Hana Shounen Baddies “Boys Ride Bicycle” at Shinjuku Blaze
Although they slate themselves as juvenile delinquents, Hana Shounen Baddies proved they were really the good guys in their November 5 performance of “Boys Ride Bicycle.” The tour final was filled with energy, smiles, and superheros and marked Baddies’ last show before a hiatus, so the band made sure it was a memorable experience.
The clapping and chanting blue pom-pom armed crowd were ready to cheer but the show opened on a surprisingly heavy note with pounding bass and Baku announcing their presence in a deep voice. Lamps that looked like fires burned on the edges of the stage as the band saluted the audience in a mockery of heavier visual kei bands before flashing strobes and cheerful music took over and Hana Shounen Baddies were finally able to let out their repressed smiles. Drummer Hiroshi seemed especially excited to be there as he pounded through “Blanco,” then took the platform sporting feathery white wings. “I’m an angel!” he announced to the audience’s laughter, and he was quickly joined by black-winged devil guitarist Takuma. They rapped together for “NBL” with Baku providing the vocals for the chorus. Hiroshi grabbed bassist Tsubuku and forced him to rap along as the band chanted their theme, “We are outcasts.”
“I got scouted by hosts [male escorts] when I was coming here,” Baku began, noting that Shinjuku Blaze was in the heart of Tokyo’s red light district. “I told them I wasn’t a host, and that I’m in a band and they were like ‘Why do visual kei guys look like hosts?’ But I wanted to ask the opposite: Why do hosts copy bandmen?”
In “Atari Hazure Man” the band employed traditional Japanese instruments and festival chanting as they swayed back and forth hypnotically. Baku made up verses to match each member as the fans called their names and they posed. When Baku’s turn came around, the fans couldn’t resist calling “baka [idiot],” and Baku just laughed, making peace signs and cheeky poses.
“Boo Car Go Go” had the feel of an athletic fight song, and fans raised their pom-poms in the air. Baku tried some high kicks before the band was joined onstage by a group of real cheerleaders who danced to the fun, rousing number. Then they were interrupted by a siren and an evil laugh. The cheerleaders screamed and ran offstage, and the band was confronted by an evil overlord in the form of a tall, muscular death-metal rocker with two equally evil henchmen. “Come here, you brats!” he growled. “Who should we take?” Poor Takuma was the victim, and he was led through a series of truly painful Japanese puns and imitations of Shinjuku’s meibutsu (famous people and things) that tortured band and audience alike.
The day was not lost, however–the mysterious warrior Happiness Kamen, who suspiciously resembled Hiroshi in a pink mask and belt with a heart-shaped buckle, appeared. Baku took the drums, and Happiness sang of his prowess while posing like a superhero. In truth, he wasn’t a great vocalist, but it was charming nonetheless. He fought henchmen, but he was not powerful enough to defeat the overlord. “I think I’m going to cry. I’m not strong enough!” Happiness wailed as the fans called for him to do his best. “No, it’s not enough. I must rely on my father!”
The cheerleaders returned with an older man in a polo shirt and mask. Together, father and son defeated the evil overlord and there was an explosion of smoke and streamers as the audience cheered and order was restored. Happiness, having proven a better drummer than hero or singer, returned to his place at the drum kit and it was revealed that the masked man was his actual father. “He used to be in a rock band himself,” Hiroshi explained, “but this was his first time on stage in twenty years!”
“This is the peak, but we’ve still got the second half to go,” Baku told the audience. “Since today’s the tour final, I thought we should do a lonely kind of song: ‘Otome Zakura.’” The slightly jazzy number was followed by the rocking “Yari Ga Furu,” and they kept up the pace for “Book,” the audience clapping manically. Tsubuku and Minemura stepped together for a waltz beat that ended in a high pitched guitar solo, Baku rushing to grab and hang onto the bassist as the song finished with a heavy drum roll.
The stage darkened and Minemura played a soft melody on keyboard. “This has been an awesome final, thank you,” Baku told the crowd. “It’s really all thanks to you, right from the very first day. Ever since I became a musician, I’ve been putting my love into these songs. Will you sing with me?” A chorus of la la la’s began “Bicycle” and Baku was all smiles, his voice swelling to fill the livehouse. The bass was rapid and the performance passionate, and it ended with a bicycle bell chime.
