On June 27th and 28th, LUNA SEA hosted one of the craziest rock fests in Japanese history at Makuhari Messe (Chiba, Japan) which is fittingly titled “LUNATIC FEST.” This rock fest is the last of LUNA SEA’s 25th anniversary celebrations. With high anticipation since its initial announcement several months before, both days were filled with an epic line up of some of the biggest names in the rock scene ranging from bands that came before and after LUNA SEA, as well as bands of different styles on the rock spectrum. Feeling like it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, fans rushed to buy tickets and advanced tickets for Day 1 sold out at lightning speed.
It rained a bit in the morning so it was refreshingly cool but nothing can cool the passionate fans! Upon entering, fans will find themselves in Hall 4 (EDEN). The hall was decorated in a fantasy-like atmosphere, with food stalls and dealer booths (more about these in the report for Day 2). Meanwhile, Hall 5 was overflowing with fans lining up to purchase official goods.
After going inside, you’ll immediately notice a large moon hanging high in the middle of the large halls. The three stages – FATE, SHINE, and MOON – are visible from anywhere in the hall with no walls separating them. FATE will feature younger bands, SHINE will feature older bands, and MOON stage will feature the bigger names. The stages are set diagonally facing the center of the hall, so if you stand right under the moon, you’d be able to see any of the stages from an equal distance. MOON stage is the largest stage, equipped with two large screens on either side of the stage, as well as a large projection screen at the back of the stage. The other two stages share one single screen positioned between them.
I’ve been to quite a few events held at Makuhari Messe, and I’d say this was the best set up I’ve seen so far, hands down. The schedule was set up so that no bands would overlap each other’s set, with ten minutes between performances regardless of the stage they’re on (ideal for a louder soundcheck without disrupting the other acts). It was great because you wouldn’t miss any bands, but that also meant it was difficult to find time to go get food or use the washrooms!
After an MC’s introduction to warm up the crowd, the lights went down and the ground shook from the intense cheering by excited fans. The opening act “LUNACY” kicked off the festivities this lunatic weekend. It was LUNA SEA‘s initial name when they first started so the members chose a setlist with songs from their indies days: “CHESS“, “MECHANICAL DANCE” and “SHADE“. They also dressed to look more indies. However, it was clear to anyone that their passion for music remains unchanged – if not increased – over the past quarter of a century. They may still look young, but their sound was anything but amateur! Don’t you try to trick me!
“We’re the opening act, LUNACY!! The one with ‘CY’!! Welcome to the craziest LUNATIC FEST.!” RYUICHI (Vo) yells to the deafening cheers from the crowd to truly start the crazy two day festival.
The bands who played on DAY 1 were (in performance order): 9mm Parabellum Bullet, the telephones, TOKYO YANKEES, coldrain, LADIES ROOM, SIAM SHADE, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, DIR EN GREY, DEAD END, X JAPAN, and LUNA SEA. (12 bands total)
9mm Parabellum Bullet was the first to start on MOON stage. They expressed their gratitude to LUNA SEA for inviting them for the fest. Then suddenly, they called for a guest to come on stage to join them for their song “Cold Edge“. Being the first day, the crowd was taken by a pleasant surprise when it was J (LUNA SEA – Ba) who appeared and the crowd went wild. The band made sure to include one of their live favorites in their 6-songs set, “Black Market Blues” for their dancing fans.
Next was the telephones on FATE stage, who played an upbeat 5-songs dance rock set that changed the entire hall into a large disco with fans dancing along to songs such as “Monkey Discooooooo” and “Love & DISCO“.
Dancing changed to fist pumping in the air with the next band. The senpai band, TOKYO YANKEES, was up on SHINE stage. Speedy, heavy and tight guitar riffs along with low-pitched growls sent the fans into a fury of headbangs. The crowd went even crazier when they called PATA (X JAPAN – Gt) as a guest to join them for the last song of their 6-songs set, “Hollywood Heartbreaker“. The members were having a blast and breezing through the tight riffs, showing off their skills and years of stage experience.
Next was yet another flip to a slightly different style on the FATE stage – coldrain. The English singing post-hardcore band which has become a regular at rock fests around Japan, played a 5-songs set with some of their most popular single hits starting with “THE REVELATION” and finishing with “THE WAR IS ON“. The band also treated the fans to an older live favorite, “Die Tomorrow“. As a younger band, they were very high energy and constantly driving the crowd.
