don’t know…what do you think? Is it?” Just for the record, yes, it was.). The crew bopped on and off stage, taping down set-lists, testing mics, drums, etc. At this point the adorable girl standing directly behind me leaned over my shoulder and said, “I’m trying not to let the people behind me crush you, but when D’espairsRay comes out, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do anything. I might fall on you.” A pretty apt foresight of the show, really.

I’m not sure how long exactly we waited between acts, but it wasn’t terrible. Considering everything we, and especially the band, had done to arrive at this point in time, this place, in this city, time was absolutely irrelevant (another way of putting it would be that I didn’t check my watch). That is, it was until the lights flickered, dimmed out, and the shadowy AA-Pass-wearing ninja faded from the stage, and a group of figures–or rather, a cloud of pulsating charisma– emerged from the back. And damn, it was about to get funky in there. As soon as the members appeared, it was like the entire audience, which had merely hovered during the opening act, became instantly vacuum-packed. The entire crowd surged in toward the stage, and suddenly there was totally no space to move, barely enough to breathe. Everyone was magnetically pulled as close to that rough wooden stage as possible, drawn by the gravitational pull of D’espairsRay.

They sauntered out, suited up, Tsukasa settling at his kit at the back, Karyu moving off to the right, and Zero Monster assuming the bassist’s place about 15″ from where I was standing. The audience flipped out. Did HIZUMI say something then? I can’t remember. Whatever slurred Engrish welcome he may have given us was lost in a roar of general insanity from the audience.

And then the drums rolled, Karyu started shredding, and Zero’s fingers began flying. With HIZUMI howling hoarsely into his mic, DEATH POINT opened the show.  Although the song is fresh off the press, the crowd was extremely receptive, with everyone chanting along to des poin des poin des poin…by the end of the first song were our throats already totally dry and hoarse? Why yes, how did you know. The only let down to the opening masterpiece was that there were no mics kicked over, and no water sprayed. Karyu did not suddenly grow claws and start transforming into some kind of horrific Pokemon about to jump into the mosh-pit and devour an innocent fangirl. He had cool contact lenses, though.

DEATH POINT was followed by a flood of thrashing epicness. The energy of the band, the excellent set-list, the hectic drive of the crowd, HIZUMI’s MCs (I almost wish he had just spoken Japanese, then I may have understood him) all fused together into one nuke of an experience. In a way, it almost became difficult to separate where one aspect of the show ended and another began. Being that close was incredibly intense; it was like the venue condensed into one circular pulse of…well, insanity. Although fan-service and activity was generally mild, and the band’s behavior was relatively reserved (surprisingly, I thought), they had this incredible, perceivable, dark aura that showered down over us.

The first ¼ or so of the performance, the crowd was pretty mild. Some crazy headbanging was carrying on, but the moshing wasn’t horrible. About halfway in, though, as songs like Devil’s Parade, Garnet, Dope and Sixty + Nine started cycling through, it became quite rowdy. The second row seemed like a tough place to be, as it felt, physically, like the entire audience was trying to close the distance between the third row and the stage. I was crushed between everyone around me so tightly, I probably could have completely lifted my feet off the ground and been totally supported. Doing my best to keep the danger of a broken nose at bay, however, I didn’t give that a try. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a mosh-pit like that, and although the adrenaline rush was intense, it was wicked fun.

By ¾ into the performance, the claustrophobia and heat started to take its toll on me. My arms ached from the furi, my ears were throbbing from being directly under the left speaker, my neck hurt, and I would have killed for a bottle of water. But instead of the velocity abating at all, it steadily increased. Now that D’espa had warmed up a bit, they started pulling out the really heavy stuff, the classics. HIZUMI was screaming – everyone was screaming. A crowd at a show like this is like a force of nature; a body of water. It has ebbs and flows that are dictated by the music and the energy of the band in the same way the tide is orchestrated by the gravitational pull of the moon. The instant you start to resist that flow, you get sucked under and you drown. The best thing you can do is just relax as much as possible and match that flow, go with it, and know that at the end of every Jrock live, there is water. I somehow remained psychologically sound enough to remember this.

Alright, I can’t put it off any longer. Here’s the tally: Touched HIZUMI once during the actual performance. He mostly stayed toward the middle of the stage, and only moved over, at least to our side, once or twice. Karyu mostly stayed off to the right, as well, although he did wander over two or three times to dangle his ratty blond locks into wriggling droves of grasping fingers. Touched him twice. Also got to touch both his and HIZUMI’s hands when they were…at risk of sounding strangely awkward, touching hands before leaving the stage. ZERO was so close the entire show, and spent half the time standing right at the very edge of the stage, looking down on us with this sultry smile, I got to touch him so many times, had it been off-stage, it would probably have been considered unseemly groping and I would have been lynched by a 250 pound Russian bodyguard. Just telling it like it is. Dedicated a handful of ZERO to @kimber_leigh.

Set-lists never catalog themselves properly into my brain. However, along with the aforementioned songs, they played, among others, Human-clad Monsters, 13-Thirteen-, Mirror, Falling (not positive about this, though). Not too surprisingly, LOVE IS DEAD was easily one of the most memorable songs of the night. The instant the disco track started up, the entire audience began moving. HIZUMI’s hoarse Shall we dance hissed over the audience, and some rambunctious movement broke into intense moshing and dancing. The energy was terrific,  from the audience as well as the band.

