"Kakumei", the Japanese word means "revolution." By definition, it means to take an established organization or situation and uproot it, turn it completely on its head. For a week in May, hundreds upon hundreds of Japanese rock fans descended up Korea-town in Los Angeles from as far away as Canada, Europe, Japan, and South America to be part of this new music revolution. This uprising was titled "Jrock Revolution Festival‚" a two day festival to celebrate Japanese music. For the first time in America, nine Japanese bands gathered at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles to announce that a new breed of rock is infiltrating America.
Diehard fans began lining up the Monday night before the first night of the festival, despite being kicked off the property multiple times. On that Monday night, Yoshiki posted on his MySpace that he was shocked that fans were lining up for his concert and was unable to sleep, mulling over it. He drove out there at 3 am to bring the fans coffee and cocoa.
On Wednesday, the line hit about sixty people by sunset. Thankfully the Wiltern surrendered and allowed overnight camping, but all persons under the age of 18 had to return to their hotels after 10 in the evening. The smart campers brought sleeping bags, blankets, and chairs. For the rest of us that were unable to enjoy those comforts, we had the sidewalk. Not only butt-numbingly hard, it was covered in dried gum and if you ran your fingers over it, they’d come up dirty.
The longest day was Thursday. It was a day of waiting. By the end of that day, the line snaked around the block dotted by a tent and more blankets and a populous of fans with unnatural hair colors. Yoshiki sent two high-heeled babes to pass out long lasting heat pads to ward off the night’s chill, a deeply appreciated token of affection. Thursday night was a blast. Most of the attendees were too buzzed to sleep, repeating the words over and over in our heads,"I’m going to see [my idol], I’m going to see [this band], it’s not a dream, it’s reality." As dusk fell, camera crews from different companies began to appear.
A team of members from the Jrock Revolution website arrived and thoroughly interviewed anyone on the block who was still conscious enough to talk. By 3 AM, activity faded until only noise that could he heard was the faint murmur of conversation and the occasional asshole who drove by the line gunning their engines or yelling rude remarks such as, "canceled!" out of their windows.
Friday. This was the glory day, the day of unrest, the end of pilgrimage, and the start of history. This was by far the tensest day out of the entire week, mostly due to lazy, selfish persons showing up late and cutting in line. Security started to realize this was getting out of hand and gave hand stamps and a number to the first 200 or so people in line. To put how bad the cutting was in perspective, when I first arrived on Wednesday night, I was number #50 in line; my number assigned by security for the pit pass was #160.
As fans filled the concert hall around 6 PM, a giant screen in front of drawn curtains played X Japan’s The Last Live. Many of us were thoroughly joyously surprised to see this and spent the pre-concert moments with our eyes glued to a glorious time when "everything was perfect, and nothing hurt." It was shocking to see fans singing along, making the arm movements with the on-screen audience, and cheering at Yoshiki and hide. Even new Jrock fans seemed to understand and embrace the legacy of X Japan, one of the roots that allows Jrock to be where it is today.
Kagrra, came on stage first, Isshi (the vocalist) gloriously draped in kimono and carrying his fan. They played their latest hit Utakata, complete with guitarist Shin delivering beautiful notes from the koto. The koto is a traditional Japanese instrument played much like a horizontal harp.
The first Jrock band to ever play at an anime convention (A-kon, 2002), Duel Jewel, took the stage second. They performed a fun rock set complete with hilariously horrible para para (Japanese dance much like DDR without the console). At one point the vocalist was so out of synch he gave up and danced in place.
The third performer took a bit longer to set up. We were introduced to him when the curtain rose and a large black screen displaying a cut -out of the kanji 雅 announced -miyavi-‘s arrival. Complete with a hip hop style back up band named KAVKI BOYS, this tall guitarist danced his way through a vivid performance.
After sliding through the new songs off his upcoming single, -miyavi- announced through video that he was joining Yoshiki’s "super band", S.K.I.N., with Gackt and Sugizo. Concert-goers text messaged their friends back home, and the news appeared on the internet within minutes. After delivering the first shock of the night, -miyavi- managed to top that off by pulling out Sugizo (ex Luna Sea, Spank Your Juice, and THE FLARE member) and burst into a "once-in-a-life-time" show of "Are you ready to ROCK?!"
Yoshiki came on afterwards to announce the band S.K.I.N. will be performing at Anime Expo and to talk about the project. He also thanked everyone for coming out to his Revolution.
Vidoll came on next, feeding off the raw energy in the room. Rame (the bassist) pulled out a purse full of candy and threw it out to eager hands. Vocalist Jui was unable to communicate in English, but the Japanese fans understood his commentary and responded with a loud, "awww!"
alice nine. wrapped up the historical night in a loud, proud, and sound-heavy display of musical talent. Complete with bass licking and cheek kissing, they delivered a performance both alice nine. newcomers, fangirls, and veterans adored. Tora’s ring flew off his finger during the show and was caught by a lucky fan.
After the show, fans gathered behind the Wiltern to watch the bands exit. Yoshiki almost went ignored as he slipped out behind -miyavi-, and was only noticed once a fan spotted him. Yoshiki was given the applause he deserved.
During the Friday night show, fans already began to line up for Saturday. It stretched all the way around the block as well.
Saturday was supposed to be a more metal night as compared to Friday, which was more of lighter, alternative night of Jrock.
The first band to play Saturday was Merry. The drummer was the speaker for the band and although his accent was heavy, he was able to communicate to his English speaking fans. The vocalist Gara was barefoot and at the end of the set showed off with a display of headstands and back rolls on the stage. The fans went nuts at this!
Second in line came girugamesh. A beautiful raw and throaty band with a small vocalist, they produced the loudest screams of the night from their fans with their "punch-in-the-gut" powerful riffs, wall shaking drums, and yells from the microphone.
Next came D’espairsRay who has a reputation of being phenomenal live performers and they did not disappoint. Most of their songs came from their new album, Mirror. By the time their set ended, the upper balcony was shaking with fans jumping up and down and pumping their firsts.
Yoshiki came on stage again, thanking all his fans for making this night a reality. He received thunderous cheering in return.
Last for the night was MUCC. After a home-run performance at Otakon 2006, they came on stage to old faces and new fans. Perhaps it was the adrenaline, but the singer Tatsurou went above and beyond his usual display of vocal talent. Even fans that disliked MUCC’s style found themselves caught up in the phenomenal performance. They helped themselves to as many songs as they could fit into their time slot before a slam on drums by SatoChi signaled the end of Jrock Revolution Festival.
Exhausted, fans poured out of the venue, some running to the back of the Wiltern again to see their favorite bands emerge. Fans gathered outside on the sidewalk to discuss the fantastic weekend and rave over what it was like to see their beloved bands live and see them in person.
As a staff member of the Wiltern dragged out a ladder and began pulling the letters "JROCK REVOLUTION" off the marquee, the reality set in that this was over. One more night in a hotel and fans would get on their busses, cars, and airplanes and return to their respective hometowns and countries. Most of us spent Memorial Day Monday relaxing, taking a day to reflect, and nursing colds caught from their close-contact outside stays on the sidewalk. By Tuesday, the gears had already shifted as everyone started planning for Anime Expo to see the special egg called S.K.I.N. hatch. See you there!