Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Posted by Melissa Costa | File under : ,

6/7/2012 Cologne, Germany

This is a live-report as well as a personal account. If you merely wish to read about the live, please read the middle section named "Conquest of Cologne" ^__^ Thank you!

Start of our Conquest

The early morrow

Gentle temperatures but rain in sight

Not everyone was present right away (^__^;)

Only after midday we were all united in the German city of Düsseldorf. Despite some earlier inconvenience on the journey for a dear member of our party, once we came together the good times began. Being able to meet many members of the Hearty family, these first few hours of our Conquest passed with ease, fun and comfort.

We formed our own little international crew; with German Hearties (Yuu, Chan, Miki and Nina), the Pirate Princess from Spain (Anid) and us, the Dutch Hearties (Giz, Tara and myself). Later that day as we traveled towards the venue in Cologne, we all became one crew with many more different nationalities. The mood among the waiting fans was light and after the earlier threat of rain –brought to you by our favorite rain couple – now the sun accompanied us during our final hours of waiting.

After the VIP-members were allowed the Early Entrance, we waited around a bit more until it was our turn. Long before we had decided to take a spot in the back of the hall, but upon entering the floor was still quite empty, even forming an open space near the wall on Toshi’s side. We settled down comfortably and watched the hall slowly taking its fill. Though A didn’t manage to get Die Werkstatt sold out, the present crowd of about 180 souls still formed a decent gathering before the stage and spread throughout the hall.

While the buzz of voices slowly filled up the venue, there was another source of sound audible over the noise. Flashes of lightning, a low rumble of thunder and the wild sway of the ocean loomed over our heads as if the storm clouds were present in the hall itself. A wary male’s voice warned us from time to time, saying the seas were dangerous beyond this point. For we would soon enter into another world. I quietly smiled to myself, as nobody in the crowd paid any heed to his warning, simply waiting for the Other World to open up before us. We all wanted to be swept away.

It still took me quite a while to realize, that the band I had shared my goodbyes with almost exactly a year before was really going to appear on that stage. I didn’t feel as anxious as I thought I would, and yet there was a certain feeling slumbering below. A certain kind of home-coming, almost. The crowd was very different from the Japanese, and yet it felt so familiar. There was but one difference, and a glorious one: this time I could see this band, standing together with my friends. I marveled over this when finally the lights dimmed and we stood as one, forming one row. Then I shivered, as the woman’s voice began her Tale, and I could almost remember the words.

“Nobody knows where they came from…”

Right then I didn’t think it mattered to anyone where they came from.

All that mattered was that they were here. Right now.

Conquest of Cologne  

A scream rose from the crowd as support members Shunji and Kentarou had taken their positions on the stage before Ace showed themselves, each member taking his moment provided by the intro-music and the rhythmic clapping of many hands in the air. First Toshi took the center-stage, looming at the crowd and urging us to scream louder before turning to pick up his bass. Rookie Fiddler followed, dancing nimbly across the stage as he greeted us with a grin that seemed to reach both his ears. Finally, the crowd screamed and cheered as Nimo’s silhouette appeared beneath the lights, strutting to the center with his face cloaked in shadows beneath his Captain’s Hat. 

Underneath the members’ air of confidence, clearly nerves were flying about, almost as visible as the smoke over our heads. But who could blame them, as they were standing on the eve of their Conquest? And they did not falter, but faced us bravely, Nimo shouting “Are you ready?” into the microphone before they opened fire with Night of the Knights.  

1 Night of the Knights
2 Loveless
3 Masquerade
4 Mirror of Terror
Fire Bass Solo
5 Fool’s Gold
6 Black Butterfly
Drum Solo
7 Viva la Casta!
8 Canaria
Encore 1 Sakura
Encore 2 Shangri-La

The instant Rookie’s heartfelt cry echoed out at us, fists were flying back and forth in the air and the energy in the hall began to match a raging sea. Nimo’s vocal, sadly not perfectly audible, still rang out and especially the energy with which he sang was placid from the first second. I stared at the stage, silent, smiling. It was back. That feeling.

Already before the first chorus, the best feeling I’d remember throughout this tour took hold of me. I had first encountered the concept of joint-headbanging  (in the sense of supporting each other by the waist or shoulders) at A’s gig last year. Now, so naturally as if we’d planned this before the show, I felt Anid joining hands with mine and I saw we had all done the same thing, diving forward together in one fluent wave.

“No one kills my soul-“

Since we had formed our row behind the more densely packed crowd before the stage, we had plenty of space to repeat our harmonic violence. Especially the heavy dive felt amazing every single time. When we weren’t throwing our fists in the air or making the A-sign, holding on to my friends’ hand gave me a blissfully united feeling. Not just us, but the crowd was becoming one as well. The participation from the audience was  full of passion and energy, causing the members to smile broader by the moment and the distances grew smaller as they had raged straight into their second song, LOVELESS. Only the dramatic intro had the members frozen in place as statues before the strobe-lights flickered and headbanging ensued once more. Nimo’s voice seemed to power up to full potential which especially the chorus revealed; flawlessly he cried “The endless Cry / The loveless World”, intense enough to cause people to freeze in place before the groovy bass and violin continued to lead the dance.

Only then, the crowd was allowed a moment to breathe as all members turned their backs to the audience except Rookie Fiddler, gracefully playing a haunting violin intro before the amps revealed the familiar intro-notes to MASQUERADE, causing the crowd to scream with recognition and joy. Nimo grinned and shouted again “Are you ready?” before we all dove forward.

MASQUERADE was the song that couldn’t miss from any set-list and if anyone had been indifferent to the performance before, now A managed to draw everyone into the sultry Spanish rhythm. During the chorus, Nimo instructed us how to swing the towels over our heads and everywhere above the crowd, towels flew like red banners in a storm. By now the members had clearly conquered the audience and their own nerves, as Nimo jumped and danced to the cheeky violin-play and Rookie and Toshi entertained the crowd right and left. The support-members couldn’t resist the playful mood either and especially Kentarou was exchanging his background-position more often with the front of the stage, making funny faces at the crowd while Shunji grinned wide and sang along to the lyrics.

After MASQUERADE there was a short MC in which Nimo displayed his English skills (he has certainly improved!), maintaining some boyish shyness but soon growing confident again as he told the crowd this was their first feast in Europe, and they were very excited to be here. The MC’s made up for a lighter mood in-between as Nimo entertained the crowd by saying “I studied German very hard…” He then demonstrated this by saying a few simple German phrases (such as “Wie geht es dir?” and “Danke Schön”), and his pronunciation was really quite decent. “I know one too!” Rookie Fiddler suddenly interjected, causing everyone to look at him and then laugh and clap as the grinning fiddler managed: “Ich… liebe… euch!”

The MC was also the band’s opportunity to test the crowd’s familiarity with them. “Do you know us?” Nimo asked with big, curious eyes, grinning wide when the answer was loud and positive. “Okay… What is my name?” Rookie Fiddler then added cheekily, letting the crowd scream for him until he was satisfied. Nimo then pointed towards Toshi, upon which the crowd started a spontaneous chant of: “Toshi! Toshi! Toshi!”, which seemed to please the bassist a great deal, directing us for a moment before grinning and thanking us. However, as everyone was shouting for Toshi, my friends and I were all shouting “Fire Bass!” Our cries were overtaken by the larger crowd however, but just when the noise died down I made a last attempt, and unexpectedly my “Fire Bass!” reached right to the stage and Toshi’s ears. The bassist looked up in surprise before he grinned just as wide and pointed at me with a satisfied nod, placing me in the sudden center of attention which thankfully didn’t last very long. Nimo’s name still needed to be shouted, and the vocalist let our voices wash over him with a big grin before uttering a high and amused “Whoo~!” It would not be the first nor the last time he’d make that interesting sound.

After this amusing interlude Nimo announced the next song, “Mirror of Terror”, during which the energy burned a bit lower but not less intense, letting the crowd marvel over Nimo’s vocal techniques before the members left only Toshi and Shunji on the stage. Shunji led us into a steady rhythm to clap our hands and then Toshi took his moment with a groovy Bass Solo.

