umbrella’s Unique 4th Anniversary at TogaToga

Live Report

by chi.yow, Mark Weich, posted August 17, 2014

For their fourth anniversary, umbrella arranged quite the unique affair in Kyoto’s live house TogaToga on June 23. The crowd was kept to a limited number as tables and chairs were set about the floor space to invoke a more intimate, jazz club atmosphere as the band performed a number of their songs in special arrangements to celebrate the occasion.

The grand soiree opened with the special guest, keyboardist Akko, delivering opening words of gratitude thanking crowd for their attendance with some additional encouragement to order whatever drinks and food suited their tastes. “This is a party after all,” she reminded. Sho (drums), Hal (bass), Syu (guitar), and Yui (vocals/guitar) then made their way towards the stage to the delighted applause of the attendees, Sho delivering a simple and straightforward opening speech.

“It’s our four-year anniversary. Thank you for coming, today. While I haven’t been with the band since the beginning, please continue to treat us well and enjoy today to the fullest extent.” “

We used to be only three people, huh?” Hal inserted jokingly before proceeding with a celebratory toast, beckoning everyone to raise their drinks to an enthusiastic “Cheers!”

In accordance with the atmosphere, once drinks were set aside, the band settled on stools with their acoustic instruments to begin the night with a calming and serene rendition of “Wasurenagusa.” Yui’s unique and ringing vocals filled the space while he strummed his guitar as Sho mouthed along while tapping away at his djembe. Hal led the transition to “Hi [Jou] Kaidan” with a deep and impressive acoustic bass intro, Sho stepping up the beat as he joined in. Yui’s lilting style of singing continued to charm the audience before the tune finished with each member displaying their respective skills through brief solos that were met with a round of polite and delighted applause.

Before starting the next number, Hal inserted a small comment about the style of the live thus far. “We are not just visual kei. We like to try out all different kinds of music, so please enjoy today until the end.” Sho then decided to show his more playful side for the acoustic “Ito.” by alternatively slapping Yui and Hal to the beat of the intro—the vocalist taking no notice as he sang on while the bassist jokingly rolled his eyes. Meanwhile, unbothered by the drummer’s antics, Syu continued to coolly play his part, joining Yui in the chorus. The members took a moment to check the tuning for their instruments before starting into “Requiem,” Yui continuing to enchant the crowd with his soft croon. Each member was also given a respective solo, Syu picking deftly at his guitar before passing the spotlight over to an enthusiastic Hal before Sho finished the song with a flourish of beats.

As Yui, Sho, and Hal tucked away their instruments, the bassist created a playful introduction for the next song, giving their guitarist and vocalist special titles. Syu was dubbed as the guitarist “Super Type Number One,” then followed with “Super Vocal” for Yui. However, that title drew some confusion from the vocalist, so Hal then changed it to “Super Whisper Voice,” only to be reprimanded shortly after the comment was made. Sho and Hal then took seats just offstage, enjoying Yui and Syu’s version of “Taiyou kousen” from an audience perspective. The duo performed the stripped-down and simplistic tune with great skill and dignity, Yui’s expressive voice continuing to convey a great range of emotions.

Once Syu set aside his guitar, a screen was lowered for a movie showcase of comments from various bands umbrella had befriended over their years of activity. The movie was a mixed bag of humor, seriousness, and confusion—the latter occasionally exaggerated by Hal. “What’s this supposed to be?!” “Can it be?” “Seriously!? No way!” He even threw in some interaction with select videos, generally composed of thanking each band for taking their time to record their congratulatory messages.

After some discussion of the videos, another surprise came in the form of an announcement that Yui’s mother was present. Coming up from the back, she was beckoned to join the assembly onstage. Yui stepped up to introduce her with a simple and slightly bashful, “This is my mother. Please treat her kindly.” The microphone was then handed to the honorary guest, who gave a surprisingly cute introduction which charmed all in the hall.

“Good evening, everyone. I am Yui’s mother. How is it? Do we look alike? Thank you so much for taking the time to come out today,” she said politely but with cheerful energy.

Yui shot back, “What do you think of today’s audience?”

The question was answered in the same adorable manner with truly fond words. “Well, fans are like gods, so please continue to look upon this band kindly.”

After Yui followed this up with promises to continue to do their best, his mother then departed the stage to a round of applause.

Once the screen disappeared, the band was ready to delight their audience with yet another surprise, as keyboardist Akko who had started the evening off had rearranged a few of their songs to include keyboard elements alongside the electric instruments. Starting the string of special arrangements with “LoV,” Yui was once again paired with only a single instrument, Akko playing a slightly haunting tune as the vocalist sang in his signature, lilting manner.

“Today has specially arranged keyboard versions of umbrella’s songs. You can’t hear these anywhere else, so please enjoy them,” said Syu.

