There was very little on the minds of Jrock fans at Sakura-Con on Friday night that did not revolve around where they would be, what they would be doing and who they would be seeing come 3PM. There were several people outside the main stage quite some time before that, hoping to be the first people in line but as it turned out, there had already been a line inside the waiting area for at least an hour prior to my own showing up and so the little line that had accumulated outside was moved inside to join the rest out of the way of the throngs of cosplayers.
Attendees couldn’t help being startled in the most wonderful way at how many people had already firmly established their place at the start of the normal line. Sometime after the outside line had been merged with the inside one, it was announced that those people who had registered at the convention-sponsored hotels were allowed to get red wristbands and could then form their own line along the wall that separated us all from the main stage where we could hear the testing going on. At first, it was not all that significant of a wristband line but the closer it came to show time, the longer the line became and eventually it hit the end of the wall and was forced to turn the corner and continue along the back wall.
That line, however, paled in comparison to the tremendous number of people that were gathering in the normal line and the more people that came, the more the line was forced to push together to accommodate the additional bodies in the maze of ropes. From the wristband line, those that anxiously waited could not see past the front of that line so it is impossible to say if there were ever any additions made to the ropes. But certainly, with the steady flow of fans coming in, there was no way that all of the attendees were going to fit within the line area. One could only wonder: is the staff prepared for this?
The wait extended a little longer than everyone was comfortable with—a lot of people had taken to sitting though most of the fans weren’t willing to relax that much—but there did not seem to be a whole lot of complaints about it. In the end, there was a cheering as the first small section of the wall was moved aside to allow the staff, press and wristband wearers to enter the main stage area. Even among the people in that line, there was an immediate rush to the stage and it was clear that they did not want to give up the opportunity to be on the rail.
The Slants hit the stage first and while it was hard to say if most of the audience knew the music or not, everyone was into it without any need to warm up to the band. The performance was energetic and it was clear that the crowd found it easy to get into. On a couple of occasions, bassist Simon Young seemed inclined to pick on guitarist Johnny—first it was unceremoniously pushing him away with a foot to his side, then it was after a moment of leaning against each other before Simon shoved Johnny’s head away and went about his business elsewhere.
It was all in good fun, of course, and Johnny seemed entirely unfazed and never missed a beat. Johnny is, perhaps, the best candidate for such antics as later in the set, Aron—The Slants’ vocalist—took it upon himself to lick his bandmate’s face. This time around, though, Johnny had no problem retaliating and returning the favor.
A couple times throughout The Slants’ performance, those on the rail were given an up-close-and-personal show of Aron and Johnny performing as both came down individually to put a foot on the rail so they could play and sing directly to the girls standing across from Aron’s mic stand. This, of course, was something there would be no chance of come girugamesh’s performance, as the avid observers learned soon after The Slants left the stage.
The crowd was informed by staff that the entire rail was being pushed back a whole foot and then warned that if it moved forward, the show would be stopped. Judging by the reactions, there was the impression that most of the fans didn’t believe that for a second but regardless, it seemed that everyone did do their best to have a blast without moving the rail too much. As the wait continued, it was impossible for everyone to remain silent or still and while it’s hard to say where exactly it started, a chant of fuck yeah, girugamesh! did arise from the waiting crowd.
As is to be expected, the response to girugamesh’s arrival on stage was all but deafening and it was only a brief sample of how into the music the fans were about to get. As with The Slants, as soon as the music started the crowd was in motion but it would be unfair not to acknowledge how much more movement there was this time around. There was never a moment where feet were not moving—shuffling, jumping, and so on—and that was even more so the case for the rest of the body.
Should anyone up front have glanced back behind them in an attempt to see how many of these bodies were going to be pushing forward and it would have been a futile attempt; there was nothing but people. It was impossible to have any idea just how many had piled into see the concert, impossible to know just how many would be threatening the stability of the rail. In case anyone is wondering, the estimated headcount for that concert was around 2500. It is a miracle that the rail did not move enough to cause upset among the staff.
During the wait for them to come out, someone in the third row asked another fan which song she most wanted them to play. Her response was that she would be happy if she could hear them play CRAZY-FLAG and then stated that it had the best furitsuke. You can imagine she was elated when they did in fact play CRAZY-FLAG but due to the surging of the crowd it was not possible to tell if she managed to get into the song. In any case, the set list was a good mix of both old and new and if there was anyone there who had never listened to girugamesh before, they were definitely given an excellent representation of what girugamesh is made of.
It is absolutely no surprise that their last song was not going to be allowed as their last song. While there was a lack of harmony in the calling for an encore—it was a mix between the English encore, the Japanese ankore and another smattering of fuck yeah, girugamesh!—the audience did not let off until the members returned to the stage to gift the fans with a final, fantastic performance of Owari to mirai.
girugamesh’s set list:
1. Break Down
2. ULTIMATE 4
4. Angry juice
6. Dance Rock Night
9. Deceived Mad Pain
Encore. Owari to Mirai
Saturday night, once again long before the officially listed time for line-up, Con-goers were already staking out their place in wait for the next concert. If there had been any doubt that Myuji and Hangry & Angry could pull in a crowd, those doubts were crushed quite swiftly upon entering the line-up area. As with the previous night, there was a separation between those that had their red bracelets and those who did not but no one seemed discouraged by being in the longer line.