Just as I anticipated, Abyss closed the show. The minute I heard it on the album I figured it would. The sense of melancholy mixed with triumph that floods those chord-progressions and choruses were too perfectly suited to the emotional rise and fall of a show’s climax and close.

At the end of the show, Zero (designated fan-servicer) opened a couple of bottles of water and spat most of it on us. After getting two healthy facefuls of Zero’s spit, I felt satisfactorily baptised.

After we stood there for a few minutes, ears ringing, drenched in sweat, Zero’s spit, and the tingling energetic residue of a mind-blowingly rockin’ show, we realized, with some resignation mingled with relief, that the band wouldn’t be coming out for a second encore. The lights went on (kind of), and the crowd began shifting toward the back of the venue where the merch stand was. As we moved away from the stage, a whitie venue staffer came on the speakers and announced that we weren’t to go far, as the band would be coming out to sign posters. I stopped by the merch stand for a poster, hoodie, postcard set, and the Askew magazine special live-tour edition and a few packs of buttons. They also had about three designs of t-shirt, a folding fan, and live-limited guitar picks signed by Zero and Karyu. I think that was everything. The merch stand was hustlin’, but both people who gave me my stuff were friendly.

After we got the goods, everyone was instructed to organize into lines to get to the table where the signing would happen. If there are two words that fall on deaf ears in a Jrock live show venue, they are organize and line. Needless to say, everyone sort of organized into a great blob full of random people without posters (I don’t even want to know what they asked to have signed), half of whom seemed to weirdly disappear after a few minutes. The band came out, flanked by security and some venue staff, and took their place at the long table near the entrance. Despite the lack of order in the club, people filtered through quickly (a thoughtful staff member instructed, via loudspeakers, that no one was to tell them their life-story, and it seemed like people obeyed). In a way, it almost went way too fast. When it was my turn, faced by this row of quiet, suddenly very-Japanese-seeming guys who had just completely demolished us musically, those careful sentences I figured I should have said went right out of my head. Each member was patient, and seemed a little shy. They signed my poster, shook my hand, and thanked me for coming (in English). I managed to say something to each of them in Japanese without completely mangling their language, as far as I could tell, and then some Japanese woman rolled up my poster and it was over.

As Kaxxina put it right after the show, “That was violent in so many ways.”

D’espairsRay Live in NYC: Opening Act

D’espairsRay Live in NYC Part 1: Opening Act – Acey Slade and The Dark Party…or

How White People Can Be Cool Too.

Living in one of those places from which you truly “cannot get there from here”, any sojourn out of the shire and into the big, wide, real world inevitably turns into quite an adventure. When I initially purchased tickets to see D’espairsRay live in NYC, I had little to no idea how I was going to make it happen, but reassured myself by saying ‘It’s going to be easier than getting to London for a.b.s.’. Although it took a lot of planning, a 5 hour car trip, a 3 hour train ride, walking until I wanted my feet amputated and a hearty dose of Hydrocodone, it proved to me two things: 1: it was, in fact, much easier than sailing off overseas into some Jrockian sunset; and 2: you never realize how worth it it all is until you get there.

I arrived at the venue around 4PM Thursday afternoon to find a moderate, although not unruly, queue already assembled outside Webster Hall. The movie-theater neighboring the venue had posted signs in the windows asking, in a courteous tone, that all Webster Hall patrons resist the urge to block the theater doors, as it posed a fire (and economic) hazard. They were expecting us. Or, then again, maybe they put them up when they saw people camping out on Wednesday night. I wandered the length of the line taking a few pictures and chatting with some fans until around 4:30, when I met up with Kaxxina and Jesus.

The bleak, rainy evening and a large poster for an entirely unnecessary and superfluous new Julia Roberts movie made for sub-tedious queuing, and I must say, the side street on which Webster Hall is located was vastly less entertaining than the life-or-death intersection at which we waited for MIYAVI in Boston. That being said, it was cool getting to meet some people outside of the blogsphere, and it was an unusual experience discussing Death Point and Love Is Dead actually using the spoken word. I’m glad I was able to connect with those guys, and it certainly made standing in line bearable having some people to chill with.

The venue started letting us in around 8:00, as promised. The Studio at Webster Hall feels somewhat like a slightly industrial living room. The stage is diminutive, literally screaming first come first serve at you as you walk in the door. We got an awesome spot, second row on the extreme left, right in front of the bassist’s place.

Acey Slade

After some 40 or so minutes of standing there sensing the floor filling up behind us, listening to (speaking of superfluous and unnecessary) Tool background noise, the energy in the club shifted, and several people emerged on stage. A very bassist-y type assumed his expected spot right in front of us, and a guitarist with one of those bleached blond sub-mullet/mohawk hairstyles took his place. These two rockerish types were followed shortly by the rockerishly named Acey Slade (and a drummer. I swear drummers practice an ancient form of Ninjutsu. You don’t even see them coming, they just are suddenly there).