This was the moment of Fire Bass, and for me it was an interesting transformation to watch. I had never seen Toshi perform a Bass solo in Japan before, and not just that; the bassist had always displayed a certain shyness which only diminished when he was on stage. This time however, Toshi glared at the crowd from center-stage with his head up high, urging us on to shout, gesturing he could not hear us. Together with Shunji he performed a thrilling and groovy solo but also displayed some of the ego he’d perhaps desired to show for a long time. And now he got his chance, and took it to the fullest.

Just between you and me, it was really, really cute to see Toshi have an ego. U.U Bless him.

As Toshi finished up his solo and Shunji still made us abide to the rhythm, Rookie, Nimo and Kentarou returned to the stage. This time Rookie took the center and instructed us to shout after two steady beats. Repeating this until our voices became one, Kentarou’s guitar then began the intro to FOOL’S GOLD. Not being one of my favorites, this song did turn out to be a very catchy live-song which the band clearly enjoyed to perform. The energy was rising again, the crowd roaring and clapping already before Nimo told us to sing along to their next song, Black Butterfly. Nimo took on his rocker-face and the obviously Metallica-inspired riffs pulled the crowd into the darker regions before all energy soared to the ceiling as we all raised our voices and sang “We can fly, like a Black Butterfly-“

After all the hard-rock galore in which especially Kentarou’s guitar and Toshi’s bass pulled the lead, Nimo announced drummer Shunji and let him have his moment with an awesome drum-solo. Despite their support-status, the two ‘extra members’ were very skilled and formed a strong bond with the others, a bond which would only become more powerful and obvious as the tour progressed. After Shunji’s solo, a jazzy piano sounded through the boxes and we began to clap to the funky sound of Viva la Casta! I soon noticed how this particular crowd-participation was very different from Japan; finger-snapping had made place for clapping, cute furitsuke had changed to fist-throwing. This was the European way, or perhaps simply the way of an overly excited crowd, and either way was fine.

Nimo let us shout our throats raw at every opportunity, and just when I was starting to feel a slight exhaustion, the organ-intro of Canaria began and we all screamed at the top of our lungs. This was far from over. I barely saw the stage during this song as my friends and I had all joined hands and we headbanged as fast as our necks could handle. Only at one of the last choruses I saw how Nimo managed to keep his big hat on as he joined us; the Captain would shout “Shake-your-heads!” before putting a hand on top of his headwear and headbang as such.  

Despite the energy we had certainly spilled during the set so far, it felt as if we were barely halfway. Still, Nimo then announced their ‘last song’. The crowd whooped incredulously and slightly disappointed, yet when Rookie Fiddler started the intro to NUDE the excited screams took over again. The entire crowd jumped up and down during the chorus and many voices sang along until we were finally forced to watch the members wave and leave the stage after finishing. Even before everyone had properly left though, the voices shouting: “Encore! Encore!” were already heard through the hall. The dimmed lights and remaining atmosphere were enough of a hint and without faltering the pirates soon reappeared, Nimo thanking us for requesting the encore.

After Nimo tested the energy-level of the crowd by asking if everyone was having a good time, the reactions pleased him and with a big grin, he then waited for silence to fall again before he said in a more serious tone: “The next song… is a Japanese style song”. My heart quivered. Sakura, it immediately flashed through my mind, exchanging excited glances with my friends. Really…? And yes, the moment Nimo answered to our silent expectation by whispering: “… Sakura”, I could just hear nearly 200 people letting out a sigh before we cheered, full of gratitude before the song had even started.

It was definitely one of the most magical moments of the tour. The stage and audience baded in blue light as Nimo cast his eyes down, preparing himself before Shunji tapped off and Nimo just nailed the right key and intonation once more, putting so much emotion into the lyrics. I whispered the words along with him, my eyes fixed on his face before I let out a shivering sigh when Rookie’s violin cried its tender song. The entire hall swayed along to the melancholic song and many people sang along to the lyrics, which seemed to endear Nimo and the other members a great deal upon noticing. The magic lasted to the very end, the perfection of Nimo’s final drawn-out note still ringing inside my chest as Rookie’s violin gently carried the audience in and out of its bewitched state. One second of silence before applause erupted, and the pirates nodded serenely before leaving the stage again, still leaving us with anticipation, if not even more. This still couldn’t be the end…

… and it wasn’t. Our voices shouting “Encore!” couldn’t be tamed and it only took a short moment before this time Steff took the stage. He simply said: “The band is standing there, and they can’t hear you.” Whichever shred of our abused vocal-chords was still intact, at that moment we all put it to use. Once again A emerged, carrying goofy big grins and Nimo expressed their gratitude for the second encore as well.

A part of us had been hoping, wishing for the one song that was still obviously missing from this set-list… and as if Nimo could read it from our faces, he then announced happily: “For our next song, you can dance with us… No, you must dance.” Excited whispers rose from the crowd and immediately morphed to cheers when Nimo put his thumbs and index-fingers together around his microphone and said: “… Shangri-La.”

Dozens of A-signs rose into the air as Nimo sang the intro, while Rookie’s already famous opera-enhancements harvested laughs but also respect, for he pulled off the vocals very well during a live-performance. I exchanged eager glances with my friends, and it was obvious we were all thinking about the same thing. When Nimo sang “The never-ending feast~” and Rookie called out “Drink it all down!” , we hooked our arms together and began spinning like crazy on the floor, the entire venue turning into a righteous Pirate Feast. The second magical moment in one evening.

I laughed and danced as the lights turned my surroundings in a beautiful blur, only clearly seeing the smiles of my dear Hearty friends. We spun and spun without stopping, only pausing to cry “We are Ace!” and form the sign, the simple three words meaning so much more to me now. Then we danced again, everyone, even Nimo who held on to his hat as he spun his own crazy laps with a huge smile and Rookie once again showed the crowd affection through his fiddle-stick (though he was less lethal than I remembered). Toshi bounced from side to side with his bass on his hips, losing every last shred of bashfulness until everything build up to its biggest finale. Clearly exhausted but satisfied, the members expressed their gratitude to us once more, completing our half A-signs with their own hands before leaving the stage with a salute of screams.

The Feast had ended. And Cologne had been conquered.


A certain kind of speechlessness had descended over me as the lights had gone back on and people now mainly crowded around the bar and the merchandise-section a floor below. I sat with my friends on the floor, still calming down from our intense reproduction of drunken sailor’s dances. A handshake-event had been announced to begin soon, and I was clueless about my anticipations of that moment, not knowing what to expect from it at all. I distracted myself by finding all my friends eventually scattered around the hall, paying a visit to the coat-section and the bathrooms before it was time to join the cue. A had already been lined up before the doors when we first passed them on our way down, but I hadn’t really looked upon them yet. Now it was time. Joining in last behind my friends, we began to slowly move towards the exit until it was our turn to greet the pirates.

This is where I received a genuine shock.  

When it was my turn, I shook hands with Nimo, exchanging the standard words of gratitude with him in Japanese, before hesitantly adding: “Well… It has been a while”.

To my surprise, Nimo replied: “Indeed!” and smiled broadly. I blinked back at him, not yet progressing the implication as I continued to clarify myself: “Uhm, one year before, we met in Japan…”

“I know,” Nimo simply retorted, still smiling.

“You remember?!” I then blurted out, covering my mouth. Nimo just looked very amused, finally giving me a comforting smile as I ended up struggling with my final courtesies and he shook my hand again, saying: “See you tomorrow!”. I mainly remember finding the floor infinitely fascinating at that moment.

I pretty much fled past Rookie Fiddler, who greeted me with another cheerful and well-informed “See you tomorrow!” and only at Toshi I was forced to halt again, for the bassist held my hand and responded enthusiastically to my simple Japanese courtesy with: “Oh, your Japanese is great! Please teach me Japanese!”

Déjà vu: complete.

I didn’t manage to say “You asked me the same thing last year…” Instead I grinned feebly and asked: “Alright, but what about English?”

Toshi pondered about this for a second – while still shaking my hand – before sheepishly grinning: “Please teach me English too!”

He definitely managed to make me smile and after I also exchanged a “See you tomorrow!” with him I joined my friends again outside. The daylight was still bright and out, highly unusual after a concert even in summer, but right then I didn’t process this fact. I stumbled right up to the first of my friends I found and hid my face in her shoulder. For a second I allowed myself to be overwhelmed.

I was not the only one with memories from that summer.

