Just like promised last year, JAPAN NIGHT has started to visit other countries to introduce and invite people to get to know Japan, especially Japanese pop culture, better through its music. The first country to be visited was Indonesia. The event was held in the capital, Jakarta, on April 4th, 2015, in a venue called The Kasablanka. The three bands trusted to spread the joy this time were Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, [Alexandros], and VAMPS.
The first to take the stage was Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, also known as TSPO or, affectionately by fans, Skapara. Like their name shows, Skapara specializes in defying people not to stay still with their cheerful ska music, with violent brass sounds and fierce rhythm section. The current line up of Skapara consists of Kawakami Tsuyoshi (bass), Motegi Kinichi (drums) and Oumouri Hajime (percussion) providing the backbone for their songs, with Kato Takashi (guitar) and Oki Yuichi (keyboards) kicking the melody in, and NARGO (trumpet), Kitahara Masahiko (trombone), GAMO (tenor/baritone saxophone), and Yanaka Atsushi (baritone saxophone) giving the sounds that make Skapara’s shows a paradise for ska lovers indeed.
But it’s not only the ‘rude boys and girls’ that can enjoy Skapara’s performance, and in JAPAN NIGHT Skapara proved that. Skapara and Indonesian audience were not newly introduced to each other: last year, Skapara made hundreds of their fans dance excitedly in Soundsfair. Dark-gray suited and booted, the ska collective explosively showed their might on stage, breathlessly greeting & riling up the audience, not for once letting them trail off. Perhaps not all of the songs Skapara performed were familiar to every attendee (Skapara played their original songs as well as covers, such as 5DAYS OF TEQUILA, Hi no tama JIVE, Damien Rice’s The Blower’s Daughter, and classic hit Can’t Take My Eyes Off You). But the audience knew how to respond well, and they did; they jumped and raised their hands to the air, following the rhythm, clearly infected by the energy radiated by the band.
When it’s time for Skapara to leave the stage, the audience exploded into a massive choir asking for encore, a request which sadly Skapara could not entertain, them not being the last performer of the night.
Next was [Alexandros]’s turn. Although it was their first time to perform in Indonesia, the quartet confidently showed off their musical abilities on stage. Vocalist Kawakami Youhei with his excellent English also managed to engage the audience. For instance, to loud cheers from the audience, he said “I’m already in love with this country, this city, and you people. I don’t care if you don’t like us, because I really love you people. I really do!” Isobe Hiroyuki (bass), Shirai Masaki (guitar), and ‘cool drummer’ Shomura Satoyasu also successfully drew praising shouts from the audience. They performed a total of 8 songs, including For Freedom, Waitress, Waitress!, and Starrrrrr. [Alexandros] might be a young band flanked by two bands who were their seniors in experience, but their performance was solid as if they already had got many years under their belt.
Youhei kept on teasing the audience with his wide smile, saying that [Alexandros] promised to return to Indonesia next year. They didn’t even want to go back to Japan now! He also heard that people in Indonesia liked to sing along, so he taught the chorus for their song Adventure. The audience quickly caught it up, and after the band was satisfied with how they sang it, they launched the last song of their set that night. To concentrate more on his singing, Youhei put down his guitar. And as he expected, during the song the audience sing the chorus that he had taught – it was indeed a nice experience that unified everyone in the hall, both performers and attendees alike.
Even at the end, when his friends had left the stage, Youhei stayed a little bit longer, asking the audience to repeat the chorus again, which they hair-raisingly did. It was an awesome first encounter with [Alexandros], and we hope they would really indeed return for more lives in Indonesia!
[Alexandros] gave way to the top performers that night, HYDE and K.A.Z, the duo better known as VAMPS. The audience, who had spent so much energy up to that point, seemed to almost miraculously gained strength again, screaming the names of the members, including those of support musicians JU-KEN (bass), JIN (keyboards), and ARLY (drums).
Just like it was for Skapara, for VAMPS it had not been their first bill in Indonesia. That’s why HYDE’s greeting to the audience was “I’m so excited to see you again. Are you ready? Let’s make love.” VAMPS proceeded to astonish fans with their hard rock numbers such as ZERO, VAMPIRE’S LOVE, SEX BLOOD ROCK N’ ROLL—performing a grand total of 12 songs. Whatever HYDE and K.A.Z. did on stage, be it energetically jumping from platforms or salons, bringing a big VAMPS’ banner, flirting to the camera, triggered enthusiastic screams from fans. HYDE commanded the audience with his charismatic voice and sharp eyes, and K.A.Z. exhibited his class as a seasoned guitarist.
True to their image as ‘vampires’, in Indonesian, and later mixed a bit with Japanese, HYDE said that he’s hungry and he wanted to eat the one among the audience who seemed to be having fun the most that night. “Where is such person? Where, I wonder?” Willing hands and voices shouting “Me, me!” were raised high. The hands too were lifted above the heads as they swirled muffler towels during ANGEL TRIP.
VAMPS ended their set with MEMORIES at the end of their encore. Although perhaps many fans were still not satisfied yet, the event had to be put to a close. Thus the first overseas JAPAN NIGHT finished; but there are more JAPAN NIGHTs to come, including perhaps in your own country. Let’s look forward to more nights filled with awesome music and culture from Japan!