The wait was made less agonizing by the appearance of the Hangry & Angry mascots who graced the lines with their presence as the concert time neared. A good number of people took advantage of the opportunity and had pictures taken with the pair—a couple of people were even specifically asked to come out of line for a moment to take pictures with them! As it turns out, they seem to have appeared elsewhere around the Sakura-Con as well and there is some sweet video on their MySpace of them getting some love from a little girl over at the Exhibitor’s Hall.
When it was time to head for the main stage, there was as much frantic need to get right up front as there had been on Friday night. Due to the difference in personal perspective between Friday night and Saturday night, it is impossible to compare the number of people that came for that night to the previous night but there was certainly no shortage of people itching to see the concert kick off. There was no cause for disappointment in the turnout and one could only hope that the bands would be encouraged by the audience and the enthusiasm that everyone brought to the concert with them.
First up for the night was Myuji, who many know because of his song eX dream from the X/1999 anime. Many in attendance didn’t know what to expect, though, having probably never heard any of his other music. To say the very least, it is likely safe to say that the audience was at least pleasantly surprised judging by the positive reactions across the floor. At one point, Myuji inquired as to whether or not anyone was a fan of the anime, X—and it was impossible to miss the handful of “X-arms” going up—and announced that the next song would be one he wrote for that. “But it isn’t the one you want to hear,” he informed everyone, to which there were a couple of mock-disappointed awws amongst the crowd.
Truthfully, there was nothing to be disappointed about as it was an enjoyable song regardless and they did later play eX dream. In addition to his own music, the audience was rewarded by them playing Honny Dripper. Myuji explained that his mother—Ann Lewis—is popular in Japan and the he loves her very much and wanted to play her song. While it is likely that most had never heard the song, or any of his mother’s music, the sentiment was pleasing and the song was fantastic. Undeniably, it was something to have stuck in your head for hours on end.
Between songs, Myuji took the time to introduce each of the band members individually. His own English was easily understandable and fluent but his bandmates seemed a little less inclined to speak quite so much in English despite all of his encouragement. However, the audience was able to see his bassist Chaka and drummer Daigoro dance after a little prodding from Myuji. When the time came for him to introduce the guitarist, he stated that Hiro loves X Japan and loves Yoshiki. In response to this, Hiro began to play the opening notes of X Japan’s Kurenai. Sadly, it was nothing more than a spontaneous riff and after Myuji’s playful comment of “You’re stupid, you’re not X Japan”, the concert continued with a notable lack of Kurenai.
There were a couple minutes of pause between Myuji’s exit and the long-awaited entrance of Hangry & Angry. Very few people left their posts and when the stage filled with a voice telling the story of Hangy&Angry, the audience listened raptly. As it turns out, there is more to the pair than the blurbs across the internet—the original Hangry & Angry are, in fact, the cause of global warming and the Hangry & Angry that were so gratefully received at Sakura-Con came from the future in order to save the world from what their past selves had inflicted upon Earth.
As the duo stepped onto the stage, the response was just as enthusiastic as it had been during Sakura-Con’s opening ceremony. There was absolutely no reason to believe that the concert was not going to rock as hard as Friday night and it is unlikely that the fans were the only ones who could feel the floor shaking beneath them.
Hangry & Angry opened with a new song, Sadistic Desire, and while it was one that none of their fans had ever heard, the response was infinitely positive and the crowd wasted no time at all in getting right into the dancing. Aside from the songs off of their debut single, they also played another new song by the name of No Future and they surprised the audience by throwing in Hangry & Angry covers of The Peace and Love & Peace, which morning musume fans were elated by.
At one point between songs, both disappeared offstage briefly in order to return with their arms full of glowstick necklaces. The crowd was delighted by the offering and after all the necklaces had been distributed to the crowd and the next song began, the crowd made excellent use of the glowsticks as they danced along with Hangry & Angry. From the seats behind the standing crowd, it could be seen that the lighting made for rather spectacular, gigantic shadows across the walls on either side of the room and it was almost as fun to watch the crowd and performers dance on the walls as it was to actually watch them up front. It was a neat addition to the atmosphere and it suited the show well, even if it was likely unintentional.
After several songs and during a pause in between, everyone watched in mild confusion as Angry cued music that Hangry seemed unaware of herself. As the screen behind them changed to display words and a giant cake, everyone understood immediately what was going on and there were cheers as the words HAPPY BIRTHDAY HANGRY clicked in the mind of the crowd. As is to be expected, everyone sang along with Angry while Hangry was clearly surprised by the display.
During another pause between songs, concert-goers were given the somewhat Jimi Hendrix-style version of the National Anthem as both Hangry and Angry came back onto stage with American flags over their shoulders. They took that moment to inform everyone that they love the United States before handing over their flags to staff and continuing on to their next song.
If there was still anyone wondering how well they were being taken when they bid their fans goodbye and exited the stage, the determined cries for an encore had to assure everyone that the audience had absolutely loved the concert and them. They did not take long in coming back out and as they gave a second performance of Kill Me Kiss Me, the crowd returned the favor with energy and enthusiasm.
Overall, both concerts received the response that they deserved and I have to admit to being quite fiercely proud of everyone at Sakura-Con that attended the concerts for being able to show how much we appreciate the musicians that came for us!
Many thanks to Sakura Con, the bands and everyone who attended the concerts for making it such an awesome weekend. To those at the Con who didn’t attend…we’re not sorry for the noise! Hopefully, we made you at least a little curious about who was rockin’ out the main stage all weekend.
Live Report by: Kia
Edited by: Ali W.