Part three of my vacation to Osaka with Evenor, in which we attend the MIRAGE × Matina anniversary event.
On Saturday, we woke up and trekked through a labyrinthine mall to find the POMPOMPURIN Café.
Prior to the live, we lined up outside with the other fans. At some point, we heard gasps from the other fans, and turned around to see the members of La'veil MizeriA breezing down the street towards us, all clouds of black fabric and neon hair. Somber-faced, they clomped past us in their platform boots and disappeared into the livehouse.
Afterward, there was some confusion with the entry order (not just between us foreigners, shockingly), but soon enough we were all heading single-file up the narrow stairs into amHALL.
At the top of the stairs was a lobby area. To the left of us were coin lockers and a few large flower stands for the event. To the right of us were merch tables, and a staff-only door (which we were lucky enough to catch a member of Crucifixion cutting through the line to head into).
Also on the right was a wall covered in posters, to which a brand new, gorgeous poster of KISAKI had been affixed.
Still inside the lobby, we made our way to the staff table and handed over our tickets, plus 600 yen each for a drink voucher. We declared which bands we had come to see--thanks to cultic for explaining that in advance!--and received a packet of flyers.
The hall itself was much larger than Shinsaibashi FANJ, and the bar was actually inside the hall this time, behind us and to the left. To the right and back of us were several more merch tables, and the MIRAGE table was already accepting purchases, naturally.
Evenor attended the merch table first, and purchased LORELEI BOOTLEG VOL:6--because his purchase over 5,000 yen, he received a ticket to take a photo with his chosen member (KISAKI) after the live.
Afterward, I approached and purchased VOL:5 of the bootleg, and a two-set of KISAKI stickers which had the same design as the poster that I'd encountered in the lobby. After that, I... basically mumbled and pointed at the goods list until the [awesome] staff member understood that I was asking if the RIKU × KISAKI bootleg was still in stock, to which she replied “sold out.” Bummer!
Goods in hand, I took my spot back beside Evenor, and he pointed out that I'd not received a photograph ticket. It turns out I'd spent 4,800 yen rather than 5,000. Oops.
Sheepishly, I headed back to the merch table. Once again, the staff member was amazing, and somehow understood, through my caveman-like grunts, that I wanted to purchase a signed KISAKI poster and combine that with my previous purchases to receive a photo ticket.
Another staff member appeared and handed me a notebook and pencil--thinking that maybe she was asking which member I wanted a photo with, I confusedly wrote “kisaki.” After seeing the what-the-fuck expression on her face, I realized she was asking for my name (for the signed poster), and so I corrected my mistake. #oop
Embarrassment aside, I'd once again fumbled my way into getting what I wanted: two new bootlegs, a signed poster, and the chance to take a photo with my problematic fav.
Eventually, the music playing over the speakers ended, and the audience stood up for the first band.
Marvelous Cruelty was the first of three Matina-ish kote-kei opening acts.
I was honestly shocked at how much better they sounded live than in their CDs. Their melodies were strong, each member sounded great, and the vocalist was vamping with an energy that honestly shocked me--I felt like he could break his arms with how intensely he was leading the crowd in furi.
(One general note about amHALL: unlike FANJ, the stage was actually much higher than the floor, and also much deeper. The difference in staging, combined with a bit of smoke and much better lighting, made this live somehow feel more “real,” despite us being farther away from the bands.)
After Marvelous Cruelty's performance, I made my way to their merch table, which was in the lobby, and bought a copy of anything I didn't already own. The table was being manned by the vocalist--as well as Ren, ex-vocalist of Dali.
I've been a longtime superfan of Dali, so I was especially shocked to see Ren, despite having suspected for a while that he was acting as producer for the band. It felt like a full-circle moment to encounter him; I only wish I knew enough Japanese to have said something. ...But it probably would have been too awkward anyway, so I'm just happy to know that he's still around 💕
Crucifixion was next. The vocalist--in his black dress, long black hair, sparse monochromatic makeup, and white contacts--was especially striking, and I felt intimidated whenever he would stand at the front of the stage and silently observe the audience.
Again, they sounded much better live than in their CDs. And, as would be the trend at this live, the crowd got slightly bigger and participated slightly more for them than for the previous band.
All members looked gorgeous, played well, and vamped appropriately; but a special shoutout goes to the bassist, and his solos were especially badass. Double special shoutout to the drummer's wig.
