Tokyo Idol Festival 2014

26 Aug

Tokyo Idol Festival 2014
August 2 – August 3, 2014tif 2014 banner v6Tokyo Idol Festival is a magical place where idol dreams are born…

idolbannerX4frolic happily for two days…

tif2013asX6… and then suddenly die.

Having gone to three TIFs, I’ve developed a weird love/hate relationship with the event. I love the festival atmosphere, the freedom to either camp out at stages to see your favorite group or wander around aimlessly in order to experiment with new groups, and the relative peacefulness of those in attendance. I hate the incompetent organizers who have proven themselves year after year of being incapable of correcting their past mistakes. The TIF format should have been perfected years ago, yet every year for every improvement there are one or two, or ten new flaws.

When I get a chance I’ll write a few things about this years event: the good, the bad, and the ridiculous. In the meantime here is a list of the groups I saw:

Day 1
S/mileage
(Smile Garden)

READY TO KISS (Navi Stage)
The Hoopers (Enjoy Stadium)
Nice Girl Trainees (Enjoy Stadium)
VS Girls (Enjoy Stadium)
Barbee (Enjoy Stadium)
Houkago Princess (Enjoy Stadium)
TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE (Hot Stage)
The Possible (Enjoy Stadium)
WHY@DOLL (Enjoy Stadium)
La Pom Pon (Enjoy Stadium) Best.Group.Ever. (kidding)
Narumi Takiguchi with Control-S (Enjoy Stadium)
AniYume Project (Doll Factory) Worst. Group. Ever. (not kidding) I still have nightmares.
Houkago Princess (Doll Factory)
Caramel Ribbon (Doll Factory)
Dancing Dolls (Doll Factory)
SIR (Doll Factory)
Sunmyu (Smile Garden)
Doll Elements  (Smile Garden)
Street-sei (e-Street & w-Street senbatsu)  (Smile Garden)
AYUMIKURIKAMAKI (Hot Stage)
G-Girls (Hot Stage)
predia (Hot Stage)
Yufu Terashima (Doll Factory)
Faint Star (Doll Factory)
Links (Doll Factory)
Mai Kotone (Doll Factory)
Vanilla Beans (Doll Factory)
predia (Doll Factory)

Day 2
AYUMIKURIKAMAKI (Hot Stage)
Shizukaze & Kizuna (Hot Stage)
Doll Elements (Hot Stage)
GEM
(Hot Stage)
HimeCarat
(Enjoy Stadium)
Idol College
(Enjoy Stadium)
READY TO KISS
(Enjoy Stadium)
Sakura Gakuin
(Hot Stage)
MOSO CALIBRATION
(Festival Stage)
Alice in Alice
(Festival Stage)
SO.ON Project 
(Festival Stage)
Lil Chill 
(Festival Stage) Correction, this is the worst group ever!

S Spicy (Festival Stage)
AYUMIKURIKAMAKI
 (Festival Stage)
ry-moon 
(Festival Stage)
Caramel Ribbon 
(Festival Stage)
Sunmyu 
(Festival Stage)
GEM 
(Festival Stage)
predia
(Festival Stage)
PASSPO
(Smile Garden)
tifd1

Update 8.30
TIF 2014
The Good
My editor keeps waking me up in the middle of the night to remind me to finish this recap. I’m like, “Grandpa, don’t worry! I have a trillion ideas!” and then I fall back asleep for another 10 hours.

So, the “good” aspects of TIF? Hmm, this should be a short section. I actually feel really bad for being so negative considering this years TIF could be a lot of people’s first experience. And for those who may have gone to TIF 2011 or 2012 (aka the golden years), but skipped last year, they would probably think, “What the f-junk happened to TIF?!” I’m literally searching my memory banks trying to recall what was good about TIF *My brain is like: <processing… beep BEEP BLEBOP… system error… shutting down>.

I guess the best part of TIF is there actually was a TIF this year. After every TIF there is speculation whether there will be another. Therefore, it’s exciting when the next iteration of the festival is announced. The bi-weekly lineup updates and the eventual planning of the “perfect” timetable can also be very fun (although also massive time wasters). Those are extraneous to the actual event though, and not everyone has the personality type that would find the planning aspect to be particularly fun. Still, a mediocre TIF is better than no TIF.

And seeing GEM and predia never gets old.
tsg tifI’m also arrogantly declaring Sara the most badass idol ever (… she’s the girl in the center pointing.)
For once I’m actually being serious. She has an extremely cool aura that no other idol has… as long as she isn’t talking. Once she starts rambling her coolness drops like a billion percent. But everyone knows I’m still a huge Sarararararaaanaaan fan.
TIF main stageFor my hard work at getting to TIF an hour before day 2 began I got a 3rd row seat at the Hot Stage in order to see GEM! (“Hard work”? “3rd row?!” You were supposed to get there 90 minutes early for front row!!) 

The Bad
1. No SUPER☆GiRLS! No Morning Musume ’18! No SweetS! No SDN48 revival! No Hinoi Team or DREAM! This lineup sucks.
Evaluating the lineup is obviously extremely subjective. But I’m going to do it anyway MUHAHAHA!

The idol scene is insular and dominated by fanboys and fangirls. Considering there are 200+ J-pop groups and most fans probably like less than ten groups (with some not even necessarily being “idol” groups like Perfume or Fairies), pleasing everyone is an impossibility. However, I do think there are certain decisions (that are separate from the actual groups attending), which can be objectively critiqued, with the most significant being the number of groups attending. Not counting TIF 2010 (which was completely different than the current TIF format), the event has gone from 57 groups in 2011 to 138 this year. Although the number of groups has more than doubled, they haven’t made reciprocal changes to the length of the event, the size of the stages, or the number of stages. On paper it sounds better to have as many groups as possible, but in reality, it’s more complicated, since any increase in the number of groups has a corresponding decrease in the length of their performance and the number of stages they can perform. Most of the performances are ~15 minutes, which is enough for maybe three songs. That goes by really fast, and even if that group has two or three stages, they tend to repeat the same songs at every stage. Considering how many questionable and downright horrible groups were included this year, it makes it even more annoying that the reason for these super-short stages is because the organizers prioritized 138 groups attending, over a more reasonable number. I bet if the number of groups was cut in half, the quality of the event would improve significantly, because it wouldn’t be constantly diluted with mediocre groups killing the buzz created by the talented groups.  