Back at the SHINE stage was another senpai of LUNA SEA‘s in their EXTASY RECORD days, LADIES ROOM, who came out starting with a cover of Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In the UK” and showing the crowd they’re still kicking ass at old school rock ‘n roll with their 5-songs set. For the last song, they invited RYUICHI (LUNA SEA – Vo) out for a cover of the classic pop song, “sake to namida to otoko to onna” (lit. Liquor, Tears, Man, and Woman). The reason for choosing RYUICHI was apparently “Because HIDE sang this song before.” It was a beautiful and emotional duet with amazing harmonized vocals.
The next act on MOON stage was one of the most anticipated sets of the night, a disbanded technical rock band that stirred up a storm in the 90’s j-rock scene – SIAM SHADE. The area in front of the stage was packed with fans, and not surprisingly, a large portion of the crowd were male. It was a band that had everyone’s attention no matter where they were standing inside the large hall. The crowd erupted into large cheers when the band started their 8-songs set with their major debut single from 20 years ago, “RAIN“. As if it wasn’t enough, the next song was the high energy number “D.Z.I.”. Then Shinya (LUNA SEA – Dr), who Jun-ji (Dr) looks up to as his mentor, suddenly appeared onto the stage after the second song and yelled, “You guys are so cool! What a day!” He took the mic and sang one chorus from their famous track, “1/2 no junjou na kanjou” before exiting the stage. The band thanked him and played the song from the start for the fans. They also told the crowd they’re technically still disbanded because their 20th anniversary celebrations this year will start with their live at Saitama Super Arena in October. Then continuing their set with upbeat rock numbers such as “Dreams” and “BLACK“, then wrapping up with the headbang-heavy “Don’t tell lies“. They completely rocked their performance and reminded everyone just what an amazing band they still are and how much we missed having them around (and be sad about why they aren’t together anymore). The members gathered center stage to hold hands and bowed to fans thanking them for their support before exiting the stage amidst thunderous cheers and claps from the crowd.
After SIAM SHADE‘s set, we were surprised by a full soundcheck by the next band on FATE stage – Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas. It’s a bit rare for a band to have all their members on stage to check about 1/3 of two songs they’re playing right after, but it also showed that they were very serious about their sound. From overhearing those around me, many who were indecisive decided to stay after hearing their soundcheck. It was quite interesting to see the amount of energy emitting from all the younger bands on that stage, and they were probably the only band that night with all the members hopping and jumping around the stage at all times. Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas has a distinctive sound with one doing mostly clean vocals with auto-tune, backed by the keyboardist supporting with screaming vocals. They played a 6-songs set featuring all upbeat electronic hardcore numbers, mostly made up of anime tie-up songs such as “Rave-up Tonight“, “Virtue and Vice“, and “Let Me Hear“.
Up next was the much heavier and darker DIR EN GREY on MOON STAGE. Half of the hall was completely congested while the other half was filled with those returning from eating or shopping. Once again, the crowd was predominantly male fans up at the front. From the moment the lights went down, we were all drawn into DIR EN GREY‘s own unique world that seems to be separate from the rest of reality. Instead of showing close-ups of the members on the stage, the back screen showed videos of some of the songs’ dark and controversial original uncensored PVs such as the ones for “Saku” and “Revelation of Mankind“. With a good mix of violent and heavy songs, and haunting melodic songs such as “Un deux” and “THE FINAL“, fans responded accordingly. There were at least three large mosh pits center front (bruises were worth it!) for the fast and heavy parts, and for the emotional parts, one can quietly listen to Kyo (Vo)’s unique vocals that flows smoothly from low growls and screams to melodic falsetto high tone singing emotionally and fully immersed in the stories told by their songs. Sugizo (LUNA SEA – Gt) joined them on stage for a hauntingly beautiful arrangement of “Kukoku no kyouon” on his violin while an equally beautiful video of tens of thousands of lit up lanterns descending slowing into the night sky. With a deeply emotional and visual performance by the band, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with tears welling up in my eyes by the immense impact of it all. Then drawing us back to the lunatic nature of the fest, they ended their 9-songs set with the intense “Rasetsukoku“, throwing the crowd into absolute chaos.
