WagakkiBand are not your usual traditional band or standard rock band. They blend both Wagakki, traditional Japanese musical instruments, with standard rock instruments. And it is a unique experience!

WagakkiBand performed at New York City’s Irving Plaza on Monday, March 14, 2016 to a full house; for a Monday night, the venue was packed and the crowd enthusiastic. This is a band you can appreciate their elegance in some songs meanwhile you can headbang to other songs. Containing 8 members, the band fit quite comfortably on the small stage of Irving Plaza.

Before they even entered the stage, a projection screen covering the stage was showing footage of WagakkiBand performances in Japan. (This screen typically only shows upcoming events at the venue.) The stage was set with a drum kit, wadaiko (taiko) drums and a koto. The members entered bringing with them a guitar, a bass, a shamisen, and a shakuhachi (a type of flute). All of these instruments blended together beautifully for the unique sound that is WaggakiBand. Their outfits exemplified their traditional aspect.

Vocalist Yuko moved around elegantly in her kimono with her fan as she sung all the notes in perfect pitch. Drummer Wasabi painted a symbol on his back that he said represented New York. He paints a new symbol on his back every night.

“Thank you for having us here! We are so excited!” Yuko said. “This is the first time we’re playing in New York. Do you know what Wagakki means?” And the audience cheered. They knew what it meant, but she went on to explain for those who weren’t aware. “Tonight is very special show for us. Please enjoy our show!”

Guitarist Machiya had some very animated facial expressions as he played and move around the stage. He stood back to back with Yuko more then once as she sang and he played. It created a nice visual as the lights shown only on them and dimmed on the others. The lighting always accentuated the mood of the music. Some fans in the audience even had light sticks and used them during certain songs, adding to this feeling.

There was one moment that was more then just a musical performance. It was a theatrical performance. With only the koto playing and chimes ringing, Yuko performance a dance with a fan in each hand. The lights dimmed and the shakuhachi could be heard. She dropped her fans and picked up a sword. Unsheathing the sword, she fell to the ground and appeared to stab herself. The music became dramatic. She slowly fell down, the life draining from her. The moment felt straight out of a Japanese drama or movie.

Yuko then rose up and performed using the sword rather then her previous fans. She was a warrior in a kimono. The audience cheered as the scene finished and the band all returned to the stage.

Later on in the show, everyone left the stage except the pair of drummers. It was time for a Drum Battle! The audience members with light sticks held them up and cheered on as Kurona on wadaiko drums and Wasabi on traditional western drums battled it out! They each worked their best at their respective drums but they also worked together to create a passionate sound. The audience clapped along to cheer them both on.

“Are you having fun?” Kurona asked. Then beat out a rhythm of 3 beats and asked everyone to chant back to him the “dun dun dun” of the beat of the drums. Wasabi then did the same thing on his drum kit. “That’s no good. You can do better!” Kurona said, “Let’s try again, ok? Are you ready?” They each beat out a longer rhythm and again the audience chanted the pattern back to them. “That was good!” Kurona approved. “Amazing! One more time! Are you ready?” They repeated the process a few times before adding to their drumming beats a chant of, “U.S.A.!” “WaggakiBand!”
They kept increasing the beat until it was so fast, all the audience could do was applaud.

And then. The lights went dark except for blue lighting on the drums and instead of drumsticks, they were each using light sticks! They drummed away with light up drumsticks, creating an unforgettable visual.

The band had only a few more songs left for the evening and they went out with a bang! The energy was kept up high and the audience was left craving more as they left the stage. After shouts of “En-co-re!” the band graciously returned to play one last song of the evening. Each member put their all into this last song, and the crowd kept their arms in the air cheering them on.

After saying thank you one last time, all 8 members took a bow. They each waved as they began to leave the stage, smiles all around after a clearly successful performance.

1 Senbonzakura
2 Ikusa
3 Iroha Uta
4 Akatsukino Ito
5 Tengaku
6 Beni Solo
7 Yoshiwara Lament
8 Nijiiro Cho Cho
9 Kurona, Yuko, Kiyoshi and Daisuke
SE Senbonzakura
10 Homura
11 Shiromadara
12 Hengeki no Yaiba
13 Drum Daiko Battle
14 Hoshizukiyo
15 Rokuchonen to Ichiya Monogatari
16 Hanfurumai
EN1 Senbonzakura

WagakkiBand will be returning to America in July their 1st US Tour. It will include three performances in California. Please check out their official webpages for more details, including this post on Facebook.