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

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