Goodbye D’espa! Footnotes for the First Overseas Gig
We’ve heard this story before: vocalist develops a “problem,” band goes on hiatus, then disbands while on a break. We can’t say it took us by surprise when D’espairs Ray called it a day, but it feels sadder than your average breakup. Even those who have long since moved on from being a visual kei fan seem to have felt it, because for most Europeans and many others, D’espairsRay was the first visual kei band they had seen live.
It was back in the early 2000s when the VK fandom in the West was still young and those who were fans back then relied on a small number of fan-made sites for news about the scene, having none of the social networking outlets of today. If you wanted to see a band live, you had to make the long journey to Japan. Full stop. D’espairs Ray began to change all that. They weren’t the first visual related band to play in Europe, as Kisaki Project and Blood had visited in early 2004, but D’espairs Ray were the first big one, the one to really mean something.
In Berlin, October 2004, people traveled miles to see D’espairs Ray from all over Europe. I personally went from the UK with German friends I had met previously in Japan. Some who met there went on to form the groups and companies who would later play an important role in helping open up other countries, like Sweden, Spain, and the Netherlands to visual bands. Even now, half a decade on, when we meet a fellow participant of that concert, we get a little buzz of nostalgia to warm the heart.
As for the gig itself, it was a new world for both band and fans. For band, the reactions of the Europeans were different from the band’s experiences playing in Japan; and for the fans, many of whom had only experienced Western-style gigs before, it was a chance to experience a live done the Japanese way and to hear songs that they never thought they would hear live. The cheer that greeted “Garnet,” one of D’espairsRay’s most popular songs, continues to resound powerfully in my personal memories and the band themselves have since said in interviews that the 2004 gig in Berlin was the most memorable of their careers.
Over the years, D’espairsRay changed, and as they changed, their fandom did too. The music may not have been as critically exciting in their later years, and while many fans grew apart from them and from the visual kei scene in general, there remains a certain fondness for “D’espa.”
It’s hard to think that this band that made such an impact seven years ago is now gone. On hearing about their disbandment, it was hard not to feel like a small part of our youth went with them. They will always be remembered for being pioneers in developing the European live scene, and for that and for eleven great years of music, they will be missed.