Samurai Band Orochi Rock Ikebukuro Cyber 9/27

Live Report

by Kate Havas, Mio Nagasaki, posted October 17, 2011

Once upon a time, there was a dragon called Yamatano Orochi. Its eyes were red like boiling blood and it had eight heads and eight tails and was the length of eight valleys. Every year, this monster took a beautiful virgin from a village as a sacrifice. A samurai called Susanoo heard of this tragedy; he fought Orochi and slew its eight heads apart. His spirit became immortal and his strength was given to a young samurai called Lord USHI-WAKA and his Samurais, who control the Land of Sun since the year Heisei 16.

That’s the story of the samurai band Orochi, who took the stage at Ikebukuro Cyber to treat fans to visual kei touched with traditional Japanese culture. In fact, almost every song has both a traditional Japabese title with an English counter-part. The opening was a delightful Japanese-styled music box waltz that gave way to the piercing sound of a bamboo flute. When the curtain drew back it revealed vocalist Lord USHI-WAKA playing the Dragon Flute, his traditional instrument. Even the stage matched the band’s theme. Red streamers hung from the ceiling like decorations at a Japanese temple and a star-burst banner draped over the speaker.

“Phoenix” was the first number and Lord USHI-WAKA hopped up on the center platform to sing, swinging his long sleeves over the crowd before leading the audience in furious headbanging. Yuki-mura’s guitar carried the song, which complemented the unique chorus that chanted like a sutra rather than rapped lyrics. Bassist Mitsu-hide sang the harmonies and drummer Genji-Hotaru had his head down, rocking away behind the drum kit. “Cyber!” Lord USHI-WAKA called, spreading his arms, “We’re Orochi!” A few smitten girls made hearts at Yuki-mura, which he jokingly poked at.

“Thanks for staying,” he continued, acknowledging that they were the last act of the night. The members began to sway as Lord USHI-WAKA crouched on the platform, singing out as an undercurrent of cowbell chimes weaved through the music of “Princess Kiyo.”

“Let’s introduce our samurais,” Lord USHI-WAKA said. “On bass, Mitsu-hide!” Mitsu-hide gave a few loud strums of his instrument as the crowd reached for him. “Guitar, Yuki-mura!” Yuki-mura gripped his guitar overhand and sauntered close to the crowd. The fans then started to call for Lord USHI-WAKA, but he cut them off. “No, I’m the one after next–now Genji-Hotaru on drums! And I’m-” He broke off his self-introduction to chide a few girls sitting down in the back. “Don’t sit, jump! I want to see even this area getting wild.”

Some tight drumming led into the energetic “Tenchi Ranbu,” and as the song ended, Yuki mura  pulled out the Dragon Flute for “Last Moment of Demon,” revealing the depth of the band’s Japanese roots. When he sang again, his voice was deeper. The band paused their instruments as an electronic-tinged bridge of classical Japanese instruments swelled over the tune. Tackling his guitar again, Yuki-mura took the center as Genji whipped his drumsticks around.

Then it was time for omiyage (gifts) for the audience. “It’s not food today, so please don’t try to eat it,” Lord USHI-WAKA cautioned, holding up a bag and pulling out a handful of glowing bracelets. He gave some to Yuki-mura to help, and a few girls ran up to take their preferred colors while others seemed too shy to approach the band themselves. “Come on up!” they encouraged, and soon everyone wore a glowing bracelet. They waved them in the air for a soulful lead-in that quickly changed to bass-heavy bouncing. The band members enjoyed themselves during “Sunlight,” chasing each other around the stage, and Lord USHI-WAKA couldn’t resist pinching Yuki-mura’s bare side and making him flinch.

“This next song is quieter,” Lord USHI-WAKA told the audience, and they began “Spring.” One of Orochi’s strengths lies in the combining of traditional and modern instruments without overdoing either, and this song was an excellent demonstration. The flute accented bass and drums perfectly and the instrumental portions stole the song. Lord USHI-WAKA took the  mic again, asking the audience to do their “kokoro no jyunbi” (mental preparation) for the finale.

As they began “Castle in the Sky,” bubbles began to blow across the live house. The band swayed and spun with the upbeat, positive feel of the song, and they finished with a big jump.

“We’re on a new road now,” Lord USHI-WAKA explained. “Two of our members, Mitsu-hide and Genji-Hotaru are ‘graduating’ today, though we’ll still work together some in the future, and I hope you support them even if they join a new band.”

It was appropriate, then, that the last song was titled “Sakura” meaning cherry blossom, with all its connotations of beautiful things coming to an end, and the song opened with vocal and guitar complemented by the barest brush of cymbals. Everyone in the audience suddenly produced Japanese folding fans and waved them gracefully with the rhythm. The song had a measured, slightly melancholy feel, and Lord USHI-WAKA bent backwards to sing an a capella note before Genji-Hotaru drummed out the finish. “Thank you!” Lord USHI-WAKA called, and they gave a last, “all your effort” jump before the curtain closed.

The fans began to call for an encore as fliers rained down from above, thrown over the top of the curtain. The band returned, Yuki-mura having changed into a stylish Orochi t-shirt. The first song of the encore was the hard-hitting “Demon Slayer,” and even the audience members who had previously been sitting were charmed to their feet to pump their fists. Lord USHI-WAKA gave a giant kick, all the more impressive for his voluminous costume, and Mitsu-hide and Yuki-mura added their deep-throated barking to the sound.

“We’re grateful to everyone who came out today,” Lord USHI-WAKA said. “We’re ‘wa’, Japanese, so please listen.” The lights changed to red and Lord USHI-WAKA played the Dragon Flute again, the sound twinning with high-pitched guitar. Yuki-mura hopped up on the platform and Lord USHI-WAKA jokingly held a flyer up to his chest for the fans to read as they played.

“We have an announcement,” he said, reading off the flyer as “Sun of Empire” ended. “We’ll be doing three shows in Asia–can you read this in Chinese?” he asked, turning to Yuki-mura. The guitarist looked slightly confused. “Um, Shanghai!” “Shanghai!” Lord USHI-WAKA agreed. “We’re having a Chinese New Year show!” The fans applauded.

“Now, with that kind of feeling, let’s jump!” The band jumped, and Genji-Hotaru pounded on the drums until the present incarnation of Orochi left the stage together for the last time. As Lord USHI-WAKA warned the fans, some exciting announcements are pending on Orochi’s home page concerning the band’s new direction. We here at ROKKYUU are looking forward to hearing about Orochi’s future, so we’ll keep you posted..

Set List

  1. Phoenix(Fushi-cho)
  2. Princess Kiyo (Kiyo-hime)
  3. Tenchi ranbu
  4. LAST MOMENT OF DA DEMON(Oni-Ura)
  5. A Hundred Flowers Blossom (Hyakka Ryouran)
  6. Sunlight (Kasuga)
  7. Castle in the Sky (Tenku)
  8. Sakura

Encore

  1. Demon Slayer (Oni-ura)
  2. Sun of Empire (Hi-izuru)

VK Exclusive

There are 32 photos in this visual kei exclusive.

Kate Havas first became interested in Japanese fashion and culture in college when manga, anime, and visual kei were just beginning to make their way to America. An art and English major with a love of clothes, Kate signed onto ROKKYUU in order cover fashion and report on Tokyo trends, but was quickly also recruited to the music side of things and has been having an adventure expanding her knowledge of all things VK since. Follow her on twitter at keito_kate!

Mio Nagasaki is a freelance photographer lending her time, skills, and love for the genre to ROKKYUU Magazine.

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