Ex-Stereopony’s Aimi is Back Again

One of the first Japanese bands I took an interest in was pop/rock three piece Stereopony. Back at that point, I wasn’t paying much attention to the Japanese music scene and discovered them due to their song being the theme to a (mediocre) anime, the sequel to Darker than Black. Stereopony was also the first band I saw in Japan (which you can read about in this old post).

After they broke up, the frontwoman Aimi did some acoustic shows here and there. Next, she had a big build up as a solo project, with a song as the theme to a play and one headliner concert. The music was pretty similar to what she had written for Stereopony. But after that, her solo career ceased as quickly as it began.

Next, she teamed up with guitarist Arai from serial TV drama to make a zombie-themed hard rock band called Alice in Underground. They released a couple singles and played shows before ceasing all activity without even an announcement.

Now, Aimi’s back again. This time with a pop solo project. She has her first gig coming up next month, and today she released a YouTube video with partial demos of two tracks. On first listen, this is my least favorite of her work so far, but I’m remaining cautiously optimistic.

2015 Band Breakup Blues Part 2

Part 1 can be found here.

Gotou Mariko (後藤まりこ)

The eccentric singer-songwriter Gotou Mariko started a solo music career after the break-up of her jazz-punk-noise band Midori in 2010. Her music and image were both a mix of cute and crazy. Her songs mixed jazz and pop with sickly-sweet, out-of-tune melodies punctuated by screaming, and she often wore a school girl outfit (at at least 10 years after her true school days) while crowd-surfing half of the length of her shows. She publicly quit her label in 2014 on twitter after an incident where she assaulted a cameraman with a mic stand and threw his camera into the crowd during a show. He was an official photographer, but she claimed that her management never informed her about him, so she thought he was a fan trying to get on stage and photograph her. She later was picked up by different management until January of this year when they announced all of her upcoming shows were canceled due to sickness. Some time passed before Mariko live-streamed an announcement where she quit music performance. After an absence from social media, she returned to public life in the summer as a song composer for idol and pop groups, stating she wouldn’t be performing herself again.

Oz (オズ)

A pop hard rock band hailing from Okinawa, they held a yearly concert on Halloween and finished off the tradition this year with one last holiday show on October 31 before breaking up. Bassist Shin recently announced his newest project: visual-kei band ANOMIY.

ALiCE IN UNDERGROUND

This briefly-lived pop metal unit was a collaboration between frontwoman Aimi of alt rock band Stereopony and guitarist/songwriter Arai of serial TV drama, both bands that broke up several years earlier. Their new band was zombie themed, including the lyrics for all four of their released songs such as Party of the Dead. AiU played a number of shows from late 2014 to early 2015 before ceasing all activities without any announcement. Their official status is still unknown, but it seems unlikely they’ll return from this hiatus.

 

My First Japanese Concert

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.

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Image from EMTG Music

Set List

  1. Fall in Love (フォーリン・ラブ) – 7!!
  2. Kazaana (カザーナ) – FLiP
  3. Shunkan Sentimental (瞬間センチメンタル) – SCANDAL
  4. stand by me – Stereopony
  5. Lovers (ラヴァーズ) – 7!!
  6. Ookami (狼) – Stereopony
  7. Bibara Bibara (ビバラ・ビバラ) – Stereopony
  8. LOVE SURVIVE – SCANDAL
  9. CHERRY BOMB – FLiP
  10. Shut Up, Men! – FLiP
  11. Kaa to nyago (カートニアゴ) – FLiP
  12. Ai no kotoba (愛の言葉) – 7!!
  13. Taiyou Scandalous (太陽スキャンダラス) – SCANDAL
  14. HARUKAZE – SCANDAL
  15. Wonderland (ワンダーランド) – FLiP
  16. Sweet Drive (スウィート・ドライヴ) – 7!!
  17. Bye-bye (バイバイ) – 7!!
  18. Hitohira no hanabira (ヒトヒラのハナビラ) – Stereopony
  19. 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.