An eerie SE gave way to the entrance of the well-known live house band DIAURA, who drew the largest crowd yet to the Visual stage. The vicious set began with Taidou and its side-to-side headbanging, followed by the heavy drumming of Akai Kyozou, complete with Tatsuy’s enthusiastic screaming from his seat.
yo-ka’s MC struck a chord; in the middle of the band’s serious, vicious set list, he took a rare moment to break the fourth wall and address the audience in earnest, “There must be a lot of people here seeing us for the first time. Please remember us, and have fun.” yo-ka went on to explain to newcomers that the band’s fans are called “gumin,” and asked the gumin and the new faces alike to be kind to each other during their short time together. “Everyone be nice. I know we seem like rough people, too, but we’re just enjoying ourselves.”
The set resumed and concluded with the powerful song MASTER. Features of the performance were Kei’s center-stage guitar solo and the crowd’s singing along during one refrain. There was still an air of excitement lingering when DIAURA took their leave from the stage.
01. 胎動 (Taidou)
02. 赤い虚像 (Akai Kyozou)
03. 倒錯症レジスタンス (Tousakusha Resistance)
We’ll admit we were a little puzzled when we saw Mumiy Troll’s name in the lineup for Visual Japan Summit. “Who is that?” we wondered. “Are they even visual kei?” The honest answer is, “No.” Mumiy Troll is a Russian band that was popular in both their home country and Japan in the 1980’s. We decided to chalk this up to X JAPAN inviting some of their many, many overseas musician pals.
Despite the disassociation from visual kei, Mumiy Troll’s set was definitely fun. Though most of them have since lost their big, teased 80’s hairstyles, they still retain their energetic pop rock sound. They were one of the few bands that made use of the projector screens, flashing images of…cats in space? Anime-style music videos? Video game-style graphics? You could definitely see the Japanese influence in their visuals.
In his MC (delivered in Japanese!), Ilya Lagutenko thanked Yoshiki for the invitation to play at VJS. “Today is my actually my birthday. This is the best birthday present I could have ever received!” They even chose to sing one of their songs, Girl, entirely in Japanese.
Though many in the audience started watching Mumiy Troll’s set completely unaware of who they are, it’s safe to say that through their catchy pop rock sound and their bright attitude, they gained at least a few new fans.
04. Vladivostok Vacation
05. Polar Bear
The high-impact Suiren was a strong opening and grand introduction for visual kei veterans MUCC. Visualizations of cloudy scenery rolled over the main screen with Tatsurou’s eerie vocals during the quieter parts of the song, while the catchier parts had the members bobbing around the stage.
The ever popular ENDER ENDER followed with an even greater response from the crowd. Lyrics appeared on screen for the audience to sing (or scream) along as they pleased. Miya shone with his guitar sections on this song in particular.
Tatsurou delivered what we think was the best MC of the whole festival. He talked about discovering visual kei in his youth and deciding to make music. He never thought they’d end up there. “When people ask, ‘Do you like visual kei?’ I want people to say, ‘Yes, I like visual kei’ with pride. We’re not just bands with makeup.” He thanked Yoshiki for inviting them to such a big event, and the audience thanked Tatsurou for lifting up their spirits.
It was the perfect segue into Heide, a song in which the band flashed brilliant images of nature on the back screen, highlighting the song’s dramatic and hopeful mood. In Ranchuu, the band successfully got everyone to sit down and jump, and they closed out their set with TONIGHT, where Ken from L’Arc~en~Ciel made a surprise appearance on guitar.
MUCC’s set was packed with new songs, classics, brilliant instrumentation, pride, and a few surprises.
01. 睡蓮 (Suiren)
02. ENDER ENDER
04. ハイデ (Heide)
05. 蘭鋳 (Ranchuu)
vistlip had a very upbeat set. They kicked off with SINDRA, and Recipe got the audience jumping up and down. Tomo asked the audience if they were having a good time. He mentioned how moved he was by Tatsuro’s MC, and talked about how vistlip was another band that was surprised at just how far they’d come. They’d recently played a show in Kumamoto and felt the reality of playing all over Japan. He was grateful for the support from fans and said he hoped he could continue bringing vistlip’s act to them.
Things got a little more heated during My second B-day., where the audience became a sea of hair whipping back and forth. They kept that energy up for GLOSTER IMAGE, and closed out on a slightly more dramatic note with low, red lighting for LAYOUT.
