Secret Garden 2.0

Welcome to Secret Garden 2.0!

I can’t believe in all of the 2+ years I’ve been running this thing, it’s never had a makeover. Lately, though, it’s felt like everything could use a bit of a facelift–my blog, my life, I don’t know, whatever. I’ve been struggling to hold my interest in keeping SG updated. I buy and enjoy albums and singles, but don’t review them. Long story short, I’ve just outgrown the original, and it’s time to level up.

I’m pretty stoked on it, if I’m perfectly honest. As you can see, theme and header are brand new. Pages are now up top, and dropdowns, so there are multiple pages stacked in there… They’ve also been rearranged a little bit. A few have been completely revised. Check them out if you feel so inclined. The sidebar and widgets have also been moved around and edited– I find that it can take a few tries to get the sidebar right…So if anyone is having problems with it or encountering issues, do me a favor and let me know so I can smooth out the kinks.

There’s a lot I would still like to update, develop, and refine, but for now I’m okay with taking all of this one step at a time. It feels good to have a new face, and I’m sure the rest will follow suit.

Part of the reason I really needed a change was due to the fact that GACKT has pretty much always been the face of SG. He’s graced the header, sidebar, and pages for the past two years. This is all well and good since I have so much respect for GACKT, but on the other hand I felt like the image was misleading–to myself, as well as readers. My blog isn’t a blog about GACKT. And I realized the other day that I don’t even want to say it’s a blog about Visual Kei. Honestly, there have been a few instances in which I have felt inspired to write about something, but I decided not to because I felt it veered from the path I was trying to take. This has helped develop a sense of congruency (I hope) in content, but on the other hand, I honestly couldn’t give less of a shit about congruency right now. Seems blase.

So as things continue moving forward here, I hope to start introducing new bands into the flow. Film and drama reviews might show up after a while. I might throw some other genres, perhaps even some Asian music that’s not Jrock, in there if it’s sick enough.

All of this oh, no point in blogging because Visual Kei is idle is starting to get boring. I’d like to take a minute right now and just go ahead and choose not to let that get in the way. Just because bands aren’t releasing endless amazing albums doesn’t mean we all just pack up our headphones and throw sheets over our speakers, does it? When D’espa disbands and it seems like all hope is lost, what kind of playlists are you rockin’? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

 Here’s to new beginnings.

giru goes global

Although we’re only halfway through February, I’m already impressed by the amount of overseas activity I’ve seen announced. Compared to the typical moaning and groaning of global Visualists moping about the lack of Jrock in their local livehouses, 2011 is already proving itself to be a promising year for international J-metal moshing.

First we heard of D setting out to vamp up Europe and one of our own hulking southern states with their worldwide debut. Then MIYAVI announced another European tour to promote the release of album WHAT’S MY NAME. The cherry on top was almost headline news that exist trace will be making an appearance at Seattle’s SakuraCon. Almost. But not quite.

On February 5th, controversial cherry-boys girugamesh turned a few Visualist realities (including mine) upside down with the release of not only European tour dates for their 2o11 world tour, but also the mind-blowing confirmation that they will, in fact, be performing at the East Coast’s own Anime Boston (April 22-24). I have no more mind left to be blown. Or so I thought. giru is very, very slowly leaking at least a few more US dates, beginning by tacking a Pennsylvania show on right after they blow up Boston. The boys will share the Starlight Ballroom (Philadelphia, PA) stage with Acey Slade & The Dark Party, who opened for D’espairsRay at their Webster Hall live last year

Although more dates are still in doubt, so far things are looking up for at least a modest US tour- major cities might stand to hold their breath, as I wouldn’t be surprised to see giru hit up the usual hot-spots. But remember, that’s simply my assumption, and if they don’t announce other dates/cities, I refuse to be held responsible for any sense of false hope instilled in your tender Visualist heart.

girugamesh WORLD TOUR 2011 “Here we go!!”

EUROPE DATES
03.05 Tochka / Moscow, Russia
03.06 GlavClub / St.Petersburg, Russia
03.08 Nosturi / Helsinki, Finland
03.11 Columbia Club / Berlin, Germany SOLD OUT!
03.12 Diesel / Budapest, Hungary
03.13 Backstage / Munich, Germany SOLD OUT!
03.15 La Laiterie / Strassbourg, France
03.16 Le Trabendo / Paris, France
03.18 O2 Academy Islington / London, UK
03.19 Zeche / Bochum, Germany SOLD OUT!

