LUNATIC FEST. was an impressive 2-days epilogue for LUNA SEA’s year-long 25th Anniversary. They invited 20 bands to join the celebration at Makuhari Messe, a massive convention center at Chiba, just outside Tokyo. With artist line-up which included notable names like X JAPAN, BUCK TICK, D’ERLANGER, DEAD END, DIR EN GREY, GLAY, SIAM SHADE, coldrain and many more, it was safe to say that this was a band line-up Japan has never seen before.
When Relawan Konser arrived in front of Makuhari Messe’s International Exhibition Hall at about 7 a.m. of June 27th, 2015, hundreds of people, mostly sporting preordered LUNATIC FEST. T-shirt and today’s performing band’s T-shirts, had been waiting in winding lines for the festival. The drizzle which turned into light rain didn’t hinder them the slightest from orderly waiting in line. Sea of umbrellas emerged there. Next to the immense waiting lines, there was also a small waiting line in front of the ticket box. Around 8 a.m., the waiting line started to move up as they exchanged their tickets with a red wrist band for entering the venues.
The main entrance to LUNATIC FEST. led the audience directly to the official goods area at Hall 5. It opened to EDEN area at Hall 4 which housed the food court and sponsor booth. The stage area was located at Hall 1-3. So to get there from EDEN, the fans had to walk a corridor which was beautifully decorated with illuminated sets of discs.
Right after entering the stage area, the fans were wowed by a huge beautiful rotating moon hung right in the middle of the roof. To the left of the moon were the Fate and Shine Stages, set up on each corner. A giant screen was installed between both stages. And to the right, stood the bigger Moon Stage on the opposite corner of Shine Stage. Two giant screens were installed on the left and right side of Moon Stage and there was a massive LED screen acting as the backdrop of Moon stage.
Since LUNACY would open Day 1 at Fate stage, most of LUNA SEA’s fans (the SLAVES) were already waiting in front of it. Meanwhile, most of DIR EN GREY’s and X JAPAN’s fans were taking spots in front of the Moon Stage. It would still be hours before both bands take to the stage, but their fans did not seem to care.
Right at 11 a.m. sharp, VJ Boo appeared on Shine Stage to open the whole Day 1 of LUNATIC FEST. He congratulated LUNA SEA and welcomed and thanked all the fans who had come. He also took time to greet all fans in front of each stage. After he returned to the backstage, it was still a few minutes later before the first band, LUNACY, took the stage.
For non-LUNA SEA fans, LUNACY was not just as simple as switching the ‘SEA’ with ‘CY’ for the opening act. LUNACY was in fact the name the band adopted in their indie era before changing their name to LUNA SEA as we knew today. By performing under ‘LUNACY’ name again, the band made a statement that this was where they came from.
At 11.10 am, Fate Stage was brought to life amidst the massive cheers from the waiting SLAVES. LUNACY entered the stage and they did not disappoint. Blasting away Chess, Mechanical Dance and Shade, they brought back the old sound of LUNA SEA. Shade, in fact, was originally a song from their second demo tape of the same title when they still called themselves LUNACY. SUGIZO and INORAN also took extra effort to bring the old vibes back.
SUGIZO wore a black mesh shirt, similar to the one he used to wear during LUNA SEA’s early years. INORAN put on long black dreadlocks wig, black cowboy hat and some gothic make-up on his face.
The next band was 9mm PARABELLUM BULLET. Formed in 2004, they were the youngest band who played in Moon Stage that day. They brought to the stage energetic rock with a touch of punk, ska and metal mixed in perfect harmony. The audience obviously loved them as they sang along, jumped, did fist pumping, headbanged and even danced to the attractive music.
The energetic bassist Nakamura Kazuhiko was a definite eye catcher since he was constantly on the move like he had limitless energy; either headbanging, turning in a circle or thrashing the stage in general. On the third song, Cold Edge, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Takuro Sugawara announced a special guest who would be joining them. As the guest turned out to be LUNA SEA’s J, the whole venue went into an uproar. His appearance was truly appreciated by both the band and the audience alike.
The next band was the telephones on Fate Stage. They were very unique to the rest of the bands in LUNATIC FEST. because theirs is actually disco music. Even the audience in front of the Moon Stage across the venue were spotted swaying their bodies to their fun music. During Habanero, the second song, SUGIZO suddenly appeared on the left side of Moon stage. The audience cheered for him but he quickly gave a sign to them to stay quiet & continue watching the telephones. He sat on a high chair for a couple of minutes, enjoying the music while being recorded by a cameraman. And then he returned to the backstage.
