May 14th – MYV and KAVKI BOIZ arrive in the USA
The poor staff of Downtown Disney were probably wondering why people were showing up at two in the morning. By sunrise, a pow wow had gathered. The House of Blues (HoB) was to host Miyavi that night at 8 pm, and several dozen fans wanted the best seats in the house.
The HoB has a unique system in which if you purchase a minimum of $10 in merchandise or food from their restaurant, you get to be in a special line that enters in the building first. By noon, two lines had begun to form. Male and female fans from as close as Orange County and as far away as Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, Arizona, and even Japan mingled. A large number of fans were recent Miyavi supporters, recently addicted due to the California lives last year. Many also expressed interest in going to the Los Angeles live, but were unable to take off more days from work or school; finals are just around the corner.
The security staff at HoB gets a round of applause for their hawk eyes, curt manner, and professionalism that kept cutting in line to a minimum, queuing into the building efficient, kept the crowd in control, and they were running on time within a window of fifteen minutes. It was much appreciated by the exhausted sun-baked fans.
After the cozy House of Blues was packed to the seams (the live sold out that night), Miyavi entered with a fan in one hand. A handful of tossed petals showered him as Miyavi and the KAVKI BOIZ exploded into the dance and song of “JPN PRIDE”. Miyavi wore the costume photographed in the booklet of the This Iz The Japanese Kabuki Rock CD.
Miyavi’s Neo Visualizm style has been blossoming for a year since he bewildered and awed fans at Jrock Revolution 1 with new, unreleased material. In the past, Miyavi simply had been fishing into different genres and changing outfits, but this whole “Neo Visualizm” concept was a complete and utter genre rehaul. Jrock Revolution interviewed Miyavi back in December 2007, in which he states, “I don’t like the visual kei rock bands that only limit themselves to just visual kei style, or are satisfied with just visual-kei fans, and vice versa. Of course I treasure my visual-kei fans, but I would like to expand my music and our culture outside the visual-kei world as well.” He couldn’t do this alone, so he recruited KAVKI BOIZ to aid him. On this tour, he brought: RYO on drums, SHIGE on bass, Saro in tap shoes, TYKO as the human beat box, and the new face, musical genius Teddy Loid. At a mere 18 years old, his DJ and sound mixing abilities excel and wow.
The live on May 14th was not simply a show, not just a live, it was entertainment. Long gone is the days where dolled up musicians rock out as if they’re plastic army toys with their feet nailed in one place. Miyavi proved that the robot was indeed not dead, pop and locking can be done while holding a guitar, and having an extremely talented beat boxer mimic a trumpet is the injection of zest that the general static visual style needs. It begs for it. A combination of English words and Japanese lyrics blended the audience into a cross cultural rock party. Between recent songs like “JPN Pride”, nostalgic B-sides like “Kimi ni Funky Monkey Vibration”, and the towel-waving included “Shouri no V-Rock”, fans were treated to a tap dance battle, guitar solos, and taiko drumming. During a costume change, Teddy turned the venue into a rave like atmosphere by remixing Miyavi songs like Dear my Friend and “Senor Senora Senorita” with a thumping bass.
There is a word in Japanese that means, “to put everything into [doing something]”, “isshou kenmei (一所懸命)”. The kanji by themselves translate to “the future depends on this one thing”. For a young and up and coming musician, throwing his own style is extremely risky. You have to go out there and prove that it is lucrative, that a fan base will form, and that the invention can root and grow. You have to make the world want more. Luckily, it is proving to be an extremely successful venture. The decorum of these musicians on stage speaks volumes about long practices, endless rehearsals, tedious coordination, and mandatory memorization that go unseen by the fans. Miyavi didn’t go to bed until almost dawn Wednesday morning, and they performed sound check up until five minutes before the fans trickled into the venue.
Whether Miyavi decides to retire his Kavki Boiz like he retired his Ishihara Gundan or not, Neo Vizualizm, it seems, is moving onto the list of visual-kei sub categories: oshare-kei, anguro-kei, eroguru-kei, and now…Neo Visualizm.
May 16th – Neo Visualizm attacks Los Angeles!
Jrock Revolution decided to get down eye to eye with fans for this, and camped out with them the Thursday before the LA live. Attendees of the late-night gay club next door constantly asked what the purpose of “the line”, and marveled at the dedication of the camped out fans. By dawn on Friday, fans eager for the barricade spots lined up down the sidewalk outside the Avalon. Friday was in the high 90s F, and shortly after the sun rose, umbrellas popped open to prevent another dose of sunburn. The author of this post is currently the color of toast.
The crowd was infiltrated with our forum users. I don’t even have enough fingers to list them all, but it was absolutely fantastic to meet, hug, and thank all of them. To see the posts on our forum is one thing; to see the hands that typed them is another. There was a large amount of fan projects, such as the Postcard Project and the Teddy Bear Project. Banners were crafted. A pair marched up the line asking for signatures on a wall banner that read: “WE LOVE 雅”. I was constantly touched by how much Miyavi’s fanbase watched out for each other, putting fairness and their new friends’ safety before selfishness and priority. Line cutting was at a minimum.
