*All images used have been credited to their original owners. Any photos used without credits are my own images
**Any mistakes present in the post, please do feel free to call me out on that shit. We all have things we gotta improve on, and I definitely need to improve on my Typos.
With idol lives becoming a more frequent phenomena within the UK music scene, it seemed like a no-brainer that Orion Live's next step would be to bring along some of Japan's most mesmirising underground performers, where they would show them off in three of the UK's leading music-savvy scenes.
(Promotional Image owned by OrionLive)
Presented by Orion Live and starting off in London on April 20th, heading over to Manchester on April 22nd and rounding things off in Birmingham on April 23rd, three underground solo idols - DOUBLE AND (Saki), GARUDA (Sakimura Yuffie) and 14th Generation Toilet Hanako-san (Hanako) - embarked on an Easter-weekend and Bank Holiday tour, with Saki leading the way as the Headlining act of the Indie, Idol & Infamous live shows.
And in a surprise twist just days before the event itself, it was revealed that Rukatama of the group MELON BATAKE A GO GO, of which Yuffie is also a member of, would be joining the girls during the tour. Acting as a goods salesperson for the GARUDA stall, as well as a camera-person for all of Yuffie's live performances, Rukatama took the chance to travel to the UK, whilst also promoting herself and MELON BATAKE A GO GO to the foreign fans who had travelled to see these three girls perform on a brand new stage.
Travelling to three cities and performing at three different venues, the warm Bank holiday event proved to be a loud and messy event for all attendees as Saki, Yuffie and Hanako showcased their own unique performance style, their brand and - of course - their voices to a UK audience.
(Far Left: Saki | Centre: Yuffie | Right: Hanako | Central Back: Rukatama
Original image by DOUBLE AND)
Original image by DOUBLE AND)
With only three tour dates to attend for the Indie, Idol & Infamous tour, I was lucky enough to make it to two of them; the opening performance in London, as well as the closing performance in Birmingham. I had initially planned on only attending the London show, but thanks to a spur of the moment decision, no work and my judgement out of the window, I booked a hostel and bought some train tickets, all to watch the show once more, albeit in a smaller, more intimate setting that, according to fans, matched the typical style of most underground Japanese venues.
And no, dear readers, I do not have any regrets at all in making such a quick decision, because the Birmingham show has to be one of the best I have attended in a long while, since NECRONOMIDOL last year in June, at least. I swear, sometimes the best-made plans are the ones we make at the last minute.
Okay, let's get into this report because Lord, I've procrastinated on it long enough.
*Out of the interest of your poor eyes, I will be splitting this report into 2 parts: the London side, and the Birmingham side. I apologise for writing far too much, but I really do not know how to contain myself.
So, let's begin this report in full from the beginning, which would be Modern day London, April 20th 2019 at The Water Rats, a fair-sized pub located a short distance (by foot) from Kings Cross St Pancras station. This would be the opening stage for the Indie, Idol & Infamous tour, where fans gathered to see the likes of Saki, Yuffie and Hanako perform one after the other on an English stage for the first time. Though a handful of those attending had already seen the girls live on stage before in Japan, it was a first for many others. I myself had only seen Saki perform prior to this, and that was back in Manchester, circa June 2018, but when it came to Yuffie and Hanako, I came up blank. Sure, I was aware of Hanako's infamous acts and the mess she liked to create - who hasn't, when you're knee deep in idol news and fan stories? - but I didn't know what either Yuffie or Hanako's music was like. So, I went into this knowing only Saki, similar to a few others who were attending the show, and hey, let's be real - Saki's the entire reason why I even went to this event in the first place.
So, let's be real here; I was hesitant as fuck to go watch the Indie, Idol & Infamous live, all because of Hanako-san and her penchant for mess and mischief. I was scared, I personally did not want to be bathed in fish guts, sour milk or whatever else she had planned for us that Saturday evening, and I definitely did not want to be targeted by her. It wasn't until after I talked to a few people regarding Hanako and my worries that I eventually pushed my doubts aside and purchased the ticket. Sure, my so-called friends didn't help at all when it came to my worries (finger-pointing at Marc and Adam, here) , but at the end of the day I have no regrets regarding my decision. I pushed my boundaries a little, had a good time and discovered some new music I didn't expect to get into at all.