03. My second B-day.
04. GLOSTER IMAGE
We know, we know – there are still a lot of visual kei fans that don’t care for Golden Bomber. The comedic act is notorious for having instrumentalists that don’t actually play their instruments. Because of their insane humor, though, they’ve captured hearts all over Japan. If you’d been at Visual Japan Summit, you might have been converted to a Golden Bomber fan.
Their set opened with a figure kneeling in the center of the stage, the spotlight shining down on their back. The music video for Mizushoubai wo Yamete kurenai ka began playing, then was cut off when the members ran onto the stage in full-out X JAPAN cosplay to play a cover of Kurenai. Golden Bomber fans and X fans alike went nuts. For the grand finale, drummer Kenji (or should we say, Yoshiki) stumbled up to a cardboard gong. When he beat it, all of the members abruptly collapsed onto the ground.
The band took time to introduce themselves after the laughter and applause had died. Vocalist Kiryuuin Sho said he was glad no one got mad, because they were wondering just how far they could go with their parody. Drummer Kenji mentioned their drumset was borrowed from YOSHIKI himself.
Several things happened in the song that followed, Dakishimete Schwarz. Pretty much all of Makuhari Messe kept up with the furitsuke–fan or not. Kyan Yutaka whipped out a guitar made entirely of Umaibo (a popular Japanese snack) and began chomping on it. When a cardboard drumset appeared on stage, Kenji crashed into it in true YOSHIKI style, and even went so far as to throw one of the drums into the audience (with cartoon-y sound effects, of course). The gong made its appearance once again, and the members collapsed when Kenji banged it.
Other highlights included the music video and ridiculously complicated furitsuke for the ultimate visual kei parody, Yokubou no Uta; traditional visual kei furitsuke for The V-kei poi Kyoku; and a surprise appearance from YOSHIKI at the end of Memeshikute (which even the members were surprised by). Golden Bomber was definitely one of the highlights of the whole festival.
01. 水商売をやめてくれないか～紅 (Mizushoubai wo Yamete kurenai ka~Kurenai)
02. 抱きしめてシュヴァルツ (Dakishimete Schwarz)
03. 欲望の歌 (Yokubou no Uta)
04. ✝ザ・V系っぽい曲✝ (The V-kei poi Kyoku)
05. 女々しくて (Memeshikute)
Having originally formed in 1992, cali≠gari is another forefather of the visual kei scene and still brings the unique and strange to stage even today. The band’s infamous vocalist, Shuuji, came on stage in a puff-shouldered pantsuit, something of a cross between Tim Burton movies and Robert Smith of The Cure. The rest of the band was dressed appropriately in black, and if the dress and the nu-wave SE wasn’t enough indication, there was some oddity in store in this set.
A simple but heavy number, Machina’s “high-energy goth” sound grabbed the attention of more of the attendees passing by the stage, which was retained especially by the theatrics by Ao on bass (and by Inbi Marude Chaos Na, on hand-raving, as well).
It wasn’t possible to prepare for the noise, chaos, and wonder that came with the second-to-last song of the set, Siren. The stage descended into madness little by little, with Shuuji channeling David Bowie in the way he presented himself, Ao banging his microphone into his head and collapsing (intentionally) on stage, and the haunting screeching vocals that began to echo out.
Siren bled into Kusobaka Gomigero, when Shuuji suddenly from the stage. (Worry not — he reappeared climbing the siding on the outside of the left-hand side of the stage, where the arena cameras had such a hard time filming him that most of the audience was left confused about his whereabouts.) He before long to scream at the audience and see them off at the end of the sublimely bizarre set.
01. オーバーナイトハイキング (Overnight Hiking)
02. マネキン (Manequin)
03. マッキーナ (Machina)
04. 淫美まるでカオスな (Inbi Marude Chaos Na)
05. アレガ☆パラダイス (Arega ☆ Paradise)
06. サイレン (Siren)
07. クソバカゴミゲロ (Kusobaka Gomigero)
LUNA SEA was one of the few days who played for more than one day of the festival. Lucky fans who were able to attend both Days 1 and 3 were treated to two very different setlists. Moonlight Sonata led them in, and the band kicked off with one of their most well-known tunes, ROSIER. At the end of BELIEVE, Shinya delivered an impressive and speedy drum solo.
“How’s everyone doing? It’s the final day of Visual Japan Summit, and it’s also a full moon!” Ryuuichi told the audience in his MC. He talked about the band’s history in relation to X JAPAN a bit and expressed that despite their trials in the past, LUNA SEA wants to go farther than ever. Then fans were treated to a couple of rare songs – DESIRE and Sweetest Coma Again.
gravity slowed things down a bit, then picked up again throughout STORM, SHINE, and TONIGHT. In traditional LUNA SEA style, they wrapped it up with WISH, the whole audience singing along.