2. Attendance has quadrupled since 2011 *pulls out a calculator* So logically there should be more than 20 stages. TIF stop being lazy!
TIF Attendance   Number of Stages
2011: 10,000         6
2012: 21,500         8- 9 (8 on Day 1, 9 on Day 2)

2013: 33,000        6
2014: 41,000         7

Imagine you live in an awesome cave, just big enough for you and a box filled with your idol treasures (GEM cds, La Pom Pon posters, Mano Erina body pillows, etc). A year later you decide to expand and excavate an extra room (it could be like your studio or home office). Unfortunately, after you spend months digging the extra room, before you even have a chance to set up your new home office, a crazy hobo moves in. Unfortunately the hobo is pretty strong and resists all of your feeble attempts at persuading him to leave. And all of your attempts at killing him in his sleep also fail. Ultimately, it’s not a big deal because there’s enough room for both of you in the cave. But then a year later a third person moves in! And because of a rainstorm, half of the second room got destroyed. So now three complete strangers are sharing a cave with just 1.5 rooms. A year later the original second room is accidentally demolished and a newer, inferior room is excavated in its place. Compared to the original extra room it’s smaller, uglier, and it’s also haunted. Every now and then you reminisce about how cool it was when it was just you in the cave with your box of idol treasures. And then after you thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse, a fourth person moves in. This person is even crazier and more annoying than the previous two. So now four people are living in a cave that was originally just big enough for one person. After four years you start to wonder… do I really want to live here for a fifth year?
I think you’ll agree that was a perfect analogy with what is going on with TIF.
navi stageThis is how the stages should look. Notice there aren’t a million people climbing all over each other – half of whom don’t even have TIF tickets! I wish I had a before and after photo of this stage. At one point it was so packed that you couldn’t even get to the stage. It was so packed you couldn’t even walk down the stairs to get to the stage. It was so packed you couldn’t even walk across the bridge to get to the stairs to get to the stage. This stage killed half of my day 1 schedule. That was my last chance to see Ai Shinozaki! *cries*


3. iDOL Street weirdness

If you aren’t an iDOL Street fan you can skip this section. Last year was an i-Street paradise: SUPER☆GiRLS performed twice, and Cheeky Parade, GEM, and Street-sei performed multiple times both days. The Sky Stage performance by Street-sei was easily one of my highlights of TIF 2013. This year SUPER☆GiRLS iDOL and Cheeky Parade didn’t attend, and GEM was only at day 2. Their producer blogged about how he wanted the groups to appear at more varied and diverse events, so pulling out of TIF was a deliberate decision. It’s somewhat understandable, but that logic would have made a lot more sense last year when SUPER☆GiRLS were still hot. This year has been rough for the group, and I think they could have generated some momentum at TIF, while also showcasing the new members to a broader audience. The most annoying decision though was setting up an Street-sei “senbatsu.” I’m putting it in quotes because there isn’t a “senbatsu” in Street-sei. Street-sei is Rihona, Haachin, and ten or so borderlines like Saku and Ruka. Street-sei doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to perform, so denying them the chance to perform at TIF was horribly unfair to them and the fans. The actual “senbatsu” lineup is beyond absurd, and even the most hardcore Street-sei fan should be able to admit the lineup is lacking in every single idol category from talent, personality, looks, and chemistry. I’m convinced the main reason the group exists is to (1) hype Sutorigu 3 (particularly if you are a fan of a member not selected), and (2) more importantly, cut costs, because getting all six teams to events like TIF and @JAM EXPO costs a lot more than just sending a random group of 11. The “senbatsu” roster is simply not viable as a 4th iDOL Street group and it’s insulting they think fans would consider them legitimate candidates for the 4th group.

4. The timetable I spent hundreds of hours perfecting looks nothing like the timetable I actually experienced!!
And I blame global warming. And the TIF organizers. Odaiba is always hot in the summer. Even blind brain surgeons know that. And when it’s not hot, it’s probably because there’s a tsunami causing even worse problems. Yet the organizers made five out of the seven stages outdoors. And not only were they outdoors, the stages weren’t even that close to each other, making it a hassle to get from one stage to another. On day 1 I basically just hung out in the two stages with air conditioning, regardless of who was performing. Why else would I have seen Nice Girls Trainees? VS Girls? AniYume Project? La Pom Pon?? Oh wait, I like them.

Maybe they can plan the next TIF to coincide with a 48 hour solar eclipse.
stupidsunfamilyv3

The ridiculous
Odaiba is a unique area that has two mid-size concert venues within a five-minute walk of each other. In 2012 Zepp Diver City was used as the main stage (capacity 2400) and in 2013 Zepp Tokyo was used (capacity 2700). Using either works well for the main stage, but utilizing both would solve practically every negative issue regarding TIF. This year they used neither venue, instead they used the ODAIBA NEW WORLD stage, which is a an outdoor stage that is used for the Mezamashi Live concert series. The venue is outdoors, although the stage and primary seating area are covered. The stage works relatively well for Mezamashi Live because it’s a 45-60 minute concert and they cap the ticket sales. The stage worked horribly for TIF though. It was way too crowded, way to difficult to navigate (there was a labyrinth of barriers set up making it difficult to get into the seating area and because it was so crowded if you took the wrong route you were screwed), there were benches limiting the number of people, there were too many areas accessible by non-ticket holders, and it was too small. Most importantly, it was way too hot to use an outdoor stage as the main stage. So why did they use the NEW WORLD stage? I bet it saved them money. Instead of spending money booking Zepp for two days, they could just put Mezamashi Live on a 2-day hiatus, and use a stage they own, regardless of the fact that it is completely unsuitable for the TIF format of rotating groups and fans rushing from one stage to another. The stage was also more remote than either Zepp venue. Using the stage was ridiculous, and I can’t even imagine what would have happened had it rained that weekend.