When I regained myself I joined into other Hearty’s rejoicing outside, sharing stories of the live and showing each other their treasures from the merchandise. Outside Werkstatt’s iron gates we settled down for demachi and amused ourselves with making more lovely memories as the sky grew dimmer.

While we were taking fun pictures of our crew of companions, the support members and Heloc emerged from the hall to start loading their gear into the two cars. Especially Shunji proved himself a valuable work-force who carried the most suitcases and amps into the rear. Just as we were discussing how the work-load wasn’t fairly shared between the pirates, Rookie Fiddler appeared through the doors, pushing his own suitcase. To our utter amazement and hilarity though, he then just parked it behind Shunji and disappeared again, giving the poor drummer a nasty surprise when he turned around.

More hilarity ensued as Nimo and Toshi joined the others outside, having exchanged their pirate exteriors to those of Japanese tourists. All three members would eventually wave at us behind the gate, before approaching and using us as a lively picture-background. After a few last greetings they returned to the car to take some final pictures of each other and the venue. We were already in a highly giddy mood as an Italian Hearty had pointedly remarked about Nimo’s pants: “Those are the kind of pants you wear when you have high water in your cellar…” When next Toshi decided to show off his shoulders to us by stretching them sensually with a towel in hand, we were all in hysterics. Very respectful hysterics.

Finally A climbed into their vehicles after some last waving at us and the cars drove past us through the gates. It looked as if there was a person voluntarily pasted against the blinded windows and we agreed it was most likely Rookie Fiddler. As the cars drove off, we said goodbye to our friends new and old and began to make our way through the warm night, knowing a comfy hostel-room with shower was waiting for us.

Our conquest could not have had a more perfect start.

And this was merely the beginning. 

To be continued in three more installments~ (Hamburg, Utrecht and Roubaix)Thanks for reading! 
Posted by Melissa Costa | File under : ,

Part IV – Ikebukuro BLACK HOLE [2nd Anniversary], 11-8-2011

Line-up:               BUNNEIES / Ap(r)il / Kodomo Dragon / A / Gakido / SCAPEGOAT / LOST ASH

The heat was still scalding the streets of Ikebukuro even though it was late in the afternoon, as I was making my way through the narrow alleys towards the venue called Ikebukuro BLACK HOLE. I knew how to find it as it was the second time I saw a live here. Sadly, it would also be the last.

Today would be the last time I could see A, but even as I entered the venue and watched the first few bands, I didn’t stop to think about this too much. It didn’t feel like a goodbye and I was enjoying myself. The atmosphere in the crowded hall was good and during a break I walked to A’s merchandise-table, checking their goods but buying nothing yet, as their polaroid-pictures were being made right at that moment. I did pick up their leather note-book again which was gradually being filled with more fan-messages, smiling as I skimmed through it before beginning to write my own. Since most had already been said at our last meeting, I thanked them in advance for the live and wished them a lot of good luck, concluding with a kind reminder to come to Europe one day.

When A was about to begin their set I walked to the front again to find a spot, ending up positively surprised on the very first row in front of Rookie Fiddler. Unlike CYBER, BLACK HOLE had a decent iron fence in front of the stage which was convenient to lean on, and would soon serve well when head-banging would ensue.

Once again I felt the atmosphere change once the lights dimmed, and I excitedly watched the stage as the members emerged after their legendary introduction. The space between the stage and the fence wasn’t very wide and the members were now closer than ever, standing with our back to us as they awaited their cue and Nimo also entered the stage. Soon, even this last distance would dissolve as A filled BLACK HOLE with all of their charm.

11/8 Setlist (Taken from Toshi’s blog)

1. 残酷な天使のテーゼ
3. Rhapsody in black
4. Viva-la-Casta

They immediately took off hard with their cheery yet heavy cover of Cruel Angel’s Thesis, the iron fence immediately living up to its purpose as the first row all leaned over and banged their heads to the double bass-drums. The members all joined in, setting the pace for the rest of the energetic set as they fluently connected the last heavy chorus to the sultry Spanish tones of MASQUERADE. Here too we were able to use the fence as everyone threw themselves forward simultaneously, the members smiling and directing the wave-like movement as if embracing and soaking up our energy to pour it all back down on us in turn.

I could describe again how brilliant Nimo’s smile was as he sang, how Toshi’s fingers picked skillfully at the strings, how Mucho’s subtle facial expressions expressed so much joy in his play and how Rookie was all over the place with his violin, but I have all said this before. Seeing it in reality though, would never become boring to me. The crowd was fired up and Nimo, Toshi and Rookie leaned closer to the audience every time, playing with one foot on the fence for balance. As much as a delight they were to watch, I still lost myself in the head-banging every time, really damn pleased with the fence. At one point my view had suddenly become restricted though as I wanted to lean back but found myself literally trapped between Rookie’s legs. The fiddler had his foot placed right next to me and for safety measures I held still until he’d step back, also refraining from looking up out of decency… Perhaps he had noticed my sudden rigidness and found it amusing, because before he finally leaned back I received a playful ruffle through my hair. As I leaned back up to fix it, I just caught Rookie grinning widely at me before sprinting to the other side of the stage, switching places with Toshi.

After the intense Rhapsody in Black, BLACK HOLE was filled with the catchy Jazz from Viva la Casta!, the energy and heat finally rising to its highest level as they finished with the ever-gripping NUDE. The whole audience seemed to be captured by the pirate’s charm and everyone wore a smile, jumping and shouting at the stage where the members only mirrored our gratitude. Only once the final notes from Rookie’s fiddle had died and the members had left the stage after thanking us all dearly, I finally took a deep breath. It was over.

The set had finished, but the night was still young and I wanted to see the other bands too, though none excited me as A had done. I took a calm stroll towards the back of the hall where the merchandise-table was now crowded, finally getting in line to buy some final polaroids. I seemed to be in luck, as when it was my turn there were only two left! I slightly hoped for a Rookie or Toshi one but was happy to receive one from Nimo and one of Mucho Gracias as well.

After A, a band called Gakido would play. I had seen them before at another live and found their performance quite amusing, so I stayed to watch. Since the area before the stage had become quite crowded I stayed near the merchandise-tables in the back, where also the backstage-door was located in the side of the hall. I had noticed several people passing through there before but did not pay much attention to them now, as I watched Gakido commence their show. After a little while though, I noticed a person had come to stand at my side, just leaning against one of the tables. I looked aside and saw Rookie Fiddler had joined the crowd, still wearing his silver wig and stage make-up but now clad in simple jeans and an oversized sweater.

He too was concentrated on the stage, bouncing to the music slightly and I smiled to myself before directing my attention back to Gakido. Although we weren’t truly watching the show together, it felt nice to have some company. At one point our gazes crossed and we exchanged a smile before continuing to enjoy the show. Gakido played quite a few upbeat and heavy songs and I joined in the furitsuke when I felt like it, while Rookie held his calm composure that was radically different from his own stage-performance.

During one song’s chorus, all the front rows would join hands and step side to side together. Having done this once before I automatically stepped with them, before I couldn’t resist looking at Rookie to see what he would do. Rookie seemed to be staring at the moving rows in amazement before he too set a clumsy step sideward, though not quite on the rhythm. I had to giggle at his attempt, feeling the urge to join hands with him too just to guide him into the right pace. Rookie grinned back sheepishly as he noticed I was laughing at him, mocking a pout before he just sank his hands down his pockets and returned to simply bouncing to the music. Together we watched the rest of Gakido’s set before Rookie quietly returned back-stage.

SCAPEGOAT and LOST ASH passed in a blur for me as by then I had become quite exhausted from the heat inside the hall, not to mention the exercise on a nearly sober stomach. Once I finally climbed the staircase covered with posters, the fresher night-air was a welcome gift to my lungs. The alley was filled with chatting fans, waiting for their favorite bands to come out. I had not caught a glimpse of A after my encounter with Rookie and wondered if they would have left already. Just as I thought this, I saw Nimo at the end of the alley, while the other members were just rounding the corner.

I could have called his name across the street and ran after him, but as I watched Nimo greet his regular fans as the last ones before walking after his band mates, I did not feel the need anymore. We had already said our goodbyes, and saying them again wouldn’t add anything to this last memorable live I had of them. I watched them walk away without regrets, knowing this was not the last time I would see them. Still I felt some sadness over the fact that I would probably see them only when I would return to Japan, and I did not know when that would be.