USA DATES
04.22 Anime Boston 2011 / Hynes Convention Center, Boston, MA

04.25 Starlight Ballroom / Philadelphia, PA
With Acey Slade & The Dark Party
Tickets

04.26 Crash Mansion / New York, NY *NEW*
With….Acey Slade & The Dark Party? Presumably.
Tickets

04.27 Jaxxroxx / Springfield, VA *NEW*
With Acey Slade & The Dark Party
Tickets

JAPAN DATES
06.04 Hiroshima Namiki Junction
06.06 Nagoya Electric Lady Land
06.08 Osaka umeda AKASO
06.10 Fukuoka DRUM Be-1
06.18 Sendai Darwin

GRAND FINAL
6.26 Zepp Tokyo

Honestly, the reason it took so long for me to post the announcement was because every time I tried to articulate the news, it came out something like awuhetralksjfvkjalhwe7cbytnle98i3784tGIRUGAMESHjhdgflajhg. Considering giru has long been on my Top 5 Bands to See Live Before I Die list, I was (and still am) incredibly stoked to hear that they will at least be shredding through the US to shred a few stages. Although I originally had plans in place to head out to Seattle for exist trace, fortunately I saw the girugamesh announcement before plane tickets were acquired and cons were reg’ed, and was able to do a 180 turn around and head for Boston. Am psyched for the show, and def hoping for a balanced mix of old and new tracks…More on the latter coming soon, so, as always, keep reading SG.

Get ready for gladiator sandals, The Perm, and the Satoshi-boogie…

I hope they leave the gladiator sandals at home.

I admit, I’ve entered a sort of state of denial about the lack of orange-highlighted dates on my sidebar calendar.

I like to flatter myself and primp my shameless vanity by assuming that lulls in the activity of Secret Garden are duly noted out there. Although I’m daily shelving a hankering to be on here spewing my snotty opinions about the noxious new releases of Jrock Today, likely setting out on the road to becoming some kind of embittered critic, while squirreling away my secret adoration of the more Kpoppian ventures of girugamesh, I hope to be able to post more regularly again eventually. In the meantime, I will continue to ask for your patience.

I notice that I’m not the only one who has been lagging in their post count lately, though. In fact, most of the blogs I read regularly (you know who you are) seem to be kind of slow these days. I remember those sweet, sweet, broke days of living on a whim and blogging sun-up to sun-down without a care in the world other than being totally cash-strapped. But remember this, kids, make good use of your blissful free time and become magnanimous forerunners of the future before the shackles of the 9-5 routine enslave you and stunt your entrepreneurial developments. What these other slaves to the system tell us is partly true, you get used to it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t stop being  frustrating. Ah, who am I kidding. The life of rampant hedonism is obviously the one for me. I’ll start a terrible Visual Kei band and do nothing but wine, women, and sleep, all in varying degrees of debauchery.

Now that we have my future sorted out, shall I spend the next thirty minutes of our time (so precious, according to the previous paragraphs) talking about something else equally inane and patronizing while I try and remember what I started this post to talk about? Nah, just kidding, I’m not that depraved yet.

This news apparently popped up over the weekend (proof that the world continues spinning even when I’m out of the loop. How dare they.), and although I admit it’s taking some time to sink in to the remains of my mushy brain, melted to the consistency of chunky 3-day-old applesauce zombifying slowly on the kitchen counter by too little sleep and too much caffeine too many days in a row, I’m pretty pumped to be able to announce this at last.

girugamesh WORLD TOUR Confirmed!!

2011.3.05 Tochka
Moscow, Russia

2011.3.06 GlavClub
St.Petersburg, Russia

2011.3.08 Nosturi
Helsinki, Finland

2011.3.11 Columbia Club
Berlin, Germany

2011.3.12 Diesel
Budapest, Hungary

2011.3.13 Backstage
Munich, Germany

2011.3.15 La Laiterie
Strassbourg, France

2011.3.16 TBA
Paris, France

2011.3.18 O2 Acedemy Islington
London, UK

2011.3.19 Zeche
Bochum, Germany

The band has apparently taken a leaf out of D’espa‘s book and is reaching out to fans for suggestions regarding their, y’know, tracklist for the tour. Hurry–together we can make a stand against having to ruin our current record by accidentally hearing Color live…

All snark sheathed for the time being, this is actually news that, once it fully establishes itself in my gelatin-filled skull, is worth getting psyched over. They are one of the bands that I would really stretch to see…and although Europe is a bit too much of a stretch (especially at risk of showing up to a disco-ball and Satoshi’s shuffle-boogie), ShuU started rumors on their official Facebook that more information (cough dates and locations cough?) is to follow. Holla, US? I think we’re ready for Color.