This time Evenor went out to the merch table and bought everything by the Crucifixion × La'veil MizeriA session Rasen (らせん). I believe there was some slight confusion about the prices, but the bassist--proving his coolness once again--stepped in to help. The band also seemed to wonder why we were skipping all the Crucifixion CDs, but we already own them all! Sorry guys!
The third opening act was La'veil MizeriA. They had the most commanding presence and were obviously the most popular of the three, and whipped the crowd into frenzy after frenzy.
In terms of personal taste, I prefer the more melody-heavy songs of the previous two openers, but there's something magical about watching a crowd of girls headbang for 15 minutes straight. Also, while vocalist-san spent a lot of time whisper-singing, his screams were amazing.
It was strange to hear those songs live after decades of experiencing them through iTunes. But nostalgia aside, I was even more stricken by how adeptly the members of the session commanded the stage. I can only imagine how special it must have been to see the members' respective bands in their heyday.
SEEK, of vellaDonna, made a special guest appearance during the MC, which was a nice surprise.
Next was MATSUTAKE WORKS (マツタケワークス). I didn't know quite what to expect, but they did that.
Seriously, they sounded amazing, and were super entertaining on stage, and had the crowd going wild. They played several Himitsu Kessha CODOMO A (秘密結社コドモA) songs, and it was nice to see how well those old songs still hold up.
Their only hiccup was a backing track issue which caused them to stop and start a few times--but they handled it well, and even played a [very] brief section of Kamiuta to keep the crowd hype. (Damn, I seriously need to hear that song live someday.)
It was such a downer to see that their only merch was cheki--I was left yearning for a CD. But my prayers seem to have been answered, as they've just announced a mini-album. Hopefully it's as good as their performance was!
emmurée was next. Contrary to the previous bands, their entire set saw the audience standing speechless (per design) while Sou delivered powerhouse vocals and writhed through the dark stage.
Actually footage of Evenor, explaining after the set was finished, why emmurée is his fav:
Next up was a one-day revival of 90s superband GRASS. Even more people filtered into the hall just to see them, and it seemed to be a really emotional moment for some of the attendees.
Fashion choices aside--the 90s jumped out--GRASS were awesome. Despite having not performed together in years, there was little [metaphorical] rust across their set.
What I love about GRASS is the droning, nasal, “Plastic Tree but happier” voice; the clean, high-pitched, almost synthy guitar that goes in unexpected but pleasing directions; and the floaty, videogame-like synth that drifts over it all. It's a really pleasing combination--and their performance almost matched the same quality that their CDs captured 20 years ago.
The best part about GRASS' performance is that the vocalist was getting his gay life, henny--allegedly. He was swirling and twirling all over that stage, in his floral button down.
Next, the one-day revival of obscure 90s band MAZOHYST TRANCE Gakudan Shion (マゾヒストトランス楽団 祇音), which is notable only for having been founded by the vocalist of 【denno:oblaat】 (電脳オヴラアト). For me, this was the wildcard of the night; I had no idea who the members were, or what they were supposed to sound like, or if anyone would even show up for them--is 【denno:oblaat】 (電脳オヴラアト) even popular?!
The answer to my question, apparently, is yes. Even more people piled into the hall, all of them wearing d:o shirts. Interestingly, a bunch of them pulled out their phones and started recording the live--I guess it's something that the vocalist usually allows? I wish that I'd done the same, but I was too afraid.
Anyway, MAZOHYST TRANCE Gakudan Shion (マゾヒストトランス楽団 祇音) took the stage in low-grade, black, 90s Matina-kei costumes; that is, the costumes didn't look expensive--and the wig on that bassist, girl.--but were aesthetically pleasing. The vocalist was also holding a ball of red yarn, which he used as a prop throughout various songs.
Now, as far as the music... these guys were fucking awesome! It was sort of basic Matina-esque dark/gothic fare, but it was carried by delectable grooves. It dripped with atmosphere, and even though the members had obviously not done this kind of performance in 20 years, they took to it like riding a bike.
The vocalist hit all the VK classics: strange hand movements, feigned wrist cutting, crossed-eyes with tongue hanging out, puppet-on-strings, etc. He even melodramatically speared blood all over his face for the final song! Bassist-san, distracting wig aside, also had a nice swagger.
