This is a report I wrote a few months ago (as the date will tell), but was never published online. So, I’d like to share it with you, in hopes that you may learn about a new band or two!
(At the time of this report NEXX had not announced their dissolution.)
Heavy rain did nothing to deter a small crowd from forming outside of Quarter as early as an hour before doors opened on September 18, 2011, to one of the rare few visual kei live tours to come up to the area. Tohoku, the north-eastern part of Japan which includes Aomori, is so far out of the way for most musicians that it frequently gets missed on tours. It goes without saying that local visual fans were eager for the opportunity to attend a live close to home.
The first band to take the stage was global ray, a local group from Aomori reminiscent of the “Soft V” genre in looks with a pop-rock sound. Though the locals call them “osare”, they came across a little too dark (and almost menacing!) in presence to fit the title. Their five-song set included “Kusatta Umi to Akai Sora”, an attention-getter with melodic guitar sections and smooth solos. “Byakuya”, their final, made their overall sound a little heavier with the use of an impressive grinding guitar and bass section. The band members tended to keep to their own parts of the stage and only seemed to get more comfortable with showmanship at the end of their set. They have potential, without a doubt.
Note came on next, opening with a considerably long instrumental track before any members set foot on stage. As the music played on, the tension in the room rose and finally we had our second act. Hailing from Morioka, Note’s members wore all black and had an eerier look than the first act. Their sound was easily heavier, incorporating guttural screams, low guitar riffs, and pounding bass lines that could shake you to the bone. After four songs their set was over, but not before warming the audience up for the next band.
NEXX was a stark contrast to the darker-looking bands before them; they entered in sparkly sequined outfits, boasted brightened dyed hair, and carried with them an undeniable upbeat energy that hadn’t before been present on stage. Though their looks were osare without a doubt, their sound was not what might have been expected. CHISA’s melodic vocals atop heavy backing music frequently shifted to growls that suited the band’s brilliant energy surprisingly well. Throughout their four-song set, NEXX boasted harmonic guitar sections that showed off how well-matched the newest guitarist, hayato, was to hide (guitar), despite playing together for less than a year. They stood out from the bands before them and the bands that were to come and definitely put on a memorable act.
Fourth in the lineup came resilience in the form of a five-man band down to four members with their vocalist out ill. Many fans were unsure of just how dolore would perform without ZERO, their front man. Guitarist TOWMA took center-stage but without disturbing the front-and-center spot where their vocalist would normally stand. He used the microphone that stood there quite a bit for MCs until the last song, when he asked the audience for permission to sing for ZERO. The previous three songs had included a vocal track in the background while the band played with seemingly no hesitation about the fact that they were missing a member.
Osaka-based Royz was welcomed to the stage fifth by the most enthusiastic fans yet. Similar to NEXX, they also donned shiny costumes, a rainbow of dyed hair between the members, and somehow even more energy which was put into every minute they performed. “JOKER” opened the set with some complicated furi that the audience seemed to have no problem jumping right into. Upbeat and enjoyable throughout, their bright music, sprinkled with heavy riffs and occasional growling from Subaru (vocals), challenged everyone to follow the beat with some of the most complex furi the night had to offer. Royz closed their set with “still”, a soft song which incorporated the use of band-brand light sticks. Before they turned the stage over to the sixth act, several members leaned into the crowd to touch and shake hands.
Another sparkling band entered. SCAPEGOAT was up to rock the live house with a stunning five song set. Yet another band with boundless energy, they saw more audience participation than any act so far, with even the very back row swinging their arms and head banging accordingly. Haru’s melodic voice carried over the sea of furi and dropped onto the crowd in contrasting growls that suited their music well.
It’s hard to overstate how intense and emotive the final band was, and even harder to try and describe their music. Originally from Sendai, MoNoLith brings something unusual to the visual kei scene. The band is a five-piece unit. They only have one guitarist, but two vocalists, which made for beautiful and riveting harmonies throughout their set. The venue was practically thrumming with energy as they performed, while even the fans in the back of the live house participated in the furi. Their fourth song, a new tune called “dizzy★monster”, required some demonstration for the hand movements but everyone cooperated and it was all great fun.
In the band, Ryu’s voice is sweet and pretty, while Keita’s screams are expert. The real hook about this duo, however, is the fact that they are multi-faceted; Keita’s singing voice was also beautiful, and Ryu could handle his growling. With these two leading the band, MoNoLith had the entire venue moving until the end. The conclusion was “Gobura”, a song that was particularly striking in the fact that its furi included kneeling not once but twice – and everyone in the hall complied.
There couldn’t have been a much stronger ending for a rare night of visual kei in Aomori. The combination of different sounds from these different bands all but guaranteed there was something for every visual rock fan to enjoy. If you ever have a chance to get out and see some Tohoku visual kei you’ll surely find something you like, too!
1. Ruri (tentative title)
2. Wake up
4. Kusatta Umi to Akai Sora
1. Gravy Sauce
2. Mirai Torippa
3. CANDY CANDLE
5. FADE OUT
6. the Worst-Seller NoveL [ist]
Encore 1. Tenohira
Encore 2. Gobura