I sighed, shaking that feeling and returning to the blissful post-live state before I crossed the street to go up to the regular fans, the same group I had met before my first live. Although we had not really come closer during the other lives, we still greeted each other friendly and then from my heart, I thanked them for helping me out during my stay. Perhaps my perception of Japanese fans and lives would have been very different if it had not been for them, and perhaps I still wouldn’t have paid my full attention to their beloved band, a band I had come to love as well. I told them I hoped we would meet again at one of A’s lives in the future, and so we said our goodbyes. As hostess-bars and host-clubs opened for business in the alleys surrounding BLACK HOLE, I began making my way back. I still had a last live of dolore to look forward to, yet it felt as if I had just closed a certain chapter.

Days later I left Japan and returned to Europe. As a hearty.


The story continues... With the Absolute Conquest
Posted by Melissa Costa | File under : ,

Part III – Ikebukuro CYBER [ABSOLUTE ZERO], 5-8-2011

Line-up:               biz cloud / 6->7 / Egoist / Orgil / LouiNess / Brat Note / A / NEOPHILIA / Secret Band (dolore)

This time, barely a week had passed since the previous time I walked the by now familiar route towards Ikebukuro CYBER. Again I had travelled to this district straight after my classes, but this time I knew I did not have to wait that long before I could enter the venue. Today was a Free Live with a total of 9 bands playing, so the doors would already open early in the afternoon. In the end, it was the longest live I took part in: in all I spend close to 8 hours inside. Quite demolishing, but great fun.

I didn’t know any of the other bands who played, but went to watch their sets anyway. The “Secret Band” on the ticket had me wondering for a moment but as soon as I entered the hall I saw a section of the Merchandise table was dedicated to dolore. So much for the surprise (laughs). The other bands were quite entertaining though none stood out a lot, and some made me wonder if they could even be called a band in the first place. Talent clearly isn’t always a requirement within the Indie-scene, let alone in whole Visual Kei…

The length of the sets and breaks began to be quite exhausting but when it was finally A’s turn, I revived myself and chose a center-spot, looking around to see if I could spot Yuki anywhere. I had expected the small girl to come see her favorite band again, especially now it was free, and it would be fun to enjoy another live together with her. I didn’t see her and felt a bit disappointed when the lights already dimmed, but right then I saw her enter the hall together with a friend. I quickly beckoned her and she and her friend happily came to stand at my side. I grinned, as now the feeling was complete and the live could truly start for me.

After their by now familiar intro and us happily greeting them with our screams, A took their positions and began their set with their latest single, Black Butterfly.

5-8 Setlist (Taken from Toshi’s blog)

1 Black Butterfly
2    バニラスカイ
4 Viva la Casta
5 残酷な天使のテーゼ

Due to the filled schedule they were only allowed a short set like before, but as always this band knew to charm their fans from the very beginning till the final note. Yuki and I thoroughly enjoyed the set as I now knew most of their songs, jumping all the way through Vanilla Sky, though GODDESS was new to me. Despite the vocals being very challenging in the chorus, Nimo pulled them off well and the sultry rhythm as well as the powerful head-banging united all the fans in one movement. They continued with the jazz-sensation of Viva la Casta, taking us all on a swift but entertaining journey from the hot Indian desert right towards the banks of New Orleans.

After a short MC, they played their cover of Cruel Angel’s Thesis. I knew this song from the anime, but their version is definitely more entertaining than the original. Rookie played the intro on his fiddle with unmistakable grace before the drum tapped off and the dark choir-vocals blasted from the speakers, the entire hall dipping into darkness as the stage-lights dimmed, before Nimo’s low grunt ensued some real heavy head-banging. The positive lyrics however were perfectly brought forth by the Captain’s dazzling smile and voice, and during the chorus there was not a single person who didn’t wear a smile. Till the very end, band and crowd were one as everyone gave it all, A leading their set to a spectacular finish before leaving the stage thanking us all with their usual gratitude and energy.

As they left the stage, slight melancholy overtook me as I suddenly realized this was possibly the last time I had seen them perform. I would leave Japan in less than a week and didn’t have another live of A planned after this one. As Yuki and I retreated back into the hall to wait for A’s members to make their appearance, I felt like I needed to tell them goodbye already. I was certain Toshi and Nimo would appear soon, but I still hoped I would be able to thank Rookie Fiddler and Mucho Gracias as well.

It indeed didn’t take long for Toshi and Nimo to appear behind their merchandise, but suddenly I was distracted by a figure walking right towards the middle of the hall. As if my thoughts had been read, Rookie Fiddler was making his way across the floor, before standing still and looking around the hall. Suddenly I found myself almost nailed to my spot; I had come to admire this musician greatly over the past weeks, and though I wanted to let him know I now found myself almost too intimidated to talk to him. Despite the fiddler’s short statue, he was impossible to overlook. Not just by his long silver hair or his short leather outfit, but his large eyes continuously scanning the hall were both a little creepy as well as captivating.

Finally, it was Yuki who persuaded me to go talk to him, much like I had persuaded her before with Toshi. Bashfully I approached him, thankful for Yuki for striking up a conversation with him, looking a lot calmer than I was. Rookie obviously recognized her as well but I immediately noticed how his eyes barely focused on her; they continued traveling along the hall and the floor, as if he was too shy to make eye-contact. He did the same to me when I finally spoke up to thank him for the live, his lips parting in a beaming smile but his eyes never at rest. As I told him I had come to like his band a lot he only smiled and nodded his head, before suddenly his eyes did seem to focus on Yuki and me together. He almost interrupted me as he spoke up out of the blue: “Hey, are you two friends?”

Yuki and I looked at each other before giggling and saying we had met each other at a previous A live, and we had become friends since then. Now we seemed to have Rookie’s full attention as his eyes remained focused on us, his smile broadening even further before he all of a sudden closed in and began poking my arm, meanwhile chattering excitedly. “Oh wow! … That’s so great! … So nice! … Lovely!” With every pause, he fired a rather painful poke my way, obviously meaning no real harm but I was frozen in the spot, uncertain of what to do. Too timid to start a poke-battle with him, I quietly stepped out of his firing-range, rubbing my painful arm with a sheepish smile. Maybe it was best to stay out of the fiddler’s reach even when he was off-stage and didn’t have his fiddle, too.

After that slightly awkward (and painful) conversation, I went to find a member of A who was less likely to give me bruises. Luckily I soon found Toshi in the hall, chatting to fans. We greeted each other the usual way and I thanked him for another amazing live, making the slightly timid bassist grin and bow humbly. We chatted for a while before I finally told him I was leaving Japan soon, and that this had probably been my last live of A. To my surprise, Toshi looked almost genuinely shocked and he blurted out: “You’ll leave? But – you’ll come back, right?”

I replied: “Uh, sure I’ll come back! It probably won’t be before next year or so… But I will be back! I still have to get better at Japanese after all!

Then Toshi said, with a completely serious face: “Ah, so you’ll be back to study here? Good, then… Next year, you have to teach me Japanese. Because my Japanese is so bad.”

I stared at him and waited for him to start laughing to imply his joke, but he kept looking back at me expectantly. Finally I was the one who burst out laughing first and we both laughed it off before making the agreement by bowing, Toshi bowing the deepest as he now called me “sensei”. Still unable to find an answer to his logic, we kept grinning at each other giddily for a few seconds before we both turned into different directions at the same time. Another awkward but entertaining goodbye.

I didn’t have to look long to spot Nimo, who was standing in front of the backstage-entrance next to Mucho Gracias. I wanted to walk right up to him, but somehow Mucho’s presence held me back. The tallest guitarist had such an intimidating air about him, his eyeliner-topped eyes glaring ahead into the hall, I actually didn’t dare to go up to him. Before I could turn away however, Nimo had already spotted me and had apparently noticed my hesitation, for he came walking up to me instead. Feeling pretty lame, I told him the same thing I had told the others, saying I’d head back to Europe very soon.

Nimo responded with a few sympathical noises as I said I didn’t feel like leaving, before he said he still wanted to go to Europe as well. “So you’re still planning to swim?” I asked, making him laugh before he contemplated: “Maybe I will, although I think by airplane I’d be there faster.”

