Riku’s Birthday Festival at OSAKA RUIDO

Live Report

by chi.yow, Mark Weich, posted March 4, 2014

Osaka-based ZIN’s concept deals with creating “sorrowful Japanese pop” but for the second live event they sponsored at OSAKA RUIDO on February 16, the band chose to embrace the celebration of a happy occasion: the birthday of their vocalist, Riku. The sold-out event featured a variety of currently independent bands, all clamoring to show Osaka that it doesn’t matter when they started in the music scene; all who played that night have the qualities needed to make it to the next level of the industry.

FoLLoW

The first band out of the gates, FoLLoW, opened the event with an enthusiastic tune “ALIVE” that got the crowd dancing from the very beginning, encouraged by both vocalist Masashi and DJ Nao. “Are you ready? Come on! Can you hear me?” Masashi called out before beckoning everyone to start jumping to the energetic beats of “Break.” The band took a pause mid-song in order to introduce additional choreography for the next song. “Can you do it? Show me that you can, later!” The vocalist then counted down for the crowd to start headbanging, following with death voice calls that got some returns from the audience. Bassist Nariyuki motioned for girls to come closer to the stage as Nao disappeared briefly to fetch a drumstick and playfully smash at the cymbals closest to his stan—before the band played an impromptu rock-scissors-paper tournament that resulted in the support drummer signaling for the finishing round of headbanging.

“Thank you for coming to today’s live!” Masashi expressed before commenting on the bad weather and joking about having to arrive via bullet train due to various difficulties. “We had a private talk session earlier and we’ve decided—you know—it’s our guitarist Misono’s birthday soon, too!” This announcement led to a chorus of the birthday song, after which an illustrated board from the fans was passed over to Misono, which he gratefully accepted. “I know we don’t have much time but let’s keep going, shall we?” Masashi riled up the crowd, calling upon them to bring out their towels for the poppy “Summer Time.” Nao worked his turntables as Masashi half-rapped, half-sang out the lyrics. Then Nariyuki stepped up to give a jazzy bass solo before turning to Misono to team up in getting the crowd to clap and jump along to the cheerful beat. “Dancing Venus” brought FoLLoW’s set to a close with a flurry of arms as the crowd followed Masahi’s direction while Misono and Nao mixed guitar and electronic melodies in an innovative duet.

Set list

  1. ALIVE
  2. Break
  3. Summer Time
  4. Dancing Venus

AKQUA

AKQUA was the next band to take the stage with vocalist Shizuku immediately calling for hand-gestured “Hearts!” from the crowd as he ran up to the center podium. He was evidently eager to get them excited for his band’s set before starting into “Lie to the Oath” in which they set their own high-energy start as the crowd hopped from side-to-side. Guitarist Rei stepped forward for a quick guitar solo before the stage became flooded with blue lights to flow into “DREAM.” The song was a happy pop number, featuring a heavy digital influence overlaid with guitar and bass. Shizuku’s enthusiasm was infectious as he ran over to different sections of the front row to energize them into dancing along.

“Good evening, we are AKQUA! Thank you for the sold out show, today. Please treat us well!” Shizuku addressed the crowd before sharing some information about their next lives. “Arcadia” started with a flood of death yells before the guitars kicked in and guitarist Kazuya teasingly made hearts at the crowd between riffs. The guitarist also further encouraged the crowd to clap along to the catchy beats as bassist Yua coolly picked at his strings while checking everyone’s movements. “We’re not done yet. Get your heads ready!” Shizuku warned briefly before the first notes of “Alived” broke out with Kazuya throwing himself into joining into the furious headbanging. He further continued to assist Shizuku in directing the crowd in the continuous choreography  of the number as haku furiously pounded away at his drums. Continuing the trend of electronic combinations, “Ruri no Hana” had Shizuku directing fans to cross the venue floor once more, showing off some of his vibrato capabilities. Yua could be found crouching over his bass as he simultaneously plucked at strings and headbanged even as the vocalist pointed at different parts of the crowd in approval of their participation in the choreography.

Set list

  1. Lie to the Oath
  2. DREAM
  3. Arcadia
  4. Alived
  5. Ruri no Hana

BASH!