This is the band that I most wish I could hear again--unfortunately, I don't think I'll get the chance to. Apparently the vocalist released a collection of their songs a few years ago, but it wasn't for sale at this live, and I don't expect to see it turn up at auction. But these dudes were seriously good, and I definitely recommend listening to them if you ever get the chance.
🚨 The one really weird thing about their performance... Despite having never heard these guys, I immediately recognized the second song as a track by... SHËY≠DË!?!?
Initially, I was just confused, but then my mind started to race. Is this just a cover, done out of respect for KISAKI? Or did his band rip them off back in the day? Or vice versa?
Now that I'm home, I've been able to investigate a bit more. The song I was remembering is “苦悩二果テニ”, which is the third track in a fake version of the SHËY≠DË demotape DARK SIDE. The fake version has been circulated for years, and the first two tracks are lifted from a Karma (業) release; the third track's origin was unknown until now. Mystery solved, I guess!
(There's still some question as to who made the fake demotape rip in the first place, but...)
Last to the stage, and main act of the night, was MIRAGE.
Honestly, I wondered if KISAKI's tumultuous history might affect turnout; to the contrary, the livehouse filled from front to back for this final performance, with even more attendees arriving and squeezing in toward the bar. And again, I was impressed by the diversity of the crowd: females, males, locals, foreigners, children, adults, older adults, current and former bangya, casual fans, and bandmen alike.
A shot of the crowd. I'm the one with the tilted, monkey-shaped head, just in front of KISAKI. KISAKI_OFFICIAL/小坂 和義
I don't think it's just my bias saying this: MIRAGE were excellent.
AKIRA's deep vocals boomed through us, and not a note was delivered out of place. But I was more impressed with the dark energy that emanated from him: all it took was a single furrowed brow, or a slow, measured arm movement to keep all eyes on him.
(By the way, when MIRAGE was active, AKIRA would often decorate his face or arms with black paint. He'd done the same for this live, but nestled in among the arm design was a signature from “boss KISAKI.”)
YAYOI, on the other hand, had a much brighter energy. His face was permanently affixed with a smile, and he hit every solo with ease. (Guitar prowess aside, his talent for composing is reason enough to stan.)
Finally, “charisma KISAKI” traversed the stage and performed solos with an upbeat energy that belied this possibly being his last live. During I.D, he jumped down from the stage brandishing a mic, and rush back and forth through the audience, encouraging the braver fans to shout into the mic. (Both Ev and I got got!)
Once the main performance was over, the audience called for an encore, and the band returned for one more MC and song. KISAKI's MC was thankful, but measured. At times he seemed to stop himself--perhaps resisting the urge to officially announce retirement--but that's probably for the best.
Anyway, the band's last song was, Hyakka Ryouran, which was one of the first songs that they had ever composed. Sweetly, the original vocalist of MIRAGE, TOMO, appeared on stage during this song, surprising both AKIRA and YAYOI. Although only briefly, he joined in on the singing--such a touching moment.
And then, as quickly as it began, the live was over.
We made a few more purchases after the live: a GRASS sticker, DRESS or NUDE's mini-album. I [stupidly] passed up a chance for RENAME's single, and the KISAKI x RIKU bootleg, which had both been added to MIRAGE's merch table. (Luckily, the bootleg is now available at KISAKI's web shop.) I also picked up my signed/personalized poster at that time.
Sales complete, fans lined up for the photography session, with all but two lining up for KISAKI. One by one, each fan made their way to the curtained-off area to sit beside KISAKI for a quick cheki-style photo. Some cried, some gave gifts, some paused to tell him how much they loved him. I just said hi, sat down, and took a quick photo. (He generously gave a pick to each fan who took a photo with him.)
We took care of our last piece of business--I'd rented a coin locker to store our CDs, but accidentally locked it after putting just two flyers inside it--and left the hall.
KISAKI's recent tweets, and his interview in the latest Cure, imply that he considers his career over due to his “immature behavior.” It seems that he expects to not return to the stage--but it seems that's also learned not to “officially announce” it either way.
Since the live, ex-D≒SIRE guitarist Kiyoshi (MIRAGE support guitarist for this live) tweeted that he expects to meet KISAKI on the stage again someday, and said “if you're immature now, why not continue until you are mature?” Guess we'll see.