While TIF organizers can’t control the weather, they can at least partially control the fan’s exposure to the heat. Outdoor stages and a complete lack of any shade reflect how out of touch and oblivious they are to the fan experience. Fans were basically treated like animals. Especially at the Greet Square. Do they really think it’s acceptable for fans to wait in the blazing sun for an hour for a 1-minute handshake event? Personally if I am going to talk to my favorite groups, I’d rather not be sunburned and dripping in sweat. And I’d rather the idols not be dripping in sweat either. Actually, that sounds hot.

I ranted about this before elsewhere, so I don’t want to devote anymore time to this, but they made the foreign fans who purchased their TIF tickets direct, to wait an extra two hours before they could exchange their wristband. The delay was because evidently they felt they needed to cross-check the names of the foreign fans attending TIF with the Japan Self-defense Force, INTERPOL, Scotland Yard, KGB, and FBI. It was ridiculous and they didn’t even apologize for the delay, which was the result of these two senior citizen TIF staff members taking forever to arrive. Once they arrived they took out giant ledger books with all the names of the foreign fans, and only after checking a person’s name off the master list and inspecting their passport, were they given a wristband. What is this, 1876?

Tokyo Idol Festival 2015
I have no idea if there will be a TIF next year, or whether I would even go. My brain is like, “Every year TIF get’s 18.7% worse. Just go to @JAM EXPO 2015,” but my heart is like, “Remember how awesome La Pom Pon was?” And then my brain is like “Touche. But you can just catch La Pom Pon at @JAM EXPO” and my heart is like, “You think they would allow LPP within 2,000 meters of @JAM EXPO??”

In conclusion, I’ll go on one condition: the sun isn’t allowed to attend.
nerd sun v3

(For the record I have no idea whether there will be an @JAM EXPO next year, and based on the footage I’ve seen, the stages were way jankier than I thought they would be. But they were all indoors, therefore @JE wins by default.)

Update 9.1
Somehow this recap didn’t really recap anything (I didn’t even make fun of the horrible groups like LIL CHILL – how nice of me).

I should at least mention that after three years of being one of my favorite idols ever I finally saw Sakino Chiba (previously a member of Houkago Princess, now the center of READY TO KISS). I also never went to Sky Stage, which is kind of like going to Disneyland and not going on Space Mountain. I sacrificed 3 hours of TIF (and my life) in order to get front row for GEM and predia at Festival Stage (the stage near the Gundam statue). They used this stage at TIF 2012, but they made it much worse this year by pushing the stage further back into the actual staircase. It’s a little hard to explain, but previously the stage was set up at the base of the stairs, allowing people to relax on the stairs while groups performed (google Shizukaze & Kizuna TIF for interesting video of the stage). This year the stairs were actually used as the stage, placing the groups 3 or 4 meters further back and preventing fans from sitting there. Just another fan-unfriendly decision at this year’s TIF. Since I was in the front row, I could see off stage where the groups scheduled next were waiting. While Sunmyu was performing, I was watching the GEM members (GEMbers) prepping off stage (they were scheduled next). Kakochin, Maho, and Chanman were acting like huge dorks the entire time, it was awesome. One of the last memories of TIF was after PASSPO’s last performance at Smile Garden. The way the stage is set up, after group’s perform, they walk down a path to one of the Fuji TV buildings. When Makochan walked past me, she looked straight at me from less than a meter away. It felt like she looked straight into my soul.

And I think she put a curse on me.

Predia Party @ Mt. Rainier Hall

24 Aug

ppmrhPredia Party #37
Mt. Rainer Hall, Tokyo
August 10, 2014

I feel lazy for reusing the above banner since it doesn’t match the current lineup, but in my defense there aren’t any high resolution photos of them online. (Which reminds me, why are low res photos still the standard for J-pop groups? What is this, 1876?)
IMG_3496I actually don’t know if this was their 37th “party”–which is what they call their solo concerts, but it’s the fourth one I’ve attended. There were a few notable differences between this concert and the one I went to last March: (1) this was their first as a major label group, (2) there were three changes in the lineup, and (3) they ended the dual vocalist format, which was one of their defining features.

Since their formation, Predia has been one of the most overlooked pop groups of all time, not just by idol fans in general, but even by their own agency. The group has been ready to debut since 2012 and that two year delay felt like an eternity. Two years for an idol is like 50 in walrus years! It’s been frustrating for fans; I can’t imagine the frustration the members have felt. Even when the group was formed back in 2011 they weren’t “young,” at least not by idol standards. Most of the members are now in their mid to late 20s, a crossroads age requiring them to decide between continuing their roles in the group, or focus on longer-term careers, family, or whatever women in their mid to late 20s think about. While Japan is much more age obsessed than Western countries, it’s still hard to believe that age alone could make them that unappealing to a record label. Whatever the reasons were, their long wait made the lineup changes really bittersweet. When predia announced their major label debut in February, they also revealed that Terumi and Megumi were graduating. Both were original members and integral to the group. The timing of the announcement was surreal. The silver lining is the new girl, Yuu Maeda, has become predia’s miracle member. Ya-hoi!