Not only that, but they have also announced a brand new album. The question I want you to answer, Visualists, is that of whether the album actually still runs a chance of stirring some response by returning to their raucous roots, or striking a new chord by actually going out on the limb of innovation and, god forbid, inspired creativity. This positive anticipation of giru‘s actions (recently so disturbing) is edged, we all know, by the woolen itch of doubt; the fear that it could really be rock-bottom. The maker or breaker. Takers?

 

The Announcement You’ve All Been Waiting For

Di$tress + C0mA: Infected by Japanese Visual Kei

 

 

I know a few of you have been around for a while now (and I’m still happy to have you, rest assured), and some of the really good ‘uns will probably remember my mentioning a particular anime con that has been honored by my attendance several years in a row. Although I keep saying I won’t go back, and have little to no active interest in anime, I keep going back, utterly unable to resist the gravitational pull of the organized culmination of Japanese pop culture and its cult following.

This year will also mark my first step outside the blogsphere representing Secret Garden. You guessed it (or, I don’t know, maybe you haven’t), I have been granted the honor of appearing at the con as the first Visual Kei/Jrock panelist since circa ’07.

I’m pretty psyched to have this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to working with the con as a presenter, thus being able to expand the world’s awareness of Visual Kei, one step at a time.

Di$tress + C0mA: Infected by Japanese Visual Kei
Presented by gacktpause

Friday, Oct. 22, 5:00 PM EST
Panel Room 2

BakuretsuCon 2010 Oct. 21-24
Colchester, VT

Say you saw it on Secret Garden.

News Flash: H&MC

H&MC with Maakii

That probably sounds like a weird Swedish clothing brand to you– don’t worry it’s a Jrock band. If it was Swedish, it wouldn’t be allowed on here. As anyone who reads regularly will know quite well, I have never featured garage rock-band High and Mighty Color on here before. I used to listen to some of their stuff all the time during my very early Jrock days (before it stopped being infatuation and became a life-long commitment). To be perfectly honest in a rather sexist-sounding way, I hardly listen to any Jrock with female vocalists. It’s not really anything against them…I guess the thing is that they always seem to lack that certain je ne sais qua. I tend to be a lot picker about female vocals than male vocals. Don’t nail my hand into the desk, please. Everyone has their ‘type’, and mine is male vocals (which is why VK works for me). But come on, every Jrock fan has to admit that they started out with Ichirin no Hana from HIGH AND MIGHT COLOR…don’t they?

H&MC is part of what I call “the Okinawa team” — i.e. the huge slew of Jpop and Jrock groups/idols that sprung from the sunny islands in southern Japan (trivia: Orange Range, also from Okinawa, is apparently H&MC‘s ‘sister band’. Which is possibly why I have trouble differentiating between them). H&MC started out as a Metallica cover-band that later moved on to original music, called Anti-Nobunaga.

H&MC had a relatively modest debut, the details of which seem pretty standard for the average rock band. Their big ‘moment’ arose when the band released their first official single in 2005, Pride, which was going to be attached to a soccer event…? Apparently people play soccer to H&MC in Japan– which is why I must move there. Go H&MC!, a scout discovered Pride and it was agreed that it would appear, instead, as a song for Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny— which is a LVLUP from soccer, if you ask me…Especially considering that Gundam Seed Destiny was, at the time, the #1 anime in Japan. That helped sales up a bit, and Pride has remained their top-selling single.

Their music is rock with some heavy/screaming and rap textures that add more dimension to music that would otherwise, in my opinion, be kind of average. I have enjoyed the vocalist, Maakii, because she doesn’t sound like melting gumdrops. On that note  in July, 2008 Maakii married Dreams Come True bandmember Nakamura Masato (who has at least 20 years on her age), and announced that in late 2008 she would be leaving the band. And she did, indeed, leave the band and had a baby in due time. Shortly thereafter a new vocalist was announced, the surly looking little lady under the tough name HALCA.

H&MC with Halca

With the change in lineup (it’s usually pretty dramatic to change the vocalist, isn’t it? I mean, H&MC has been around for a while), many fans were hoping that they would show their, er, high and mighty true colors and whoop out some new hits. They did indeed release a single titled XYZ, followed by a full-length album Swamp Man, and H&MC have announced a summer single for August 11 titled Re:ache — however, this announcement comes as a mixed deal. The band stated that simultaneous with the release of Re:ache, H&MC would in fact be disbanding permanently. They labeled their reasons as being musical differences, and a desire to reach out for greater, different opportunities.

Whether you’re a hardcore fan, or just someone who was helped to catch The Line with their music, it’s always a little depressing whenever bands like these break up. Although, as I stated earlier, I haven’t listened to their music in years, it’s still sort of like seeing the aunt and uncle who used to babysit you getting a divorce.