Hal then noticed the interesting detail of Yui’s guitar design—the vocalist is also a known graphic designer for much of umbrella’s goods and CD cover art. “This is my guitar, after all, so this is my own design. I made it myself, all of it—the stickers and everything. I personally put it on this guitar,” the vocalist proudly proclaimed, holding up his instrument so that more of the audience could better view the customization.

Sekai no Owaru Oto” started up with a carnival-like melody from Akko that flowed smoothly into the other worldly collaborative tune. The tranquil atmosphere within the venue was maintained as Sho played a steady beat and Hal picked a cool bass line while swaying along.

Immediately after the instrumental came umbrella’s signature live song “[Tsuki],” Yui strumming at his guitar alongside Syu to create an eerie intro before picking up the pace. Akko’s keyboards added a refreshing spin to the crowd favorite, the joint chorus especially enjoyable as the men sang in harmony. Jumping right into the heavier “Higashi e,” Hal continued to move to the beat, coming forward to back Yui’s vocals as Syu rocked out to the right side of the stage. Unfortunately, during “Binetsu,” a lighting malfunction left Yui in the darkness as he sang. However, this did nothing to dampen the band’s spirits as they determinedly played on, the jazzy number effectively holding the audience’s attention as Yui’s distinctive wailing notes echoed out from the dark stage. After exchanging words of gratitude and complements for the hard work—especially for the new song arrangements—Akko departed the stage.

While awaiting the return of the lighting, the members kept up some random and entertaining chatter including some discussion of various types of local Kyoto teas. The band then shared sentiments for and stories of their time as umbrella. “This dark image is suitable to umbrella, isn’t it?” Yui joked mid-discussion as the venue remained dark.

Perhaps prompted by the sentimental talk of umbrella’s past shared by each of the members, Hal used his time to reflect on the personal hardships and trials he had faced over the years in order to continue with his dreams of creating music. “I really love music. This might sound strange to hear but because of this love, I feel that the music we are able to create is especially good. That is why I want umbrella to keep going on forever. I’ll keep putting my best efforts forward, so really, from the bottom of my heart: Thank you so much, everyone.”

After this emotional declaration that brought tears to many eyes, it was Yui’s turn to share his feelings and he wisely began, “Well, I don’t know how to follow on from those amazing, heartfelt words, but I will try my best.” He made a good effort as he went on to say, “There is a lot to experience in this truly amazing world, and I would like to continue with these three to create music that is loved. For 10 years, at least, I would like to continue singing, making more music as well as other related things which make others happy. It’s only been four years but no matter what, from here on out, please continue to treat us well.”

Eventually, the lights returned and umbrella restarted the live with an energized “Samidare.” Yui’s habit of weaving a story with his voice and hands gave the music physical expression while the others alternated in backing him with soft croons and ringing falsettos. Hal opened the high, rocking “Kazamidori” with a fierce bass intro, maintaining a strong presence with the number’s constant, prominent bass line. Yui then brought out his acoustic guitar for an interlude of relative calm, launching into a series of slightly spooky yells at the end of the number. “Door” served as the ending song for the main set, fitting this slot well as the title track of the most current single at the time. The catchy guitar line had a number of audience members joining Hal in nodding and swaying in their seats to Sho’s enthusiastically contributed rhythm.

A unanimous call for an encore immediately started once the members were out of sight. And so, the members happily returned to continue the night a little longer with Akko also making a reappearance to add in a yet-untitled, special jazzy number that also featured eccentric guitar work from Syu. After comments of thanks once more to their guest and additional reflections of the past years with hopes to continue on a progressive path forward for a fifth year, the event came to an end with “Raining letter.” Yui started in with impressive high notes shortly before the instruments powered in to finish the live on a cheerful note. The members exchanged grins onstage as they each carried out their respective solos, rounding out the song with a unified musical smash of notes.

At this fourth anniversary special, umbrella proved that they are a visual kei band who aren’t afraid to experiment with their range of skills and talents to showcase alternative ideas and approaches to their music. Constantly evolving, the Kyoto band is one to keep eyes and ears out for as they continue toward their next milestone.

Set list

Acoustic

  1. Wasurenagusa
  2. Hi [Jou] Kaidan
  3. Ito.
  4. Requiem
  5. Taiyou kousen (Yui and Syu version)

Celebration comment videos from friends screening

  1. LoV (Yui and Akko version)
  2. Sekai no Owaru Oto (Akko arrange version)
  3. [Tsuki] (Akko arrange version)
  4. Higashi e (Akko arrange version)
  5. Binetsu (Akko arrange version)
  6. Samidare
  7. Kazamidori
  8. Door

Encore

  1. Raining letter

VK Exclusive

There are 41 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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