The main reason I'm holding the tour twice this year is because I really liked Maison book girl's music and I had a hunch they would blow up in popularity fairly soon. So if I waited until next May it would probably already be too late and sure enough 2 weeks ago Maison book girl went from underground idol group to signing with a major label. Their major label debut concert is in November, a month after NMFT9. It's a one-man show (no opening acts) that sold out within hours of tickets being released. A couple years ago I was close to adding Suiyoubi no Campanella (Wednesday Campanella) to the NMFT7 line-up and had talked with Komuai back when the group was still relatively unknown. But I chose Atlantis Airport instead and figured I could just bring WedCamp on the next tour. But after a few months WedCamp exploded in popularity and later signed with Warner Music. Similar thing happened the year before with Oomori Seiko. So even though holding the next tour six months early has been a huge pain in the ass to organize, Maison book girl has vindicated my decision and I feel like a genius. LOL.
Mind you, I don't go to Japan six times a year trying to discover the next big thing. I don't give a shit about who's going to be hot or popular because in general I can't stand popular mainstream music. I try to find artists and bands whose music I love or at least thoroughly enjoy watching perform live. Most of the bands I like are way too eccentric and not physically attractive enough (LOL) so they have a snowball's chance in hell of signing a major label deal. But a few underground bands I really like have potential to crossover to the mainstream and I try to get them to Canada before they do because after they sign with a major label they become way too expensive to invite... AND... their music frequently changes for the worse (watered down) to appeal to a greater number of people (eg Kinoko Teikoku, Akai Koen, Ame no Parade). (note: I still like KT, AK and AnP's music but greatly prefer their earlier works)
If the Steven Tanaka from three years ago built a time machine and traveled to the present I'm sure he would gladly risk the temporal paradox to kick my ass because three years ago I totally despised all aspects of Japanese idol culture. I hated the fact idol groups like AKB48, Momoiro Clover Z, C-ute, Morning Musume etc were dominating the music scene with their senseless and shallow, cookie-cutter, bubblegum dance pop. The fact they'd release CDs with 12 different album covers to try and rake in as much cash from the fans who were stupid enough to buy all 12 versions of the same album. Idol culture was totally commercial, symbolized style over substance and pandered to middle-aged men's fantasies of illicit teenage romance.
Even underground live houses that specialized in punk/HC/noise had to surrender and start booking amateur idol acts in order to survive financially. But as time went on the cross-pollination of amateur idol groups with the underground music scene led to the development of increasingly more creative and interesting idol acts. So with that long-ass-winded intro finally over, here are three underground idol acts I secretly like. LOL
Yukueshirezutsurezure (YSTZ)'s music for the most part combines idol music with post-metal and skramz but other styles like EDM chime in for variety. Their first mini-album "Antino未deology" is one of my favorite releases for 2016 with my favorite song being "つれづれ賛歌" followed by:
I don't like their follow-up single as much since it doesn't have as much rawness or 'emo.' wwww But YTSZ were unequivocally awesome when I saw them live in August.
I'm even considering inviting YSTZ to NMFT10 and talked to Komachi (the blonde one) about potentially bringing them to Canada. Komachi reminded me of someone but I couldn't remember who when I was talking to her. Then afterwards it hit me that she looks exactly like one of the original members of the idol group Hauptharmonie... except maybe taller.
Hauptharmonie's music takes idol music and blends it with a myriad of styles including: UK Rock, ska、guitar pop、Anorak、emo、Balkan Beat、bluegrass、Shoegazer (this info is taken straight from their homepage).
Now my good friend Geoff Spence (aka VP of NMFT) always shakes his head and rolls his eyes at my newfound acceptance of underground idol music. But guess what Geoff!! The song in the video should sound familiar because it was written and arranged by one of your favorite bands, KAGERO! Hauptharmonie are also the only idol group that will be participating in KAGERO's FUZZ 'EM ALL FES 2016. In fact Hauptharmonie will perform a separate band set with KAGERO (just like Maison book girl x CHAOTIC SPEED KING).
Hauptharmonie's live shows are pretty rambunctious with the crowd going totally apeshit.