The third change involved the group’s dual vocal format. Akane and Rumina had been the primary vocalists, while the other members rotated as back-up singers. It’s not a perfect comparison, but if you are familiar with the EXILE spinoff group Generations, you’ll understand predia’s dual vocal system. The rules relaxed over the years and other members began singing more, and a few, like Runa and Sakurako, even got solos. When the group announced their major debut, they also retired the dual vocal format. Now all members have mics — and they aren’t the fake prop mics that some of the PASSPO members have (<- inside joke about PASSPO). Akane and Rumina are still the primary vocalists, but the change has resulted in the entire group leveling up. They’re all like level 100 Pikachus now! (and I don’t even know what that means!)

That night I got to Mt. Rainier Hall at 17:50, which was 10 minutes before they would open the theater for fans to choose their seats. The venue is located next door to Shibuya 109. 
IMG_3510In addition to their major debut, the concert was also celebrating Sakurako’s birthday *golf clap*.
IMG_3495I mentioned previously that I had ticket B4, which typically would be a 2nd row ticket when going by the seating chart. Fan club members are able to purchase tickets in advance though and they have priority over general ticket holders. At last year’s concert there were ~60 fan club members, which resulted in me getting a 6th row seat. For this concert there were over 120 fan club members in attendance. And the staff guy was clearly trying to be the most annoying person ever because it seemed like he would never finish calling out fanclub ticket numbers and get to the general ticket numbers. A million years later my ticket was called, I paid the 500 yen cover and *accidentally* caused a huge queue to form because I was being weird and paid entirely in 10 yen coins. It was like I was trying to be the most annoying person ever. Umrhpon entering two guys were handing out Sakurako uchiwas and pink glowsticks. The theater was packed and I chose a seat close to the aisle in row 11. The concert was sold out and actually oversold because they opened up a standing section behind my row. This is where the fans who like to jump around like animals congregate.

I went to the bar to get a drink and while in line I heard music start and someone mentioned 3 Min was opening. Akira shock. Predia’s blog and twitter hadn’t mentioned an opening act, although it turned out 3 Min (pronounced “San Minute” or “San Min”) tweeted about it that morning. Initially I hesitated returning to my seat, because I really needed a drink and I wasn’t enamored with the thought of seeing 3 min. Earlier this year I stayed up until 3AM in order to watch one of their concert streams and I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t like their concept, outfits, or music, so I intentionally avoided them at TIF. And there was something about one of the members that just bothered me. She was… how do I put this nicely, “beastlike.” Turned out the member I didn’t like graduated a few months ago. And the girl who took her place is super fine. That’s addition by subtraction and addition by addition! 

I made the correct decision to skip the drink and skedaddle back to my seat, because I was completely wrong about the group. Or maybe I was right, and they just got a lot better in the past six months. They were really, really, reeeeallly… kinda… really, really… pretty good. Now I regret not making time for them at TIF. They sound like a cross between Perfume and nanoCUNE and they look like a cross between HimeKyun and Babyraids. Sounding like Perfume/nanoCUNE is fine, but looking like a generic version of other groups probably isn’t. It’s weird when an idol group is dressed worse than the girl fans attending their concert. They performed three songs, with each being ~3 minutes long (which is their gimmick). Afterward, they announced their first one-man and are hoping 333 fans attend. Fan #334 is like, “Fine, I’ll just stay home and play Mario Kart with my grandma!”
Bur6YGiCMAA6eOHThen the lights went out and predia’s intro music began *boop BEEP BLEBOP* Each member took the stage one at a time and did a little dance. (OMG, I can’t believe they are ripping off La Pom Pon!) They then proceeded to perform all of their awesome songs (Kowareta Ai no Hate ni, you slipped away, HEY BOY, Hey Now!, DIAMOND HIGH HEELS, Dream of Love, Kimi Mitai ni, and Dia Love), their good-to-very good songs (Silky Rain, Mid9t Luv, Re:Start Game, Crazy Cat, and Boukyaku no Cinderella), and then their “other songs” — the mediocre ones like image and Sunburned Heart that haunt me because they somehow got into their normal rotation. The setlist was actually really good, borderline perfect, because even though predia has accumulated quite a few filler songs over the years, they performed very few of them. The b-side to their newest single, Boukyaku no Cinderella, is one of those songs that is borderline when listening to the recorded version, but is really elevated when performed live.

One of the unique elements of a predia concert is the ability to take photos and video throughout. I took one obligatory photo (crappy iphone pic below) and then just enjoyed the concert. A lot of fans take non-stop photos and video the entire concert, and I wonder how they can enjoy the concert that way. I also wonder how the group feels about that kind of behavior. Predia has allowed photography since their first one-man, but it’s probably still a little distracting when fans have these giant professional grade cameras taking photos of them the entire concert. And I bet from the member’s perspectives they look super pervy while doing it. They’re like, “Is that guy going to watch the concert or just take photos of my boobs all day?” And while they are contemplating that question, their boobs have been photographed another hundred times.
IMG_3494Looking at my photo I didn’t even remember them wearing their purple dresses, but evidently early in the concert they had a costume change into the hotter, less purple-ly, and all around superior Kowareta Ai no Hate ni outfits.
BvCBDF0CQAAN3XxDid I mention hotter? And less purple-ly? (Well, there’s some purple there). Yeah, but there’s a lot less of it. And it’s hotter.
BvoDHh9CcAEFKnmSo thank you Kowareta Ai no Hate ni costume designer guy!
14-8-16 RAfter a few songs the guy sitting next to me who had the aisle let me take his seat, because he wanted to go the back of the theater… in order to set up a tripod with his camera! Weird, but some fans take the oppertunity to photograph the group seriously. So just like the Fairies concert the day before, I was able to slip into the aisle for unobstructed viewing. Another reason I don’t take photos is because the group collects photos at #prediaphoto and the quality is infinitely better than what I could manage.

