Tuesday, January 19, 2010


[2009.11.03] Trees in Dallas, TX
featuring: Dir en grey

I’ve been fortunate enough to see Dir en grey perform three times: once in Dallas and twice in Houston. So, I was really looking forward to seeing them again. I originally planned on seeing them in the Warehouse in Houston, but I wanted to see another Japanese rock performer that was going to be in Dallas the same date. So, my friends and I decided to try to see both, but only ended up seeing Dir en grey since the other artist postponed his show due to sickness and injury in a previous live in Europe. Anyway, I was trying to make the best out of the situation, despite my negative feelings toward the city of Dallas.

This year, the band wanted to perform in more intimate venues and their schedule was shorter than usual. Normally, they reach out to several cities across the country and Canada, but this time they only covered a couple cities in Texas, Chicago, two cities in California, and New York City, which was a bit disappointing for a few of my friends outside of Texas.

Entering the Trees night club, I checked out the setting of it and it was definitely intimate like the band wanted. Although, I wish the nightclub wasn’t so literal with its name and had trees in random places. It was a little inconvenient for the concert, but I’m sure it’s fine for what usually happenings there. There was a good turn out, which wasn’t surprising, but it was disappointing that the guys were an hour late getting to the stage to perform for us.

Last year was an amazing performance. I felt like the band kept getting better and better on stage and there was this true, passionate connection between them and the fans. Everyone helped each other, aside from a couple rude people who wanted to bring people in the mosh that didn’t want to participate, and they followed directions well by singing when Kyo pointed the microphone out to the audience or chanting in the right areas in a song like “Hydra -666-“ and “Lied Buried with a Vengeance”. They were already my favorite jrock band and their performance then and previous years put them on a higher pedal stool in my mind. This year…was nothing like that at all. Before I comment any further, here’s an unofficial set list I’ve put together after the show in no particular order:
Merciless Cult
HYDRA -666-
Ryoujoku no ame
Lied Buried With a Vengeance
Repetition of Hatred
The Deeper Vileness

Despite the lack of room on stage, the band still had strong energy and Toshiya played up the crowd most of the time. Die usually displays the same movements, but I didn’t notice him being extremely wild like he normally is. Kaoru felt a little more closed off than usual and I felt disconnected to him. Even though Kyo had his usual little stand to deliver his lyrics, I also felt a disconnection from him as well. All the songs slowly meshed together in my head after the show, which made it difficult to put together the set list. I normally don’t have those sorts of problems so soon, but the crowd and setting didn’t help me remember such an important thing. Normally, I remember special moments that happen like the band performing an older song or interacting with the audience in a rare way, but there was none of that. The only moment close to that was when Kyo decided to sing the bridge of “Conceived Sorrow” without the music or his microphone, letting his voice echo in the small venue.

Along with the show being an hour late, which is very unusual for them, the set list seemed shorter than their previous shows. It wasn’t as diverse either. On their later shows in New York and California, they played some of their older songs from Kisou and even a song from their first full-length album GAUZE. I was so upset about the show that I couldn’t listen to Dir en grey for a few weeks. I felt completely unsatisfied and ripped off. I felt no emotional connection, no overwhelming energy taking over the crowd, and no common sense from the Dallas fans.

A few good things about the concert was being able to see them for the fourth, the crowd being excited to see them, Toshiya’s interaction and natural energy surrounding him throughout the show, and the fact they played “Vinushka”, “Toguro”, “Glass Skin,” and “Gaika, Chinmoku ga Nemura Koro”. They did make an effort to mix up heavy and somewhat light songs and we spotted Die outside of a bar, which really isn’t part of their performance. The negatives are the fans, the short set list, and the location. The live wasn’t too traumatizing that I never want to see Dir en grey live again like the German pop/rock band Tokio Hotel, but I never want to see them again in Dallas. I hope that I never feel that disappointing feeling from them again when they return.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Live: Oni-Con 2009

Oni-Con 2009
[2009.10.30] Marriott Westchase in Houston, TX
featuring: Buranden, echostream, Satsuki, & born


Brandon: Voice/Composition/Lyrics
Derek: Guitar
Lisa: Keyboard
Z: Drums
Mio Komatsu: Lyrics

I wasn't expecting a fourth group to be joining the other three musical guests and I kind of wish they kept it like that. I'd never heard of this Buranden kid, but apparently he's an American Japanese pop (and they added rock to his description too) singer that transferred to Japan for school and got into songwriting. I’ll try not to be overly critical, but I didn't particularly care for his music and my friends can back me up on that. The guitar was slightly inaudible and sounded like Derek and Z were just on this repetitive rhythm pattern. I could barely understand Brandon when he was singing and I preferred it that way. I couldn't tell whether he was singing badly in Japanese or singing badly in English. Either way he seemed a little out of tune. One of their songs sounded like the Mortal Kombat theme, but their music is enjoyable if it were an instrumental. Reading over the description they have on the official Oni-Con site, I found myself in disbelief that this Edward Cullen look alike has "taken Japan by storm" with his music, but maybe we're not hearing what other people are hearing.
I admired their female counterparts Lisa and Z. I believe Lisa set the tone for the music, Z established the rhythm and beat, and Derek and Brandon filled in the gaps. I believe overall they can improve. If they truly want to incorporate a rock element into their music then they will have to bring the guitar sound out more and Brandon will need a little more attitude and strength to his lyrics. Not necessarily angry and start randomly yelling and growling, just be able to blow his fans’ minds with energy like other jpop artists. Get in touch with his influences: Gackt, Ayumi Hamasaki, and Do As Infinity. Even if they improved in these areas, I highly doubt I could jump on the Buranden bandwagon.

