Yesterday was another Gothic Lolita-styled live event by the crew at A la Mode, the 42nd event of this venerable institution. This night had the same excellent value-for-money line up of 6 or so bands interspersed by DJs, for just 3000 yen, but this time there were less of the pretty little 5 minute floor shows, and instead there was an excellent steampunk fashion show, and a very weird 30 minute theatrical performance (pictured above).
The fashion show appears to have been organized by one of the two members of the band Strange Artifact, who I refer to as Miss Artifact (pictured above, singing). I failed to get any functional pictures of the fashion show, but it was excellent – mostly women in voluminous 19th-century-styled dresses, wound about with belts festooned with mysterious gear, all intricately worked with geometric designs and brasswork. One girl was wearing a leather shoulder-guard that held glowing potions in test tubes, like an elegant and feminine version of the Witcher; two carried briefcases studded with brass designs; another carried a tiny pistol and what looked like a glowing, arcane power tube on her back. There was also a man in velvet pants and fine waistcoat, festooned with accessories and carrying an elaborate clockwork-styled gun, a feather jauntily perched in his top hat. Overall, it was an excellent showcase of craftwork and over-the-top steampunk sense, relatively free of gothic influences and heavily influenced by cowboys-and-indians railroad America, and industrial-revolution England.
The show wasn’t lacking in gothic influences, though. The two bands that followed Strange Artifact, himemanik and Remnant, had a healthy dose of gothic style: himemanik with a nice electronic pulse, and (as can be seen from the photo above), Remnant with a large dose of over-the-top old school coffin-guitared goodness. I really liked himemanik, actually, but I failed to get any pictures of them. I also failed to get pictures of Elupia, who I have reviewed before. Elupia are working on a new album, and were really in fine form at this gig, playing with a lot of energy and strength. They really epitomize the level of technical quality that even minor Japanese bands achieve, and are a good advertisement for the Japanese live scene – which in my experience is worth spending money on even if you don’t know the bands, because they are usually at a very high standard.
At this event, I had noticed a couple of women who had turned up wearing zombie nurse outfits, and who spent the afternoon drinking and checking their make-up (and sleeping). One of them was wearing a badge that said “Satan,” also incidentally one of the band names, so I was thinking we might be granted an audience with a zombie nurse rock band. However, as time passed my friend pointed out that the hall was becoming something of a “midgetorama” (his words) as it filled up with really, really short girls, some obviously very young (this was somehow an all-ages gig). These women seemed to have no fashion sense or style in common, but we soon discovered that they all shared a deep, powerful obssession with the headline act of the evening, Satan. For when Satan began playing, they all charged forward, unveiling Satan-themed sweat towels or t-shirts, and lined up at the front of the stage.
What followed was a revelation. Satan (pictured above) are a standard thrash/punk band with nothing special to recommend them – good, savage, loud and raw, but so are all of their kind – except the slavish devotion and energy of their fans. They proved this early on by producing a troll doll and spinning it around before the audience. This was the trigger for all of their fans to form up in serried conga-line ranks and do a complete circuit of the dance floor, charging around in one revolution and returning to their places to resume head-banging crazily to the thrash. Satan invoked this ritual regularly through their songs, somehow managing to hold out an arm or do a spinning sign with one hand and get all their fans to charge around the room. The rest of us had to step back in stunned incomprehension to allow this horde of tiny 16 year olds to take the floor.
It was then that Satan produced his pogo stick. At the sight of this wicked device of ancient power, his fans formed into three neat ranks, all facing in the direction he pointed, and began pretending to be pogo-ing, moving slowly up and down as the guitarist drew out a deep, ferocious roar. Then, of course, off they charged. Their dark lord could reproduce this pogo action just by crouching down on stage.
Other things that Satan got his little girls to do included worshipping the guitarist – whenever a solo was played, the girls all fell to their knees and genuflected – and a kind of mini bus-stop dance, in which the entire crowd went through the same series of arm-crossing and uncrossing, head banging motions.
He also produced a rubber hammer with which he whacked girls at the front of the stage, got them to slap his arse, spat water on them, and whipped them with his dreadlocks. Thus does Satan rule supreme over the gathered hordes of Tokyo’s schoolgirls …
Unfortunately I couldn’t get a picture of all this because, even though Satan is just some second-rate Tokyo thrash/punk band with about 30 devoted followers, he fancies himself special, and has a staff member who came over to tell me further pictures were banned. Further proof, if proof were needed, that intellectual property law is the work of Satan.
At this point as well my phone batteries died (all these photos were taken on my phone), and I failed to get any photos of the last band, Velvet Eden. No loss, since they were completely boring aside from the fact that their singer was cross-dressing, and stopped halfway through the performance to tell us that the band had been running for 10 years and this meant he had also been wearing a “T-back” (g-string) for 10 years. It was, he told us, 10 years since he became TBO – T-back Ore (g-string me!). Just as well he had the gimmick, since the band was ordinary.
So, another a la mode gothic lolita night passed in style and (mostly) musical excellence. This one was quite different to the last, and it’s clear that they put a lot of effort into each night they run, with very different performances and themes for each one. The next will be in early March, and if you are in Tokyo then and have a chance I strongly recommend it …