The fifth band was TOKYO YANKEES on Shine Stage. On the whole four songs, the band blasted full speed and powerful metal music; the double-pedal bass drum basically never stopped nor slowed down. For the last song, they invited their dear friend, X JAPAN’s PATA as a special guest. PATA was the only non-LUNA SEA member who became a special guest during the whole LUNATIC FEST.
The next band was one of Japan’s rising star: coldrain who took over the Fate Stage. Vocalist Masato showcased his talent in switching from singing to screaming in seconds, keep alternating between them on all songs. Their heavy yet dynamic sounds drove the audience into a headbanging mass.
During their performance, SUGIZO once made appearance at the side of Moon stage to watch coldrain from the distance. He had changed his outfit with one of LUNATIC FEST. T-shirts which sported the festival’s iconic skull in white color. The audience did not cheer for him again, but just waved enthusiastically at him.
The seventh band was another senior band, LADIES ROOM. Just like the TOKYO YANKEES before them, they brought back the old school sounds to the festival. For the last song, they invited LUNA SEA’s RYUICHI to join them covering an old Japanese Enka song, Sake to Namida to Otoko to Onna, which was basically a song about booze, sake, man and woman – just like what the title says. At this point, it was really hard to keep up what was going on both Shine and Fate Stages from in front of Moon Stage because so many people had gathered here for the next band on the main stage.
The next band was SIAM SHADE, who in their earlier days often became LUNA SEA’s opening act. Not long after LADIES ROOM finished their songs, the audience in the back rows of Moon Stage attempted to get closer to the stage by pushing those in front of them to the stage barricades. The force of it actually moved the barricades in front of Moon Stage and startled the security staff. That was how the Battle of Moon Stage began. Constant pushing among the audience happened all through SIAM SHADE’s performance.
A white curtain was hung in front of Moon stage. When the curtain was dropped off to sign the beginning of SIAM SHADE’s show, the audience just exploded with cheers and shouts to welcome the band.
After the band finished their second song, LUNA SEA’s SHINYA entered the stage and greeted the band. He asked the band to play SIAM SHADE’s ultimate hit, 1/3 no junjou na kanjou together. He even started singing the opening refrain by himself, while peeking to his cheat sheet in his left palm and ending it with a striking pose. But he actually refused when Hideki offered him to sing with them. Shinya let the band be and returned to the back stage. The band than blasted out 1/3 no junjou na kanjou which the audience welcomed by singing along aloud.
SIAM SHADE’s performance itself was nothing but impeccable as they displayed bold rocking sound all around. Hideki’s stable voice, which could hold high notes constantly and effortlessly, shone through their eight selected songs. Drummer Junji had a unique way in decorating his drum set. On one of his bass drum, he printed the cover of Drums magazine in which he and SHINYA were featured at.
The end of SIAM SHADE’s performance did only little in releasing the tension in front of Moon Stage, because the next band who played in Moon stage was DIR EN GREY. But before that, Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas took on the Fate Stage. They blasted their powerful songs, riling up their fans in front of that stage. But from our point of view right in front of Moon stage, it was impossible to see them even from the big screen between Shine and Fate stage.
By the time Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas finished their set, another white curtain was hung in front of Moon stage. Unlike the previous one, this curtain was much thinner that the audience in the front rows could see through it. However, this might not be noticeable by the audience on the other rows.
With the curtain still hung, guitarist KAORU was the first one to step to the stage. He was then dimly illuminated and set off to play the intro of and zero. The audience went absolutely crazy, roaring his name, putting into shame the uproar they previously made when SIAM SHADE was making their appearance. Other members entered the stage one by one, and joined KAORU in playing the song.
The second song, SUSTAIN THE UNTRUTH, blasted right after the first song finished, immediately setting the audience on rush of adrenaline fire. The Battle of Moon Stage resumed. On the curtain that still blocked the audience’s view to the stage, a video visualization was projected. The curtain was only dropped at the beginning of third song.
DIR EN GREY held back nothing in their intense performance and pushed the audience to do exactly the same with their avalanche of adrenaline pumping, headbang inducing, heavy and powerful yet high paced songs with barely any break between songs as vocalist KYO decided to forgo any MC-ing that night. And how the members kept railing the fans to shout even louder only drove them even crazier.
