This is the fifth in the series called "Jrock Where You Live," in which Jrock Revolution staff writers chronicle what it’s like to be a Jrock fan in their community. In this installment, staff writer Molly tells us all about being a Jrock fan in St. Paul, Minnesota.
In Saint Paul, Minnesota, there are no Book Off, Mitsuwa, or Kinokuniya stores. Even down the busy streets of Snelling and University, where the Asian population soars and the restaurants cater to various Asian cusines, and even the video rental places that specialize in eastern films, there are still no stores that sell our beloved Japanese rock. Our local anime convention rarely even sells much Japanese music that isn’t bootleg, despite many of the attendees being fans of the music and the convention selling out almost every year. Here in Minnesota, if you want Jrock, generally you’re going to have to buy it online.
Of course, that doesn’t stop the fans. Oh no, it’ll never stop the fans. The ones that sit outside for twelve hours with no sleep in –1 degree weather, waiting for Dir en Grey’s first appearance in the “Twin Cities” of the normally Frozen Tundra of a state. The fans that endured dangerous things like frostbite, hypothermia, and the common cold that usually follows—just to be close to their favorite band. Everything is cold in Minnesota, including our summers at times, and the fans know it. In the winter, they wrap blankets around their legs, dress in several dense layers, and huddle together shivering and discussing the upcoming concert, cheerful and boisterous, despite the icy air that surrounds them. In the summer, waiting in line might be a bit easier for our summer days don’t often reach the highs of places like Los Angeles, or areas in Arizona, Texas, or Florida. Unfortunately for us, that doesn’t mean the sun can’t be just as unforgiving to our exposed skin. Fans will still come in long sleeves and pants, fearful of the sun that floats high and cram themselves under small spots of shade not frequently found across the large expanse of parking lot at the Myth venue, where Dir en grey played for the second time. Most of them though, for fashion’s sake, are often found decked out in the typical darker colors of Jrock, especially black – the worst color to wear in the heavy light of the sun.
We have not had many Jrock bands appear in Minnesota, from Dir en Grey twice, and D’espairsRay, MUCC and The Underneath once, and our lines may not stretch as long as in larger cities, but that doesn’t mean we don’t make a scene. We still receive the strange glances of passerbys, and the average questions of: “What are you waiting for?” “How long have you been waiting?” “Who’s playing?” and “Are you crazy?”
Well, we’re not crazy, we’re dedicated. I’ve flown halfway across the country a few times to go see some of my own favorite Jrock artists, including Jrock Revolution one, and am proud to have met several others from Minnesota that have followed suite. It makes my heart swell with happiness and pride when I’m hundreds of miles from home, and I happen to just bump into another couple fans from my own state, and occasionally my very own city of Saint Paul. It’s great to sit there on the dirty streets of Los Angeles, my side armed with a new friend, and discuss the last Dir en grey concert we went to in our hometown and exchange stories of this and that of the concerts we attended. Even at times, I’ll get the “Yeah, I remember seeing you!” or maybe I’ll twist it around and say the same thing back to them.
On lazy days at home, sometimes I spend my time reminiscing of the early times back in high school when I was only a baby to Jrock. The times where I would sit in the back of the class, my notebook a mess of pictures from visual kei bands and pages scribbled with drawings of Miyavi or Malice Mizer. Of course, there were always the nasty comments about why would I listen to a band that sang in another language, or why would I want to have anything to do with men who looked like women. At first, they were the only comments I seemed to notice. For a while, I thought I was all alone in Minnesota, and I would never know another friend who shared my “weird” interest. But then, I seemed to start seeing another side of people. The ones that would pass by my desk in Japanese class, point at my notebook and shout, “Hey! I know that band!”
Even when once, a kid from my class strolled in with a hand-made Dir en grey shirt, an obvious statement of the lack of Jrock merchandise in our state, even for such large bands as Dir en Grey. I remember my teacher even stopping in the middle of her lecture, pointing at the kid’s shirt and saying “That’s a Japanese band!” in the most enthusiastic voice I’ve heard in a long time.
Those were some great moments in my Jrock history, and even greater memories. The moments that put a coil of excitement in my stomach, when I realized that no, I was not alone. Other days too, later in my Jrock history, where I would stand up in class and give ten minute speeches on Japanese rock while my newly recruited Jrock friends would stand in the corner of the room giving smiles of encouragement as I proudly exposed Jrock to even more Minnesotans. I found out that in my very own high school, here and there I found handfuls of Jrock fans—and I don’t even exaggerate when I say I made multiple new friends in those four years, and that they shared the same love that I do.
Minnesota may not have an abundance of Jrock concerts and extremely limited access to local stores that sell the precious CDs and merchandise, but that does not stop the fans, and it definitely never will. With each passing year, and each new concert I attend here in the Twin Cities, I see the local fanbase continue to grow—exploding outwards and continuously reaching more and more people. The lines get a little bit longer, concerts start to sell out, and merchandise at the vendor booths are snatched up even quicker than before. The fanbase here will hopefully never stop growing, and I’ll revel in the day when I’m able to walk out of my house with no qualms of finding a shop that’s a hop, skip, and a jump away with the newest Jrock CD. As long as the fans here stay strong, the future of Jrock here will as well.
Written by Molly