Due to yet another sound check, the line entered the building about half an hour late. Fans who ate at the Avalon’s minimally advertised restaurant were allowed to skip the line, but they sweetly saved spots for the cluster of fans that had been waiting overnight so that their efforts were not wasted.
The live resembled the Anaheim live in the way that identical twins are; they may have a mirror appearance at first, but as you get to know them, you pinpoint ways to tell them apart and learn their unique qualities. MYV and the KAVKI BOIZ played “Aho Matsuri”, the only track off of Miyavizm-shugi- that night. Besides that, the set list was basically identical. Fans were also treated to TYKO’s performing khoomi, the Mongolian throat singing that one hears on the track “This is BUSHIDO”. During a guitar and tap battle with Miyavi, Saro’s floor microphone went dead, and a tech dedicatedly held a vocal microphone to his feet so the metallic beats could be heard. During a quiet moment, the fans that carried the wall banner unfurled it over the front barricade. It was tossed on stage during a costume change. When the band returned, the dancer unrolled it. Miyavi paused to acknowledge it, and blessed it with a kiss. Saro lovingly hung it from Teddy’s DJ table; the crowd went wild.
The vocalist, yet again, forgot the closing speech he prepared, but he borrowed heavily from the prior performance’s message of breaking down barriers and following dreams. You could hear that his throat was tight with emotion; it may have been similar words, but the swelling in his heart over that signature-covered banner personalized the “I love you” to the crowd. Yet again, the night ended with “Sakihokoru Hana no You ni –NeoVisualizm” noted by Miyavi’s multiple hurdles into the crowd. His legs are at such a length that he can simultaneously straddle the barrier and the stage amps. Out reached hands brushed his waist, guitar, and legs, supporting him so he could still sing. Speaking of the X which is the first word in the song, YOSHIKI of X JAPAN was also privately present at this live to watch his fellow S.K.I.N. band mate and kouhai rock out his neighborhood.
Outside on the sidewalk, fans mingled in the cooling night air. The Jrock Revolution staff mingled with our long time Los Angeles street team members and friends. In March of this year, Jrock Revolution held a tour group to take a group of fans to Japan for the X JAPAN reunions. One of the girls who attended this presented the JRR staff with a laminated bound book containing a thank-you page from each of those who attended. Misha, our Site Coordinator, had to wipe her eyes a couple times reading it.
For most So-Cal Miyavi fans, the party ended here. Most would not continue on to San Francisco, and had to get home to their lives. Many came by plane from states such as New Jersey, Wisconsin. Washington, Florida, Texas, Washington D.C., and Arizona. This post is being written in LAX, waiting for the flight to San Francisco. After the utter blast that was So-Cal, I’m highly anticipating meeting the northern side of Miyavi’s fandom. See you in Bay Area!
This is the tentative set list. Jrock Revolution is awaiting official confirmation on this.
Coin Lockers Baby
Ossan Ossan Ore Nanbo
[tap dance/guitar battle]
Funky Monkey Vibration
21st Century 東京 Blues
Hi no Hikari Sae Todokanai Kono Basho de
Teddy Solo (this is a group of Miyavi songs remixed together into this amazing rave/techno combination. Some of them were Senor Senora Senorita, Dear my Friend, Freedom Fighters, and various older pieces).
Rokku no Gyakushuu- Suupaa Sutaa no Jouken
Ippiki Ookami Ron (Wed)/Aho Matsuri (Fri)
Shouri no V-Rock
Are You Ready to ROCK?
Subarashiki Ka na, Kono Sekai
Sakihokoru Hana no You ni – Neo Visualizm-
May 18th and 19th – Double Shot of San Francisco
“HELLO SAN FRANCISCO!” Miyavi’s belted out, slightly hoarse, the words echoing front to back of Slim’s. This venue located on 333 11th street is tucked away between car repair shops, a rather out-of-the-way convenience store, and private businesses. On Sunday morning, the area was dead minus the buses on their routes, but the sidewalk was packed. The funny thing about San Francisco is that it’s cold at night, cold and windy, so the fans had to bundle up extra tight for their overnight camp outs. Add onto that the never-ending hunt for a bathroom and a bite to eat made many fans consider turning back. However, after hearing Miyavi call out those words, it was a soothing blessing for their sacrifice. The second the first San Francisco live ended, fans immediately ran outside the venue to line up for day number two.
I want to talk about these fans of Miyavi for a moment. Like the So-Cal lives, fans came from states away like Texas and countries like Canada. There were tons of locals from areas like San Mateo, Fresno, Sacramento, Pasadena, and San Jose. I recognized a handful of faces from the previous two shows down south. Some fans originated at San Francisco came down, while some fans originating from Los Angeles came up north. Some drove, some flew, some took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), etc. I met even more forum users and convinced one of them to eat Tofurkey for the first time.