The only time they allowed their fans to catch their breath was on the sixth song. SUGIZO with his violin in hand quietly stepped onto the darkened stage. Unlike other special guests, no announcement nor introduction was made of his appearance. He just blended in with the band and took a position next to KYO. The audience cheered loudly for him but quickly submitted to the solemn atmosphere and stayed quiet as the song began. Kuukoku no kyouon was a beautiful and melodic ballad of itself. The addition of SUGIZO’s majestic violin play and visualization of hundreds of lanterns floating to midnight sky brought deeper, serene, and ethereal feeling to the song. Definitely it was the most beautifully performed song during the whole festival. At the end of the song, everyone, including band members, gave SUGIZO a massive round of applause.
The band members did not say much, but there was nothing but pride and happiness which were shown on their face for having their much respected senior joining them on stage. SUGIZO left the stage after a brief hug with guitarist DIE.
DIR EN GREY ended their performance with 9 songs in total, making them the band with 2nd most songs in their setlist, outnumbered only by LUNA SEA. Some audience, men and women alike, were pulled out of the crowd after DIR EN GREY’s performance because of exhaustion. That was a proof on how intense and energy-consuming this band’s performance was. It was definitely the fiercest chapter of Battle of Moon Stage, but it was yet to be over.
Next on the band list was DEAD END. The charismatic vocalist MORRIE was definitely the vocal point of the band with his deep treble voice. On the third song, serafine, SUGIZO and RYUICHI joined the stage as special guests. This was to be expected since SUGIZO was one of the contributing musicians in this very song in DEAD END’s tribute album which was released 2 years ago. It was most unfortunate that most audience in the front and middle rows of Moon stage could not really enjoy this legendary band’s performance. It was so jam-packed so that merely turning our body around to look at the big screen between Shine and Fate stage behind us was near impossible. And even if we could, our view was most likely blocked by the sheer number of people there.
X JAPAN’s performance was started with pre-recorded Miracle being played as the members came to stage. The first and foremost was of course the leader YOSHIKI. His entrance was responsible in the revival of the Battle of Moon Stage for the last time that day. After the whole members were present, they launched into JADE which was followed by Rusty Nail. In both songs, fans sang along nearly throughout the song, and they were the loudest during the choruses. Fans sang along loudly during the intro of Kurenai. Apparently it moved TOSHI so much that he stopped singing, letting the fans took over and shed a few tears while he listened thousands, if not tens of thousands, people sang together.
After Kurenai, YOSHIKI and TOSHI sat together over the piano stool. They announced X JAPAN’s new song Kiss the Sky which would be released at July 4th, 2015. YOSHIKI popped out an idea to share some part of the song. He also enthusiastically said the audience could do the “wowowo” and they should record it and use it in the song. TOSHI appeared to be doubtful about the recording part and suggested to try it out first before doing the actual recording.
TOSHI then set out to teach the audience about the “wowowo” part while YOSHIKI put on his red headphone. After several tries under YOSHIKI’s scrutiny, he declared that it sounded great and he was definitely going to record the crowd’s “wowowo”. So the band and all the audience spent the next 6 minutes singing “wowowo” in various version; such as without any background music, with piano in the background, with the whole band playing in the background. TOSHI even told the audience to sing with their abdominal muscle for louder voice and YOSHIKI actually went back and forth between playing piano and drums. At the end of it, YOSHIKI gave high praises to the audience.
In his MC after that, YOSHIKI said that both X JAPAN and himself had been through a lot and they could be there at that very moment because of the support from many people. LUNA SEA was one among those who were very precious to them. That was why they agreed to play at LUNATIC FEST. During his MC, YOSHIKI choked up so SUGIZO, the only other member left in the stage, gave him a calming gesture. But since it did not work, SUGIZO then decide to climb up the platform, sat next to Yoshiki on the piano stool, and gave a light pat to his senior’s shoulder. Instead of calming down, YOSHIKI actually sobbed even harder so SUGIZO gave him a hug and YOSHIKI clung tight on him and openly cried. SUGIZO whispered to YOSHIKI for a few moments, and after YOSHIKI finally calmed down, they played Endless Rain.
Bassist HEATH suddenly came to life and was on fire during the next song, BORN TO FREE. He even took off his white shirt and went topless. As if he had been conserving his energy on previous songs only to let them explode during this song, pouring out from his whole body.
