Emcees Tatsuro (MUCC) and George (LADIES ROOM) appeared on the Visual Stage to introduce the first band of Day 2, VALS. VALS is best known as the visual kei/dance hybrid project produced by SID’s Mao. The mix was as interesting as you’d expect; they kicked off with Silhouette. The music sounded not too far off from a traditional poppy visual kei tune, especially with vocalist Rio’s singing style. However, it was the synchronized and energetic choreography of KEIN and Nao10 kept one’s eyes glued to the stage. They followed it up with the jazzier Tsukiakari, and closed out with deuce, an intense tune that had a little rap thrown in by the dancing duo.
01. シルエット (Silhouette)
02. 月陽 (Tsukiakari)
ASH DA HERO was the first band to warm up the Japan Stage of Day 2. They’re an act that arguably straddles the boundary between visual kei and non-visual kei, but they drew a sizeable crowd nonetheless. You Gotta Power opened their set, heavy and hard. Their set quickly picked up the pace with WAKE UP ROCK AND ROLL BAND, where the audience clapped, the instrumentalists broke into a two-step dance, and vocalist ASH got a little too enthusiastic with his tambourine and ended up breaking it.
HERO IS BACK 2 sounded something more akin to traditional visual kei. He asked the audience to hold up their middle finger in solidarity and told the audience to remember them. After their high-energy set closed out with Hankou Seimei and HELLO NO FUTURE, we’re sure most of the attendees at VJS for that set will remember them.
01. You Gotta Power
02. WAKE UP ROCK AND ROLL BAND
03. HERO IS BACK 2
04. 反抗声明 (Hankou Seimei)
05. HELLO NO FUTURE
Our first taste of the visual kei sound that most of us are accustomed to came with FEST VAINQUEUR. HAL’s shocking red hair and leopard print costume, along with the other members’ equally colorful looks, screamed visual. In tribute to X JAPAN’s hide, they had a replica hide guitar placed on stage, yellow with red hearts. FEST opened their set with Valencia to Virginia – energetic, bright, and shout-y. When the song was finished, HAL told he audience he was excited and proud to play at VJS and that it was their first time ever playing at Makuhari Messe.
Bikanbana and Gendaiteki Giwaku Toshi’DOUBT followed in the set, giving VJS attendees a taste of FEST’s Japanese-inspired musical style along with catchy guitar solos and on-point fan furitsuke. The curtain closed on FEST’s set with NANIWA SAMBA.
01. ヴァレンシアとヴァージニア (Valencia to Virginia)
02. ヒガンバナ～花魁道中～ (Bikanbana~Oirandouchuu~)
03. 現代的疑惑都市’DOUBT! (Gendaiteki Giwaku Toshi’DOUBT!)
04. NANIWA SAMBA
The first hard-hitting deathvoice-packed band to take the stage on day two, Grieva brought the atmosphere of a small Tokyo live house show to the hall with their theatrics. From their costumes to their sound, to their stage presence, the five-member unit put on a performance with a different kind of impact from most other bands of the morning.
Vocalist Kyouki entered only after the other four had taken their places. The set list started with a powerful rendition of Jiko Seishin Satsugai Suishinkai, during which the crowd was riled into screaming echoes of “Korose! Korose! Korose! (Kill! Kill! Kill!)” after Kyouki. Much of their set — including the opening song — was reminiscent of Dir en grey songs from the late ’90s, a stylistic choice that may have been effective in catching the attention of attendees more familiar with visual kei of that era.
With Grieva’s MC consisting of a few short crowd-riling shouts, the performance stuck to the same strong, dark, goth stage presence throughout without breaking any fourth walls. Shitou‘s wild screaming transitioned smoothly into the final song, Dead(en)D, featuring Haru and Hisame‘s background shouts with Kyouki wildly headbanging from a kneeling position in the center of the stage.
All in all, Grieva’s set had an unapologetic indies feel hard to come by in venues the size of Messe, and offered a little something different amid the big-name acts in attendance.
SE. Type [Requiem] 01. Jiko Seishin Satsugai Suishinkai (自己精神殺害推進會)
03. Shitou (死闘)
ALDIOUS is a band not only markedly different from the bands before and after them, but also a rather unique piece of the festival in that they were the only all-female band to appear among the overwhelmingly male lineup. At first glance they group may look like little more than hostesses in fluffy dresses, but their set showed naysayers that their position at the festival was as well-earned as any of the other artists. Their opening song, Kikka, is a power balled which was strategically placed at the beginning of their set list: not only did it give their set list some variation, it also allowed them to gradually rev the crowd up from the start of the set to the end.
Sweet Temptation flipped the atmosphere into that of a rock show, with vocalist Re:NO whipping her long, blonde hair up and down while band mates Sawa and Toki headbanged in opposite circular motions.
Toki remained a highlight throughout the show, thrashing around the stage and spitting water into the crowd like a punk rocker in spite of her glamorous appearance. Dominator closed their set out with galloping double bass drumming by Marina, befitting of the stepdaughter of world-renowned drummer Terry Bozzio.
Even more than the fact that they were the sole female band of the festival, ALDIOUS’ distinct style and sound were what gave this band a unique place among the artist lineup.
01. Kikka (菊花)
02. Sweet Temptation
03. THE END
The next band to appear on the Japan Stage was a force to be reckoned with. Matenrou Opera is fronted by vocalist Sono, who boasts considerable power behind his melodic tones and practiced vibrato. Keyboardist Ayame is another a stand-out addition to the lineup, and could be seen playing the keytar during this particular set as well. It would be hard to say anything other than that every member of this band is extremely talented and it showed at such an event.