Following such an intense set was the legendary rock band said is the inspiration to many bands who came after them, the one famously called “musicians’ musician” – DEAD END. It’s interesting to note that DEAD END‘s tribute album released in 2013 to celebrate their 25th major debut anniversary was titled “SONG OF LUNATICS” and featured over 40 top musicians in the j-rock scene including and not limited to those who performed on this day, such as: RYUICHI, SUGIZO, Shinya, Hideki (SIAM SHADE – Vo), and Shinya (DIR EN GREY – Dr). DEAD END is a band respected by some of the most talented in the scene and rightfully so. MORRIE (Vo)’s distinctively strong vibrato and singing style that ranges from growls to haunting high tones, YOU (Gt)’s technical guitars, and groovy bass lines from CRAZY COOL JOE (Ba) took us through their 5-songs set. The set included classics such as the melodic “I Want Your Love“, and the speedy and ferocious “Devil Sleep“. They were also the only band to have two members from LUNA SEA – RYUICHI and SUGIZO (on acoustic guitar) – joining them on stage for an emotional rendition of “Serafine“.
Back on the MOON stage, blue lights lit up at about 5:40pm, and X‘s epic SE started playing as the entire hall started chanting “X! X! X!” YOSHIKI (Dr) was the first to appear on stage with a white neck brace, followed by SUGIZO, HEATH (Ba), and PATA (Gt) . TOSHI (Vo) appeared after the reverberating “X JAPAN, JAPAN, JAPAN” that leads into “JADE”. Needless to say, X‘s aura was beyond incredible. It was overwhelming in the good way. Cheers exploded from fans, literally shaking the ground. 30,000 people united as one during their classics such as “Rusty Nail” and “Kurenai“.
YOSHIKI said, “You guys doing OK? Thanks so much for gathering here today for our very good friend, LUNA SEA. I was extremely happy they invited us. But actually, we’re almost done recording for a new album, the first new album in about 20 years…oh, I guess it’s still 19 years this year. (laugh)” TOSHI added, “Yeah, except SUGIZO‘s part.” YOSHIKI joked, “It’s LUNA SEA‘s fault. (laugh)” Then he took the crowd by surprise, “Let’s continue recording here. Won’t you all lend us your voices?” After some initial confusion about how to teach the crowd to sing the melody and spent quite a few times practicing it, the recording was done without problems. Please look forward to hearing 30,000 of our voices on the new album set to release within this year!
After playing a few bars from LUNA SEA’s “PRECIOUS…” on the piano, YOSHIKI began to talk about the friendship between X JAPAN and LUNA SEA which started more than 20 years ago. “HIDE said ‘There’s this cool band I know’ and brought them with him to a drinking party. I’m glad that we got to make music side-by-side for over 20 years. I’m truly grateful.
I’m really thankful to all the other bands who performed today. Since we’re all bands who went through a lot to get here…” YOSHIKI suddenly choked up and tears streamed down his face. Seeing this, SUGIZO immediately went to sit next to him on the piano bench and put his arm around his shoulder to calm him down. “With 20 odd years worth of memories and feelings for the future, ‘ENDLESS RAIN‘.”
At the end of the song, TOSHI (Vo) held the last note emotionally as the words “In Memory of TAIJI” and “In Memory of HIDE” appeared on the screens besides the stage, left to right respectively. YOSHIKI then exchanged “We are!” “X!” repeatedly with the crowd, then “To the heavens!” and ran back to his drum set to start the song as footage of HIDE playing the song live was synched to their performance. Many fans had a mix of emotions, crying and smiling at the same time, enjoying the last song of their lengthy 7-songs set.
With X‘s extended set, the hosts of the fest, LUNA SEA, appeared on stage about 40 minutes behind schedule. Jun-ji was seen to have went onto the stage to soundcheck and adjust the drums for Shinya. When the lights went down, the entire venue exploded into deafeningly loud cheers. After their usual SE, “Gekkou“, they officially started their 12-songs set with the groovy and mysterious number, “LOVELESS“. Then they changed the atmosphere to their classic upbeat rock tune “Dejavu” and fans jumped excitedly to the rhythm.
