A-kon is not just a con, it’s a historical weekend once a year that keeps bringing the best and most talented of Japan to its halls. Back in 2002, Duel Jewel became the first visual kei act to grace a convention ever in the United States. A-kon has also hosted a sea of bands like Camino, T.M.Revolution, Psycho Le Cému, PENICILLILN NANO, An Café (as a non-performing guest), and promoted offsite nearby performances of D’espairsRay. They almost hosted Miyavi back in ’04 but the tour was canceled. Now, Versailles’s first overseas performance in the United States marks a notch in the pole for A-kon 19. The hotel has changed multiple times, the fanbase has swelled, and different promotional companies have brought these bands over…but in the end, it’s all out of love and music.
Versailles arrived Thursday before the convention started. Twice, HIZAKI and YUKI wandered into A-kon’s Jpop Room, the second time as BUCK-TICK was playing on the big screen. “Do you like BUCK-TICK? I asked. “We like Pantera!” was the answer. They sure came to the right convention; Pantera was born in the city of Arlington, which is about a half-hour drive from the hotel.
Friday, Versailles were busy as bees. They had a morning sound check followed by a minimum of five hours for costuming and make up. Their United States tour manager, Roger Shackelford of Tainted Reality, was running on fumes instead of sleep. He was determined to make this event a success, no matter the sacrifices he had to make. Fans had impatiently queued for hours for the Versailles concert. The floor was crowded; the performance hall shared the floor with the registration tables and tables for entrepreneurial comickers.
After the opening ceremonies finished, chairs were cleared, and the fans were slowly allowed to trickle into the concert hall. While Versailles touched up back stage before their big concert, Budo Grape opened. Brought over by Japan Files, Budo Grape is a described on their website as a “a catchy, high energy avant-garde pop band from Nagoya." Budo Grape actually means “Grape Grape”, but all the members were wearing banana yellow. The singer, Quminco÷Grape, is a tall preppy girl with a princess style haircut. She shares vocals with Nagai÷Grape (also on guitar), Matsui÷Grape (also on bass), Taichi÷Grape on drums, and tiny Midori÷Grape on the keyboard. They played a long, energetic set, finished off with one of their songs that was too dirty to play in Japan. “Hun nyo tun!”which means (“crap piss spit”) had the crowd pumped and ready for Versailles!
Budo’s set was cleared; one drum set rolled out and another set in its place. The stage was minimally designed, minus the amps decorated with a few faux roses. Accessorization was not needed, as Versailles would overflow the stage with "the absolute youshikibi (beauty of form)” on their own. Being beautiful is a large part of Versailles, but underneath the layers of silk, chiffon, cotton, lace, sequins, feathers, trim, and ribbons, there’s an extremely talented, rockin’ band. During the Versailles live, I sent Jrock Revolution’s Website Coordinator, Misha, a text message: “Versailles are very pretty.” I received a reply back, “There, your live report is done. XD”
Don’t fret, it won’t end there! You will get a live report beyond an obvious observation.
Roger, dressed in a gothic black trench coat with his bone straight hair pooling over his shoulders, strutted onto the stage and introduced the band in a booming, awesome voice, then departed. YUKI walked onto the stage first, followed by the string instrument players, and finally…KAMIJO. The ex-LAREINE vocalist walked with an air of confidence and sexiness akin to that of if you mixed Gackt era Malice Mizer with Hakuei. Versailles is being called a mini super band, combining LAREINE’s talent with HIZAKI Grace Project members and one member from Sulphuric Acid. Each member was glammed up in fantasty-inspired Victorian costume, HIZAKI and Jasmine You in cascading gowns and KAMIJO in a cape. TERU and YUKI were both in male costume.
“The Love from A Dead Orchestra” was the first song of the night, KAMIJO making the “rock” sign with his fingers as he belted out the lyrics. He even slid over to hold HIZAKI in a possessive pose, making the fans girls scream. “Shout & Bites” came next, one of the band’s songs that have a PV to accompany it. Due to their heavy complicated costumes, the band members mostly rocked out in their own space. Occasionally, they would all turn on cue or rotate positions, wander the stage, or make claw hand motions. They would head bang despite their carefully sculpted hair, which never fell out of style. Between songs, Versailles would dab their faces with towels as not to disturb their make up. Jasmine You got the chance to display terrific bass skills, as did HIZAKI on his guitar.
After “SUZERAIN,” KAMIJO spoke to the audience in hesitant English and basic Japanese. Post speech, beautiful music filled the speakers similar to that associated with churches because it sounds as if angels are singing. It sounded like the “Intro” of“Lyrical Symphony. Then, the security guards’ fears came true: the vocalist jumped off stage and went for a walk. A grapevine of staff, one foot on the barricade of chairs, held off the surge of fans with their outstretched arms. KAMIJO‘s fingertips graced a few hands, before turned with a flourished and jumped back up on stage. To see a petite Japanese man in four inch heeled thigh high boots move like a cat is truly a fascinating thing to witness.
“This is the red carpet show!” came the announcement, followed by, of course, “The Red Carpet Day”. Following that, Versailles played the beloved song “Forbidden gate”. More simplified dancing and band member rotations kept the show interesting to watch; KAMIJO went for another stroll to proceed a second speech at the microphone. He used the word “saikou” (the best) to describe the concert experience, and proceeded to spell it with roman letters…he had to do it twice as he misspelled "saikou” the first round. The last song was deemed, “a present to you.” The much-awaited “Sympathia” exploded through the amps. The audience waved their hands back and forth to match the tempo of the song; the only thing missing was lighters. Cell phones would not have worked, as the security staff did a damn fine job of keeping an eye out of for renegade photographers. Versailles was adamant about zero fan photography.
The concert was supposed to end there. Key words: supposed to. The band provided “The Revenant Choir” to the undying screams of undying love. Talker KAMIJO introduced the other band members. Versailles exited the stage to the left, the lights came back on, and the doors opened. Versailles’s concert was finished.
A brief autograph session followed until the depleted performers needed their rest. Even after shouting until their throats were raw and giggling over meeting their beloved idols, supporters of the band kept talking excitedly as they returned to their hotel rooms late after the stroke of midnight.
Versailles went to go have a drink in celebration, enjoying the late hours. By some miracle, they were all reassembled for a second autograph session the next morning. A Q&A followed in the afternoon. A third autograph session on Sunday would still not satisfy all fans. Unfortunately Versailles had to cut the line short due to time restrictions. Despite the tight scheduling, rigorous practice, and a thousand handshakes demanded, Versailles was still smiling. This was an unreal experience for them. After a terrific reception in Europe, having America prove to be equally as excited to have them as guests is a sure sign of putting down roots and planning future lives. Budo Grape went on to San Antonio, and Versailles went to Los Angeles at an ungodly hour in the morning. They took the Monday following the convention off to relax, breathe, sleep, and even explore the Guitar Center in Hollywood, California. On Tuesday, they rocked the Factory! Please check back to read that live report!
1. The Love from A Dead Orchestra
2. Shout & Bites
3. BEAST OF DESIRE
6. Aristocrat’s Symphony
8. Forbidden gate
9. The Red Carpet Day
Encore: The Revenant Choir