This photo of Reiko isn’t even from the concert! It’s from a show they did a few nights earlier, but it’s super long kaaawwaiiiiii, so I allowed myself to include it… but just this once.
BtJsQXXCEAI2LZEDuring one of the MCs, Sakurako started groping Yuttan in a reenactment of an erotic scene that was cut from the Kowareta Ai no Hate ni music video. It’s hilarious how Sakurako always makes fun of Yuttan’s weight, physique, personality, and age. That’s love.
Bu9A19SCYAAFzWqRe:start Game was the final song and fans took out their Sakurako uchiwas and pink glowsticks, and proceeded to wave them in the air like they just don’t something something. At one point Sakurako hilariously took one of the uchiwas from a fan in the front row and inspected it, but held it away from her face like she was holding a rabid animal covered in radioactive slime, before casually tossing it back to the guy, as if saying, “Peasant, I grow tired of this!” She has such a weird, aloof personality that is half cool, half ice-cold. She’s just lucky she is hot. Btw, if anyone in Japan happens to see the uchiwa I left under my seat, please mail it to America asap, kthxbye.

Bvamm3oCEAAfXnhI actually got sick the day before the Fairies concert. Evidently I had a fever and the only prescription was more Yuu.
Bvn_Qc7CYAAQZdHDouble (w) oshimen.
BvFv7A1CAAEUV_sSet List
Opening Act: 3 Min
1. Mystery Angel
2. Panarama World
3. Make a Fire

predia
1. Kowareta Ai no Hate ni
2. Going to Ride (extended version)
3. you slipped away
4. HEY BOY
MC
5. Free
6. Mid9t Luv
MC
7. image
8. Sunburned Heart
9. Silky Rain (extended version)
MC
10. Negai
11. Hey Now!!
12. Cherry Love
MC
13. Crazy Cat
14. DIAMOND HIGH HEELS (extended version)
15. Dream Of Love
MC
16. Boukyaku no Cinderella
17. Re:start Game
Encore
MC
18. Kimi Mitai ni
MC (announcement of 4th anniversary concert)
19. Dia Love
Double Encore
20. Kowareta Ai no Hate ni

Looking at the setlist, there was a song called Negai (“Wish”) that I don’t remember hearing, and I actually never knew existed. I did some research and it was a new song that was included in their “Best of” album. Unfortunately, the album is too expensive to purchase for just one song, and it isn’t available on the Japanese iTunes store, nor has it been uploaded to youtube. I would have been fine with a 30 second sample from Amazon or CDJapan, since I just wanted to recall the song. The only option now is to go back in time… or hope for them to perform the song during their weekly concert stream from Akiba Cultures Theater, but I think that series of concerts is coming to a close.

After the concert I purchased two copies of Kowareta Ai no Hate ni and received three tickets to their event.
IMG_3527I gave all three to the guy sitting next to me during the concert because he was cool for giving me his seat and I no longer have the patience to participate in these events (there is a lot of waiting involved).
pptThey had an individual handshake, 2-shot, and group shot. I think you had to buy the limited edition box set of all three versions of the single to take a photo with the entire group.

Predia’s reign of terror has begun

kanhnowI was hoping they would sell more than 25k, considering how great the single is and the amount of promotion their label gave them, but anything over 2ok would have been acceptable. Selling less than 20k would have been disastrous though, so I’m relieved the fanbase didn’t embarrass them. I probably should have purchased more than just two copies, but considering I returned to Los Angeles with just 40 yen, I had pretty much withdrawn the precise amount of money for my trip.

Kowareta Ai no Hate ni reminds me a lot of Dream of Love, which is my favorite predia song, and possibly my most listened to idol song ever (Pretty Lie by PASSPO is either #1 or #2). I checked the credits for the single and Another Infinity wrote the music. This name may be familiar to long-time fans because he/she/it wrote the music to the group’s first four songs (Dia Love, DIAMOND HIGH HEELS, Dream of Love, and Kimi mitai ni, as well as you slipped away) which are all the best predia songs. Their other early music was written by Bamboo Helicopter, who was responsible for most of PASSPO’s early music.

Random GEM connection
There were GEM flyers in the lobby and obviously I took one or two, or ten. I noticed a few other fans taking them as well. Maybe they saw GEM perform at TIF, since they performed immediately before predia at one of the stages.

It would be fitting if there is fan crossover. After all, predia and GEM are the two best jewel themed groups ever!IMG_3584v2

Fairies LIVE TOUR 2014

20 Aug

fairies banner Fairies LIVE TOUR 2014 – Summer Party –   
@ AiiA Theater Tokyo

August 9, 2014

I haven’t been a Fairies fan for a long time, so I guess I don’t really know much about the group. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself though. After all I do know that they are travel themed, each member is assigned a gem with magical powers, their average age is 21, and they cosplay as boys.

And there are 48 members.

Outside of that though, I’m pretty clueless.

When the group announced their first tour back in May, I extended my TIF trip to include their Tokyo concert. Although I purchased my ticket more than a month in advance, I was pretty sure my seat would be horrible. I messed up because I waited a week after general release tickets became available before buying mine. I gambled that there would be resale tickets available, but after several weeks of searching for tickets at the usual locations, there simply weren’t many available. Evidently most of the fan club members who purchased tickets actually wanted to go to the concert. What a bunch of jerks!

Considering this was also Fairies first tour (and I believe only their second or third full concert – which is pretty weird if you think about how long the group has been around), I had no idea what to expect. Would they perform only two songs total and then run off stage? Without an encore? Would they perform while wearing bikinis (for those who like that kind of thing… not me!) Would I get singled out for being the only person who didn’t buy any concert goods? (This is my secret fear at every concert since I never buy anything.)