BURNING SOUL led off the set with excellent drumming and a long guitar solo before giving way to a brief MC. Sono explained that if any day was the day for a cover, it was today — and they launched into X JAPAN’s Kurenai, which Matenrou Opera recorded in 2011 on “Crush! -90’s V-Rock Best Hit Cover Songs-.”
The set only took a brief turn with an ’80s synth sound for Psychic Paradise, then ended with a bang on PHOENIX, the performance of which becoming of an X JAPAN festival. In the end, even with a modest time slot, it can only be said that Matenrou Opera owned the Japan stage every second that they were on it.
01. BURNING SOUL
02. Kurenai (紅) – (X JAPAN cover)
03. Psychic Paradise
A9 were the first to appear on the big Summit Stage for Day 2. Tatsuro and GEORGE called out the band by asking the audience, “Want to see some handsome men!?” Then the members of A9 took the stage, garbed all in simple white. As Senkou began, the audience began clapping to the beat or waving their official Visual Japan Summit light sticks. Stylish patterns and color graphics appeared on the back screen, creating a visual look that went beyond the members’ costumes or sound.
After SHINING, Show took the mic for an MC. Since a large amount of people in the audience weren’t there exclusively for A9, the talented vocalist took a minute to explain that the band used to be Alice Nine, but now they’re known as A9. He also vowed that though guitarist Hiroto rocked the audience in X Suginami on Day 1, A9 wouldn’t lose to the super copy band. He then handed the microphone to Hiroto. The guitarist said he was grateful to have been able to play on the same stage as his mentors X JAPAN and GLAY, and declared that he would strive to be just as great—maybe even greater—than them one day.
They asked the audience to perform an “A jump” with both arms joined together above fans’ heads (the A9 version of the X jump) during the next song, RAINBOWS. The contrast between its dark, heavy beat and the sudden burst of people performing the A jump was almost comical. A9 closed their set with Shunkashuutou and the beautiful name, leaving the stage in a flurry of applause.
01. 閃光 (Senkou)
04. 春夏秋冬 (Shunkashuutou)
05. the beautiful name
Despite the limited time for each set on the Visual Stage, defspiral made their entrance appropriately dramatic, vocalist TAKA stepping onto the stage platform while back lighting created smoky silhouettes of the members. They opened their set with VOYAGE off their second album. It lured the audience in, dark and mysterious. SILVER ARROW followed, then the crowd got to jumping and clapping with MASQUERADE, where MASATO executed an impressive guitar solo to the giant crowd. Even TAKA did a little dancing on stage.
In their MC, TAKA said he was grateful for the opportunity to be around such wonderful music and friends. With those feelings in mind, defspiral closed out their set with ESTRELLA, a slow ballad from their latest album.
02. SILVER ARROW
The visual kei community has been pretty excited about THE THIRTEEN since their recent debut – so recent that it’s pretty impressive they scored a spot on the Japan Stage at Visual Japan Summit. When vocalist Mao took the stage, he was holding a handmade, framed version of X JAPAN’s first album. This display of respect and fandom was shown by many of the more recent bands, but this was arguably one of the more unique ones.
THE THIRTEEN’s set opened with LIAR.LIAR., prompting a flurry of headbanging and screams. During the chorus, the audience raised their fists and shouted “Woah!” along with the other members on backing vocals. It was a satisfyingly high-energy way to start the set. CHAINSAW featured some rap-like bits mixed in with a decidedly visual-sounding chorus. 13’s BLOOD kept the audience moving.
“We are THIRTEEN!” Mao shouted to the audience. “We are…” he continued in an attempt to encourage the audience to mimic the X call. Their set closed out with KILLER MAY, a tune in which Mao had a shouting battle with the audience. “Another one of our dreams has been fulfilled!” the vocalist said before leaving the stage.
03. 13’s BLOOD
04. KILLER MAY
The second band to appear on the main stage, Plastic Tree took the festival in a whole new direction. Where we were used to hearing high-energy, loud, heavy rock until this point, the veteran band brought an ambient atmosphere to the arena from the moment their SE cued.
Vocalist Ryutarou, looking snug in his long, loose-fitting all-black clothes, introduced the set with a meek, “Plastic Tree is startiiiing,” and the psychedelic song Irogoto began. The mellow vocalist followed the song with a surprisingly energetic shout — “Makuhari!!” which transitioned well into the popular, and more upbeat, Melancholic.
By the time Mime began, Ryutarou had ditched his rhythm guitar role and began dancing around — just a bit, of course. For his endearing MC before the final song, Kuuchuu Blanco, he spoke to the audience again: “Today’s show has been short, but it’s been a really fun time. Are you enjoying it?”
From guitarist Akira’s talented shredding and arpeggio, to bassist Tadashi’s wandering along the catwalk that stretched down his side of the stage, and back to Ryutarou’s occasional slow twirling, Plastic Tree delivered a simultaneously mellow and enthusiastic set. In the end, the band exited on a dramatic note with Kuuchuu Blanco’s ending fade, and left the stage without another word to the crowd.
01. Irogoto (イロゴト)
02. Melancholic (メランコリック)
03. Fukurou (梟)
04. Mime (マイム)
05. Kuuchuu Blanco (空中ブランコ)
Reports by Ku and Shannon
Photos: © VISUAL JAPAN SUMMIT 2016 Powered by Rakuten.