After the stage filled with smoke and paper cherry blossom petals for “Blue Bad Boy,” the band said “Thank you!” and the members waved and exited. They were quick to return for an encore, however, now clad in the tour t-shirts. “Since this is really the last, I thought we’d do something nostalgic,” Baku said, and the fans screamed as they realized what was coming: songs from Baddie’s previous incarnation, Billy. They played “Beautiful Good-bye,” and “Rockin’ Princess,” the former an emotional performance and the latter a positive song with rollicking drum and a run of banshee-like screaming. “I love you!” Baku yelled, and the band made squares with their hands to peer through, trying to frame the audience in a mental photograph before they exited again.
Minemura re-appeared first, with Hiroshi, picking the drummer up and swinging him around. “I’ve been waiting!” cried Hiroshi. “The last day of the tour is the very best,” he continued to try to talk as Tsubuku and Takuma clowned around to distract the audience. “Is anyone even looking at me?” Hiroshi whined. Next Tsubuku made an appeal for the crowd to buy goods. “You’re awesome!” he yelled as the fans informed him the towels had sold out, and he rewarded them by putting on a high-pitched character voice that had everyone laughing. Next was Takuma, who attempted a shimmy-shake to a bossa nova beat. He thanked the audience and said he felt like “our souls are touching” before finishing his emcee with another jazzy dance.
“Baddies leader, Minemura!” Baku called, and Minemura removed his glasses and licked his lips in an attempt to play the sexy bandman. He then let out a yell that seemed to go on forever, prompting Baku to exclaim that their leader was “scary!” But Minemura composed himself and thanked the fans for the concert. “We won’t have a live for a while after today, but I’m happy to see all your amazing faces.”
Now Baku spoke again. “We’ve been helped by so many people for this show and I want to thank everyone. Our idea is that we want to passionately express ourselves and make songs from our love, our experience, the things we enjoy. To do that, we need to take a break for a while but we’ll never quit music. It’s the only way we know how to show our feelings. We promise we’ll see you again.”
The hall was dead silent, and Baku looked taken aback at the lack of reaction. “You don’t want to see us again?” “I think they’re in shock ‘baka’ is speaking so seriously,” Minemura pointed out, and Baku laughed. “Well, thank you! Your smiles are so cute, I love you all!”
Now the fans cheered, and blue lights flashed for the groovy “Blossom.” The band saved the fastest song for the end, though they slowed it in the middle for the fans to sing to them. “More!” Baku shouted. “Sing and think of yourselves!” and the fans delivered, voices filling the livehouse. The song picked up triple-time, hair flying everywhere as audience and band dissolved into a flurry of headbanging. “Let’s prepare,” Baku said, raising his pinky in symbol of their promise to meet again. Fans did likewise, and they began the Baddies fan-favorite “Bonjour.”
“How was the tour final, guys?” he asked the band after they finished. “Happiness!” the members replied in turn with the tour’s tag-line, kissing Baku with varying degrees of enthusiasm as fans squealed. Tsubuku threw off his shirt, and Minemura almost did likewise before running offstage. Left behind were Hiroshi and Takuma. “One, two, thank you, Shinjuku Blaze!” they chorused together before running to another mic to try the more difficult “This was Boys Ride Bicycle tour!”
They then proved that boys not only ride bicycles, as Takuma got down on all fours and Hiroshi mounted up, drawing a sword like a knight. Then Takuma stood up, shifting Hiroshi onto his shoulders in an impressive show of strength and ran offstage as the terrified drummer clung to him and created a memorable last impression.
Though Hana Shounen Baddies are on hiatus, those who attended the show were given a flyer with an exciting announcement: the return of Billy, which disbanded in 2009. Billy will be holding two lives in January at Ikebukuro Black Hole and are releasing a new single entitled Marigold while Baddies continue to work on their new album due sometime in 2012. Now wrap your minds around this: Baddies will also be releasing a cover album of Billy songs, available January 18 along with the new Billy single. Who knows what it will sound like, but as the band proved at their tour final, they’re full of unexpected surprises and we’re looking forward to it.
- Sweet Pea
- Atari Hazure Man
- Sakotsu ni Nemure
- Boo Car Go Go
- Happiness Kamen
- Otome Zakura
- Yari Ga Furu
- Blue Bad Boy
- Beautiful Good-bye
- Rockin’ Princess
There are 20 photos in this visual kei exclusive.