We joked a little more about Europe and swimming before I made the point he had to practice his English more if he wanted to use it in Europe. So, for the final part of our conversation I switched back to English, telling him goodbye and shaking his hand. Nimo nodded and, suddenly surprisingly fluid, said: “I hope, we will meet again.”

At that moment, it struck me again I was really leaving soon. A little dazed and melancholically I went to watch the final bands perform (after finally having dared to bow to Mucho at least). As I was waiting for the last “Secret Band” to perform, long knowing it was dolore, I suddenly noticed Rookie Fiddler sitting on the small “side-balcony”, a higher platform coming from the back of the hall towards the stage. He was sitting cross-legged on a bench, fanning himself some cool air with a paper fan. He too was watching the stage, but right then he looked down and our gazes crossed.  I gave him a friendly smile, but Rookie’s eyes doubled in size before he quickly hid his face behind the fan, then peeked from behind it with a mischievous grin. Next, he started pulling a set of funny faces he altered every time by covering his face with the fan before showing me another of his creative expressions. Highly amused, I played along with his version of peek-a-boo by covering my face with my hand, mimicking his faces, which made the fiddler giggle and bounce in his seat with glee. We kept it up until the lights dimmed for the final set and we both returned to watching the stage, sharing a last conspicuous glance before dolore began their show.

When I finally walked out into the warm night again, dizzy with fatigue and hunger, I still felt regret slowing my steps. I didn’t want this to be the last time I saw A, despite it having been another satisfying event. I still had one week left, so possibly there was still an option…?

Back at the mansion, I immediately checked Visunavi for the upcoming events. And, it seemed my A-experience would get one more final addition…

Exhausted but utterly satisfied, I fell asleep.

To be continued in the final Part 4! Thanks so much for reading m(_ _)m

Sorry there’s not a lot of “live” in this report but since I described a lot about their performance in the previous one, it felt a bit unnecessary to repeat it again. ^^; So, here is a lot of post-live stuff about the guys, showing once again what kind of awesome goofs they are.

I hope you will all be able to make your own memories with these guys one day.

Continue to Part 4
Posted by Melissa Costa | File under : ,

Part II – Ikebukuro CYBER [SONIC DRIVE], 30-7-2011 

Line-up:               Ronove / S.Q.F / A / Anli Pollicino

A little over two weeks later, I was back at CYBER. This time all the things such as finding my way there from the station, the purchasing of my ticket and the entering of the venue all went a lot smoother than the first time. I even felt more at ease while watching the first bands by myself, since I was by now used to enjoying lives on my own. This time however, a cute Japanese girl suddenly approached me during a break and struck up a conversation. The girl, named Yuki, appeared rather shy and overly polite but soon we were getting along, and it turned out she was also there for A. So this time, I could actually enjoy a live together with someone, as we went to stand on the second row before the stage as A was about to play. 

This time we stood at Rookie Fiddler’s side, and as soon as the lights dimmed again and the woman’s voice began her tale, I felt a lot more excited. After the first live I had finally started giving the rest of their music a listen on the internet, and decided this band indeed had a lot of potential. Plus, the members were kind and their lives were great, so when the curtains parted and again revealed the figures of Toshi, Mucho, the drummer and Rookie Fiddler right before me, I screamed with the crowd to welcome them, feeling Yuki bounce at my side with excitement. Then Nimo again made his spectacular entry and all of us cheered for them as the drums tapped off and after a powerful shout from Nimo, Rookie Fiddler let his violin sing the graceful intro of Yoake no Anthem.

30-7 Setlist (Taken from Toshi’s blog) 

1 夜明けのアンセム
2 バニラスカイ
5 花葬
6 カナリア
7 Viva la Casta

We all raised our fists and our voices as Nimo told us to shout, looking out into the hall with a dazzling smile. Yuki and I exchanged smiles as we all joined voices as one with the beat of the drums, seeing Toshi and Mucho also looking into the crowd with a satisfied grin as Mucho’s guitar cried the last notes of the intro before Nimo began to sing.

I still didn’t know all the songs by heart but I was able to recognize them better now, able to anticipate a little which variations in the rhythm would ensue headbanging or other routines. Or, I just went along with what the crowd did. This time, I was positively surprised however when suddenly Yuki joined hands with me, after which the other girl on my side did too and all the rows stepped side to side together as one, creating a wonderful feeling of unity. I looked up straight into Rookie Fiddler’s grinning face as he  swayed his hips side to side on the rhythm, before bringing his violin back in position for the chorus and we all returned to throwing our fists into the air. The whole circle repeated itself before we’d all answer Nimo’s: “Can you hear my voice? Can you feel my heart?” with a loud: “Yeah!” Rookie practically danced all over his half of the stage as he seemed to lose himself in his play, finishing up the last Celtic outro before raising his fiddle stick to the ceiling, and all of our voices filled the hall again, topping only when immediately the intro-music of Vanilla Sky commenced from the speakers.

Again, all eyes were on Rookie Fiddler as the spotlights lit him while playing the high-pitched intro, before Mucho and Toshi joined in and everyone began to jump. All members would also jump on the small stage while I wondered if Nimo and especially Rookie weren’t actually part kangaroo. The silver-haired fiddler seemed to have no problem spinning a dozen crazy laps before easily returning to his play, not missing a single note. When Nimo sang, it was as if he was telling a story to us, his facial expressions and gestures all expressing his own infatuation with the music as well as with everyone watching. Again we joined hands at a certain point and stepped together as one, mirroring the beautiful smiles of the members before we all jumped during the chorus again. This time Toshi took his moment doing a bass-solo, receiving the cheers from the crowd. Yuki next to me seemed to be brimming with happiness as we together made a heart for Toshi, who gave us a sweet smile back before he retreated to his half of the stage and gave the spotlight to Rookie for his solo. Nimo emitted a low grunt and everyone headbanged before the silence of the bridge made Nimo’s vocal-solo come out again perfectly. One last time we jumped and waved our hands to the chorus, truly bringing out our energy, before we were allowed a moment to breathe as silence dipped in before Mucho Gracias began playing a flamenco-like intro on acoustic guitar.

The song MASQUERADE already became one of my favorites from this moment. Not only sounded the intro very appealing and exotic, after this a heavy beat and riff joined with Rookie’s violin and everyone began to do the ‘dive’, the powerful headbanging movement where everyone throws themselves forward at the same time.  This time, Yuki again surprised me by suddenly laying her small hand around my waist so we could headbang and support each other meanwhile, a rather familiar gesture I had not expected from the timid girl. Still, after that first time we would repeat it every time there was a new headbang-sequence. Nimo enthusiastically joined the movement before he began singing to the Spanish-like tune, his smile sounding through in his voice. At the chorus he raised his hand and made a spinning-movement which everyone copied, while I couldn’t resist simply dancing and moving my body to the appealing tunes. This was a song which allowed that freedom. Yuki and I laughed together as we continued dancing while others had stopped, letting the rhythm lead us before we began to spin again at the second chorus. A sudden heavy bridge with Rookie’s choir-vocals ensued more headbanging  before Nimo sang the chorus to the acoustic guitar, spinning a few laps himself as the chorus repeated before we all dove forward towards the end of the song, Mucho’s guitar playing the last exotic notes.

The hall rang with screams and cheers and the band received them thankfully before they waited for us to become silent again. Then, Nimo began singing the beautiful ballad SAKURA. A rather magical moment, since everyone was completely silent as Nimo’s pure vocals and Rookie’s sensitive violin-notes sounded through the hall. Both men seemed completely emerged in the beautiful song and it gave me goose-bumps at certain points. This song once again showed this band had a tremendous amount of talent stored beneath their playful exterior.

After SAKURA they played a song I had not heard before and sadly can’t remember even now, before all the energy and screams flowed back when they started the organ-intro of Kanaria, and the craziest headbanging so far ensued. Again Yuki and I would hold on to eachother as this song completely brought out everyone’s energy again. Rookie Fiddler looked as if he had been behaving for long enough now and while he played he would play with the crowd, making funny faces and waving his fiddle stick around as he also switched sides with Toshi. Every time Toshi would come near to us Yuki would show him her affection and I joined her, knowing the bassist showed a very kind personality both on stage and off. Toshi seemed very pleased with the attention and he and Nimo would often compete for the center of the stage, though Nimo would win most of the time, if it wasn’t for Rookie stealing his place a few times as well. The entire song kept our energy flowing with all the jumping and headbanging it contained, especially towards the end, and I loved the feeling of losing my boundaries through the music, even while that meant I was becoming more exhausted by the end. 

