Hey Darlings! Somehow in the chaos of this past week, I was able to catch a Visual Kei live in Ikeshita.
The band, NEGA, is relatively new, forming in around 2004. Normally I don't like newer Visual Kei bands... the vocalists lack charisma, or worse, they're EXACTLY like the classics I love.
But Nega is an exception. They've forged their own expressive sound over the years, where the bass guitar often takes over the lead guitar, and the reckless vocalist Jin tears up and down the vocal scale from soft singing to abrasive roars. (On their official website, Jin's profile says "Vomiter" instead of "Vocalist".)
If you'd like to check them out, there's a handful of PV's on Youtube... but be warned, some of their videos are a little taboo. I for one like gore and dark imagery in my music videos, but they're not for the faint of heart. One look at their live poster, and you'll get the idea:
The lives I attend seem to be getting smaller and smaller. I thought my last live at Dolly was the smallest, with around 100 people at most, but this live had barely 50 people! The venue, Club Upset, was on the fifth floor of a building about two minutes from Ikeshita station. The building was on an inner street though, obscured from view, so the seemingly easily directions online ended up causing us grief. Since not many people were attending, you could mistake the queue for a gaggle of school girls; there was only one tenant on duty too, who was also a young girl, so we almost walked by the queue.
But luckily, we spotted the little sign that said "Club Upset", and snagged our spot in line.
The doors opened at six and we began our five story ascent up the winding, narrow stairs. There were no doors to the other floors, the walls were blank white, and the stairs a mottled brick red. It was a little eerie, and fitting for the live.
I'll be honest, the fan club was annoying. My friend warned me ahead of time, that they always take first row and you need special permission to join them. I had no idea they'd be so rude though. They brought little plastic stools to sit on and turned the entire front row into a makeup room, with strawberry, Hello Kitty and Sentimental Circus towels draped over the rails. They bust out their makeup and hairspray and were primping up until the black curtain dropped. Even though there were so few people in the venue, it was a nuisance standing behind these girls. This is about my fifth live in Japan, and the fans have never behaved so immaturely before. Or maybe I'm getting old and have no patience for dang kids these days. xD
Once the live started it was a lot of fun. They mainly played songs from their new album, VANITAS. The opened with PURGATORY and went straight into Fable in the Cold Bed. I was a bit surprised, since that's the order the songs go on the album, but they compliment each other really well when played in that order. After that they mixed up the order and played a good range of everything.
I'm usually a sucker for vocalists, but with Nega I love the bassist. I stayed on the left where I could watch Ray work. As with all bands, it's a matter of chemistry and team work that create a unique sound; but I want to argue that Ray's bass is the supporting backbone of Nega's sound.
Since the live was small, interaction with the fans was close and personal. The band members would reach out into the audience and pull people up closer to the stage, including my friend and I! The vocalist would often lock eyes with me and hold the stare. Ray kept mimicking my movements when I danced, which was fun. xD
And what's one of the best things about a Vkei live? ... The outfits, of course!
Ray wore a thick brocade coat, with corseting in the back and a fur trim. His pants were also brocade, but silver and metallic with tears in them. San, the lead guitarist, had electric blue streaks throughout his black hair, with striking blue contacts, indigo harem pants and a drapey black tank top. Yu, the drummer, drew black markings on his face, and wore a black tank top with army green military style pants.
The "Vomiter" Jin started the live in thigh high leather boots, leather short shorts, and basically, leather straps over his shoulders and chest. He came out in a sparkling silver coat with black fur trim around the hood, but ditched it quickly once things got theatrical. His stage presence is incredible... between him and Ray, you feel competition.
I was really surprised when Jin used one of my favourite tricks... I don't know how else to say it... his face explodes blood! Kyo used to use this trick a lot during Dir en grey's older lives, so I was thrilled.
It sounds like their whole live was fast and heavy, but that wasn't the case. The drummer, Yu, is also a skilled pianist. He had a long, heart gripping piano towards the middle of the live, and when he played, not a single person moved. They incorporated his piano recordings into the background of a lot of their songs too, which you'd think would be confusing with Ray's bass and Jin's vocals... but it smooths out their sound, and creates their own unique flavour.
I really enjoyed this live! Even though Dolly was a fun live too, at the end of the day NEGA is more my thing. Just when I thought the golden age of visual kei was dead, they came along and restored my faith. Long live over dramatics, leather pants and blood tests; V-rock is not dead!
PS- If you do look them up on Youtube, I recommend "Haunted Jealousy". The imagery and lighting in that video always get me, the song is not too heavy, and the content is maybe PG-13 at worst. Hope you like it!