First of all, I was surprised to approve of Slade’s getup. Snakeskin-print torn pants and matching jacket are a foolproof fashion choice, and his makeup and hair were passably cool – Visual Kei, even. I had no idea that whities could look cool.

His act kicked off moderately well- I was struck by a slur of high-pitched English lyrics my Japanese-programmed mind processed as some foreign language and that Alice Cooper-ish creepiness that rings of riding crops, leather, and drollness. The jacket came off, the microphone went dead, and the blonds standing in the front row seemed afraid Acey Slade was carrying some horrible disease, and gave each other worried looks every time his personage was extended over the front row. Although the vocals strike me as somewhat of an acquired taste, I was impressed by the instrumentation and song composition. The music had a good, thrashable feel to it and the band had quite a decent stage presence. Their performance had tons of energy which improved as the setlist wore on, going from a faintly lukewarm opening to a rockin’ mid-point and steady climax.

Acey Slade himself had an awesome stage presence. His classicist jumping, prancing, and fan service was all well done, decently moderated, and carried out with panache. However, aside from the gaggle of fangirls standing directly to my left who were shrieking and headbanging without discernment, the rest of the crowd only responded passably to the music. Slade was a good sport about it, though, making comments about how “it obviously has nothing to do with me. The venue sold out before I was even announced…”, and did a good job at setting up for D’espairsRay, calling out several times, “Are you ready for D’espairsRay!?”

As far as I’m concerned, live music is live music, and being able to see a band perform live is a privilege, whether you signed up for it consciously or not. If there’s a band on stage in front of you, whether it’s your favorite band or one you have never heard before, it’s pretty awesome either way. Acey Slade and The Dark Party had some great energy, and I respect them for being able to warm up a crowd obviously not interested in any secondary, English-spouting bands. I enjoyed their show, and were it convenient to do so, I have to say I probably wouldn’t be unwilling to see them perform again.

Check out Acey Slade and The Dark Party at their official MySpace page . I congratulate him on being the first non-Japanese artist to appear on SG.

Photos: Grand Street by gacktpause, Acey Slade taken from randomcandle.co.uk and flickr

KO’d in Munich, Back in Business in Bochum

I’ve been insanely busy this past week. It’s amazing how you suddenly start working 40 hours a week, and those few hours you have between getting home and going to bed (trying to make sure you get enough rest to make it through the following day without passing out at your computer…it almost happened last Wednesday.) become fleeting, and extremely precious. Before, it just took will-power to make sure I got things done, now it actually takes skill. Carrying on in this demented, self-absorbed la-la land of trying to make money, get rest, and still have fun, it’s like being in a daze of busyness. Things get seen more as if from out of the corner of your eye than full-on. There are a few things, though, that can rise right up out of your news feed and give you a nice, sobering slap in the face.

GACKT collapsing mid-song and falling off the stage into the arms of crazed fangirls is one of those things.

Friday was the final show in GACKT’s European debut tour. And from what I hear, even after the intense closure to the second-to-last show in Munich, he pulled another GACKT and got up on the stage in Bochum and rocked them just as hard. In fact, in his blog he stated that because he got, shall we say, KO’d in Munich, he rocked harder in Bochum.

Honestly, although this kind of news is painful to hear, I’m not surprised. And after the fact, I don’t think anyone is, really. When the first rumors went around about a European tour this summer, I don’t think I was the only one who thought it wouldn’t happen because “it’s not physically possible”. Between voice-acting projects, the huge process of being part of Nemuri Kyoshirou, releasing EVER, moving to Avex, organizing and touring YFCz around Japan, and everything else that goes with being one of the biggest celebrities in Japan, how could it look like a possibility? Now that I’m thinking about it logically, I’m shaking my head. What was he thinking? How was this, in any way, shape, or form, a good time for him to debut internationally?

There were already reports from the Japan shows of GACKT passing out after the lives. He even went to the hospital at least two or three times in as many weeks. And not to mention, we all know the stories. He discusses openly (psycho is probably proud of it) the fact that he has been known to collapse after shows, and even to be hospitalized with serious conditions such as pneumonia after extended tours. This is different. This is 3 hospitalizations in as many weeks. At the London on the 16th, GACKT was noted to be ‘unsteady on his feet’ at times. But this is different. This is collapsing mid-song and falling off the stage into the crowd of flesh-eating zombies.

I wasn’t at the Munich live when, during the encore, GACKT collapsed and fell off the stage into the crowd, and I didn’t experience what it was like to be standing in the front row when he lost it. Or watching from afar and seeing him suddenly disappear from the stage. However, I did read accounts of both, and some other, perspectives including his, and it’s obvious that it doesn’t matter where you were when it happened, really. I want to address it from a universal stance, anyway. It’s not just disturbing to see it happen – fans all of the world have been worrying for days without having seen anything.

It should be common knowledge by now that GACKT does everything in his power to avoid living only a partial existence. He wants to do everything %150+. This is an incredible quality in a person, and GACKT’s superhuman capacity to do and get done has been a huge source of inspiration for me, and I’m sure for others as well. In fact, it’s entirely because of GACKT that I was even able to realize that I was living my life so shallowly to begin with. If it weren’t for him, I would probably never have stepped it up. It’s because of his philosophy around living fully (or, in his case, to an extreme) that I have been able to work through some intense situations that may have potentially overwhelmed and drowned me.

