Monday, April 21, 2008

Live Report 4/19/08, Urawa Narciss: LAVERITE, WHITEBLACK, OZxBONE, Kanabun, Lerise, Selphy, Sigma



LAVERITE's most recent live felt like a complete 180 from the last one. I felt good about our performance, about our interaction with fans and the other bands, and just plain good about myself for the first time in awhile.

We were going up first, which meant we rehearsed last, don't spend any time in the upstairs dressing room the whole night, and didn't have all that much time to do costumes/makeup. The first band always uses the backstage dressing room right off stage. In a way, I like that: I notice that I'm extremely self-conscious doing my makeup/hair/costume in front of other bands. I'm relatively inexperienced and I'm still experimenting with technique and I don't want to look like a total tool in front of everybody. It's a totally irrational fear, but as the "one of these things is not like the other" guy, it's hard to push away.


We get up on stage, and I notice that there are girls standing in front of Ryota's place on stage, girls standing in front of Yue's place on stage, aaaaaand nobody standing in front of me. You know, I thought, at this point, it's kind of amusing being the guy with no fans. Might as well roll with it! And at that moment, Inertia showed up, running to get into position in front of me. Bless her so flippin' much, seriously. I can't believe she came to support us; I was really happy about that.

Ryota was spot-on for the whole set, Yue rocked hisself good, and I was feelin' pretty good. The set list was straight-up metal the whole time, which pleased our crowd and left me pleasantly exhausted. I had vocal parts on the 2nd and 3rd songs: harmony in the chorus and background shouts, respectively. I consider myself a good singer but I cannot do screams or shouts for jack. Still, it sounds pretty interesting. Can't wait to see how it turned out on the tape. (By the by: I'm having trouble ripping/editing the DVDs, so please be patient while I hack up the good performances into Youtube-sized chunks!)


We always open up with "Sephirot" and end with "Criticism". "Sephirot" drags on a little long and I don't really do anything interesting during it. "Criticism", on the other hand, is way fun to play... I do tapping in the beginning and toward the end, some slap and a sexy bassline in the bridge (which isn't in the recording linked above, but whatever). Also a big ol' jump just after the guitar solo. We have quite a few ballads that I think are composed well instrumentally and have great solos but we've been told they break up the flow of a set. We also have some very Malice Mizer-y/Lareine-y tunes that I always worry won't get a good reaction but I tend to be wrong. And then the traditional metal numbers; the ones we did that night were "Delusion" and "Dirtiest", with "Delusion" being the most fun for me to play--probably my favorite song to play, along with "Sexy Dance". (Actually, any song in which I get to show off is fun for me.)


The next band up was Lerise, a 4-piece with the vocalist also playing rhythm guitar. Completely refreshing. They didn't sound Visual, if visual has a distinct sound: there were portions of their tunes that sounded like a throwback to much older VK, but for the most part their sound was alternative rock, and competently written and performed. There was also acoustic guitar in their 3rd song, and the vocalist was genuinely a talented acoustic player. I enjoyed watching their rehearsal. Also, their bassist and I have the exact same bass so that was cool. Or awkward? Maybe cool.


After them was OZxBONE, who are quickly becoming our buddies. We've played with them 3 times already and will be playing with them again in June. Ken-ken heard me speaking English with Inertia and told me that my English was very good. He was surprised to hear me say that I'm not Japanese. I don't know why this is so hard to understand; I don't look Japanese at all! Still, it was a nice indirect compliment of my Japanese. OZxBONE is very Sex Machineguns in their approach; the songs are silly and the performance simply fun. They're very easy to get along with, too; some of our fans overlap so we did demachi together and Ken-ken and I got to talk a lot more.


4th was WHITEBLACK, who are certainly talented, but I missed their set as we were in the office taking care of money issues and having our little pep talk with the manager.

One thing we talked about were my concerns as the one non-Japanese in VK. It's been largely a non-issue for Japanese fans, and if anything it's been somewhat of a plus. Very little of what's been said has gotten its way back around to me, so I've been in the dark and worried about if it's been helping or hurting us. What the Narciss staff told me put me at ease and really gave me more confidence. I mentioned the fact that if anyone's had anything negative to say at all, it's been a tiny handful of foreign fans of VK, as if since VK originated in Japan and has been done solely by Japanese, that it is only to be ever done by Japanese. The entire staff jumped in and said variations of "That's a wall that you need to tear down, then", which felt really good.

I don't know that my ambitions are that great at the moment. We're a dinky little indies band with next to no resources and a tiny fanbase. I just want to have fun, meet cool people, and play music. If I'm supposed to be That Guy, then the opportunities will present themselves and I'll do my best not to pass them up. If anything I hope I can at the very least open the door to the non-Japanese VKer who will make a big splash in Japan, and in Japanese. (I realize there are VK-ish non-Japanese artists based in various places around the world--Brazil, Australia, etc--but the heart, the most important network, is still Japan.)


The next band was called Selphy, and it's a darn shame I can't find any evidence of their existence or a website because they were fantastic! Great twin guitar work, killer drummer, and this really awesome vocalist who totally reminded me of Bruce Dickinson, both vocally and a little bit in the face. He had all these well-practiced moves and never missed a note. Good god they were fun to watch.

And then there was Sigma, who use the Greek letter as their name, and to whom I didn't pay that much attention to. Sorry guys.