And I had a fucking good time, too.
Before I get into this report properly, I do want to stress just how important it is for me to interact with the other fans at these kinds of shows. It's honestly one of my favourite aspects of any live show, indie or otherwise. I love talking to everyone, making new friends and meeting people I already know. It's such a positive, energetic and interactive environment, and you can learn so much about other people from who their favourite performers are, to how they became fans of Japanese music. I love it!
From the onset, the London live for Indie, Idol & Infamous was promising. The first point of call was meeting the other fans at the venue, and though I didn't arrive super early, I got there with enough time to grab a seat, meet up with friends, talk to a few other fans and even pass around some badges I had made for the event itself. Hell, I even got there early enough to witness the girls come in with their equipment as they prepped for sound tests before the big performance. Hanako herself had arrived in full costume, neck wound and all, and made herself known to the crowd the second she stepped foot in the establishment. Michevious, cheeky and adorable do not even begin to describe the phenomenon that is 14th Generation Toilet Hanako-san, but it's the best I can come up with in the moment. Regardless of what people thought of her though, Hanako made an impression, one that would last long after the performance had ended.
... Damn. That was cheesy.
(Photo courtesy of Amanda)
Even before the sound checks could take place, Hanako's antics were in full swing. Harmless, albeit a little weird, Hanako's idea of 'michief' is a mixture of playfulness, before introducing us all to her messy and sometimes gross gestures in which one or more fans will fall victim to. Beginning with games of 'peek-a-boo' behind the glass door that separated the main area from the function room, Hanako pointed to fans, waved, hid and more, before finally escaping the promoters and joining the fans. First, she stood behind one of the fans sat at the same table as me (hi, Terry) and waited with a little smile in place until he turned around, right after he realised we had been staring behind him quite intently for a moment or so. After that, most of us seemed to be at her mercy.
I wasn't chosen by Hanako during this small exchange between fans and idol, however Hanako did have a lot of fun picking and choosing just who she would 'attack' from the crowd that had formed around the table. First, Hanako began sipping water and spitting it back into peoples hands, watching as her victims drank it, or trying to force other people to drink from someone elses hand. It was her first real attack of the evening, and yes, it sounds and looks pretty gross, but remember this: it's a gimmick, and it's a gimmick that her fans like and play along with, regardless of whether or not they happen to drink the water she spits into their hands.
Actually, I'm pretty sure one fan polished his head with the water she spat into his hand. I do recall hearing someone shout out about his hair growing back because of magical properties, or something along those lines.
The water thing was more than harmless, though. In fact, I was more worried about those who suffered at being given a little bit of salt n' pepper for supper. Whether she sprinkled it inti their hands or popped a sprinkling of pepper into someones beverage, Hanako was having a gleeful time watching her victims suffer as they licked salt from their hands or drank pepper-infused san miguel. Again, I was never targeted for these antics, though I was given a clear view of those who did suffer at her hand, but it was interesting to get a taste of what Hanako was like before the show itself.
Finally, in her last dreadful act of mischief, she took a cute panda hand-puppet and decided to - you guessed it - spit into it, or at least motion spitting into it, before throwing it on the floor with a small pout and a little glare. It was quite interesting to see, and oddly cute as well, because it really did cement one thing for me: Hanako-san is adorable, in the weirdest way possible.
(Photo courtesy of Amanda)
Once her final deadly deed was done, Ambulance sirens rang out, intriguing Hanako enough to make her run to the venue's exit and look outside, her mischief managed for the time being. Now, for anyone who does not live in the UK, pro-tip: don't seek out what our Ambulance sirens sound like, because they are fucking awful and pain-inducing. With that said, it seemed to completely derail Hanako herself, and gave fans enough time to approach her properly and have their pictures taken with her. It was around this time that Chris, one of Orion Live's your managers, came to get Hanako for her sound tests, ending her manical reign of terror and leaving those who had just witnessed her playful antics both excited for the show, as well as impressed by the cute but deadly ghost idol.
Needless to say, Hanako left a mark on the fans after her impromptu meet-n'-greet, especially those who had not seen her prior to the live that was about to begin. Sure, she hadn't won over everyone, but she had definitely impressed a few of us with her antics.
