When you think of trendsetting cities, Tokyo and New York should be pretty high on that list. Now imagine these two cities bringing everything that makes them creative and exciting together in one place – that’s what Tokyo X Brooklyn did. Everything from music, art, fashion, and food came together for a two day festival on May 13 & 14, 2017, at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint that combined popular culture from both Brooklyn and Tokyo.
Throughout the day, festival goers could experience various exhibits, showings, and vendors; all centered on Japanese culture and all under one roof. Similar to conventions, a screening room was set up where people could get away from the excitement of the festival and view different iconic anime movies between performances. A few local artists presented their Japanese/New York inspired works around the venue. Artist Meguru Yamaguchi had a dramatic art demonstration where he would paint along the walls and floor where his canvas was laid out. Mixed between the artists’ booths were clothes and accessories vendors that sold Japanese street fashion items. Popular New York J-fashion boutique Tokyo Rebel had their latest garments on display and local indie designers came out with their unique and colorful pieces.
And what would a festival be without food? Brooklyn X Tokyo utilized the outdoor courtyard to set up food stalls that sold various Japanese street food such as ramen and curry as well as very Brooklyn-esque Japanese inspired specialty cuisine. Delicious sake cocktails and other drinks were also available to keep everyone energized and in high spirit.
This event was family friendly and many families, including young children, could be seen around the venue enjoying the festivities.
On the main stage, a diverse set of performers took to the stage. There was everything from a traditional Taiko drum performances from Taiko Masala to a para-para dancing duo and various jazzy, funky, and retro bands that make up New York’s underground music scene. A definite crowd favorite was Anamanaguchi; with their bright and colorful part 8-bit part dance music had everyone jumping. But nothing compared to the weekend’s headliner, Miyavi!
The crowd gathered from various areas around the venue to the main stage to await Miyavi’s appearance – as DJ Jonny and drummer Bobo arrived to the stage, there was a palpable feeling of anticipation for the samurai guitarist. He was met with wild applause and he strode onto the stage, guitar slung over his shoulders, and the show was on!
Something unique about this show that was not present in his Asia on Tour/Firebird tour just a month earlier was the LED screen behind him. It was an amazing visual addition to his set, adding a feeling that worked so well with the electronic sound of the music. The background would vary from cityscapes to an ambiguous background with shapes and colors and bright lights. It changed throughout the set – the only constant was MIYAVI’s name stylized as he uses it now.
The first two songs of the night really used this background to a great extent, with no other lights besides the LED screen, casting Miyavi and his guitar in silhouette.
There is something special about watching someone play their instrument like there is no tomorrow and they are only in the moment. Like that guitar is a part of themselves. That’s how it appears the guitar is to Miyavi. Miyavi recently celebrated his 15th anniversary and his skills attest to that.
“Great weather we’re having, huh?” Miyavi said sarcastically, gesturing towards the glass doors and windows on either side of the venue. He is known as the “rain man” and without fail, he brought the rain with him to Brooklyn. It had been raining the entire day – cold, windy, awful weather for May in New York.
Miyavi also brought up another topic that everyone wondered if he would talk about. Earlier that day, he posted a photo on his instagram of his “mini-me” – eldest child Lovelie with short hair. Miyavi’s wife Melody also posted an instagram video of Lovelie’s hair being cut off. Miyavi went on to say that Lovelie said she felt more like a boy and wanted to look and dress that way. Both Miyavi and Melody were supportive of their child’s wishes and let Lovelie cut her hair and dress as she wanted. The crowd cheered extra loud when Miyavi was finished, clearly also very much in support of whatever Lovelie decides to do now and in the future. “We got your back no matter what. We are proud of you Lovelie and Jewelie, both of you. We want to dedicate this track to anyone who is struggling and suffering far away from home. It’s called, ‘Where Home Is.’” This song features vocals by Melody.
Miyavi played a mix of songs, but the majority of the songs played were from his latest album, “Fire Bird.” The title song off that album, “Fire Bird” is a great high-energy song that gets everyone’s arms in the arm, moving along to the catchy beat.
He ended the night with “Long Nights” – “This track is personal to me. As an artist, I feel responsible to keep moving forward but sometimes I kinda get scared to face the world. Sometimes its hard to get up and face the world – I’m sure it happens to everyone. As long as we know tomorrow will come, as long we know that scenery will be right there after we get over the obstacles, as long as we know that the future is there, we can get through a long night. Thanks for coming today!”
Following Miyavi’s performance on Day 1 was Blonde Redhead who also had a large crowd gather to see them perform!
Fast forward to Day 2 – and a bright, sunny day! Unlike Day 1, Day 2 had beautiful weather (mostly). Rather then being stuck inside, many people decide to spend time outside in the courtyard where food was plentiful and there was a bar! Tables were set up to sit and eat at and everyone took full advantage of the nice weather. But as usual, Miyavi had to bring one small rain storm – thankfully, it passed quickly.
Once it was showtime, Miyavi thanked those who helped put on the Tokyo x Brooklyn event. “I really hope everyone who was involved in this event keep doing this for next year and the year after. Not only Tokyo and Brooklyn, but the culture of Japan and America so that people get closer. Thank you so much for coming!”
One very different event on Day 2 that did not occur on Day 1 was that Miyavi invited the Taiko Drummers up on stage to perform with him! Their drums were on stage and the group joined Miyavi in a wordless song – no vocals, but plenty of drumming and guitar combined to make a powerful tune! The crowd greatly enjoyed this collaboration and it was clear from the smiles on stage that Miyavi and the Taiko group enjoyed themselves as well.
“We had a great time at Irving Plaza last month!” Miyavi said. (You can read our live report from that concert right here!) “That was incredible. We’ve had shows at Irving Plaza 3 times. Every time we’ve had a great time in this city. Thank you for your support, your love and your power. Thank you! The tour finally finished and we’re heading to Tokyo, so my family just came over from LA to see New York. In the morning there was great weather so we went to see the Statue of Liberty…we can unite through music. We are the generation that makes the future. We covered this track, if you know, please sing along with us.” This was a cover of “Youth of the Nation” originally by P.O.D.
Another change from the first day was the addition of the song “What A Wonderful World”! The crowd was pleased with this change, as this song is always a fan favorite – it’s a Miyavi classic. Miyavi danced around the stage, waving his arms back and forth and asking the audience to do the same. The vibe in the room intensified with this song – it’s a feel good song!
Speaking of classics, its not a Miyavi concert without Miyavi asking the crowd a vital question: “What’s my name?!” MIYAVI! Is always the resounding answer – everyone knows his name!
The overall crowd may have been smaller on Sunday, Day 2 (it was Mother’s Day!), but the energy was still high during Miyavi’s performance.
Tokyo X Brooklyn was a great introduction to Japanese popular culture to those who were not familiar to the phenomenon. The festival touched on all of the different aspects of popular culture and although slightly different coming from their perspective cities, they melded together to create a fun-filled weekend that everyone could enjoy. Thank you TokyoxBrooklyn for an enjoyable weekend and we hope to return again next year!
Live report by: Kathy V. & Melissa C.
For full gallery of photos, please visit Flickr here.