Filling the role of the youngest band of the night—having only started activities one month prior to the show—BASH! lived up to their name with the playfully intense “Ready? We Go” with vocalist ayumu riling up the crowd with his rough, raspy voice. His harsh yells transitioned into half-rapping and half-singing at points. Guitarist taiga absolutely towered over the audience as he stepped up to the center podium to calmly play out his solo. Ten’s deft bass lines introduced “KEEP OUT” as taiga teamed up with fellow guitarist luri to get the crowd clapping along to the heavy, yet bright music. Luri stepped up to give his own brief guitar solo before ayumu’s vocals washed over the audience in a brief, softer interlude, and the stage darkened as the last notes faded.

After fans were given time to call out to their favorite members, “Ten-sensei” stepped forward to teach some choreography. “This choreography is an important part of the next song, so please follow along.” A dramatic backlight momentarily highlighted the band’s profiles before ayumu’s voice signaled for towel swinging to commence “Mirai Ressha.” This song also served as BASH!’s “member showcase” song, allowing each member to display their talents and teach newcomers their names starting with drummer minato, followed by bassist ten, guitarists taiga and luri, and leaving ayumu to request his own yells. During a brief piano interlude, the vocalist gestured for the crowd to sit. The other band members followed suit as the jazzy music filled the venue. Ayumu praised their obedience before giving the shout that had everyone leap to their feet and make “Ten-sensei” proud.

The stage was drowned in blood-red lights for “1st berry” which complemented the dark and heavy beat as ayumu released a round of death screams and growls. taiga and luri stood back-to-back for an extensive guitar duet before ayumu stole the attention back with a prompt, “It’s cold outside, so let’s heat this place up!” The front rows certainly felt the heat as the guitarists played out the cues (for those willing to do so) to start piling up on the rail—taiga occasionally reaching out to chivalrously help girls jump on.

Set list

  1. Ready? We Go
  2. KEEP OUT
  3. Mirai Ressha
  4. 1st berry

Shellmy

Taking a turn towards the darker side of visual kei, “electro chemical band” Shellmy immediately began to rile up their audience. Hyo shouted out “Let’s get stupid!” and opened “Alice in Mazentopia” with a furious set of headbanging to heavy guitar riffs—courtesy of guitarists Anji and Yuga. Anji joined the audience in the headbanging frenzy while Yuga preferred to stay relatively stoic, occasionally swaying as he played. There was no pause as the opening notes of “Tokumei Kibou” chimed right in; Hyo showing off his impression of one possessed by a demon before singing out in his slightly nasal voice and calling for everyone to carry out the choreography. Rion’s fingers flew across his bass strings as he skillfully kept the rhythm with drummer Yu.

Unfortunately, Anji experienced some equipment difficulties that took time to fix—leaving it up to Hyo to extend the planned emcee of announcements into a talk fit to entertain the audience until everything was sorted out. While the guitarist was offstage, the vocalist joked that the crowd should call for him to “DIE!” for taking so long. As Anji returned, making apologetic gestures as he went, Hyo gestured toward the audience and said, “Everyone has something to say to you.”

“Hm? What?” The guitarist naively shuffled forward, only to almost fall backward in shock at the loud outcry of “DIE!”

Fortunately, Anji recovered quickly as Hyo requested for everyone to move as far to their left as they could, in order to better direct them from side-to-side for “Ningen Shikkaku.” In contrast to the heavy intro, the song took a more melodic and soft approach, even as Yu pounded away but the softer semblance did not last. “Egoist Silence” opened with more furious bouts of headbanging madness, amplified by Yu continually smashing away at his drums. Yuga and Rion switched positions as they both came forward to shower the audience with attention—Rion’s quick bass plucking adding a jazzy touch before wailing guitars concluded the set.

Set list

  1. Alice in Mazentopia
  2. Tokumei Kibou
  3. Ningen Shikkaku
  4. Egoist Silence

XENON

The veterans of the lineup, XENON opened their set with “JUDECCA.” Aki’s heavy guitar set the pace right from the start before being joined by Tetsuya’s bass and Kurono’s drums. Strong and clear vocals rang out from Leo, filling the venue as the crowd twirled their towels. The vocalist showed no signs that he had recently come back from a doctor-imposed rest. Meanwhile, Tetsuya impressed the crowd with a skillful bass solo that Aki followed up with a quick series of trills from his guitar. Continuing with the high-spirited “PLANETARIA” introduced by crazy, quick guitar notes from Aki, Leo called for “Heads!”—a fierce round of headbanging right from the start—that transitioned to choreography carried out by alternately pointing fingers toward the stage or to a favorite member. All of this flowed to the synthetic rhythm mixed with Kurono’s solid drum beats.