(Photo courteousy of Ally
The event itself had a bit of a hectic start once everything began moving forward. First of all, the VIP meet and greet session ran a little late due to some technical issues, but once that began, it took a little longer for those holding a Regular ticket to actually enter the function room. This wasn't surprising, mind, because the London VIP tickets were so in-demand that there had been a few extra added some weeks before the event itself. Still, it was pretty amazing to see just how few Reguler attendees were there, myself included. I was probably one of 10~20 who didn't go through with the VIP event, but that didn't matter to me; it was fun no matter what ticket I happened to hold.
By the time I was allowed to enter the function room, I saw that it was pretty packed. It wasn't full by any means, in fact there was a bit of room close to the doors and bar at the back, but it was definitely full for an 'indie' event. There was some room in front of the merchandise tables as well thankfully, allowing me to check out the goods and scope out the things I wanted to buy. Thankfully I was able to purchase a few things I wanted right away, such as a Hanako sticker and regular cheki from her merch table, as well as Saki's new UK album and a cheki from her merch table. It was GARUDA's table where I ran into a little bad luck, I suppose, because the second Rukatama - who was heading the merchandise table for Yuffie - had finished serving one customer, leaving me next in line, she apologised and rushed off to film the opening performance for the show.
Coincidentally (or eerily, if that's what you think), the exact same thing happened to me during the Birmingham show as well. I had very little luck when it came to timing with Rukatama and the GARUDA merch table, but I found it rather humorous nonetheless.
With Rukatama's departure from the merch table, I went to stand somewhere close to the middle of the venue for the duration of the first performance, which was opened by none other than GARUDA herself. I couldn't see much - I'm a short arse, for those of you who haven't met me in person yet - but I did catch sight of Yuffie's impressive wings and her skull mask as she stood on the stage, eerie and gorgeous and so bloody breath-taking. Out of all the performers, GARUDA's outfit was probably the most impressive and theatrical for me, especially when you consider that she looked a little bit like a vulture. It was how she acted when wearing the mask that impressed people the most, though. Yuffie was violent, slapping fans or poking at them with her nail-encrusted baseball bat as she sang, fully immersed in the character she had created for herself. It was highly entertaining and a little bit playful, but certainly unique. I've not met an idol who slaps people aside from GARUDA as of yet (but I am aware they exist).
That said, what impressed me most about Yuffie was how she lost herself in her music. Once the mask disappeared and the character of GARUDA disippated a little, you could really see just how passionate Yuffie is when it comes to singing. She is absolutely mesmirising when she falls into her music, her deep voice ringing throughout the venue as she stands in front of everyone, bathed in the smoky stage lights as everyone watched her. It was sensual and - dare I say it? - breath-taking. I was completely won over by Yuffie and her spectacular stage presence, her beautiful silhouette on stage and the sound of her voice. I just can't get this image of her out of my head and - damn - I feel so blessed, guys.
I think I need a moment, y'all
There was a moment of quiet once GARUDA had left the stage, and in that moment Rukatama had returned to GARUDA's merch table, which I kinda made a beeline for. I like my merch, and I definitely wanted to have some time looking at my options. Sure, I only bought both GARUDA and Rukatama's solo CD's, as well as one cheki each for the girls - because Rukatama was doing cheki, and I really could not pass up the chance - but it was a chance for me to talk to an idol I didn't really know about, and learn more about her.
And guys, Rukatama is adorable. At the time of the three UK lives, her hair was bubblegum pink, her smile was bright, and she was willing to talk to everyone who approached her. She was such a cute, thankful girl, and whether she realised it or not, she fished me. She fished me hard.
Oh, and I managed to give her some sweets as a gift as well as a badge I had made, because why not? It's become common practice for me at this point: buy idols something sweet, pray they like it, and thank them for coming to the UK. It's just nice to do, ya know?
Okay, back to the show itself, because right after GARUDA came the act quite a few people had travelled to see: 14th Generation Toilet Hanako-san.