04. END OF SORROW
05. Sweetest Coma Again
07. I for You
Sandwiched between the two biggest acts of the night, Kiryu played to the biggest crowd for any sub-stage band on day 3. It was an interesting selection: a heavy band influenced by traditional Japanese culture, artistry, and instruments, something to keep the crowd on its toes between the “big two.”
The members entered twirling with the long sleeves of their furisode kimono and fans whirling around them on the way to their respective spots on stage. The first song, Amaterasu (named after a principle Shinto deity), incorporated the sounds of the harp-like koto, alongside a guitar solo by Takemasa.
Irodori introduced fan-waving furitsuke and shamisen lines for a different kind of traditional sound — but still came with a section heavy enough to induce forward-folding headbanging. At center stage, Mahiro was just as much a frontman as a vocalist, with his well-practiced arm movements flowing smoothly to guide the crowd.
During the MC, Mahiro introduced the band to the sea of new faces, and appealed to the diverse audience in acknowledging the band’s considerable differences from LUNA SEA and X JAPAN. He went farther, relating that when Kiryu began the members were much like the fans in the crowd, following bands like X JAPAN. The surprise of the set followed: a cover of hide with Spread Beaver’s Pink Spider, which was of course received thunderous cheers.
The final song, Hyakki Yakou, ended on a powerfully “rock” note, with death voice and wild headbanging to rev the audience up for what was to follow.
Kiryu made a shining impact in bringing the ‘visual’ part of ‘visual kei’ to the stage. The members each stood out in their own brilliant but thematically similar costumes, all wearing a different color much like the kotekote visual kei bands of old. With well-written music to boot, we’re sure some of the attendees seeing them for the first time will be going back for more.
01. 天照 (Amaterasu)
02. 彩 (Irodori)
03. 月下美人 (Gekka Bijin)
04. ピンクスパイダー (Pink Spider) (hide with Spread Beaver cover)
05. 百鬼夜行 (Hyakki Yakou)
The grand finale had come. YOSHIKI took the stage amid smoke and stood at his drum set, back lighting only revealing his silhouette. JADE began with a burst of shouts, smoke, and fire. SUGIZO warmed up the audience on the wings of the Summit Stage right from the get-go.
“Makuhari!” ToshI shouted after the first song was finished. “Feel the spirit of visual kei and go crazy!” And then Rusty Nail began. All the members took turns using up the whole stage, getting as close to as much of the audience as possible.
In the MC that followed, YOSHIKI and ToshI psyched out the audience a few times by starting to sing bits of X JAPAN classics: Unfinished and You Say Anything. YOSHIKI finally put an end to it by telling ToshI to get on with the MC. “We didn’t plan this, I swear!” he told the audience. “I’m just playing piano!” Then Forever Love began, the audience swaying gently.
Things heated up with Kurenai, SUGIZO getting his chance to shine with a rocking guitar solo. YOSHIKI took the mic to thank fans for all the support they’ve given the band since the last Extasy Summit 24 years ago. Through hard times, they’d always been there. He also asked everyone to support all of the other great bands that performed at Visual Japan Summit over the past three days.
X JAPAN’s set continued with a clip of La Venus (featured in We Are X) and BORN TO BE FREE. The entire audience of over 35,000 performed the X Jump in X, and YOSHIKI struck the giant gong on stage during the “We are…!” call and response. The band disappeared for a few minutes, then returned for WORLD ANTHEM and ENDLESS RAIN. The voices of the audience singing a capella echoed throughout Makuhari Messe.
SUGIZO returned to grace the audience with a stunning violin solo, and then ART OF LIFE was the final song in the setlist, and the final song of Visual Japan Summit.
02. Rusty Nail
03. FOREVER LOVE
04. 紅 (Kurenai)
05. BORN TO BE FREE
07. WORLD ANTHEM
08. ENDLESS RAIN
09. SUGIZO violin solo
10. ART OF LIFE
Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end! We truly hoped you enjoyed our journey through all three days of Visual Japan Summit 2016 as much as we did. If there are any bands you think you want to check out, we’ve provided links to each band’s OHP in their respective section.
While we’re unsure if there will be another Visual Japan Summit, we do know that there are more than enough fans in Japan (and overseas) that would love for it to happen. What bands do you want to see there? Let us know in the comments!
Reports by Ku and Shannon
Photos: © VISUAL JAPAN SUMMIT 2016 Powered by Rakuten.