And of course, it’s not an X JAPAN show if they do not play their self-titled song, X. During this song, LADIES ROOM’s SEXX GEORGE, who happened to be the band’s good friend, came on stage. He was not playing, just fooling around with the band and cheering with the fans. Even though it was not as fierce as it was during DIR EN GREY’s chapter of Battle of Moon Stage, the front rows of Moon stage were so crowded and everyone was pushing against the other, so it was difficult to raise our hands to make the X sign. Doing the customary X jump was definitely out of the question. However, the song still turned the venue into a single madness that eagerly answered “X!!!” to the band’s question of “WE ARE???” At that shouting match, both Moon stage’s left and right big screens showed the picture of the band’s late members; bassist TAIJI on the left and guitarist HIDE on the right. In that occasion, YOSHIKI also screamed passionately that TAIJI and HIDE were also X, all of them (the fans included) were X.
After X JAPAN left the stage, the stage staff flooded the stage to dismantle X JAPAN’s set and set up LUNA SEA’s. As it normally went, after all the instruments were set, some technicians would come forward and did sound check. During SHINYA’s drumset checking, however, it was no ordinary technician who did the sound check. It was SIAM SHADE’s Junji. Not only he did the mandatory check, he also played a solo drum on it. The fans cheered for him loudly for that.
The audience cheered and clapped loudly as LUNA SEA entered the Moon stage. The intention to give a review of their career from the very beginning up to now was clearly reflected in their selection of songs; such as Loveless from Mother album (1994), Dejavu from Image album (1992), Rouge from their latest album after rebooting, A WILL (2013), Jesus from EDEN album (1993), Tonight from their first album LUNA SEA (1991), and gravity from LUNACY album (2001).
After those six songs, the audience were on fire. But, on the next song (Sweetest Coma Again), LUNA SEA literally set the air on fire when the flame throwers on the front and back of the Moon stage let out explosive fire balls over and over again. Those dramatic effects did well in accentuating the heavy intense feel of said song. And those flamethrowers were serious business indeed. Even when only the back of stage flame throwers blasted the fire balls, audience in the front rows could feel the blazing heat.
After the literally fiery song, the band cooled down with the next song, I FOR YOU, which was especially dedicated to their fans; whom the band owe and hold dear. Afterwards, RYUICHI mentioned that there was another very important person to LUNA SEA, whom they highly respected and were forever indebted. LUNA SEA existed because of this person. He then asked everyone to join the band in sending their love, pray, and respect to said person. It was then followed by the band played the intro to HIDE’s Pink Spider. That special person was indeed X JAPAN’s HIDE. Pink Spider was a familiar song for LUNA SEA as they had covered the same song for HIDE’s tribute album. HIDE’s picture was projected on the massive LED screen behind SHINYA.
HIDE was the person who found and subsequently introduced the band (who were under the name “LUNACY” at that time) to YOSHIKI after seeing their potential. The band signed-up to YOSHIKI’s independent label Extasy Records and that was how they paved their history to be one of Japanese greatest bands. It was widely known that all members of LUNA SEA looked up to HIDE as their big brother. Actually, there was a tiny detail at Moon stage that might escape many people’s attention. There was a sound technician post at the far left side of Moon Stage. And on the top of one of the desk sat a small HIDE plushie (the one with green clothes and red hair) facing the stage. As if whoever put the plushie there wished for HIDE to be there and overseeing the whole FEST.
On the MC which RYUICHI did following Pink Spider, SUGIZO was having problems with his guitar. His tech immediately offered a replacement which he quickly took upon. He hurriedly stepped to the side and flashed his left palm up to SHINYA telling the drummer to hold up. Before SUGIZO finished changing his guitar, RYUICHI had finished his MC and already yelled the next song’s title, STORM. He stroke a handsome pose with one hand rise up to the air. It should be immediately followed by music but when seconds passed with nothing happened, RYUICHI (he was still maintaining his pose) turned his head around with a bewildered sound of “Eeeh??” SHINYA promptly pointed at SUGIZO who was just finishing changing his guitar. The audience got a good laugh from this. After SUGIZO returned to his post and gave an affirmative “Do,” the song was started.
STORM was followed by TIME IS DEAD. And then RYUICHI announced that the next song, ROSIER, was the last song. They performed even more rigorously to match this energetic song. The gigantic LED screen behind SHINYA split into 5 pieces, each was focusing on each member. At the beginning, there was a slip where there was no screen which projected INORAN yet J got two screens for himself. It was quickly corrected.
When the song ended, the band thanked and gave a round of applause for the fantastic audience. Picks, drum sticks, and some bottled water were thrown to the audience; and the band left the stage. But, since the whole venue was still dark, nobody was buying that the show was over. They patiently waited for the encore. And an encore it was.