Although their concert tour was called “Summer Party,” that Saturday (and several days prior) a hurricane was supposedly on a crash course with Japan. Fortunately, the “hurricane” never materialized, even though every time I left my hotel a staff member would say “Be careful of the hurricane!”

ft3Fairies would be performing two shows that day. I chose the night concert because I know that the Fairies fanbase includes a lot of little kid and girl fans, and I figured the night crowd would have less of both. Not a big deal, but the type of audience can impact concerts in different ways. The audience for the night show was ~60:40 guys to girls, which is really unique for a girl pop group. I arrived 40 minutes before the concert began and the staff had set up two general areas for fans to wait, based on ticket numbers A100-300 and A301-600. That pretty much confirmed my suspicion that my B110 ticket sucked. AiiA has a capacity of ~830, so B110 probably meant I had ticket 710. It would be a while until my number was called, so I checked out their merchandise booth which was inside the venue. They had already sold out of a few products like the pink “Tokyo edition” of their t-shirt and both types of towels. I considered buying their official glowstick, but because of its unique triangle-shape, I didn’t think it would be something I could ever use again – even if I go to another Fairies concert in the future.

fscWhen my ticket number was called, I entered the theater, and chose what I considered to be the best available seat – an aisle seat in the middle column of row… 17. There were actually two empty seats in row 16, but I considered the aisle seat better than simply moving up one row, since you can slide into the aisle for a completely unobstructed view of the stage. Considering how high my ticket number was, I was totally relieved. I didn’t want the front row anyway! Everyone knows you can’t truly appreciate Mahiro’s beauty from that close.
ft5The concert began with Fairies newest single BLING BLING MY LOVE, which I think is easily one of their best singles. The complete version with Miki’s solo is far superior to the radio edit. I love the direction Fairies is going with their music and I wish GEM would try to emulate them. A lot of groups have issues with pacing while attempting to fill a 90+ minute set, but they did a great job avoiding dead moments. I noticed at least five cameras filming the concert, so hopefully they release a dvd. The setlist was pretty much perfect and the occasional break didn’t detract too much. The main MC segment was pretty creative with Rikako and Sora doing a skit called FTV (“Fairies TV,” stylized like MTV). Rikako was DJ Pyon’s and Sora was DJ Sky and they covered recent Fairies “news,” including info about their single, going to America/Los Angeles to film the music video, and the staff getting lost and not understanding anything while they were there – kinda like me when I go to Japan. The biggest surprises (at least for me) was the solo performance by Momoka and and unit performance by M Three (Miria, Miki, and Mahiro), which I hadn’t considered they would include. I really like M Three’s song in particular, and randomly heard it several times on the radio while wandering aimlessly around Tokyo.

The only negative about the concert were some of the outfits. They weren’t the typical “cool” outfits Fairies are known for. Rikako and Sora had to wear these baggy 3/4 length “things” for the first half of the concert (see below).
f53e83a7648725But everyone knows I’m still a huge Fairies fan!

Set List
1. BLING BLING MY LOVE

2. SILLY BOY
3. Sparkle
MC – member intro

4. Love Me, Love You More
5. Hikari no Hate ni
6. No More Distance
7. One Love

MC – “FTV” corner (Rikako and Sora)
8. Poker Face (Momoka)
9. Your Love (M Three)
[Dance routine]
10. Super Hero
11. HERO
12. Hot Stuff(cover of an American song from the 70s – I think
13. Beat Generation
MC – concert goods
14. White Angel
15. More kiss
16. Run With U

Encore
17. BLING BLING MY LOVE
18. Song for you

f53e83a764d3f6The encore was a little strange because the chant started immediately after the group left the stage. Literally after the last member disappeared a few girls had already started. I’ve been to concerts where the chant started after ten seconds, but never instantaneously like this. I would think most fans would want to give the group some time to change their outfits and rest for a minute or two. I guess not though. Fans can be crazy. 

Which makes me think one day there will be a concert and the chant will start before the concert has ended. Like when they announce the “last spot,” signifying the last block of songs, the chant can start. And I want to be at that concert! I will yell “encor-uuu” louder and more annoying than ever before!

Concert footage

I also wanted to mention that while waiting outside for the concert to start, predia’s promo truck drove by the theater *vroom vroom honk honk kerplunk* This was the second time I saw their truck (the first was in Odaiba during TIF). These are exciting times for predia fans. Exciting and sexy times! We have suffered ever so long…

I was too mesmerized to take a photo, but this is what it looked like:

pt1This weeks edition of “Is it okay for a guy to save this?”™
Item: concert streamer

IMG_3586Absolutely not. Please retire from the internet!

…is what I would normally say. Fortunately, I’m in a good mood, so I’ll allow it… but just this once.

(Didn’t you also save SUPER☆GiRLS streamers from their tour last year?)
Yeah, but those just happened to land in my bag without me doing anything. Taking them out would have required work. And I um… had to fight a little girl for the Fairies streamer.

I may have been a *little* hasty with declaring La Pom Pon the best pop group of all time!

7 Aug

I went to La Pom Pon’s mini-live yesterday… and I must have been temporarily insane to so daringly declare them the best pop group of all time.
lpp 8.7 aThe event was at TRESSA Yokohama which was a 70 minute train ride out of Tokyo, followed by a 20 minute walk in the blazing sun. When I arrived they were rehearsing their set.
lpp 8.7 2After 15 minutes they returned and opened with their 5 minute dance routine, a brief MC where they talked about performing at TIF, a cover of I have no idea what (wow, this is so informative), and finished up with what I presume will be their debut single since it’s their “best” song and just like at TIF, they taught the audience how to do the choreography.
lpp 8.7 5After seeing them a second time, they are much more similar to tsuribit, and nothing at all like GEM or Fairies. Performing at a mall in front of housewives and little kids during the middle of the day has this effect of making pop groups seem a million times less cool than they would appear on a real stage. With that being said, I still really like their leader Yukino, and will casually keep an eye on this group. Their staff filmed the event so maybe it’ll be uploaded to youtube.