But even though he has inspired me personally, and again, I’m sure many others as well, by being this type of person, it’s not %150 anymore, it’s %200. He’s moving at a velocity now that we can’t even really comprehend, even from a place of trying to understand the process of celebrity status. And obviously, it’s beginning to effect his health, and as a result, it’s causing a lot of concern among us, the fans.

In his blog post about the show*, he recounted the experience of the whole thing, of losing consciousness 5 or 6 times during the live, and the pain in his legs as he was about to collapse. They were, in his words, “absolutely human legs”. Yes, GACKT, you are a human too.

However, I don’t think he really realizes that. And so much of the time, I don’t think we do either. But now that this has happened, Fans are realizing it, in some way. Unfortunately it’s playing out more or less exactly how you might expect it to. It’s about this that I want to talk right now.

A bunch of fans have gotten together on Facebook recently (I’m not sure which account this is based out of, but if you search GACKT enough you’ll likely come across it) to organize a Facebook Event (of which I highly disapprove in general) based around “supporting GACKT’s health”. The event is to, on the same day, “spam” GACKT’s email account with a standardized block of text that says, to paraphrase, ‘GACKT: shut up, sit down, and rest yo ass or we fangirls gonna cry’.

Now, I want to make it really clear that I think the intention and sentiment behind this “event” is really commendable, and I think we all agree with it. We all want him to rest and regain his health, and we would all like for his strength and longevity to be his priority…But firstly, I really don’t believe anything is solved by spamming anyone with anything. And I really don’t believe flooding his email with these messages is going to help at all– in fact it will probably just result in annoying him on a deep level. Yeah, I’m sorry guys, but I have to say it straight up. I don’t believe hammering “you have a problem, we demand you fix it” into anyone’s head helps in any way. I do believe in focusing on the positive in every situation, and through the drawing of attention to the positive, the negative issues or aspects become diminished by the positive force funneled into the hopeful, helpful direction.

If you want to support GACKT, and you want to give him a message to encourage him to take care of himself, flood his email with messages. Flood it with personalized, individual messages written with sincerity, composed from the concern in your heart. Tell him how amazing his shows were in Europe. Tell him how much you are supporting him, and how many encouraging hopes and wishes you are sending to him with your thoughts. Tell him you are concerned about his health– tell him how much you care about his well-being. Don’t say “You’re going to die if you don’t stop.” Say, “You are the strongest person I ‘know’. I believe in you. You are what encourages and keeps me going when things get tough. Your music keeps me fighting for my dreams…and now, I want to help you keep fighting for yours. I believe in your ability to be strong. You can do this. I believe that this is the beginning of the increase of your strength, stamina, and health. I believe in you.”

Because you do, don’t you?

*To read an English translation of his blog post please check out amaiakuyume’s page. Special thanks go out to her for doing an awesome job making his words available to monolinguals.

MIYAVI Live in Boston 6/25: 2/2

The tension kept building as the lights kept dimming in a tantalizing way, and the black-shirted crew members bopped on and off stage. Finally the lights flickered low in a seductive promise, and the group of teenage girls standing behind me squealed “Yay! A white guy!”, another countered simply with “ew.” The audience was shifting, the background noise was starting to grate, and it was as easy to ignore the little black door at the back of the stage as it is to ignore a tarantula crawling up the back of your neck. Every second seemed to whisper he’s coming…he’s coming… And then the music cut out and the black door opened, emitting a slightly white glow, and the shorts-and-t-shirt wearing, pony-tailed figure wielding a promising pair of drumsticks emerged, acknowledging the audience with a glowing smile. Everyone flipped out. Hands were up in the air, people were screaming, I’m surprised no one fainted right then and there as a silhouette appeared, a shadow against the door, cast in the white light, a tipped trucker hat and angular shoulders. The screams reached a crescendo, calling out in a rhythm-less chant, MIYAVIMIYAVIMIYAVI. And then he strode out.

The badass-ness of that moment can’t be described in words, and I’m not even going to try. Bedecked in skinny leggings, a tight punkish tank-top, and a black waist-coat paneled with swatches of kimono fabric, back-combed brown and green hair sticking out from a Volcom trucker hat, MIYAVI pulled darkness and light into his orbit like a magnet, cutting a stark image of perfection and punk. The low lighting glanced off of the milk-white angles of his face as he strode up to the microphone, black guitar swung across his chest. Casting a sultry glance over his waiting fans, spidery white fingers strummed several heavy, ringing chords, and, lips brushing the mic, he rasped, “Hello…Boston!”