I was positively surprised by the length of A’s set though, since before they had only played four songs, and now it seemed they were not finished yet since Nimo started to talk to the crowd again, asking if everyone was having a good time. Toshi would also be persuaded to say a few words, to which Yuki would respond the loudest. It seemed the small girl was becoming less timid by the second.

And again, it seemed impossible for Rookie to merely behave himself while Nimo spoke to the crowd. This time, he had obtained a loose pluck of white hair from either his fiddle or his bow, and seemed completely absorbed as he started playing with it. The other fans and myself included giggled as he first brought the hair up to compare it to his own wig, before making a contemplative face and actually pulled out the waistband of his leather shorts to try and compare it to some other hair apparently… Of course, this was perfect timing for Nimo to notice him, who reacted with a sudden “OY!!” in the middle of his sentence, causing Rookie to jump and look utterly shocked. As Nimo scolded him for being childish and a pervert, Rookie pretended to be so ashamed he first tried to hide behind Nimo before taking his fiddle and disappearing completely behind one of the big amps. As the fans and Toshi laughed it out, Nimo just waited with his hands in his sides until Rookie finally reappeared, carrying the guiltiest yet naughtiest face. Nimo only rolled his eyes before they kicked off once again with Viva La Casta!

I quite liked the jazzy feel of this song, which also invited you to move your body and swing to the rhythm. After the intro everyone would snap their fingers together, creating a lively beat over Nimo’s enthusiastic vocals as he watched us all move to the song. Meanwhile, Rookie still seemed to have too much energy left, or maybe he wanted to ‘make up’ to Nimo for his past disobedience, or annoy him just a little more. Anyway, soon even Nimo could no longer ignore his extravagant band-member for suddenly Rookie had stretched out both arms as a zombie and swayed right up to the vocalist, appearing to lock him in a hug but keeping his arms stretched out and attempting to plow right over him, all the while grinning sweetly. As laughter rang through the hall Nimo still tried to keep singing while trying to swat Rookie away from him, but obviously serious lives were not part of A’s repertoire. After that funny moment the attention was brought back to the entire band, and we could all enjoy the unity of Nimo’s vocals, Toshi’s bass, a guitar-solo by Mucho and Rookie’s quirky play again. When during the bridge Rookie suddenly switched to vocals it was rather surprising to me, but it has to be said he is quite skilled in that area too. During the last chorus we all snapped our fingers again before the last headbang-sequence drained another portion of our energy, but we still had enough left for their final song, the one they seemed to like to end with: NUDE.

The charismatic intro by Rookie was followed by another energetic headbang-sequence in which everybody joined, no longer caring about ruined hair or anything, only showing their affection to this band by completely losing oneself in the music. Nimo’s smile was still as dazzling as during the first song as he sang, jumping around in his charming pirate-clothes. Everyone jumped during the chorus and the members would interact more with the fans while they could. This time Mucho Gracias would claim the center for an elaborate guitar-solo, receiving all the deserved affection from the front row fans while I just couldn’t get over the fact it looked too awesome to see a Jack Sparrow look-a-like play guitar. Rookie would join Mucho’s side for his own last energetic violin-riffs before all ended with the last note, and we all screamed their names and cheered as they responded to us.

Nimo thanked us all in a loud, cheerful voice before putting away his microphone and turning to thank the fans closest to the stage like all members did. Yuki and I would make hearts and the ‘A’-sign with our joined hands, and Nimo would smile before making one back at us. Toshi did the same as it seemed that he knew Yuki from other shows, giving us both a high-five before slowly retreating to the back of the stage, still waving at everyone else. Rookie Fiddler was once again up for dangerous stuff; when Yuki and I made a heart for him, he actually poked his fiddle-stick through our fingers, soaring dangerously close over our heads. When we logically pulled out hands apart out of reflex, laughing none-the-less, he giggled and completed both our hearts with his own hand, also giving us a high-five before leaving to the other side of the stage to cause more mischief. Mucho Gracias again did the same act with his stuffed monkey and snake, after which the drummer was left on the stage to once again ‘sink’ into the seas while the curtains closed, the last shouts and cheers dying into echoes.

As the lights lit again Yuki and I still had enough energy left to share in some excited squealing before we went to get a drink to cool down. Like before, the hall would clear for a moment as people would just sit around on the floor, chatting to each other or looking at the merchandise in the back. I expected A to show up there like before, which they eventually did: again it was Nimo and Toshi who came to talk to their fans and sell their own merchandise. There was nothing new for me to buy, but they did have something new this time: a ‘guest-book’ with a leather cover in which the fans could write greets and messages. Of course, I couldn’t leave this opportunity unused.

While Yuki went to talk to Toshi and Nimo, I merely greeted them before I managed to get my hands on the book, and began to write a simple message in Japanese. I wrote that the live had been awesome, but that the lives in Europe were very ‘hot’ too! However, I hesitated which kanji to use for ‘hot’ again. Finally I made my choice before I went to check in with Toshi, who seemed to be free at that moment. I asked him if I had written the right Kanji, but he smiled sheepishly at me before saying it wasn’t the right one (laughs). He then wrote the correct one next to mine, and I sloppily corrected my mistake before adding to the message something along the lines of “Whatever happens, please come to Europe!”. (Months later I discovered Nimo had actually used my wrong Kanji in his blog to say the live had been ‘hot’… Good joke. (laughs))

Soon the live of Anli Pollicino commenced which I went to watch, and after that I hung around the venue like the last time, talking to Yuki. We waited till the members of A would come out again, and after a while Toshi walked into the hall to talk to some fans. I suggested we should go talk to him, but Yuki told me she was a big fan of him and now felt too shy. Still, I persuaded her to come, and she ended up standing behind me with her arms around my waist the whole time. Toshi seemed rather amused by this as we struck up a conversation. He jokingly asked us if we were friends, looking at the way Yuki was clinging to me. He had to laugh when we both responded: “Yep, since today!” I started to like Toshi more and more as he appeared very gentle and kind in his speech, showing a lot of interest in the ones he was talking with.

We continued chit-chatting about the live and Europe before I noticed Nimo had also appeared from the ‘backstage-area’, which was merely divided by curtains. He stood in the back of the hall for a while before he suddenly came walking up to Toshi´s side and mingled into our conversation, giving Yuki and me a casual greet. I greeted him back and jokingly asked if he still remembered me. Nimo responded with a rather serious; “Of course we remember you! Yeah, Holland! Tulips, windmills, all that stuff right? Uhuh.”

I made eyes at him before I had to laugh, when Nimo’s eyes suddenly doubled in size, pointing at me before he started to babble, wrecking his previous ‘cool’ act.

“Hey! You – … those cookies!”

I blinked at him before I realized he had to be talking about the stroopwafels I had given him after the first live. Nimo’s lips flapped once more before he finally burst out: “… They were friggin’ delicious! Right Toshi?!” and gave Toshi a firm pat on the arm.

Toshi seemed to have been spacing out meanwhile, for he practically jumped when Nimo poked him before sputtering confused, looking from Nimo to me and back: “Hm…? Cookies…? What…?” 

“You know, those cookies from Holland!” Nimo repeated impatiently, pointing at me again. “They were really yummy right?!” 

“Cookies from Holland…” Toshi echoed, still at a loss, before finally the light bulb seemed to pop up when he looked at me again, his face suddenly beaming with a smile: “…OH! YES!! They were awesome!”

I remember that moment as it gave me another amusing view of the persons behind the stage-persona, the friendships that make up the sturdy base of A. I laughed with them, and this time we parted with a whole new feeling by simply saying: “See you soon!” I knew I would see them and Yuki again in the following week, and everything seemed to become more familiar with each passing moment. But as I left the venue, I thought of how much I regretted not having brought another packet of cookies for them, just to see them freak out once more (laughs).

