In case you were wondering, it’s perfectly okay to think that Phillter’s a big stupid jerk after reading Part I of his long weekend of a lifetime in Tokyo that he’ll get to repeat because he lives in Japan now. But for real, go look at Part I if you haven’t.
The Christmas Day show. This one was gonna be a doozy. Four band’s whose names I had heard before: one that I knew very well; one that I was interested in learning more about; one I wanted to form an opinion about; and one that I didn’t know much about.
The show was at 1:00 p.m., rather early in the day. I arrived at the Rock Maykan Live House in Meguro a few hours early, as usual, and stood around waiting to be let in. While waiting, I caught a glimpse of a girl wearing a medical mask (a very common sight here) with slightly blue hair (a much, much less common sight) walk up to the venue, look around for a bit, then enter and head to the basement where the live house was. More to come from her later though.
Eventually, others I had seen before showed up, conversations happened, small friendships were started, cultural differences were shared. One thing I’ve learned about the regulars I see at these shows is that they are good people in general. They’ll show you the ropes if you’re lost, help you buy a piece of merch if you don’t quite know what to say, and pick you up off of the floor if you fall in the pits. Foreigner or native, no matter who your favorite groups are, we are all one big family … except always make sure you put your stuff in a coin locker, as you’ll see later.
First up was Malcolm Mask McLaren, a group that I wanted know more about. I had listened to a few of their songs before, thought they were a tad on the punky side of my tastes, but kept coming back to listen to whatever they released that made it into the news pool. One member was down due to illness (a fairly common thing around these parts in winter), and they were the first act of an early show. In other words, they had their work cut out for them.
They managed to warm up the crowd, get people jumping up and down, and whooping by the end of the set. Opinion after their set: I wanted to stop by Shibuya Tower Records, the Mecca of physical media purchasing in Japan, and try to pick up an album of theirs later that day. I figured I may need that level of wake-up-power some mornings before crawling out of bed!
Next was a band I had only heard the name of before this: Sugartrap. Having little expectations, I watched in amazement as the spirit of the original duo of Fruitpochette took command of the stage! One was tall with longer hair, one shorter with slightly off-color (in this case, blue) hair, both fantastic dancers, throw in a few small growls in there, a lot of rock-vibe hard-trance music, and that is Sugartrap.
They whipped the crowd of a few dozen people into a frenzy to rival any stadium show I’ve seen before, even to the point to spontaneously creating a circle pit. And not just some nice, fancy, normal let’s-just-all-run-around-in-a-circle pit; this was a full-power-run-as-fast-as-you-can-and-f***-anyone-in-my-way pit.
I’m ashamed to admit that when I was first thinking of what they would be like, the “sugar” part of their name led me to believe it would be one of those sweeter idol groups that was kinda thrown a bone and allowed to come play with the big kids at a heavier concert. Few times in my life have I been more pleased to be wrong.
[Maniac: Much like Ayumkuma and the honey pot in the “WAR CRY” MV, I always took this name to be a euphemism.]
After Sugartrap left and everyone was breathing heavy with musically-induced rage in their eyes, two members of JyuJyu, the cursed idols dressed in the cutest little Santa outfits, ascended the stage. Like MMM and Bellring the previous night, they were down a member due to illness (are you noticing a theme by now?) but made a few jokes about it and continued on with the show. Their attitudes were SO nonchalant that the energy level in the house instantly evaporated, everyone falling into slightly stupefied states.
Throughout JyuJyu’s set, I tried to learn the hand motions for their songs, tried to watch the other fans that were here to obviously see them, tried to fit in with their music … but it just didn’t work. The slightly off-kilter musical style is vastly different from the one song of theirs that I had listened to and enjoyed before the show. All in all, I’ll say give JyuJyu a shot, they just aren’t really my bag. And with my newly formed opinion of the group I wanted to get an opinion about, it was time to move on to the main act!
… YES, I KNOW I JUST SAW THEM LAST NIGHT! That is how much fun Guso shows are, you want to go to one every day that you have the chance. They really are in my top three bands to see live. And this show was no exception to their norm, except that something wasn’t quite right today.
Saki, Anna and Yura entered the stage and began to sing, but Boss Rei was nowhere to be seen. Still, it was time to enjoy another Guso live show, and enjoy I did. When Rei’s voice was needed, everyone pitched in, crowd and girls included. And, yet again, “Gushin” stands out as an amazing song from this set as well, but something very special was yet to come.