Accompanied only by the unbelievable drumming talents of Bobo and some off-and-on keyboards, it was unbelievable how much noise MIYAVI could make. His heavy slap/pop style percussive blues playing, skat/rap/spoken-word/screamed/English/Japanese lyrics and shouted cues such as “Jump up!” and “Make some noise!” filled the entire club, creating as much volume as a full on band– definitely as much, if not more, music. After the first song or two, he stopped for a brief introduction, saying “I am MIYAVI, Japanese from Tokyo…”, and expressing his gratitude for everyone’s attendance. He admitted that this was the third consecutive show in as many days (Boston followed Chicago and Toronto), and that he was really tired. However there was no sign of him taking it easy on us, and he didn’t forget any details. Before continuing, he checked with the audience to make sure everyone could see and hear, before launching into another series of full-bodied, incredible tunes that rocked down the house. He drew on our vocal power as well, calling out “What’s my name?” and when we responded, “What’s my fuckin’ name?!”

Rockin’ across the stage, this guy covered some miles, darting from one mic to the next, launching his charisma and sultry, mischievous glances out over each angle of the audience. Every time he moved to a new mic, all the club’s energy surged in to that spot. Shredding his guitar mercilessly, crouching in a near-split to pull the full capacity of sound from his guitar strings, MIYAVI was a terrific tease, starting to throw his weight over the waiting, grasping hands, only to pull back at the last moment, smiling sneakily. At points, he would flip aside the folds of his jacket to reveal a flash of red-satin lining and several inches of bared midriff, only to hide it again as the fangirl’s screams reached a crescendo. Despite his overall reserved attitude around fan-service, MIYAVI created an incredibly sensual performance, filling out each moment with complex facial expressions, smoky glances, and a darting, serpentine tongue. He teased with words, too, challenging us to be a raging audience, “Are you guys gonna be crazy? Are you? Maybe…Maybe…”

Instead of doing one or two longer MCs, MIYAVI broke it up with small, almost conversational breaks. He would stop for water and to wipe off his face, turning to say “it’s really fricken hot in here. I’ve got water in my eyes…” At one point he stood there fixing the tousled ponytail sticking out of the back of his hat, only to pull out a long extension. Dangling the piece of hair, he deadpanned, “Yeah it’s all fake now. I’m bald…” before sticking it awkwardly on the keyboard. With each MC, it was impossible not to hang on his every word and follow his every move, each expression. It was amazing and inspiring to see such an incredible musician up there who, for the past hour had been rocking out and screaming his throat raw, only to stop now and talk about his daughter, apologizing about canceling the previously planned tour due to his move to J-Glam Inc., and then a heartfelt message about how he believes we can be united by music, and how “as long as you call my name, I will keep coming back.” His attitude was reserved and cool, but the energy he sent out to the audience was truly sincere, warm, and all-encompassing. There were a lot of humorous moments as well, such as when he spoke Japanese to us and got a response in Japanese, to which he responded “you’re Japanese? You too? You too?…Whatever.” And when he apologized for his English, saying “I’m sorry my English is not good, even though I am a genius.”

The set-list flowed flawlessly. He played some songs off the “new album”, and a song that he “just wrote a few days ago” (which was one of my favorites of the evening), as well as older pieces such as Super Hero, Please Please Please, and the highly interactive and fun tracks Are You Ready to Rock which gave our vocal chords a run for their money, and Boom Hah Boom Hah Hah which challenged the audience’s clapping coordination.

Toward the end of the live, we had been able to move closer to the front in time for the Jrock Ablutions. MIYAVI pulled out the water-bottle and took a drink, before squirting us down with it. He took another big swig, turned around, bent over backwards and spat the water over the first few lines. It was like Visual Kei baptism. I’ll be able to live my life in pride being able to say “MIYAVI spat water on me.” Yes, it’s like that.

Finally, after disappearing off stage, MIYAVI made us scream  a lot before reappearing for an encore. He played around with the other musicians, mashing keys on the keyboard and pushing the keyboard-player away from the keyboard with his butt while still shredding chords. He teased the keyboard player, calling him a “fuckin geeky no girlfriend cherry boy looks like Chinese from Tokyo!” At the end of the song he put down his guitar and walked along the edge of the stage touching and shaking the audience’s hands. Roukun was able to shake his hand, and reported that it was very soft. For me, having arranged this experience for my pal as a birthday gift, I feel that standing just a few people back from the stage, getting showered in MIYAVI’s spit, and being able to touch his hand, I think I succeeded in my mission.

Finally, MIYAVI disappeared backstage and the little black door swung shut, swallowing him back into the universe from which he emerged like a blazing star only 2.5 hours earlier. The audience slowly, hesitantly began to disperse. After standing for a moment in an afterglow of sound and visualism, we left the flickering purple and red lights, and the earlier-celebrated crew members packing up drums and guitars, amps and chords, and stepped out onto the street, into the hazy summer midnight, Are you ready to rock? Are you ready to rock? Are you ready to rock? echoing in our ears; what’s my name? what’s my fuckin’ name? coursing through our veins.

What’s my name? What’s my fuckin’ name?! MIYAVI. MIYAVI. MIYAVI.


MIYAVI  image (top): TraciGrant

MIYAVI Live in Boston 6/25: 1/2

Although as a city I think Boston is awesome, at 4 hours, it’s a bit of a drive, so I don’t head down there very often. I think that the old architecture, the medley of people attracted by a big-city-status, and its unique attitude are all quite charming. As a place to drive, however, I think that we almost died about 40,000 times. When my sister went to Cairo, she told me about the fact that there are almost no road-rules, so stepping into the street is like hopping into a Flood of Imminent Death. Now that I have experienced Boston traffic, I can tell her that such lawless abandon and auto-aggression lies much closer to home.