(Photo courtesy of Darren Jones)
The infamous side of this tour, as well as the most intriguing aspect, was the one a lot of people were anticipating, no doubt. For me I was still a little put out by what could happen, so I stayed pretty far in the back for Hanako's portion of the live show. Truth be told, I couldn't see a lot, but what I did see included a fair few props, a few signs regarding Hanako's no-film policy, and a little bit of Hanako herself. Given how short she herself is, and my being short, it was pretty hard to seek her out above the sea of heads that landscaped the venue.
Needless to say, a majority of Hanako's set included lots of listening, and a lot of screaming on her part. I didn't expect that, despite knowing Hanako's brand of idol included some screaming and harsh vocals. Still, to hear that come out of such a small idol... well, it was weird, and I was not prepared. In fact, I was still at GARUDA's booth when Hanako's set officially began and had to do a double take when she started screaming the opening to her first track of the night.
If anything, Hanako as a performer was an enlightening moment for me as a music fan; I don't mind screamo that much any more, especially idol screamo. It's actually quite pleasant.
And that, dear readers, is the tale of how Hanako made me realise I could tolerate the one music style I promised myself to never enjoy. The End.
In all honesty, I don't have a lot to add to Hanako's side of the live event for this side of the report. I mean, I stood there and listened, I was mildly impressed. There was even a song or two I really liked from her, but after that I can't say much more. I didn't experience her messy attack on the fans, because at that point I had left the function area for some fresh air, only to come back to the remnants of a massacre that included some icky fish and whatever else Hanako thrown onto the eager crowd. Thank God I missed out on it, though, because I may have retched if Hanako had thrown fish on my head. Blech!
To the poor sods who did suffer that fate, however: I'm sorry, but I really couldn't stand near you for too long. Don't be offended XD
(Photo courtesy of Ally
With the aftermath of Hanako's wrath cleared up and the stage set for the final act, Saki came onto the stage. Acting as the Headliner for the first time in the UK, the little idol with the big voice really brought her all in each and every one of her songs, singing a few she hadn't performed in her last UK live performance, as well as some she had previously sung for us in 2018.
Again, I was in the very back for this, hanging out with friends and ennjoying the music. That said, I really got into Saki's set, singing along, screaming and jumping (not a good move on my part), enjoying everything that Saki gave us. Sure, I could hardly see anything, but what I did see when I caught a glimpse of the idol on stage was Saki giving us all one heck of a performance, and everyone going completely nuts for her. Hell, I was going completely nuts, and I was reminded exactly why I love Saki and her music.
When live, Saki is freakin' amazing.
There were times during Saki's set that I was able to glimpse her expressions, the way she moved and the way she took in the atmosphere and music. Sure, she didn't have an extravagant costume or props to help set the tone, but what she did have was presence. A simple setting with just her on the stage was all Saki needed to create a memorable experience, and though she didn't include any gymnastics in her set this time around, her movements were still fluid and fast, and at times even peaceful and immobile. Whatever song she sang, Saki truly fell into the emotion and power of the song. It was incredible to see live again, even through a sea of heads, and I was enraptured by her performance once more.
Saki was loud, she was energetic and she was definitely incredible. Her set was definitely the most memorable from that night in London, leaving me buzzing with excitement after hearing Saki sing again. She was in top form, delivered nothing but passion in all of the songs she sang, and she gave us one heck of a performance that beat out her 2018 live. DOUBLE AND was better than I remembered, and my love for her was renewed. Not that it needed renewing, mind.
And with that, the live ended, which meant it was time for the fun part: Buppan.
For those unaware of the term 'Buppan', it's pretty much the act of selling goods and cheki, a portion of the event where the fans get to properly interact with the performers and take polaroid photos, short videos, give gifts... etc. It's something I've become accustomed to quickly since diving into the underground and indie idol scene in regards to concerts, and honestly, I'm pretty spoiled by it; it's not every day that I get to interact with idols or tell them what I think of their music, their voices, etc. Granted, idols do this every day in Japan, but for someone who has never been... well, it's a nice change of pace, and it allows me to get to know the idols more and truly appreciate all they do to entertain the fans.