In any case, let’s wish them all well in their future ventures, and hope that they find out there what they couldn’t achieve within HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR.

The Perm: Round 2

For some reason I just really can’t let this go. Last time we went over GACKT (his worst hair-style era ever), Ruki (GazettE) (he looked good until he then put on big sunglasses and looked like a ’60s escapee), and Satoshi (girugamesh) (the only one so far who has actually managed to look half decent with it). I thought that would be the end of this fashion, but it seems to be booming. Here are a few more:

BUCK-TICK‘s Sakurai Atsushi (center) seems to have gone with the flow….or, rather, the curls. Now that I think about it, so has Imai (center left). Somehow Sakurai pulls it off, especially since he’s approaching it with a subtle maturity, but Imai should really ditch the ringlets. He was better off looking like Jack Sparrow from Hell (2009 look).

The look has also been picked up by Flumpool‘s bassist Amakawa Genki (bottom left)….

Hmm, and suspiciously enough, Johnny’s Ent. boy and up-and-coming actor, heartthrob Yamashita Tomohisa sported a similar style for his role as Kamiya Naoki in Buzzer Beat.

I dunno, at this point I’m almost convinced to get one.

ToshI finds Samurai Spirit At Last

As any of you who have been following the Japanese entertainment news have probably heard, life is not all fun and games for famous Jrockers. Take Toshi, vocalist of iconic Visual Kei founding-father group X Japan, who has had a pretty rough time of it the past decade or more. After X Japan fell into hiatus, Toshi went solo, and, mostly, disappeared into a “self-improvement” “cult” called Home of Heart. Things got rougher and rougher for Toshi, who should be riding a wave of success, until finally, late in January ’09 he announced his divorce from estranged idol wife Moritani Kaori, and his departure from Home of Heart (does anyone else get the major creeps every time you hear this name?…ugh…), and, sadly, his bankruptcy.

Due to all this strife, Toshi said that he had nearly completely lost his voice, and was seriously planning on ending his career as a musician/artist and becoming a company employee. After much thought, he had decided that after the reunion filming in Hollywood with X Japan, Toshi would retire from the music world completely. However, as we well know, Jrock has a tight hold, and it would seem that the star hasn’t seen his final days yet.

During the Hollywood shooting, Toshi claims to have spent a lot of time discussing the topic with other X Japan members, particularly band-leader Yoshiki. Toshi remarked, “There have been a lot of problems. But we decided to get back to our roots and carry on with the two of us at the core of the group. I decided I wanted to continue with music after all.”

On February 24th ’10, Toshi held his farewell “solo” concert, which took place at Akasaka Blitz Tokyo, and was produced by Yoshiki. All of the members of X Japan, including new recruitee ex-Luna Sea SUGIZO, performed with Toshi. It would seem that instead of falling into despair, Toshi has actually been able to turn things around and has seen the light, as it were,actually turning to the positives. About the concert on Wednesday, he said, “The theme is ‘Samurai’ – I’m in danger and the other members come to my rescue with guitars and piano. That’s the image. It’s a new start for me and then we’ll be ready to take on the world.”

The show promoted his final (recently released) solo album, Bushi Japan (Samurai-spirit Japan), and was also a symbolic conclusion to Toshi’s troubles of the past not-so-few years. The show was an intimate acoustic concert with an estimated attendance of about 1300 fans. They performed X Japan classics, as well as pieces off of Bushi Japan.

As for the future, Toshi has changed the writing of his name to ToshI (if the spelling of your name didn’t change, it didn’t happen), and will set his solo work aside in order to focus solely on X Japan‘s world-domination. Err, expansion into the US market.

At first glance, it seems like just another depressing news flash into the troubled lives of troubled rock-stars…But after I read about it initially, I really thought about it. It’s actually a really inspirational story, in a way. I mean, ToshI was really on the edge of just throwing it all away and giving up. His fame had lifted him up so high, and then he had that much farther to fall, and the guy really did hit the bottom. Can you imagine that news blurb on your RSS feed? “VISUAL KEI ICON TURNS TO DATA ENTRY…” I would probably spray coffee out my nose.

But even though he had risen so high, and fallen so hard, in the end he really didn’t give up. He let his former band-mates reach out to him and give him a good talking to. And in the end he was able to turn all of these horrible, life’s-work-ending experiences into actually a great turn-around point. I guess sometimes it does take hitting the bottom to realize where you are with your life. Think about it. You could think everything is going perfectly fine….until you wake up one morning and realize you’re part of Home of Heart.

ToshI

ToshI Official Website

++Source: JapanZone++