If I may, I do want to mention a certain fan that deserves recognition. A young woman from Los Angeles, who wishes to simply be called C, had only planned to attend the Sunday night live on the 18th in San Francisco. She came with a friend, Y, who has work on Monday morning in Gardena; the plan was to fly back Monday morning with Y and take her friend to work. Well, after the Sunday night live, C decided she absolutely had to come back for the second Miyavi concert at Slim’s on Monday night. This amazing fan bought a concert ticket, flew back to Los Angeles, drove her friend to work, booked a flight, and flew back to San Francisco, making it a couple hours before the live started. She is a living example of Miyavi’s tattoo, “Don’t hesitate & Go”.
I also wrote about this earlier, but I was completely moved by how much the fans care (present tense) for each other. People with hotel rooms shared their bathroom with overnighters. Water was shared, food runs were made only asking if anyone else wanted anything else, and jackets were passed around to the shivering. If I fan looked unwell during the concert, a complete stranger would ask them if they needed to get out of the crowd. The fans caught this love from Miyavi, who has always radiated a kind, caring aura. During the Sunday night live, a girl in a wheelchair was knocked to the ground after a fan surge during a Miyavi stage dive. Once back on stage, Miyavi paused to make sure she was uninjured before continuing. How many artists do you know would even look twice? The same artist would often answer the fans’ yells of, “I LOVE YOU!” and “DAISUKI!”. To a particular fan who yelled, “SASHIMI!” (translation: sliced raw fish), Miyavi couldn’t help but reply with a joking grin, “Shut the f**k up”. The crowd ate it up!
Now, let’s talk about the music. What made the San Francisco lives different from their So-Cal relatives as the opening DJs. Before the lives started, local DJs spun Japanese rock music to keep the packed crowd busy. The venue turned into a temporary karaoke party. The 18th’s DJ Tetsu, played bands like Malice Mizer, Dir en grey, hide, and X JAPAN’s “X”, complete with X arms. DJ Tetsu also enjoyed entertaining the pre-concert line with this acoustic guitar, and he attracted attention with his unique T-shirt. The 19th’s DJ Christian rocked out Hyde, MUCC, the GazettE, D’espairsRay, and more hide. One fan commented, “This is the best opening act ever”!. It’s unique to hear that exclaimed, considering hardcore fans are usually rather vehement toward the opening acts.
The set list was nearly identical to the previous nights. With four nights of traveling and testing the waters of United States, it would be an impossible difficulty to memorize and rehearse four different acts and set lists for such intricate performances. However, a rumor was spreading Sunday night, a rumor that there was going to be a set list change for Monday, that “We Love You” may be played. When Monday rolled around, fans listening to the rehearsal outside the door noted that there were no differences. However, the fans were prepared. Baka Neko of the Jrock Revolution forums had organized a special fan project to mimic a fan activity that occurred during Miyavi’s live 25th Anniversary DVD that was released in 2007. During “We Love You”, fans waved message boards with Miyavi’s kanji integrated into the design. She and her crew had designed similar postcards involving Miyavi’s kanji placed over a pink heart embedded with a map of the world. When Miyavi busted out “We Love You” as the second to last song Monday night, the fans were ready. A huge smile appeared on Miyavi’s face as the postcards popped into the air. He even noted it on his MySpace blog!
Despite the matching set lists, the lives were still a visual spectacle for both nights. Instead of showing boredom with the same music, Miyavi and his crew put every ounce of sweat and blood into the live, so each live feels like the first. The quality did not decline. There is a framework of what has to happen next, but within it, there’s a lot of flexibility that allows the artists to play off of each other. One night, Saro was freely roaming around the stage when Miyavi purposely chose to introduce him and caught him off guard, so Saro had to run back to his tap square (he dances on a block of wood). After watching the quick display of tapped beats with a joyous grin of his face of being had, Miyavi leaned into the microphone and noted about Saro, “I’m sure he’s crazy”.
“Crazy” is a good word to sum this up the THIS IZ JAPANESE KABUKI ROCK US TOUR. Four nights, hundreds of fans, sold out merchandise, Mongolian throat singing, $5 bottles of water, and half a dozen Miyavi fan projects later, the North American fans went home, happily exhausted and in need of a hot shower. A reporter from the San Francisco Weekly attended the Sunday night live went back to his computer and wrote a glowing review. I’d like to note that back in 2004, Miyavi was set to play in four different states on his first US Tour. Unfortunately, it was canceled. The first starting date was set to be in Chicago….on May 14th. He was also scheduled to play the 21st in Orlando; this year it will be spent in Chile. Coincidence?
In finale, a parting quote:
English teacher: “A rhetorical question is a question you don’t expect an answer to. When a band yells, “Are you ready to rock?”, they’re not actually expecting someone to yell back, “Not quite, give us a couple more minutes.”