Accompanying Visualist Roukun and I left around 6AM Friday morning. After the basics of arrival were taken care of (check-in, etc), we decided it would be a good idea to drive into Allston and scope out the venue beforehand to lessen the chances of stress later. It’s highly fortunate that we did so, as we ended up going the wrong direction and getting caught in some hell-trap of ultimate doom called Massachusetts Ave. which was, needless to say, nowhere near the venue. Around 3PM we finally found Harper’s Ferry, located right on one of the main strips of Allston– a hive of Korean karaoke, restaurants, and an extremely popular liquor store. At that time, the line was still really short– consisting primarily of the extremely hardcore who had apparently camped out overnight in order to be first in line.

We ended up getting in line around 6PM, two hours before doors opened. The line had grown so that it actually wrapped around the building, but it was still an utterly do-able situation. Although we had two hours to wait, we were positioned between the club and the aforementioned liquor store, right on an insane intersection where we could watch hundreds of people encounter near-death-experiences without even realizing it. During the wait, countless people stared, yelled out of car-windows and from passing bicycles, and stopped at points on the line trying to figure out what so many heavily-decked-out people were doing. A lot of them thought we were waiting to get into the liquor store. Try and trace that logic– I couldn’t do it. People along the line responded to the question “What are you guys waiting for?” over and over. “We’re waiting for Miyavi!” “Who?” “Miyavi. A Japanese superstar.” “Oh, never heard of him.” Understanding that people have different interests, I still have to make this annoying comment. Oh people, how do you sustain meaning and fulfillment in your existences?

"What are you guys in line for?"

Finally the clock struck 8PM and the line started moving. Waiting for a show is a strange mixture of experiences. On one hand you’re standing on the street for multiple hours. This is not something the average person chooses as an entertaining pastime. On the other hand, the excitement, nerves, and adrenaline that starts coursing through your veins while the seconds tick by is an awesome rush that builds steadily. You’re bored, and yet you’re having the time of your life. At about 7:50 you realize you’re there to see MIYAVI. At about 8:10 your segment of the queue gets funneled into the club in a tiny cluster, and you’re hustled through black-marker, wrist-band, and ticket-stub procedure, and sent into heaving bass background music, dim red and purple lights, crowds of murmuring gothic teenage girls with green hair, and one of those heavenly creations sent down to us by higher-beings: the merchandise stand.

The merchandise was slightly disappointing– according to consensus vote. But pretend I didn’t say that. The selection was slightly different from the other reports I read. They had white (girls’) T-shirt, black (guys’) T-shirt, girls’ and guys’ tank-tops, the tote bag, pen, and a poster which apparently other lives didn’t get. I ended up buying the pen, poster, (guy’s) tank-top, and Roukun got the tour t-shirt. Just as a note, by the end of the show the tote bag and some of the t-shirt sizes had sold out.

We found a great place to stand near the stage, settling in around 8:15-8:20. Our spot was dead-center, four or five people back from the barrier. The stage was positioned so that people could wrap around three angles, and the stage was set up with 5 mics at different points, so not everyone had to try and stand directly in front of one mic, which was awesome. At this point, I would like to make a special shout-out to the really sweet woman we queued-up with/stood with during the show. It was awesome talking to her, and we were glad we got to watch the performance with her! Sorry that we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye at the end.

People milled around for a while, and then as it got closer to 9:00, started packing in around the stage. The club was getting intensely hot, and everyone was starting to get impatient. The purple and red lights, although dim, created a stifling atmosphere, and along with the pulsing background music and stale air only seemed to encourage people’s antsiness. As the wait stretched from five to ten to fifteen minutes, one of my favorite parts of Jrock lives began to unfold. As the wait-time grew beyond the scheduled start time, the little black door leading from backstage became the axle of time and space, the focal point of all human obsession. And every time that door opened and someone stepped out, the crowd would squeal, scream, wave their arms, and roar MIYAVI’s name. And every single time, it was a crew member stepping out to tune guitars and arrange mics. This happened probably three or four times. I swear, MIYAVI doesn’t even have to come out. The sound-guy can just stand there tuning his guitar and the crowd will be totally satisfied. The crew member was smiling and shaking his head like “these crazy Americans…”

Images: Roukun (2,3), gacktpause (1,4,5)

MIYAVI Live in Boston: Merchandise

The full report is almost finished, don’t worry! I didn’t rest at all when I got home, I just raced in from the car and started blogging and uploading pics. Uploading and editing the pics took a little longer than expected, which is why the write-up isn’t finished yet. Should be up today or tomorrow at the latest. In the meantime, here are some shots of the merchandise available for this  tour.

Poster (sorry, I cropped it slightly)

I was slightly disappointed when reading other live reports from this tour, as some of the other locations didn’t get the poster as an option. Was quite glad when I saw that they did have it, although it came at the cost of the missing wrist-bands.