Here's one of his performances someone posted on YouTube:


Originally the vocalist of Rentrer en Soi, a Japanese rock band that performed at Oni-Con in 2007, Satsuki decided to go solo after the band’s break-up. I must admit I am not a fan of Rentrer en Soi, but I really like Satsuki’s solo work. It’s soothing and memorable. He tries to keep a soft angelic image through his vocals and pure costume appearance, but still maintain some sort of rock edge to keep himself and keep his fans pleased.
For his second solo performance in the U.S., I didn’t know what to expect. I heard a few good things about his lives and the rest of the comments were solely on his appearance. He came on stage alone, with no band accompanying him. He mainly sang with pre-recorded music, which didn’t take away from the experience at all. His voice is truly gentle and angelic and only enhanced the recording with his voice flowing through the cords of the speakers to the crowd. He did a couple of songs without the music and just relied on his voice and guitar and piano skills. He was a little nervous and wanted us to enjoy the sounds he produced. At the end of his set, he brought Tomo, guitarist of echostream, to the stage to help bring energy and hype up the crowd a little. It was very different than the previous songs and got the crowd very into what was happening on stage between both men. Satsuki’s set list seemed to consist of most of his single releases, which there are only two of presently, and possibly a few unreleased tracks like the last one with Tomo.


Ryoko: vocal
Tony: keyboard/programming
Tomo: guitar
Jen: acoustic drums
CJ: electric drums

Before seeing them live, the only song I knew was a Radiohead cover of “Creep” that a friend sent me and even with that I didn’t remember what it sounded like. All I could really remember from it was that it was a soft song and I thought it was okay; nothing to make me go look up more music immediately or anything. After seeing them live and hearing more material as well as “Creep”, it left an impression on me and two of my friends that I saw the performance with. They have a calming, haunting energy about them that lingers in your mind and resides deep in your soul. It could almost be considered sensual to some. The cover song that I was introduced to sounded ten times better than the studio recording on the album.
Echostream was something a little different than what I’m used to hearing, and I listen to a very broad range of music. I think you could describe them as a more mainstream Enya with a hint of rock elements. They use a combination of something natural as the voice and technology such as computer effects and distortions and electronic instruments. Ryoko’s voice is definitely an instrument of its own, stretching and echoing throughout the room. There was one song where she switched microphones to give that haunting echo effect for the background and allowed it to resonate as she threw in her natural vocals with a simple line before repeating the process. Echostream gave a nice balance to each member and allowed everyone to shine in a certain song. Although in some areas the sound was a little louder than it should’ve been, but there was no outrageous cliché guitar solos or a mad beating of drums. It was something a little more subtle that doesn’t destroy the band’s image. Both drummers worked together amazingly and they both compromised their sounds by quieting one and bringing out the other depending on the mood. They also did something simple by letting Ryoko do what she does best with her voice and she played the keyboard on a piano setting.
Echostream is definitely not a heavy rock band, but they have a hard hitting sound by experimenting with natural born sounds of keyboard, guitar, and drums and arranging them to make them darker or lighter to the audience. These experimentations do not overpower the vocal element but subtly enhance the message being delivered through Ryoko. I was fortunate enough to attend a panel they had at the convention with a couple friends and Ryoko, Tony, and Tomo gave us a demonstration on how they create music through Tony’s laptop. They rearrange and distort the original sounds by plugging the microphone, guitar, or keyboard into a music editing program. Miraculously, they still bring that same mind blowing sound or a slightly better one to the stage. I believe that’s one main reason I like them so much and promote their music.

Here's a preview of echostream's performance posted by someone on YouTube:


Ryouga: vocal
K: guitar
Ray: guitar
Kifumi: bass
Tomo: drums

The final band of the evening and the band I was most looking forward to were born. The crowd got excited; I know a few of them were new fans, and soon one by one: Ray, Tomo, K, Kifumi, and then Ryouga. The live started off with tons of energy as Ryouga leaned backwards and wailed out, “GOD STAR!”. The band members had a lot of chemistry and played off of each other at times, especially Ryouga. He led the chaos for night and added some perversion as well by being a little affectionate with Kifumi and using the microphone to his advantage. They also included the audience into the fun of their performance, which made things all the better.
They played a few things from their first and only album, -Abnormal Heads Machine-, as well as some songs from their previous band names D&L and Renny Amy. They didn’t play any slow songs, just heavy and upbeat ones to keep the energy high between the band and the audience. There was a lot of stage diving from each member, even Tomo took a dive during the encore. Unfortunately, Kifumi got a little hurt somewhere in the beginning, but nothing too serious for him not to continue the performance.
Watching them on stage, I could tell they had true passion for what they do and for their fans. Every time Ryouga would say it’s the last song and the crowd made this sound of disappointed and disapproval, he would take it back with a chuckle. Each member, aside from Tomo who’s stuck behind the drums, made an effort to come closer to us and break that imaginary wall on the stage. Here’s the setlist that Tomo posted on his blog:
2. Dust pain
3. with hate
4. shrive
5. Tragedy
6. Extremly waltz
7. Innocent Bullet
8. Vermin's cry
9. ケミカルロマンス [Chemical Romance]
10. MAD whistle
12. shrive