And last was Kanabun, a session band with some members from Ghost, some other band, and two pleasant surprises: Masaki, formerly the vocalist of Sulfuric Acid and current guitarist of +ISOLATION, and Dan, formerly the drummer of Ensoku! I talked to Dan backstage earlier in the day and he was very glad to see me. And Masaki!, that guy is just seriously way cool. He's not really that good of a singer at all, but his performance is fun, his smile is cute and infectious, and he just always looks so dang happy. Ryota and I were psyched that we were taiban-ing with him; "I wanna be that guy's friend!" we both said to each other. They did this way cool heavy Japanesque nu-metally opener song, then did Dir en grey's "New Age Culture" poorly, and then did a really muddy version of hide's "ever free". They weren't that great, but Dan is never, ever bad and Masaki was there so you sort of forgive everything and just have fun, because they're having almost too much fun. It's epidemic.


After the last band, in an effort to be less nervous around fans, I started passing out tickets too the free show on 5/1. It seemed to have a really positive effect on everybody; some stopped to talk to me a little longer, even if just to ask how to read my name 慈弥 (which, to most Japanese people, initially looks like "Jiya"). Two girls in particular took an interest in me and we talked for awhile. They asked me where I was from; I said "Atlantis" which is my answer to that question. Now, one girl knew I was just putting on a character; the other thought that it was the name of a city in some other country. Anyway, then they asked me a lot about Atlantis and I wasn't prepared for that so I had to make stuff up on the fly.

They reacted in a way that made me feel like a mannequin--they were clearly interested in me and they talked about me in front of me, as if I couldn't hear them or something. I suppose that's normal? It was all good stuff, though.

The Demachi was lots of fun. Those two talked to me a lot, too, and I revealed that of course I was from America. The one was surprised, so we made fun of her. She was pretty bold and asked if I'd get with her, so maybe one day she could get Atlantean citizenship. I deftly avoided that by saying we could talk more about that if she came to our next live. And that, my friends, is how you keep them coming back. I went from 0 fans to probably 3 or 4 that night! One step at a time, right? :)

Mish, Brandon, Lika, and Ryo finally came, and it totally made my night. So glad they made it out to support me. They actually enjoyed it!

Next live is 5/1, and free. Looking forward to it!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Event teaser


I'm the guy with the big Roger Daltry/Robert Plant/Brian May hair. :)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Lipps, Choki, and Gatsby


Although the title sounds like some sort of bizarre rival to Emerson, Lake & Palmer or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, it is in fact all about my modeling job yesterday.

For the last few weeks, I've been going to a dance studio to rehearse for an event put on by Choki Choki magazine, and sponsored by GATSBY. I was recruited by Harajuku Lipps a month and a half ago, and got to know the staff as well as that of ETC Dance School.

Yesterday was the event, and it was at Shibuya O-Crest. First, though, I had to meet up with everyone in Harajuku at the salon itself.

Takeshita-dori at 7:30 in the morning ranks up there as one of my creepiest experiences in Japan. There was absolutely nobody around, and the silence was overwhelming.

Once at the salon, I got my hair braided and pinned, got my makeup done, and got some tattoos:


Then we hopped into taxis and went over to the venue.

That's Ken, the vocalist/guitarist from that band I mentioned the first time. There were talks of playing together in the future. I don't know what will come of that, but it's exciting nonetheless.

It was really cool playing in a venue that big again. Well, not playing; dancing, I guess. The staff other salons that were presenting were good buddies with most of the other salons including Lipps so it was a whirlwind of getting introduced to ridiculously cool-looking dudes and distressingly pretty girls.

It's interesting how many contacts you make at events like these. You meet other models who want to meet someone with similar experiences, or you meet people with other interests that you share, or you meet people who can cooperate with you and help you out, and you meet people who can learn from you. You fulfill a wide variety of roles at the same time. Yeah, sometimes you meet people who are just there to act all cool, but they tend not to get many more jobs after that.


The performances consisted of us 4 dancers, some hairstylists, and a painter: as we danced/got the wigs cut, the painter was toward the back of the stage, painting a big picture. Watching the video later it was quite impressive.

But that was but one of the extra things we had to worry about. As dancers, we hadn't thought about the fact that there would be real paint, and real plastic under out bare feet, and of course since there would be a lot of fallen hair, it would be easy to slip. I didn't realize how easy it really would be to slip on a bunch of hair until I stepped on some as I was moving across the stage. I didn't slip or lose my balance or do anything out of the ordinary at all, but I do remember thinking "wow, I could easily fall and make the 'blooper' reel of the DVD."


There were cameras and video cameras on us at almost all times, it seemed, as the thing was filmed to be a DVD. No idea when that'll come out, though.

The performance went off swimmingly; no mistakes and we were all riding a pretty positive feeling.


That's our choreographer, Yusuke, who I had a total mancrush on. Afterward, when we were leaving the after-party for just the salon, he took me aside and gave me his business card! I couldn't have been happier.

Right after the performance, though, some of the Gatsby people had bought us a bunch of beer and we went to the bar in the hall and got to chill out with all the other salon peeps. Then we went to the one for Lipps only for shabu-shabu and sukiyaki and lots of really amazing conversation. I go in tomorrow to get a free haircut/straightening on the house! Awesome.

I thought about how great that experience was, and compare it to the toughness of doing the band. Sometimes I wonder if I'm making the right decisions, but right now I'm coasting on this good feeling and new agencies. I don't anticipate too much more work coming my way on that front, but what a great memory. :)