My New Favorite Group of All Time! (for at least this week)

5 Aug

Every now and then something happens in the world that is so revolutionary you can’t help but remember every single detail of that exact moment. Like when Reira was attacked by a vampire zombie from outer space, when GEM debuted and conquered the world, and when Saori graduated in order to focus on erotic musicals. And now…
LPP banner editLa Pom Pon, aka My New Favorite Group of All Time!
Maybe I’m insane, but the moment I saw this group perform at Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 I knew they were the type of talented “dance + vocal” units that I would immediately become a crazed fanboy of. They reminded me a lot of GEM mixed with a little bit of Fairies.

I happened to be at Enjoy Stadium just hanging out and patiently waiting for Narumi Takiguchi to perform. Little did I realize I would soon be watching my new favorite group of all time! I was lucky and had front row VIP access… which is my way of saying there was hardly anyone there at the time so I had front row by default. Once the group WHY@DOLL had just finished and their few fans left, there were even less people. It was a little awkward being one of like twenty people at this stage, but Enjoy Stadium was air-conditioned and there was no way I was going back outside to endure the “end of the world” global warming consuming Tokyo. The stage lights went out and the PA guy announced the next performance. One by one members of a mysterious group came on stage and performed solo dances (similar to Cheeky Parade’s dance intro). Once all the girls were on stage they continued their dance routine for what seemed like another 5 minutes. Ever since I randomly discovered PASSPO years ago, I always try to give a group a fair chance, because even though quality groups are few and far between, finding the good groups make it worthwhile. Eventually I found myself completely fixated on the girl who was color-coded green. After their dance routine they announced their group name was La Pom Pon, which similar to GEM, is a hilarious acronym standing for “Power of Music, Pride of New generation” and then they did a quick self-intro. (Note: from here on out I’ll be referring to them as LPP). 

The girl who appealed to me the most was named Yukino and evidently she’s the leader (aka the oldest member). She’s also the coolest… and prettiest, most talented, and cutest. And she *may* be a halfie, which makes her even cooler. If I was GEM’s producer I would immediately head-hunt her and make her co-center with Rana, but since that isn’t going to happen, they’ll just have to be my new favorite group ever! Following them will be difficult though, considering they haven’t released a single or posted any videos on YouTube. But they do have a pretty nice website and just launched their twitter account a few days ago. After their 5-minute dance routine they performed an original song… and then they were done. Their set was only 10 minutes long, but I was hooked and determined to see them at any stage they were going to perform at, even if it meant completely changing my TIF schedule. The only exception was I wouldn’t bump GEM. So the odds were really good that I would see them again. I mean there are 138 groups at TIF, and only one group was untouchable. I pulled out my iPhone and checked my schedule. They were done performing for Day 1, but they had a 15 minute set on Day 2. It was on like Donkey something! Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, God must hate me because once again he interfered with the TIF schedule and LPP was scheduled at the same exact time as GEM’s Hot Stage performance. OMG (Oh my GEM) why? The next day after GEM’s Hot Stage performance I booked it to Festival Stage just in case their performance was delayed or happened to run long. Unfortunately the stage was empty once I arrived and a few minutes later Lyrical School took the stage. I like Lyrical School so I hung around for their first song and then noticed a guy in the vicinity holding a LPP banner (must have been one of their staff). This could only mean one thing… the group was nearby! 
photo 3Turns out they were hanging out in the shade of the Diver City building. Even though at this point I felt like a total stalker, I just stared at them (as casually as I could). What else was there to do at TIF? Go to an actual performance?? Anyway, ten minutes later they finally headed out toward the market place where they evidently did a meet and greet – which is interesting considering I don’t think they have any goods for sale.
photo 1 (1)Their twitter account uploaded a photo of them after their performance at Festival Stage. Super long kaaaaawwaaaiiiii.

LPP TIFTomorrow they will be performing two mini-lives at a shopping mall called Tressa, located in Yokohama. So I’ll update this with a new recap on Friday. This actually reminds me of the time I became a predia fanatic. I saw them open for PASSPO back in 2011 and instantly became a fan, so a few days later I went to an event they had in Saitama. Basically I want to confirm whether LPP are as good as I remember, or if it was all temporary insanity on my part. And one of my main concerns about super indie groups is the stability of the lineup, since it is so common for girls to suddenly leave (probably after they realize being an idol isn’t as glamorous or fun as they once thought). Hopefully my female intuition is accurate, because groups that I truly like are very rare. Interestingly, they opened for Mai Kuraki on 8.1. I used to love Mai K back in the early 2000s.

To be continued…
LaPomPon

 

High GEMsion Max!

