Pineal returns to AREA this weekend with another night of of grand darkness (Sat. June 4 2005)! Igor has pulled out his report of the original Pagan event from the archives so you can get a first-hand account of Pagan Portrait. Pagan Portrait 2 is on a Saturday, which is when it should be! And on top of the core bands from Pagan 1, Pineal has managed to get 101A – very cool heavy retro sound with strong femme lead. Anyway, on with the report on the original event…
It was a chill night on November 5, when Igor and his partner in darkness took off for Takadanobaba AREA, to bear witness to Pineal Presents Pagan Portrait. The event started at an early 6:30 p.m. on a Friday, meaning Igor missed the opening act and only caught the last parts of the second, but there were three other bands lying in wait as the tardy night crawlers sluiced in from their day jobs. Walking down to the basement I was surprised to be among the oldest of the crowd. Goth seems to be a young person’s game in Japan with society reabsorbing the dark youth somewhere around their mid-20s. Locating the actual stage area was a bit of a challenge, with all doors painted in the same matte black and all looking like emergency exits to hell. Opening the door emitting the greatest noise, Igor and co. stepped inside to discover J-Goth….
What can I say, all the players had pretty polished performances and blew me away. The four bands seen each brought their own style to the party for a multifaceted journey through Japanese Goth music. From the dark Buddhist chants of Candy Spook Theater, to the death screams of Scorpions Death Rock, to the seductive shock-rock of Mushi and finally the dark theatrics of Pineal, the horned one himself, it was a very entertaining night.
First though, lets talk a bit about why I chose this event. It comes down to Pineal’s flyer and Web site, both stylish pieces of art in themselves. Obviously, this guy takes his stuff damned seriously – I couldn’t go wrong. Well, I posted a note on his site (in my terribly Japanese) talking about how great the site was, and Pineal/TAQV posts back in English saying We play on NOV 5th. Come our Live show, if you like….. Alright! So I swooped down to the local Lawson and picked up a couple of tickets from the convenience store’s Loppi station (convenient ticket pickup is a big plus) and got prepped for the show.
Now the location of the show is suitable for avant guarde events, located in the basement of the building sporting dark decor throughout. The arena is decked with black ceiling to floor curtains, a black and while vinyl tile floor and a rush-hour capacity of around 150 people. Finding the bar was a bit harder than expected located just behind arena entrance. Being our first time there we also had problems finding the event-area’s entrance. Our first choice was the biggest door in the foyer, where my partner in crime found herself backstage. No groupies before performances…. We adjusted our senses and sought the door that led to the loudest noise and viola, there we were. We turned up too late for the first act (sorry to Radiostrip) and missed most of the second, but there were three more to go.
So we after discovering the event space we slid up to the bar, collected our drinks and went into the arena just in time to watch the end of Candy Spook Theater. Now these guys have taken Buddhist chanting and turned it into punk-metal fusion. The lead, in his white mad scientist outfit, was punking it out quite well, interspersed with the obligatory screams (we cannot forget the screams). Towards the end of the set the keyboardist, dressed in a china-doll costume and a white mime mask, stepped up to do her prayer moves, which looked dangerously like a Gothic rendition of La Macarena (trust me, it was kind of cool to see). There were actually quite a few people in the audience, with neon cylumes in hand, mimicking her moves – evidently this band has quite a loyal fang-base.
Then it was time for a break before the death metallers of Scorpions Death Rock came out. Scorpion Death Rock are three guys dressed in black leather with a penchant for LOUD. I swear, these guys had hiked Spinal Tap’s amps (you know… the ones that go up to 11), and jacked them up to max. Good hard sound delivered with a flourish, Scorpion Death Rock knew how to play loud. The only thing I might suggest is bringing your earplugs – don’t worry, you will still be able to hear them very clearly. They had a CD (Chemical Invaders) for sale at the end of the concert that I didn’t buy because I was running out of cash after picking up Pineal’s and Mushi’s CDs, but I felt like a heel when my partner later told me the CDs were only 300 yen. I’ll pick a CD up next time, I promise.
Third beer in and Mushi comes out for his set, sporting a cane a la Alice Cooper and a demeanor akin to Marilyn Manson. This was a refined performance by a seasoned veteran. The whole performance showed Mushi was a man who loves his art. The guitarists weren’t just playing, they were grinding their axes. Even when Mushi went a step too far backwards, bumping the taller guitarist, the guy didn’t miss a thing.
The last set was Pineal, armed with his orchestral baton and horned headpiece, leading the audience on a final performance. His deep, at times, guttural voice, along with the dark undertones of the music and well-choreographed moves showed this guy invested a lot in the total experience. It paid off, imbibing the performance with a sense of being at some pagan celebration, except the druids had discovered electric guitars and had better costumes – . There was a tall female guitarist in Pineal’s crew who was doing a fine job throughout, and then she started doing some backing vocals that totally knocked my socks off!
All-in-all, this was a very satisfying experience. After having the television bombard me with J-Pop, which varies from tolerable generic to ungodly cute, it was very refreshing to go out and see what is being brewed outside the mainstream in Japan. There is a lot of good stuff going on in and around the major cities that will go under the mass-media radar, alas. Step outside the box and discover something special.