Continue to Part 3
Posted by Melissa Costa | File under : ,

Part I – Ikebukuro CYBER, [dolore 1st ANNIVERSARY live], 12-7-2011

Line-up:               Jyulie / jack’you / Dieu / A / OROCHI / dolore

On a very hot Japanese summer’s day, I was making my way towards Ikebukuro after my morning-classes in Ginza. A little more tense than usual I counted the stops on the subway and again studied the map I had drawn from the area surrounding Ikebukuro Station. With reason; this was the first time I was going to a Japanese live-house. I had arrived in Japan less than five days ago, but I was determined to see some shows during my time here. After studying some live-schedules, I had decided on todays live for OROCHI would play (good time’s sake) and also dolore, a band I knew from Ameba and sounded quite promising.

Indeed, I did not decide on this live because of A. Almost unimaginable by now, but back then all I knew about A was that they were an Indie-band my friends sometimes talked about, who apparently were quite talented and included a guy who looked like a Jack Sparrow-cosplayer. Only the previous night I had actually noticed they were among the line-up too, and decided this was a good opportunity to give them a listen finally.

Once I found the live-house Ikebukuro CYBER, I waited around in the company of a few Japanese fans who sat chatting on the curb. I was a little nervous about talking to them at first, but once I dared to ask them a few questions about the live-house, they responded very friendly and told me everything I needed to know. A lot more at ease now we waited together, still being the only ones present. When I asked for which band they had come, they told me with big smiles that they were fans of A. I told them honestly I did not know A at all yet, but that I was looking forward to seeing them today as well. Enthusiastically we engaged in a conversation about A and I hoped that all fans would be as kind as they were. It already helped me to feel more sympathy for the band they obviously adored.

The first eventful happening for me was when the members of OROCHI came strolling by casually, but the A fans didn’t pay any attention to them. Quite a sobering experience, since bands that come to Europe and play one-man’s seem as if they have already accomplished something, but in Japan nobody may know about them at all. Since I had brought some presents for the bands (small packages of ‘stroopwafels’, Dutch cookies) I asked the Japanese fans when was the best moment to give them, but when they told me it did not really matter, I approached Genji-Hotaru and Mitsuhide when they walked by and gave them a package. After a short conversation they continued their way and the A fans sweetly celebrated my enthusiasm, but obviously didn’t care the least for OROCHI (and who could blame them…)

A little while later however, it was their turn to react the way I had just done. Two other persons had appeared before CYBER’s entrance and immediately the fans began chatting enthusiastically and waving at the two men, who eventually waved back. Judging by their reaction, I figured these people had to be in A. Curiously I watched how finally one of the two came walking up to our little group, noting that this was the first Jrocker I saw who actually looked very handsome without make-up. At that moment I barely knew what the members of A looked like though (apart from Mucho then), so I had no idea that this person was in fact Nimo.

Nimo started making small-talk with the fans about previous lives and other things, and it was obvious these girls frequented about every live A held. I just held myself aside from the conversation, only listening in partly. This was their moment, after all.

However, almost during a sentence Nimo’s eyes suddenly shifted towards me, resulting into a stare I couldn’t quite describe as subtle. No, he was staring at me as if I had just fallen from the sky in a chicken-costume. By now I had gotten used to most of the reactions towards me being a foreigner, but I had not expected such a strong reaction from someone his age. And looking back, definitely not from Nimo who seems very aware of his foreign fan base.

Me, amused by his dumbfounded gaze but equally intimidated by the sudden attention, just blinked back at him and so we held our staring-contest going on for about 5 seconds, neither of us daring to say anything. During our silence, the fans shared a rather awkward giggle on our part before Nimo seemed to snap out of it and attempted to end the sentence he had trailed off from earlier, turning back to them. I was left gaping at him in wonder still, suddenly feeling pretty unintelligent for not having had anything to retort. But hey, I didn’t know this guy!

Soon after Nimo excused himself, saying he still had some stuff to take care of, and greeted the fans by saying he’d see them during the live. They exchanged greetings again and Nimo turned away, before suddenly raising his hand at me and happily, yet still awkwardly saying: “Bye!”

I smiled and, determined as I suddenly felt to let him know I wasn’t a complete retard, replied with a simple ‘Take care!’ in Japanese.

This seemed to surprise him so much he nearly tripped over his own sandal. He shot me one last bewildered look before continuing his way down the street as if that hadn’t just happened, but as soon as he was out of hearing-distance the fans and I burst into a giggle-fit. I managed to send them into hysterics though when I finally obliviously remarked:

“So… Now who was that guy?”

Right, so from that moment on, the A fans politely urged me to learn their names before the live, which was definitely a good idea. Now I knew who Nimo was, and Mucho Gracias also wasn’t that hard to remember, since I knew he was the guy who looked like the Japanese Jack Sparrow. Right till the last moment I kept mixing up Toshi’s and Rookie’s names, but when people started lining up for A’s set, I went to stand on the left, knowing this was Toshi’s side. It didn’t really matter where I stood anyway, since it was a very small venue and low stage so the view was perfect wherever you stood. The regular fans all stood on the first row, behind which there was a space of about 1, 5 meters before another line was formed, but still with plenty of space to move around. I believe there were about 30 to 50 people watching A’s live.

Before any band would play their set, a black curtain obscured the entire stage. The lights dimmed and immediately the chatter among the crowd quieted down. I noticed how much quieter the hall seemed than before, and how almost everyone seemed concentrated on the stage. Before, the other performing bands would only have a small number of fans following their show, while the other part of the crowd would continue chatting quietly in the back. I figured this had to be a good sign.

Then, slightly eerie intro-music filled the hall, and a woman’s voice began telling some sort of epic tale in English, something about the mysterious appearance of ‘them’, their ways and destinies shrouded in fog.

‘Nobody knows where they came from…’

The music and an angelic choir swelled in anticipation. I couldn’t help but feel a little giddy over this dramatic intro, but it was definitely more impressive than the other performances I had seen so far. The woman now began listing words for which ‘A’ stood. I regret not really remembering which words these were, but they all sounded quite intimidating. A dark drumbeat had come rolling in from the depths, and a cymbal emitted a last thrilling chime before all dipped into silence, and the woman whispered:

“They are… Ace.”

Immediately a drum tapped off, a real one this time, and in one fluent movement the black curtain parted, revealing four radiant figures on the stage. The crowd screamed and I couldn’t resist joining in, adapting my eyes to the bright lights from the stage. Before me stood the bassist Toshi, sporting quite a shiny outfit in my opinion, but looking pretty cool none-the-less. Right next to him stood the unmistakable Mucho Gracias, truly resembling a Japanese Jack Sparrow; he even had two stuffed animals of a snake and a monkey sitting behind him on his amp. While all members held their certain pose, he let his guitar growl a few chords to keep the crowd cheering.

The back of the stage wasn’t lit as brightly and so the figure of the drummer did not stand out a lot, but the person I had seen outside earlier with Nimo now glared intensely into the crowd, sporting some impressive black eyeliner. Then on the right of the stage, there stood a figure I couldn’t help but stare at a moment longer. Rookie Fiddler’s image with the light silver hair and leather pirate-get up had appealed to me from the flyers I had seen before the show, but seeing him in reality was even more impressive. The spotlights reflected on his wig and pale skin seemed to give him a glow of his own, but I especially loved the silver violin in his hands. Although the design was very modern, long ends of the strings curled from the instrument’s neck and also the bow in his other hand contained quite a few loose hairs. You could say the violin kind of represented its owner; elegant yet quirky at some points.

Mucho’s guitar crooned a few more chords before the screams of the crowd swelled in volume as a final person entered the stage from the back, his silhouette painted black against the lights. Nimo. The shy boy from earlier, now dressed as a charming pirate-captain. I grinned to myself as I knew I would never be able to see him as his stage-persona only. But that did not matter anymore once he started singing. This boy was talented.

7/12 Set-list (Taken from Rookie’s blog)

1Black Butterfly (Cyber初披露!) (*The first time they played it live)

2Rhapsody in Black

3Viva la Casta


Already from the first song, I could tell this band was a step up from the other bands that had performed so far, and especially the addition of violin by Rookie Fiddler was a very nice element. I was also quite impressed by Nimo’s vocals, immediately taking quite a challenge in the chorus of Black Butterfly, but staying pure. From all the lovely stories told by my friends and the anticipation before this show, my expectations had grown quite a bit, only to find that this band had no problem living up to them. They ruled the stage as if they were meant to capture new hearts with every show, and they undoubtedly did.