My first port of call when it came to the Buppan was Saki herself, of course. She was the reason I'd gone to London, and it was her set that I loved the most. So, with gifts in hand - lots of sweets, because Saki loves sweets, and a badge I had made for her - I stepped into the DOUBLE AND line, awaiting my turn. It was a bit of a wait - all of them were - because of the excessive amount of fans attending, but once I got to Saki it was a lot of fun. Her English was better than when I had first met her, and though we did have some communication issues, we got through it. I gave her the gifts - she received a lot of sweets - and she told me that, because it was Easter in the UK, she had been buying a lot of chocolate.
I also found out that Easter isn't a thing in Japan thanks to Saki, so I understood why she'd bought lots of chocolate. She also appreciated the sweets, letting me know she would probably eat them all in her hotel that night. Needless to say, it was an adorable exchange, and I was able to play some janken pon with Saki as well, which was pretty damn fun.
Spoiler alert: I won, after Saki and I kept tying again and again. Can I be in the next AKB Janken PV, now?
Oh, by the way... have I mentioned that during the entire live, I was extremely sleep deprived? No? Well, I was, and I was getting even more worse for wear as time went on. I was also wearing sandals, which, pro-tip: don't do that. That's a stupid move, and you've heard it from the idiot herself right here, right now. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
Once my time with Saki was done, I went to GARUDA's line next, only because Hanako's was crazy long. It was going to be that way for the rest of the night, actually, because Hanako was super popular, but GARUDA's own line was also pretty extensive, giving me a decent amount of waiting time, allowing me to prep whatever I was going to say, and to figure out my pose for the first cheki with Yuffie.
I was lucky enough to be stuck in line with one of my friends, allowing me some conversation time, but I was also able to witness another friend of mine during his turn with Hanako. Now, prior to the start of the live, I had given my friend three badges - a red toilet roll to represent Hanako, a sweet wrapper with the 2& logo for Saki, and a purple bear with a crow mask for Yuffie - and he was wearing all three of them. I was rather lucky to notice him stepping onto the stage to take a cheki with Hanako, but before he could say anything to her, she began jumping up and down; she had seen the toilet roll badge, and she was excited. My friend explained I'd made it, pointed me out in the GARUDA line, and after that Hanako apparently told him she wanted it. It was quite a moment for me to see Hanako act such a way, but she became even more excited when my friend told her I had one for her. So, that made me really happy.
And yes, I was fished by Hanako right there and then, simply because she is adorable.
I had a lot of fun waiting in GARUDA's line, needless to say, and I was thankful to have seen the encounter between Hanako and my friend, but I couldn't pay attention for long; my turn with Yuffie was coming up. Gifts in hand once again, cheki ticket at the ready, I came face to face with the cute girl who dressed up like she was some sort of crow demon. From the get-go, I thought Yuffie was pretty, but up-close she was just so cute. She was definitely shorter than I had imagined, though, but I it added to her overall charm. The red eye contacts and her long black hair were also a nice effect, only enhancing this idea of being a 'crow demon' of sorts.
But that's where the tough, dark theme ended, because when it came to how she reacted or how she talked, Yuffie was absolutely adorable in every way possible. During our cheki interaction, Yuffie commented how she thought my pose was 'cute', and acted shy when I told her I enjoyed her performance. Now, of all the performers there, Yuffie's English was possibly the best of the three, though I did have a few stumbles. It was the same for Rukatama; their understanding of English was pretty good, so it made my buppan time with Yuffie a little bit more exciting, in a way. We talked a little, I handed her the sweets and badge I had made her, and Yuffie, seeing what I had given her, pointed out the badge I had given to Rukatama, pinned to her collar. She had been wearing it during her performance.
Well, I didn't expect that.
I feel like I'm humble bragging here, and I probably am, but honestly, making those badges was probably the best idea I had, and seeing the girls appreciate them in their own way - wearing them, wanting them, etc. - makes me really happy, so to see Yuffie wear the badge I had made Rukatama was a huge compliment. It was also a pretty nice compliment when, after showing Yuffie the other badges I had made (because I was wearing them myself, duh), she burst out laughing upon seeing the red toilet paper version I had created for Hanako, saying 'it's toilet paper!'.
I'm glad I wasn't the only one who found the simple design pretty humorous.