“I’m really glad ZIN were able to return to Osaka from Tokyo. I was really worried for a while if they were going to be okay,” Leo said earnestly in a comment on the bad winter weather. He also expressed gratitude at XENON’s relatively smooth travels from Nagoya where they had played the previous day. “Give us your power! Let’s go!” With a deceptively gentle intro, “QLOVER” once more had hair flying about on the floor while Leo alternated between melodic singing and fierce death growls as he leaned toward the audience with one foot propped up on the podium. Kurono displayed his drumming prowess as he twirled both sticks in his hands during the mid-song interlude before returning to the furious pace until the end. As the digital outro faded, Leo called out that the next would be the last song and gestured for the crowd to part in the middle.

“If this is your first time, please be careful. Otherwise, you can do anything that you like,” he warned. After a number of playful false starts, crashing cymbals and Leo’s hoarse whisper of “Mary,” gave the signal for everyone to come together in a mass dance of disorder for “Bloody Mary.” The demands for energy did not stop there. Shortly after everyone had reassembled in their original positions, Leo directed them in multiple across-the-floor shuffles to Aki’s heavy guitar riffs while crying out in a rasping manner. The high-energy song came to its conclusion as Leo let out one last call in death voice before the band took their bows and departed from the stage.

Set list

  1. JUDECCA
  2. PLANETARIA
  3. QLOVER
  4. Bloody Mary

ONENESS

Once the members had taken their positions, vocalist Juki promptly began to chat with the crowd, setting a light-hearted and cheerful mood for the set as he earned a few giggles from mention of the world of Pokemon. At the words “Okay, let’s get started!” guitarist Dai opened “Setsuna Sakuretsu Shounen” with great energy and enthusiasm and heavy notes poured out from the speakers. Juki’s clear voice carried well in the small venue, both as he sang and as he called out for the crowd to keep dancing and moving. “Come on, don’t be embarrassed. Just do it!” the vocalist encouraged, getting everyone to start pumping their fists to the positive and melodic “Secret Paint,” which featured an exciting bass solo from mikado who remained stoic as he plucked—before bouncing forward to beckon the crowd to join him in short in-sync jumps with his bandmates.

Juki opened his next emcee with congratulations to ZIN for their second sponsored live and inserted some announcements of ONENESS’ with short, comedic lines and gestures to up the entertainment value. “Also, please come closer!” Juki called out to the back rows, making silly gestures with his free hand in the hopes of enticing them forward. “You don’t have to be shy!” Unfortunately, the vocalist’s attempts at summoning the shy individuals were unsuccessful but his dramatically pouting face and melodramatic comments earned a few nervous chuckles. “Well, if you’re not too tired, please enjoy this next song.” Despite the lack of response to his earlier request, the positive and catchy melodies of “star light chain” in combination with Juki’s sweet voice got the crowd jumping and dancing once more to the set choreography. Drummer syuma led clapping to the piano interlude before Juki once more directed the crowd to jump and mikado followed along from behind. Juki requested the audience to unite for a variety of group calls in the form of death voice calls, “kya!” screams, Hardgay-style “foo” noises, and more, to further raise spirits before finishing the set with “Hankou Seimei.” The playful and heavy guitar notes of the final song kept the crowd moving until the end.

Set list

  1. Setsuna Sakuretsu Shounen
  2. Secret Paint
  3. star light chain
  4. Hankou Seimei

ZIN

Finally, it was time for the sponsoring band to take the stage. “Come on, Osaka! Let’s have fun today!” vocalist Riku called out as ZIN displayed their flair for neo-Japaneseque style with “Junjou koiuta.” The frantic string intro immediately sent the crowd scrambling from right to left and as Orochi stepped up for his solo, Riku requested that the audience to clap along while the bassist skillfully plucked at his strings. Another rapid shamisen refrain got the crowd moving once more after that and the quick pace continued on to the end. “Liberalism” then challenged fans to simultaneously jump and headbang while crossing their right arms in front of themselves as Riku half-rapped, half-growled out the lyrics. Meanwhile, Luy could be seen dancing alongside the crowd even as he wielded his guitar at the right side of the stage.