Their show was indeed pretty lively! The previous bands seemed to have kept their performances at a minimal, perhaps as not to embarrass their small number of loyal fans, but A seemed to be having great fun performing, especially Nimo and Rookie. These two formed the charming magnets of the band while Toshi and Mucho definitely showed enthusiasm in their play, but simply drew less attention to themselves. The opposite could be said for Rookie Fiddler. Even while he was on the other side of the stage for me, I couldn’t resist turning my attention to him from time to time. One moment he could look amazingly elegant, playing his violin with closed eyes and a serene smile before a huge grin would appear and he’d literally bounce around his half of the stage, never missing a single note. Up till then, I had never seen a violin-player headbang before – while playing. His bubbly persona and highly mischievous faces did well to entertain the crowd, and the crowd was certainly entertained.

I noticed A didn’t have any special routines or furitsuke, which I found relieving for it meant I wouldn’t have to concentrate on anything, only the head banging, jumping and shouting at certain points which I had absolutely no problem with. I was certainly enjoying myself and showing this, earning some attention back from Nimo and Toshi, the former even showing some recognition but none of them ever stopping their interaction with the crowd. I liked how they divided their attention equally over everyone watching, with Toshi and Rookie also switching sides a few times. The first time Rookie Fiddler came over to the left, I had my hand raised before suddenly a fiddle-stick was poked not too gently into my palm, looking up to see Rookie grinning at me like a Cheshire Cat. He had interesting ways of showing affection to the crowd, most ways appearing utterly spontaneous and thus a little dangerous. Sometimes it looked as if he wanted to touch people while forgetting he was holding a violin in one hand and a stick in the other… I remember having needed to duck at some points to not risk losing an eye.

During a short MC by Nimo which was meant to rile the crowd up some more, and where he indeed mentioned the release of a new single, it became evident Rookie’s attention-span was actually quite short. While Nimo spoke to the crowd, he would appear to not be listening, plucking at the loose strings of his violin or at his shorts while making funny faces at the fans before him. Apparently this was just another part of the show, for Nimo would wisely ignore the fiddler’s quirks, even while this made quite some fans laugh, and Toshi included. Finally Rookie was brought back to order and they played a fourth, sadly already last song.

As the fans screamed and called their names, A left the stage while waving and bowing, all taking a last moment to receive the gratitude from their fans. Mucho Gracias put away his guitar before taking the stuffed snake and monkey from his amp, putting the snake around his neck and showing them off to the crowd before doing a last Jack Sparrow-impersonation and leaving the stage. Rookie Fiddler did a final ‘hyper-cute act’ and made hearts at the crowd before leaving too, together with Toshi and Nimo. Only the drummer remained behind his drum-kit, receiving the final screams from the fans as he put away his gear before standing up, bowing, then saluting and pretending to slowly sink into the sea behind his drums. He grinned a last time before the black curtains swallowed everything up once more.

The lights lit and excited chatter among the fans filled the hall again. I saw A’s regular fans exchanging smiles and I briefly told them that it had been amazing. As is the custom, we thanked each other for the great live before parting, a group of fans now swarming around the merchandise-table in the back. Before A’s live I had already checked out their merch, since my friends had also asked me to buy them a copy of Black Album. I had already bought two copies, but now I decided to buy a copy for myself too. Just when I returned with it to my bag however, I saw Toshi and Nimo had appeared behind the table, now chatting to their fans. I didn’t hesitate a second and took another package of cookies out of my bag. It was time to thank them properly and to erase the awkward first impression Nimo and I had left on each other earlier.

I walked up to the table and began to wait my turn. As soon as my presence was noticed however, a shy giggle and a murmur began to travel through the group of fans, before I heard a few of them gently urge to Nimo: “Nimo, English!” I couldn’t help but grin awkwardly since their intention was obviously kind, but as soon as Nimo directed his gaze to me I saw his eyes light up before his smile began to strain. Maybe he was happy about seeing me, but he seemed less at ease with the prospect of having to speak English.

Still, remembering how my friends had mentioned that Nimo was quite good at English, and encouraged by the enthusiasm of the fans I finally turned to him directly, saying: “Yes, you speak English, right?”

Nimo’s smile strained even more before it faded completely, his whole pose shrinking visibly before he finally murmured back: “… Little bit.”

If possible, I now found him even more endearing than he had been outside. I almost felt too sorry for him to continue speaking English, and yet I just wanted to test if he’d warm up a little if the conversation would continue. So I went on, trying to speak very clearly and not too fast, and slowly Nimo seemed to relax again. We exchanged a few simple pleasantries about the show and gradually his big smile returned, now answering me more eagerly. When I presented the cookies to him, he responded very curiously when I said I had brought them with me from the Netherlands, and so our conversation shifted to Europe. When I asked him if he wanted to visit Europe, his eyes actually sparked and he answered me with the most determination yet: “Yes! Yes, I want go. I… I will swim!”, hereby making swimming-motions with both arms.

I think I answered something like “Wow, how admirable of you!” but even now I just can’t describe how hilarious that was.

We continued chatting for a little while longer, having gradually switched back to Japanese since we were able to communicate a lot more smoothly like that. All this time Toshi was standing at Nimo’s side, smiling rather sheepishly when the conversation was in English before echoing some of Nimo’s thanks when we switched back to Japanese and talked about the live. I didn’t really get to speak much to Toshi, only when I asked if they both wanted to sign the free single, which they did. I still slightly hoped Rookie Fiddler and Mucho Gracias would also make an appearance but when they didn’t, I finally greeted them both and said I might see them again, since I was planning to see a lot more lives during my stay. They both gave a friendly greet and I went to watch the rest of the bands perform, for I had after all come to this live for OROCHI and dolore rather than A. Still, after that funny conversation and especially their great show, I knew I wouldn’t mind seeing another live of them.

After OROCHI and main act dolore had finished their set, people still hung around the small venue in a very relaxed atmosphere. Most of the band members would come out and cruise through the hall as well, chatting casually with their fans. I was very intrigued by the calm atmosphere and the ease with which everyone just got along, and soon I mingled into a few conversations, ending up having a long and funny chat with Hizka from dolore. It was nice to get to thank the bands personally and share in some casual talk. Nimo and Toshi would also still appear at the merchandise to talk to their fans. Like this, it was simply impossible to feel nervous around any of these people. They’re still normal guys, after all.

When finally staff-members began to request people to leave the hall, I greeted the last people I was chatting with and made my way up CYBER’s narrow stairs and hall. Before going outside though, I ran into Zero from dolore who was passing out drink-tickets to their Free Live. Since I had not spoken to him yet we also exchanged some words, though I couldn’t help but get a light creeper-vibe from him. When I just wanted to step outside however, a group of four men came up the stairs, immediately filling the tiny hall with their presence, and effectively blocking the exit as well as trapping me in between them and Zero. It took me a second longer to realize this was in fact A. Only now without make-up and in regular clothes.

I figured they would soon experience my presence there as somewhat restricting (much like I felt with them blocking the exit) but instead, Nimo and Zero immediately started a jolly exchange of pleasantries and some ‘Your band was great!’ ‘Oh no, yours was better!’. They even started exchanging contact-information. All this time I was trapped right next to Zero and though they did not seem to mind, I certainly did. This was getting a little too intimate.

Finally, I managed to awkwardly wrestle my way past them, shuffling my way to freedom before almost bumping into Rookie Fiddler who also appeared to have just squeezed himself outside. As Nimo and Zero were still fully engaged in their buddy-building, Rookie and I seemed to understand each other at that moment and shared a little laugh, expressing our relief over being in the outside- air again. I must say that I was in luck that Rookie still wore his silver wig, else I would not have recognized him: he was dressed top to toe in a long coat and a face-mask that only left his eyes visible. I wondered if he wasn't dying from the heat now, since it was still a good thirty degrees Celsius out.

Although friendly, Rookie was not extremely talkative right then, appearing just a little lost, and after the usual thank-you’s and greets I also told him goodbye and crossed the street. It was still rather early and a perfect time for demachi, but since I had already spoken to most of the bands that evening, I figured it wouldn't really matter. Instead I asked a few fans the right way back to the station, and they offered to go together as a group, which I gladly accepted. These fans were very kind too and I felt really happy that they accepted me so easily, simply being united in our affection for these bands. It was a great feeling that I would experience many times more during my stay.

Continue to Part 2