Men's T-shirt

The back of the men’s T-shirt. They always call the white t-shirts “girls'” and the guys’ sizes “unisex” which doesn’t make sense to me. They should just say M and W, because that’s what they are. The white T-shirts and girl’s tank-tops were both sold in junior (AKA Japanese) sizes, and the “unisex” shirts ran S,M,L in normal (male) American sizes.

Guy's (technically ALL clothes are unisex if you think about it the way these people apparently do) tank-top

Front of the guy’s tank-top. The front is the same as the T-shirt, but the back doesn’t have the locations listed on it, just the MYV382 emblem up by the nape. The S is a little big on me (don’t say anything, I know, I know…), which I usually cannot abide, however in the case of tour-shirts I make special allowances. Wish they had an XS, though.

Just as a side note, the girl’s tank-tops were a different style. They looked like that ordinary stretchy ribbed fabric. Fabric on this one, as you can see, is just straight cotton.

Detail of the shirt graphics

I also got the pen as a last-minute impulsive decision, and I’m actually really glad that I did. It writes really smoothly, and is a good quality tool. I didn’t think I would actually end up using it, but I figured even once the ink runs out I can keep it.

If you tip it upside down, the guitar drains so that he's holding a katana instead. BA.

Here are several pictures of the MIYAVI tote bag which has been an insanely popular item for the tour. I didn’t pick one up, personally, because money doesn’t grow on trees, and because I already have a Visual Kei tote bag which doesn’t need unfair competition.

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I do really dig the graphics on the bag. The shirts are all really busy, graphic-wise, but the emblem here is so crisp and clean, and the way the font for the kanji is designed makes it look so cool. I also really like just the straight-up no frills -MIYAVI- printed at the bottom.

”]Tote-bag images by 藤島明輝子さん (Fujishima Akiko-san). Thanks very much  for letting me publish these on Secret Garden!

Poster: $10, pen: $10, tank-top/t-shirt: $30. I think people were hoping the tank-tops would be cheaper than the t-shirts. Well, they weren’t. I also overheard some people talking in the merchandise line about how why should they spend $30 on a tank-top when they could buy the base shirt for $2 at Walmart and just write MIYAVI’s name on it. I covered this issue previously in a post, but since hearing that remark Friday night, and now that we’re talking about merchandise, I guess I’ll mention it again.

It is true that you could probably make your own T-shirt for less than they sell for at the merchandise stand at a show. It’s true that you can custom-make your own posters using some services now. With the added availability of photoshop and other editing software, you can even probably make it look pretty legit. However, when you custom-order a MIYAVI-themed T-shirt from some company, maybe it costs you $15 instead of $30. That’s $15 that goes to some random company you could care less about. In my eyes, I’d rather be an extra $15 or $20 or $30 poorer and know that the extra cost is going to supporting the artist who I truly admire. In the 2.5 hour show, the gift that MIYAVI gives with his time, energy, and performance is so truly priceless, that by the time you stagger back to the merchandise stand for the final time before heading out into the moonlit streets of some dingy random neighborhood, there’s no way you could feel like you could ever give back what you received.


Class Dismissed~ a.b.g.d LIVE in London

back of the tour T-shirt

Yes. It’s the most expensive concert I’ve ever attended. And the abingdon boys school live at The Underworld Camden in Camden Town, London, UK on Nov. 12th 2009 was also the shortest concert I’ve ever attended. The boys performed from around 8-something until just after 10, and that included a short intermission. It was also the most powerful, crazy, and musically devastating experience of my, admittedly, live-performance-wise- pathetic- existence- so- far.

First of all, it took several months of planning and coordination and hard work at a 9-5 I’d already refused once or twice, and then 2 airports and 11 hours of travel time to get to this concert. You’d think I’d have been more prepared come the actual day-of. But I wasn’t. I didn’t get to the venue that early, and there was already a queue the length of the Nile. It kept growing, too, so I was glad I at least made it when I did. At least the perk of waiting a block and a half from the venue itself was that I got to stand right next to the tour bus.

Semblance of a night-photo. Tour bus.

We waited for about 1.45 hours, 1 and 1/2 of which lovely London skies decided to vomit profuse quantities of frigid, unforgiving British rain. Nobody was prepared, so by the time they started letting us in, everyone was pretty soaked… I guess that was our fault for not expecting typical London weather (even though I was most likely the only non-European/student in attendance) and the landlords’ faults for not expecting us for this soul-ravishing event and putting up awnings to protect our rock-steady skulleons.

The rain was only the second stupidest thing. Because I was kind of running late, and every self-service machine in the city looks the same, I only had precisely, including 1 and 2 pence pieces, 20 quid on me, I had to be unfairly choosy when it came to tour goods. The goods they had available were: a poster, postcard set, Europe-only compilation album Teaching Materials, an Ebisu tour T-shirt, a European tour T-shirt, and….I believe that’s all. 20 pounds got one of the European tour T-shirts.

The Ebisu T-shirt had a more manly shape, but during the performance Nishikawa sported the tour shirt, so I guess they’re unisex. Not that it matters to Jrockers, I suppose.