“Today is my birthday sponsored live. Having so many people come today, it means a lot. Thank you very much,” birthday man Riku addressed the crowd before turning the emcee into a discussion with guitarist Yoshi concerning the troubles of the abnormally snowy weather in Tokyo where they had played two days prior.  “It was close but we’re okay, now. Since all of those difficulties are past, let’s just go! Come on, everyone!” After the brief respite, Riku directed the fans in another cross-floor shuffle for “Renai Dystrophy” with drummer Saku setting the pace to continuous beats accented by crashing cymbals. In a moment of playfulness, Riku hung onto Orochi to drag him forward during Luy’s guitar solo. Handheld fans were broken out for “Yuuyami Kakurenbo” and Riku brandished his own to lead the crowd in the corresponding choreography. For their guitar duet, Luy and Yoshi stood back to back—clearly impressing the fans as many held up their arms in a show of affection.

Calls for an encore began immediately after the lights went down and the request was granted shortly after, seeing as Riku had something important to announce: their next oneman live. The show had been decided as their first Tokyo oneman to be held on May 10 as part of a series in conjunction with an Osaka oneman on May 31. After giving fans a brief moment to let the exciting news sink in, the band then jump-started the live with “Rensou Rain” which had everyone jumping once again. During Luy’s guitar solo, Orochi and Riku paired up to give attention to the eager fans gathered at the right half of the rail while Yoshi turned to Saku for a playful face-off until Luy stepped back to his regular position for the finishing notes.

“Thank you for the encore! This will be the last song of the night!” Riku called out.

He was interrupted by Orochi who teased, “Just a moment! Whose birthday is it, today?”

This prompted a round of “Happy Birthday” in song, followed by the presentation of a small cake, from which Riku took the liberty to snack on a strawberry after blowing out the candles. The vocalist cheekily wiped his hand on Orochi’s stage towel—to the bassist’s only minor protestations—before Orochi avenged himself by taking over the last riling call; “Let’s keep going! Come on!”

In visual kei event lives, there is no such thing as too many rail-diving songs, especially for the finish. Closing the night with the traditionally violent “Nise Moratorium,” the band—minus kit-bound drummer Saku—each took turns hopping into the crowd when they felt like their presence at the edge of the stage alone wasn’t bringing enough fans forward. Riku even drafted the braver and more enthusiastic fans to go and pull girls hiding in the back up to the rail to participate in the chaotic choreography while Orochi took a turn at bracing himself over the rail to allow for eager fans to pile on. It was certainly a unique way to end the night.

Set list

  1. Junjou koiuta
  2. Liberalism
  3. Renai Dystrophy
  4. Yuuyami Kakurenbo

Encore

  1. Rensou Rain
  2. Nise Moratorium

Event lives can be a mixed a bag of talent—especially when the talents, styles, and experience levels of the bands vary—however, there is always the opportunity that new fans can be made when bands pull out all stops for every performance from start to finish. The bands ZIN gathered at OSAKA RUIDO on the evening of February 16 to celebrate their vocalist’s birthday did just that and the result brought doubtless entertainment and fun to the crowd no matter who they had come to see. With the range of musical skills and sub-genres present, at least one of these promising bands is like to take your fancy so keep your eyes and ears out for what these young Kansai bands have to offer to the ever-evolving visual kei world.

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There are 40 photos in this visual kei exclusive.

Chi’s interest in visual kei stems from her love of art. The unique aesthetics in combination with the wide range of musical styles within the genre have been what has kept her interest in the visual kei scene for over a decade. The main image her friends and classmates have of her is with a camera in hand, face behind the viewfinder or screen. This image is also occasionally combined with memories of running around her to avoid getting into her panorama shots.

Mark seriously started into photography in 2006 after becoming frustrated with a recalcitrant cherry blossom and a laggardly point and shoot digital camera. Since then he has refined his technique and enjoys taking photographs of anything that piques his interest: anything from macro- and astro- photography, portraits and art photography. He hopes to communicate a sense of wonder, beauty, adventure or sometimes just whimsy with his photographs.

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