The exchange I had with Yuffie was a lot of fun, as well as one of the most unique exchanges I have had with an idol. She was very sweet, graceful and just lovely overall, and she took her time with everyone who came to take a cheki with and talk to her. It was a wonderful experience overall, and the only thing I regret is that I didn't get Yuffie to sign the packet for her GARUDA CD for me. Damnit!
And then it was Hanako's turn. The longest line of the three, and smack dab in the middle of the stage, Hanako's buppan took a while to get to, but once I was there, I had no regrets in meeting her. The smallest of the three, Hanako exuded confidence and mischief, and looked downright adorable even in her 'bloodied' attire. She was sweet as well, hugging fans and trying her best to communicate with everyone, despite her English being the worst of the three girls performing that night.
For me, one of the most notable things about Hanako's cheki is that, if you did a normal cheki with her - she had two options, normal and 'destroy', where she chokes you out after the polaroid's been taken - and you were taller by a significant amount, she asked you to step off the stage for the pose. It was pretty darned cute, especially when you consider that a majority of the attendees were male, most of whom were quite tall.
Anyway, I didn't have to do that; I'm not tall, as stated previously, but once the person in front of me had finished talking to Hanako and walked off with their own cheki, I didn't even take a step forward before Hanako herself hopped off the stage to approach me. Hands held out before her, Hanako stared up at me and said 'Bajji wa,', leaving me no other option than to give her the gift I'd prepared right away, when I had initially planned on handing it over after the cheki.
Oh, well patience is clearly not Hanako's virtue, but it was adorable all the same.
I sat down with Hanako on the stage then, handing her the packet of chocolate (she didn't want sweets, just plain chocolate) and drawings I had made of her, as well as the coveted red toilet roll badge. She was quite delighted by it, happy to have a fanmade good that represented her, and I was able to tell her - via translator - that I was inspired by the badges and accessories on one of Hanako's hats she wore during lives, and wanted her to have one that was like the toilet paper she held in promotional images. She seemed pleased with the reasoning, but I genuinely believe she was the most excited about having a badge made by some random attendee.
Admittedly, Hanako's cheki is one of my favourites from the London event, despite its simplicity. One of Hanako's go to moves is the ghost pose, because that's what she is; a ghost. But it's the decorating of her cheki that I love the most, because Hanako adds blood drips and all that fun stuff to any cheki she creates. She even has a small clipboard, red and decorated with stickers that she uses to hold the cheki as she writes on it.
I sat and chatted with Hanako for a little bit, telling her she was cute, that she was scary, all those fun things. The only thing I didn't ask, however, was 'do you want to kill me?', which I had been wanting to say since lining up to meet her. In the moments where I talked to her, I just forgot, but it's okay; I was able to chat with her a little bit and ask how she was, as well as give her the things I'd bought and created.
And once Hanako's cheki and buppan experience was over and done with, I received a hug from the petite idol herself - yes, I feel blessed to be hugged by an idol - and said goodbye and good luck to her for the rest of the tour because, at that point in time, I didn't think I would be attending any of the other lives.
With everything done and dusted Buppan wise, I went to collect my things and headed over to friends, where we made the executive decision to find a McDonald's and eat, because live shows and buppan make you hungry at the end of it all. And that, dear readers, is where my night pretty much ended, with cheki, CD's and a trip to McDonald's before I returned to my hostel.
All in all, the London show was a lot of fun. I got to experience more idols, more music, and I even obtained more cheki, which is always a bonus. Once again, meeting the other fans and talking to everyone was a great experience, and quite different to how it went down the first time I attended an event for underground idols. I was more relaxed, more confident to speak with others, and I made some new friends who I want to see again at the next event I go to. It was great overall, and even though I stood in the back for most of it (in bloody sandals, no less), it was so much fun seeing how everyone else reacted to the songs and the idols themselves, but above all it was exceptionally wonderful to talk to the girls in-person and to let them know I appreciated their efforts and their music.
Indie, Idol & Infamous was incredible, but let's be real; Birmingham was even more exciting, and I hope I can get into that side of the live show for y'all soon! For now though, thanks for putting up with my babble. I just hope it wasn't too boring! I'm really no good at writing these kinds of posts. >_<
Until the next post everyone, please take care and enjoy your idols, and I hope that you have a wonderful weekend ahead of you.
Take care and enjoy some idol music,