The venue was tiny. Minuscule. By the time we got in, the “dance floor” was packed, but since, y’know…I’m slightly….how to say….vertically challenged, unless I was able to stand near the front I wouldn’t really be able to see anything, it worked out okay to stand on the upper floor near the railing, even though some annoying girl standing slightly in front and to my left kept brandishing her arm devotedly directly in my line of vision, I was able to see alright.

There was a lot of energy in the place, and everyone kept screaming all at once as if the band was coming out every time a sound-crew member emerged wearing an Ebisu T-shirt. a.b.s. could probably just have played the CD and asked their sound-crew to head-bang on stage for an hour and a half and the audience wouldn’t have noticed. Just kidding.

When they actually appeared on stage…everyone went to hell. I remember it pretty well, I think, despite having died in that very moment. They were all dressed in their white and black STRENGTH-era outfits, waving and smiling. And you have no idea. No idea. Absolutely zero comprehension…of how incredibly beautiful these aliens from another planet are. There is no way they could possibly be human. They’re not. They had to have been beamed down from outer-space. The charisma, attitude, and attractiveness radiating from them could have powered Tokyo for ten years without so much as a flickering bulb. I shouldn’t be so surprised, but really when you look at pictures, how do you really know how attractive they are normally? I mean, between air-brushing and makeup and special effects, how much of it is real? Everything. And then some. Their presence, sheer, daunting confidence, and surety on stage was so overwhelming, well, I can’t even describe it.

Their personalities were incredible to see coming out in their performance as well. Hasegawa Kozy, the drummer, and IKUO on bass stuck to the shadows to give the official members full foreground– but the stage was small, so you could see them killing it anyway. Kishi was also set back behind the others, but his effect on the performance was so strong, he could have been at the front. SUNAO, Nishikawa, and Shibasaki held the very front. Shibasaki was quiet and reserved, as expected. SUNAO surprised me– he was untamed! He had a very powerful presence on stage, and it was like….”bloody hell, he’s cool”. With his wild black hair and some unforeseen, thick eye-makeup, he was like a guitarist so incredibly good he was sent to the abyss and then returned with a note from the devil proclaiming him just too badass to bear.

Nishikawa, of course, had tons of energy. He was tiny, to be sure. Small, but oh my. He was very active, dancing around, headbanging with the best of them, taunting the crowd, and shouting out to us a lot. He spoke in English, and he has an amazing speaking voice. He was pretty hardcore. He would say things like, “I love you, London!”, “Make some noise!!”, and “are you havin’ a bitchin’ time?!?!” To save us from severe emotional trauma and/or brain-damage, he assured us he wanted to come back many more times.

Well, that’s good for London, I guess. When are they coming to America?!

It’s unbelievable to actually hear the music performed live. Nishikawa adds a lot of ornamentation, screaming, etc that’s not in the recorded version. His voice is out of this world– so powerful and defined. The guitar-solos make you want to die (I actually think someone did faint, or get knocked out, or something, because at the end of the show Nishikawa was looking out at them saying, “Hey, are you alright? Are they okay?” He seemed kind of concerned, but there were no ambulances or fountains of blood, and they were in like the front row, so I’m sure even if they suffered minor (or major) physical pain they’ll survive). The set-list was powerful. They performed:

Via Dolorosa, Stay Away, JAP, Kimi no Uta, From Dusk Till Dawn, Strength, Freedom, As One, Innocent Sorrow, Nephilim, HOWLING, DESIRE, Atena, Valkyrie, and FRE@K SH0W, as well as a few others I’m sure I’m mentally misplacing.

I was disappointed to not be able to hear DRESS and LOST REASON, but the songs they chose were awesome, and to be honest, I’d rather listen to a.b.s play Christmas carols for an hour and a half than listen to any other band play a million different songs.

The second half of the concert (split by a brief intermission during which the band changed into tour shirts, and the crowd shrieked encore. I was like, they’ve played for 25 minutes, it’s not exactly the end of the concert… Paranoia or pandemonium…but whatever it was, it reigned.) got kind of crazy. Nishikawa mutilated the delicate psyches of desperate fangirls by spitting water over the crowd, strip-teasing and tossing his sweaty shirt into the audience, and then diving off the stage into the audience. He was promptly dragged down, and five security guys had to wrestle for several minutes with the crazy fans to get Nishikawa back on stage. (He looked pretty exhilarated after that. I guess some people play with fire and others…fans?).

They played FRE@K SH0W, and each member was introduced by Nishikawa, as they played an incredibly sick solo that destroyed any hopes I may have had for a normal, average life. Again, later Nishikawa introduced the members once more by calling out their respective role and expecting the audience to respond. I think about 3 people there knew Kozy Hasegawa’s name. Nishikawa seemed a little disappointed about this, calling out “…His name is Kozy Hasegawa!” Tell it, yo!

When it was finally time for them to leave, they all took some time to walk around touching people’s hands, waving, etc. It was really sweet and cool to see them interacting with the fans as much as possible, given the degrees of separation. Then they walked off, and the sound-crew came on to pick up. And something inside, I think it may have been my soul, curled up and died right then and there. But that’s alright. It was a small price to pay for so great a gift.

a.b.s. にメセージはもしこれを読んだら、ありがとうございましたね。もうすぐアメリカに来て下さいよね。これだけ。