31 Jul

I just returned from Mezamshi Live with SUPER☆GiRLS, Cheeky Parade, and GEM. Obviously it was soooo GEM!™ 
2014-08-01 09.36.03Even though it is extremely hot-tsui (hot+atsui) in Odaiba, like any nerdy tourist I had to take a photo of the Mezamashi Live stage the moment I saw it. Kind of like when I was in Paris last month and had to drop everything and take a photo of the Eiffel Tower the moment I saw the tower peaking over a building. Coincidentally, this stage will be used as the main stage for TIF, so I also wanted to do some TIF reconnaissance and get an idea how long it would take to get to this stage from the other venues that will be used for this weekends’ festival. Based on my completely unscientific measurements, I think using this remote venue will add about five-ten minutes of walking (had they just used Zepp DiverCity or Zepp Tokyo as they did in 2012 and 2013). Considering how hot the forecast is for Saturday and Sunday, I think that extra time walking from stage to stage is going to be brutal. At 9:30 AM when we were lined up for the concert, people were already dripping in sweat. Even though I’m from Los Angeles, I’m not used to the type of heat that Tokyo gets. I live near the beach so it’s usually cool, even on “hot” days. But in Tokyo and Odaiba, which is literally on Tokyo Bay, being near the water doesn’t make the area cool, it just makes it humid. If it was possible to cut across from DiverCity (basically walk straight to the stage from the vantage point of the above photo) it would be okay, but you’re forced to walk around the perimeter of ODAIBA  NEW WORLD, which is a Fuji TV summer festival-theme park. The route adds about five minutes to the walk. That doesn’t sound too bad, except when you consider how hot it is, and the fact that depending upon your TIF schedule, you will be walking to and from this venue multiple times. ODAIBA NEW WORLD also has other attractions in addition to Mezamashi Live, including an area devoted to EXILE (which Sara and Rana, aka GEMerations, blogged about going to when it opened two weeks ago) and a One Piece exhibit of some sort (I’m too lazy to look up what it is, but here is a photo of the outside).
2014-08-01 09.36.40If you are a hardcore SUPER GiRLS fan you have probably watched the broadcast of their 2012 and 2013 concerts at Mezamashi Live, without really caring or knowing what Mezamashi Live was. It is pretty much a Fuji TV summer concert series featuring a variety of artists ranging from soloists like Kana Nishino to pop-rock groups like Scandal and Silent Siren to idol groups like SUPER GiRLS, Morning Musume, and Cute. The concerts are relatively short in length, usually scheduled to last 30-40 minutes, but they tend to last a little longer than that if there is an encore. I think the main appeal is watching semi-popular to very-popular groups or solo artists in a small venue for really cheap (1700 yen).
2014-08-01 10.07.54The concert was scheduled for 11-11:40AM, and the venue would open at 10AM (you enter by number, but it’s free seating). We were advised to arrive by 9:45AM though in order to line up by number. My ticket was #684 (I don’t know how many tickets were sold, but the max is 2,000), so I was worried I would have a below-average seat, and possibly in the sun. The venue is covered, but since it’s relatively small, a lot of fans end up standing in the back, which isn’t covered. The photo is the line to the stage (you can see it in the distance). Basically the staff had everyone stand in 100 people increments, so that is the #600-700 line. The line continued down the street, and they had another section for tickets 1,000 and up. Then another staff member called out individual numbers and we lined us up in sequential order. And then we just stood in that line for 20 minutes until we made it into ODAIBA NEW WORLD. Once you walk in there were stalls set up selling iDOL Street goods (more like “greats”). I bypassed the line for concert goods in order to secure a seat. The middle column was mainly filled, but the almost-just-as-good stage-left and stage-right areas had a lot of availability and I was able to get an awesome seat in row 6 on the right side. Based on my ticket number I thought I was going to get a seat in row 12 or worse, so I was really surprised. I think a lot of people made the mistake of getting in line to buy goods, instead of first choosing their seat.
2014-08-01 10.27.47Before the concert begin they were playing the most recent SG, CP, and GEM music videos on the screen on stage. I guess I’ve been slow on the uptake, because this was the first time I watched the video for SG’s most recent single Chozetsu Bakusho Ondo.

The concert was scheduled for 11:00-11:40, but based on the past two years, I expected it to last another five minutes for the encore. Surprisingly the concert lasted a full hour from 11:00-12:00. There wasn’t an encore though, but going a full hour was a nice compromise. When Rika was about to do their standard closing, Amita (I think) cut her off and they performed Believer (which is guess is tradition now since they’ve performed this song last all three years). After the concert GEM had a handshake event.

Set List
GEM
1. *Dance intro*
2. We’re GEM
3. Do You Believe
Cheeky Parade
4. BunBun Nine9
5. Cheeky Fighter
6. Together
SUPER☆GiRLS
7. Welcome to SG Show IV
8. Hanamichi!! Ambitious
9. Chozetsu Bakusho Ondo
10. MAX! Otome Gokoro
11. Believer

I really like events like this that bring the different iDOL Street fan factions together, which makes it unfortunate that there is so little i-Street participation at TIF this year. And there was kind of an awkward moment when GEM was talking about TIF, since all three groups were on stage and this is the first year SG and CP decided not to attend. Personally, I think it was a mistake for their producer to pass on it, since most i-Street fans are used to attending TIF, and now the fanbase will be divided with the separate events each group is doing that weekend. I can’t imagine many fans choosing a SG handshake event over TIF. Even weirder, Cheeky Parade is going to be at Zepp DiverCity on Sunday, but performing at a different event.
2014-08-01 12.09.11The tent area on the left was for iDOL Street concert goods (more like “greats”). I didn’t buy anything because I feel I have enough SG and GEM goods (more like “greats”) already. I guess I’m beyond the part of my fandom where I need to buy stuff just because there is a new version. (Why can’t you just admit you have no money?) Never!

Oshimen News
I *think* Reira may have looked at me. This is only newsworthy because she has previously never acknowledged my existence, even during a high touch. But everyone knows I’m still an insane Reicheru fan!

Sara, aka my oshiGEM, definitely looked at me multiple times.  I’m pretty sure Maho did as well, and *maybe* Jurin.

I’m not the type of person to get “star struck,” but these moments are pretty unique considering how few opportunities there are to see them in person.

Tomorrow and Sunday is TIF, but the other concerts I will be attending are Fairies on 8.9 and predia on 8.10.

tickets

Ticket analysis:
Ticket sales must have gone well for Fairies first tour since they added a night concert to their Tokyo date. My indecision whether to purchase tickets for either the day, night, or both, resulted in me getting a really, really horrible ticket to the night concert. I’m kind of terrified how bad my ticket is going to end up being when I get to the venue. I checked the AiiA Theatre floor plan, but I can’t find B110 anywhere. Clue #1 that your ticket sucks is when you can’t find your seat on the seating chart. But then again, I thought my Mezamashi Live ticket was going to disappoint, and I ended up in the 6th row.

The predia “party” on 8.10 will be their first concert as a major label group. I bought my ticket the first day they became available to the general public, but after ticket sales for their fan club. Ticket B4 would typically be a second row seat, but it’s impossible to know what seat I’ll actually have until the night of the concert, because those with a general ticket will only get seated after the fan club members, and it’s impossible to know how many fan club members purchased a ticket.