July/Aug trip day1

This week kicked off to a great start having watched And So I Watch You From Afar July 14 and Maps & Atlases July 17 back home in Toronto before flying to Japan on Friday.As per usual I worked a 24 hr shift on-call at the hospital prior to flying out. I managed to get some sleep on the plane since I used points to upgrade my seat to business class. :)

I arrived at Narita Airport on Saturday 4pm. Quickly navigated through customs/security, picked up my checked luggage (already on the carousel!) by 412pm. Got on the 420pm bus to Shinjuku and made it to the hotel --> checked in to my room by 6pm. I was tired but had a show to go. I took a shower and power napped for 15 min before heading out to Daikanyama UNIT to watch 赤い公園 and チーナ.

My friend Nicolas (from France) who was my right hand man for NMFT vol 1 was actually in Tokyo. But he had been here three weeks already and was going home the next day. He had never seen/heard Akai Koen before but we actually went together to see チーナ for the very first time at Kichijoji WARP three years ago.

Nicolas had to meet up with old friends from work and couldn't get to the show until 830pm so he missed out on チーナ last night. Which is unfortunate because compared to when he first saw チーナ three years ago they've improved exponentially. In fact, they're much better since I last saw them in March earlier this year! Which is insane since they were already a phenomenal band to start with when they toured Canada last year as one of the most popular NMFT bands to date.

If you have't seen it yet, here is the PV for their song "Granville Island Market" which was inspired by the great time they had in Canada on the NMFT tour, particularly in Vancouver (don't fret! they love Toronto and Montreal too!)

The venue, Daikanyama UNIT, is fairly big with a listed capacity of 600 (real number is probably closer to 700). Doors opened at 6:30pm, show started at 7pm and I arrived at 7:05pm. When I got inside the floorspace was completely packed to the doorway at the very back. I managed to creep up a little closer and since I'm tall I got a decent view but I essentially watched from near the very back. チーナ said they looked for me while they were on stage but couldn't spot me. hahaha.

チーナ played a 45 min set. Compared to their sets in Canada there aren't too many new songs but I'm sure fans in Canada would love to see them again even though it's only been a year. What can I say, チーナ killed it! Most of the people came to see 赤い公園 but I'm sure チーナ gained alot of new fans last night. チーナ's performance probably deserved more fanfare but even thought the cheers weren't deafening you could tell the audience was very impressed (it was one of the "quiet" Tokyo crowds last night).

After チーナ finished I met Kubota, Akai Koen's ex-manager who is actually moving to Canada for a year with his wife Midori. Kubota and I moved closer to the stage for Akai Koen. Nicolas still hadn\t arrived yet when Akai Koen kicked off their set with the song "ランドリー"

Akai Koen's set was actually streamed live on nico nico douga and you can still watch it for another month if you have a premium account with them. They used a direct feed from the soundboard but the audio is a bit soft and doesn't translate the power of their sound that well (eg Hikari's dirty FAT bass is barely audible and Maisa's guitar's are also toned down).

Also, if you want an INCREDIBLY detailed account of what happened during the set or every Akai Koen show that happened near Tokyo, check out Naka's blog.

Here's the set-list, courtesy of Naka:

1. ランドリー 2. ナンバーシックス 3. 世紀末 4. はてな 5. 血の巡り 6. TOKYO HARBOR 7. 私 8. くい 9. 塊 10. 透明 11. 副流煙 12. のぞき穴 13. よなよな 14. タヒチの夕焼け 15. ふやける 16. 何を言う -------------- 17.されど日常 (performed together with チーナ)

It was a great set. I love pretty well all their songs but from this list my favorites are "number six" "seikimatsu" "katamari" "fuyakeru" "fukuryuuen" "nozokiana" and especially "kui"

