The summer of 2012, I took spent two and a half months living in Yokohama, attending a Japanese language school to help improve my graduate studies. Although it was only three years ago, my knowledge of the music scene in Japan was completely lacking when compared to now. Whatever musical inclinations I held were mostly gleaned from anime theme songs and suggestions from friends. Armed with a short list of bands, I found a miraculously fitting show that just happened to be going on during my summer trip. The line up consisted of four bands: Stereopony (my then-favorite Japanese group), SCANDAL, FLiP, and 7!! (for some reason read “Seven Oops”) .
I recruited a new friend and classmate to come to the show with me, and on a blisteringly hot July day, the two of us headed to Shibuya AX, an all-standing live music venue that could hold an audience of 1,500 people. Having absolutely no expectations, we ended up seeing an amazing concert with such an unusual format that I have not seen it replicated to this day, even with over 200 concerts under my belt. All four of the band’s equipment — amps, drum kits, and all — were lined up on the stage. The lights lit up, revealing the left half of the stage, where one band stood ready. They instantly launched into a number, and no sooner had they finished than the lights of the left went dark and the right side was illuminated to reveal a second band. This continued twice more until each band had played a single song, with virtually no pause in between. SCANDAL, the band who organized the show, then gave a short introduction, which was followed again by non-stop music. Each band would play 1-3 songs at a time and the action would immediately switch to the next band, ready to give it another go. With an almost complete lack of chit-chat or transitions, the 19-song show was over in the blink an eye. SCANDAL and Stereopony took the stage together as “Scandalpony” for the encore, playing SCANDAL’s hit single Doll.
Large Japanese shows are remarkable for the crowd cohesion, with any number of set spots to jump, chant, or wave your arm. Caught in a sea of hundreds of people all pumping their arm in unison to the chorus of a song, it’s hard to resist the urge to join in. There’s so much of this arm movement that I gave it a rest partway through, my shoulder having grown sore. No sooner had I put down my arm than had a concerned fan tapped me on the shoulder and gestured to encourage me to resume participation in this almost fanatic arm-motion. It was both endearing and a little unnerving, but to be honest that has never happened to me again during a show.
- Fall in Love (フォーリン・ラブ) – 7!!
- Kazaana (カザーナ) – FLiP
- Shunkan Sentimental (瞬間センチメンタル) – SCANDAL
- stand by me – Stereopony
- Lovers (ラヴァーズ) – 7!!
- Ookami (狼) – Stereopony
- Bibara Bibara (ビバラ・ビバラ) – Stereopony
- LOVE SURVIVE – SCANDAL
- CHERRY BOMB – FLiP
- Shut Up, Men! – FLiP
- Kaa to nyago (カートニアゴ) – FLiP
- Ai no kotoba (愛の言葉) – 7!!
- Taiyou Scandalous (太陽スキャンダラス) – SCANDAL
- HARUKAZE – SCANDAL
- Wonderland (ワンダーランド) – FLiP
- Sweet Drive (スウィート・ドライヴ) – 7!!
- Bye-bye (バイバイ) – 7!!
- Hitohira no hanabira (ヒトヒラのハナビラ) – Stereopony
- Doll – Scandalpony
That show would be the one and only time I saw Stereopony before their untimely breakup in the winter of 2012. However, that show also introduced me to FLiP, a band which would eventually grow to be one of my favorites. Sadly, Shibuya AX was eventually torn down in 2014 due to the landowners refusing to renew the lease for the venue. I attended its final show in the spring of that year with the Pillows headlining.
That concert was the first step into the wide, vibrant Japanese concert scene.