Their newer rock single, “Rouge” was followed by the older songs, “JESUS” and “TONIGHT“. J and INORAN took center stage for those two songs, respectively. The band showed that their music is truly timeless, playing old and new songs back-to-back without the feeling that any of the songs were “out of place” and that even after over 25 years, they are as tight as ever as a band.
“My voice is a bit dead, I played around a bit too much earlier, but it was fun! Today, we have a lot of senpais playing here, it reminds me of Extasy Summit…” RYUICHI reminisced about the old days in the first MC before adding that “This here today is the foundation of rock!” with a solid line-up made up of some of the biggest names in the j-rock scene throughout the past 20, 30 years.
After the MC was the melodic and emotional rock ballad, “gravity” then switching pace to the upbeat and groovy hard rock number, “Sweetest Coma Again“. Following this was probably one the band’s most famous ballads, “I for You“. While it was a bit unfortunately that because of RYUICHI‘s inflamed vocal cords at night, he strained a bit on the higher and longer notes. However, his emotions while singing was more than enough to cover for it.
RYUICHI said, “This is our first time hosting a fest with everyone. This is what it’s about, having our friends here. One couldn’t join us, but we wish he is standing on this stage here with us…no, he must already be….” As he trailed off, SUGIZO stretched out his arm and pointed his finger to the heavens. The entire hall exploded (almost literally) when RYUICHI announced that they’ll be covering hide with Spread Beaver‘s “Pink Spider“. The crowd went crazy and things really heated up inside with everyone jumping, waving their arms and singing along loudly. Almost as if he is watching over them, a large photo of hide was shown in the large screen behind them as all the members ran and jumped around on the stage with everything they had.
“Our dream of singing with hide came true. If it wasn’t because hide came to watch us, we wouldn’t have met YOSHIKI either…We were really lucky, I think.” RYUICHI said with a slight sadness in his tone. To change up the mood, he joked about how LUNA SEA is no longer “rain men” because the rain lifted in the afternoon that day. Ironically, the next song was “STORM“, followed by “TIME IS DEAD“. After driving the crowd with “LET’S GO, MAKUHARI!! EVERYONE JUMP FOR US! GOT IT?”, they wrapped up their main set in a whirlwind with the upbeat rock classic, “ROSIER“.
After about only 5-10 minutes of a loud encore call from the crowd, LUNA SEA members reappeared on stage wearing the fest t-shirts. RYUICHI thanked the fans before inviting members of the other participating bands to join them to play “PRECIOUS…” together. About 2-4 members of each band appeared, including MORRIE, members of SIAM SHADE, Kaoru and Die of DIR EN GREY, and all the members of X JAPAN. YOSHIKI was the last of the guests to appear, now wearing a neon pink long coat and with the actual yellow hearts guitar HIDE used (brought over by HIDE‘s brother). RYUICHI explained the reason why some of them are holding drinks in their hand is because they have catering at the back. This was probably why GEORGE (LADIES ROOM – Ba) appeared to be quite drunk and said some funny things, which greatly amused the fans. It also gave us a rare glimpse of how LUNA SEA members act as confused kouhais (to GEORGE).
After GEORGE‘s final speech and all the guests have left the stage, RYUICHI joked that we can all really feel GEORGE‘s love for LUNATIC FEST, which was undoubtedly true that he was having a blast just as the rest of us were. He then continued to introduce each of the members in turn then as usual…”I am?” he said in English to a slightly confused crowd who took about a full second to reply “RYUICHI!” He continued in English, “Do you know me?” and switching back to Japanese, “You guys took a bit of time, didn’t you? (laugh)” At last he introduced Shinya, who, also as usual, got down from his drum platform to the front of the stage like a boss, took the mic off the stand, and kicked the stand like a boss before thanking the fans briefly and saying thank you in English.
“Let’s pick a song none of us can forget!” RYUICHI yelled before starting the final song of the night, “WISH“. Silver streamers with “LUNATIC FEST” printed on it, exploded onto the crowd from about center line of the hall. Fans grabbed them and continued to keep their hands up high dancing along to the song with large smiles on their faces. At the end of their set, the members lined up shoulder to shoulder and asked that all the fans do the same. When 30,000 people jumped together on a count of three, the ground shook, officially marking the end of DAY 1 of a lunatic and a dream-like rock fest that is surely unforgettable for many of us, for many years to come.
Written by: Jin