Saki, Anna and Yura grabbed the now-iconic LED umbrellas and did a special rendition of “SLOWRAIN @ Tokyo,” changed to imagining Tokyo as a snowy winter wonderland. During the performance with the umbrellas, the lights went up for a bit to reveal fake snow falling from somewhere upstairs! It truly turned the show into something special. You could see the small, childlike expressions of wonder on everyone’s faces as we all realized we were standing in a miniature white Christmas in Tokyo, something that hasn’t happened in a very long time. Merry Christmas indeed!
After the show, I immediately went to have a chat with the surprise of the day, Sugartrap. That blue-haired girl, Hina, and I ended up having a pleasant conversation about where they were from (Shikoku! More specifically Kochi! Very close to my neck of the woods!), what I thought of their music, and why I was in Tokyo. We took a photo together, I bought a shirt and their whole discography, and moved on for other fans to have their turn.
My second goal of the after-show merch-fest was to have a brief conversation with my favorite member of Guso Drop and see if she still remembered me from when she helped me out earlier in the year. Yes, that’s right, Yurapiko is an awesome person, along with Saki and Anna, and I’ll tell you why.
Back in August, I had just arrived in Japan, been to the trainings for my new job I was starting there, and had time to go to one show at the Shinjuku ReNY just down the street from my hotel. It was the day before I flew out to live in Tokushima, where there are barely any live shows to speak of, let alone of any of the groups we all know. Needless to say, I was pretty hyped, as it was also my first real idol show ever.
I did the whole rigmarole of buying merch, paying for pictures, having conversations with members handing out fliers, etc. It was great. I ended up getting a shot of Akane, ex-member of one of my favorite groups, Under Beasty, a Guso Drop shirt, and a shot with Yurapiko which she had signed. I also got a DVD of Guso’s last live show as a gift for showing up and telling them I was there for Guso. I also had brief conversations with now ex-member of Disdol, Natsumi, and Kaho Nagase of Under Beasty.
When it was Guso’s turn to go on stage, I entered the concert area. Now, Japan is a country with an extremely low crime rate. As such, it’s pretty safe to leave stuff somewhere and no one will touch it due to the simple fact that it isn’t theirs. Beautiful, isn’t it? Anyways, I digress.
Inside the venue hall, all of the attendees had brought backpacks that they had left along the walls of the floor standing area. “Ok,” I thought, “I’ll roll up my stuff in the shirt I bought and leave it too. Should be safe.”
I was wrong.
All the stuff I had just bought was taken by someone at the show. Some friends I made helped me search the venue both during and after the show, but of course it was to no avail. The culprit was long gone, and I was just going to have to learn a very hard lesson about how you should always use the coin lockers provided by facilities.
After the search, we all ended up hanging out outside of the venue doors as they were closing and cleaning for the night. Everyone was saying how they couldn’t believe that someone stole my stuff, how they wish they could have found it, etc. What hurt even more was that I couldn’t just buy that stuff again at another show, I was getting on a plane in the morning and not coming back for another several months.
As we were discussing what could be done about it, the doors to the venue opened, and who stepped out but Saki, Anna and Yura! They stopped, recognized fans and waved goodbye, but then stopped and listened to the story of me losing the shirt and stuff that I had bought, including the picture Yura and I had taken together. Saki immediately took out her phone and turned to Anna and asks if she thought their manager was still around.
Ma … Manager?!
That’s right. Manager. For the next half an hour, after an exhausting day of two shows and probably just wanting to go home, Saki, Anna, Yura, me and the other guys that stuck around went down to the street to meet their manager, who gave me a brand new shirt, and Yura stuck around for a bit longer to take and sign a special photo for me, complete with the catchphrase from a rather famous foreigner comedian in Japan, Atsugiri Jason, “WHY JAPANESE PEOPLE?!” I thanked them profusely and vowed to never forget that night as long as I lived.
And so, as I walked up to Yura, who was standing behind the goods table at the Christmas Day show refilling the camera for pictures, hoping for nothing more than a smile that greets a fan, was gifted with an enormous smile and the words, “It’s that guy!”
Oh yes, she and the others remembered me.
So we chatted about how she remembered where I was moving to, how she was doing with things changing for Guso, I got a picture of us signed again, asked after Rei’s health (apparently she had gotten food poisoning from some undercooked bad clams the night before), and was sent off with a really genuine-seeming hope of us meeting again at a show.
That gift of being remembered by one of my favorite members in the entire idolverse was more than I could have asked for for Christmas, and I got it anyway. Thanks Santa, you’re the man.
Look for the report about one of the two shows I was really anticipating coming tomorrow!
[Maniac: I disagree with my dude; clearly, the lesson here is to always get your stuff stolen. Also, Phillter is 8 feet tall and should not be surprised as to be remembered.]