I actually went to a show at Shinjuku LOFT where Hauptharmonie performed and the crowd went bonkers. At one point the entire crowd was doing a collective headbang in unison with the girls (just like in the link). And then Maison book girl went on and I felt sorry for them because how the hell do you go on after something as crazy and high energy as that? But guess what? The crowd went twice as crazy for Maison book girl. I couldn't believe it because their music wouldn't seem to have as much potential for hyping the crowd and the members have a relatively cool and nonchalant demeanour on stage. But yeah, MBG killed it but I guess most of the credit had to go to the audience who really knew how to stir shit up. But they were pretty tame during the next idol group so credit to MBG too!
Now the way Hauptharmonie are now is actually quite different from how they used to be just half a year ago. They only have two original members left and they completely overhauled their musical style as well. Here is what they were like before:
Now is it just me or does the blonde ex-member in Hauptharmonie (小川) look exactly like the blonde member (小町) in Yukueshirezutsurezure?
Ogawa Hana left Hauptharmonie right around the time YSTZ was formed. Hmmmm. Actually, I think it's just a crazy resemblance because Komachi in YSTZ looks a bit taller and lankier than Ogawa.
校庭カメラガール (Koutei Camera Girl)
Now Koutei Camera Girl is actually a collective consisting of two units:
1. KOUTEI CAMERA GAL: currently 2 members (ramy t talata and pataco & pataco) 2. KOUTEI CAMERA GIRL ZWEI: 4 members (Molmo Mol; Shugashu Lala; NonoLuLu Remeru; Whoa Whoa Toumie)
One of the girls, Molmo Mol, in KCG Zwei also used to perform solo:
Of the two groups, personally I prefer KC Gal's music by far because it has a sweet underground hip hop vibe whereas KCG Zwei is basically techno. Fave song is "Hoppy and Champagne" It has a simple, chill, soulful, atmospheric beat similar to one of my favorite posse cuts. (Though I like the B-Money mix even more).
Although! I have to admit KCGZwei put on the more fun and entertaining show:
Before they split up into 2 groups, Koutei Canera Girl were pretty awesome as well:
Before I end this post I guess I would be remiss if didn't mention anything about BiS and BiSH. Four years ago, the first time I watched a show where an idol group performed was when BiS shared the stage with Kinoko Teikoku, Passpied, and Sebastian X. I remember telling my friend Sharon it would be my first time seeing an idol group perform live. But Sharon corrected me: "BiS aren't idol. They're 'anti-idol'."
So I checked out some of BiS' PVs and yeah they acted punk and shit but "P'shaw. Whatever, Sharon. This is still idol bullshit to me." LOL At the show (High Apps Vol 9) I was mainly there just to watch Kinoko Teikoku who I was bringing to Canada (NMFT5). BiS went on before them and to be honest I wasn't really paying attention to their performance but I did notice how buck wild the crowd went in showing their adulation. To the point that I realized that fans definitely seem to enjoy themselves a whole lot more at idol events than they do at indie/underground rock shows. A lot more crowd interaction and benign 'mayhem.' But after the show still zero interest in idol or 'anti-idol' music.
BiS more or less started the whole 'anti-idol' movement and paved the way for a slew of underground idol groups like the three groups mentioned above. The above video is pretty interesting and has English subtitles (activate the CC button).
BiS' collaboration with Hijokaidan:
One take home message from the video above: Koshoji Megumi (the blonde one) of Maison book girl was a member of BiS and a FEARLESS stagediver. I remember her performing with Oomori Seiko as a back-up dancer and she went nuts jumping into the crowd and then hanging upside down from the ceiling pipes for half a song. She's matured quite a bit and restrains herself when performing with MBG but maybe if we get her drunk enough in Canada we can coax her into showing us her stage diving prowess.
She's so genuine and down to earth and probably my favorite member of Maison book girl but they're all super nice.
After BiS disbanded (resulting in offshoots LUI FRONTiC Matsukuma JAPAN, Maison book girl, BILLY IDLE, Pla2me), their management created a new group named BiSH (Brand New Idol Shit).
I hate to admit it but the song "DEADMAN" and it's PV are pretty dope especially the hilarious ending.
Goddamanit this post was long.
I'm not sure how much I enjoy ゆるめるモ! (You'll Melt More!)'s music but their eccentric member Ano is the 2nd coming of Mariko Goto if she were completely stoned.
^ This series absolutely cracked me up
Thanks Chris! I totally forgot about Oyasumi Hologram. I actually haven't seen them live yet but have seen live videos of them. They're definitely one of the cooler underground idol acts. Their collabs with Have a Nice Day! +/- Nature Danger Gang are insane! And they're tight with Maison book girl which is nice (covers of MBG's "my cut")