In terms of stage presence, the band is COMPLETELY different from when they first started out as shy and introverted. Chiaki is a veritable comedian on stage always cracking jokes and goofing around. She introduced herself as Christina Aguilera and just in case there was anyone retarded enough to believe her she later admitted to the audience that she's not really Ms Aguilera. Chiaki climbed on top of speakers, Nao's drum set and stage dove two or three times. Apparently she's been stage diving/crowd surfing quite frequently at shows in the past couple months but it was my first time seeing her and I was really impressed at how much she's grown as a performer in less than a year. As always, Hikari was all smiles and effortlessly nailing the sickest basslines. Nao's a beast on drums! Maybe not in terms of power but from a technical standpoint she's incredibly advanced and creative. Watching her bash away during the outro to "くい" is an awesome sight to see. And Maisa's stil Maisa. The straight-man to Chiaki's comedy routine. She's the genius behind all of Akai Koen's music but content in keeping a lower profile. Though she goes all out when shredding to songs like "katamari" and "fuyakeru>"

After Akai Koen ended their set with "何を言う" (a duet w Maisa on piano and Chiaki on vocals), the promo video for their next single "のぞき穴" was shown on a screen next to the stage. It basically has Chiaki playing the role of head mistress/geisha seducing/taunting her bandmates and thwarting their attempts at assassinating her. Nao (or was it Hikari) clandestinely watches the events that transpire through a peephole (のぞき穴; nozoki ana). The PV aims for comedy, action and a little titllating, harmless lez foreplay. Also the recording of the song doesn't capture the hardcore power of the song when it's played live (similar to all the EMI studio recordings with the exception of "katamari"). Personally, I think they should just release a straightforward PV that films them jamming from different camera angles. Something that conveys the intensity, energy and power of their live shows instead of the goofy, not particularly funny PVs they've made to date.

Also, it irks me how the band are so comfortable with their appearance now and just last year I wasn't allowed to use any live footage in the NMFT promo videos. Ryotaro filmed some sick concert footage of Akai Koen before coming to Canada and their clips would have made the NMFT3 promo even more intense had we been given permission to use them. Oh well.

After the screening of the "nozoki ana" PV we were treated to an encore performance involving Akai Koen and Chi-na playing a new song they wrote together called "されど日常"

Both bands cos-played for the performance: Chiaki: Mama Maisa: nurse Hikari: student in seifuku uniform Yukako: female pimp? (actually, a "yankee" according to Naka's blog) Shouta: doctor I can't remember the rest.

The song was decent but not as strong as works by the individual bands. It had a powerful ending though.

Overall, it was a great concert. チーナ were especially impressive. 赤い公園 were solid, as always but they have played with more energy and ferocity in the past while this show focussed more on their poppier side. Chiaki's evolution on stage was surprising and especially fun to watch. _______________________________________________________________________ After the show I finally met up with Nicolas and his friend Samantha who had managed to watch most of Akai Koen's set. Nicolas (who lives in France) and Samantha (on a 3 year work visa from Minnesota) are unequivocally two of andymori's most dedicated fans. Each having seen them perform well over 30 times. Nicolas is a skilled guitar player who has even performed on stage at an event with andymori. He's on the cover of Andymori's second album "ファンファーレと熱狂" to boot (he's the guy flexing his biceps).

I also bumped into Ryotaro! I've mentioned before he has a new band with Ikuko (Merpeoples) on bass, Kyohei (aka Tonjiru aka TJ Casanova) on drums and a めちゃくちゃ可愛い Jun on vocals who's supposed to be super上手@dancing.

Ryotaro couldn't make it to the uchiage. Hopefully I'll manage to go to Fuji Rock and see him on Sunday.

My worst fear in terms of uchiages came true and the venue had traditional Japanese seating requiring "seiza." I have about the same flexibility as a cranky North Korean customs officer with PMS and bad arthritis in a full body cast. I had to change positions so many times I felt like I was re-enacting the Kama Sutra. That was the epitome of uncomfortability... and the food wasn't even that good! But we all had fun!

Here's a photo with L-->R Chiaki (赤い公園), me, Nicolas and Samantha.

Yes I'm wearing a Maps & Atlases T-shirt! :)

At about 1am, we ceased the uchiage with Itchō-jime (一丁締め). A bunch of people left for home but the troopers, including the youngest of the group: Akai Koen soldiered on for uchiage part deux at a different izakaya... with better food... and regular seats!! I left a bit early and took a taxi back to the hotel but the hardcore (and those that live too far away to taxi) ate and drank until the trains started running again at 5am.

Great times and it was only my first night in Tokyo. Damn I was sleepy when I got to the hotel. I slept, woke up at 8:30am then went back to sleep until 4pm!