I had a lot of fun this year at Oni-Con and being able to see Satsuki, echostream, and born live before my eyes. The crowd was great and very receptive, even to Buranden who didn’t get an overwhelming reaction. There was definitely connection made between the band and the fans. It’s kind of hard to compare to last year, because I had just as much fun watching last year’s musical guests, Sugar and Dio – distraught overlord, as I did with this year’s. They’re both very passion, memorable, and energetic. I hope I get the opportunity to see echostream and born again and maybe Satsuki.

If you're interested in checking out my Ryouga cosplay: click here
Duckie and I also did some interviews with a few born fans: click here

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Movies Watched in 2010

Starting another round of movies for the year. Once again, I hope I don't forget any~

Starting date: January 1, 2010
Finishing date: December 13, 2010

1. Precious (2009, USA)
2. The Fifth Element (1997, USA)
3. Quarantine (2008, USA)
4. Ichi the Killer [Koroshiya 1] (2001, Japan)
5. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003, USA)
6. Monsters, Inc. (2001, USA)
7. Aquarian Age [Akuerian eiji: Gekijô ban] (2008, Japan)
8. The Pregnancy Pact (2010, USA)
9. The Eye [Gin gwai] (2002, Hong Kong)
10. The Eye (2008, USA)
11. SAW (2002, USA)
12. Scary Movie 4 (2006, USA)
13. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006, USA)
14. Disturbia (2007, USA)
15. The Skeleton Key (2005, USA)
16. The Ruins (2008, USA)
17. House of Wax (2005, USA)
18. Bringing Down the House (2003, USA)
19. Alice in Wonderland (2010, USA)
20. Lalapipo (2009, Japan)
21. Why Did I Get Married? (2007, USA)
22. The Good Son (1993, USA)
23. Matilda (1996, USA)
24. The Ugly Truth (2009, USA)
25. Eagle Eye (2008, USA)
26. Shrek (2001, USA)
27. Orphan (2009, USA)
28. Death At a Funeral (2010, USA)
29. Sugar and Spice (2001, USA)
30. Jungle 2 Jungle (1997, USA)
31. The Proposal (2009, USA)
32. Spider-Man 2 (2004, USA)
33. Resident Evil (2001, USA)
34. Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009, USA)
35. The Messengers (2007, USA)
36. Monsters vs. Aliens (2009, USA)
37. Good Hair (2009, USA)
38. Ponyo [Gake no ue no Ponyo] (2008, USA)
39. Zombieland (2009, USA)
40. The Haunting of Sorority Row (2007, USA)
41. Josie and the Pussycats (2001, USA)
42. Drag Me to Hell (2009, USA)
43. Terminator (1984, USA)
44. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991, USA)
45. Wild Hogs (2007, USA)
46. Shrek Forever After (2010, USA)
47. The Karate Kid Part III (1989, USA)
48. Stick It (2006, USA)
49. Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009, USA)
50. Toy Story 3 (2010, USA)
51. Changeling (2008, USA)
52. Last Quarter [Kagen no Tsuki] (2004, Japan)
53. Audition (1999, Japan)
54. Despicable Me (2010, USA)
55. Sixth Sense (1999, USA)
56. The Box (2009, USA)
57. Saw VI (2009, USA)
58. Battle Royale (2000, Japan)
59. Inception (2010, USA)
60. Blow (2001, USA)
61. Rasen (1998, Japan)
62. Vampires Suck (2010, USA)
63. Last House on the Left (2009, USA)
64. Karate Kid (1984, USA)
65. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, USA)
66. Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985, USA)
67. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987, USA)
68. Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988, USA)
69. Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989, USA)
70. Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991, USA)
71. Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994, USA)
72. Sherlock Holmes (2009, USA)
73. Labyrinth (1986, USA)
74. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998, USA)
75. From Hell (2001, USA)
76. Sleepy Hollow (1999, USA)
77. Psycho Ward (2009, USA)
78. Red Eye (2006, USA)
79. Ninja Assassin (2009, USA)
80. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, USA)
81. Shaun of the Dead (2004, UK)
82. Requiem for a Dream (2000, USA)
83. Peacock (2010, USA)
84. Silence of the Lambs (1991, USA)
85. Blood: The Last Vampire (2009, USA)
86. Ghost in the Shell (2008, Japan)
87. The Warrior's Way (2010, USA)
88. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, USA)
89. Kazou Umezz's Horror Theater: House of Bugs & Diet (2005, Japan)
90. GOTH (2008, Japan)