LUNA SEA re-entered the stage. RYUICHI was now wearing LUNATIC FEST’s Dripping Moon T-shirt layered with LUNA SEA’s official merchandise hooded cardigan. The band once again thanked the crowd and all the previous bands who participated today. They then invited those bands to come forward. They warmly welcomed, offered handshake, and hugged members of all Day 1 bands who came to the stage; some of them brought their music instruments. Not all band attended with complete band members. DIR EN GREY, for example, were represented only by guitarist DIE and bassist TOSHIYA.
With so many people on stage, including the esteemed seniors, TOSHIYA seemed pretty content to stay behind the crowd. But J was having none of it. He called and later literally dragged the younger bassist to the edge of the stage. He told TOSHIYA to hold his black bass up. Then, he happily and proudly pointed, repeatedly, at a red “Wake Up! Mother fucker” sticker which donned the body of said bass. TOSHIYA’s looked rather shy and embarrassed but his eyes shone with what undoubtedly were joy and pride. He nodded and tapped his fist to his left chest a couple of times to convey how much it meant to him, how much it was an honor for him to receive such gift from the very person who inspired him to play bass in the first place. His bandmate, on the other hand, was a complete opposite. Far from being shy, DIE took advantage of his personal closeness to SUGIZO, and he actually ganged up with INORAN to playfully pretend on shoving SUGIZO over the edge of Moon stage.
X JAPAN’s members were the last to join the jam session. YOSHIKI walked in with HIDE’s famous Yellow Heart guitar strapped on his shoulder. The guitar was indeed the real Yellow Heart guitar and not one of its replicas. It was HIDE’s younger brother who brought the precious guitar to the FEST. YOSHIKI also enthusiastically helped RYUICHI in rousing up the audience’s spirit for the next song by taking over RYUICHI’s mic. RYUICHI just laughed at his senior’s antics and let him be.
The session’s song was PRECIOUS… A fitting song for an occasion as precious as the FEST. Everyone on the stage had a great time, including those who were just hanging around, not playing any music nor singing. As the song ended, the guests bid their goodbyes and left the stage. All but one very tipsy SEXX GEORGE. He refused to leave the stage and seemed on wanting to have the stage for himself. He even told SHINYA, RYUICHI and SUGIZO to left the stage because he needed to make anvimportant speech. RYUICHI indulged him into conversation, in which he said that X JAPAN was actually not that good, LUNA SEA was much better. But he quickly asked the audience not to tell anyone about that secret. Everyone laughed at that. SEXX GEORGE was eventually ushered out of stage because it was time for the actual last song for the day, WISH.
After they finished with WISH, to mark the end of the successful day, LUNA SEA asked the audience to hold hands with anyone in their left and right to create a human link. The band also did the same themselves. Then together everyone swung their joined hands up and down several times and ended it with a jump. Satisfied, one by one members retreated to the backstage leaving SUGIZO behind. SUGIZO took his own sweet time of bidding farewell. He stood in the center stage with his hand stretched open and then took a deep and low bow to the audience. He bowed deep for a long time, taking in the non-stop applause from the audience. Still bowing, he clasped his palm together in front of his body, keeping that posture for a few seconds as a sign of deep gratitude for the audience. He stood up with his palm still clasped together, took a moment to take a deep breath before waving in a Vulcan salute as he left the stage and put the whole Lunatic FEST. Day 1 to an end.
To put into words, the best part of LUNA SEA’s performance was not only their flawless musicianship but the members themselves. They performed with such unreserved energy and overflowing joy which reflected on everything they did on stage, even the smallest things. Like when INORAN fixed his hair tail so it would lay exactly on his right shoulder. In his excitement, SHINYA threw up his drum sticks to the air a couple of times at the end of a song. INORAN was continuously mouthing all the lyrics RYUICHI sang, giving the audience a lip-sync show on his own. All of them devotedly posed and often flirted to the camera. SUGIZO still pulled a serious and cool face all the time, but J and INORAN were constantly smiling or laughing. When neither of them left the right side of Moon stage to wander across the stage, which they did very often, J and INORAN were like a twin whirlwinds; always in a restless move. In fact, J had this boyish glee that never left his face during LUNA SEA’s performance which make him seemingly glow more radiantly then the others.
Their bright mood was highly infectious and made the audience more energetic too. Also, surprisingly, there was minimal amount of pushing and shoving among the front rows of Moon stage during LUNA SEA’s performance. The Battle of Moon Stage on Day 1 was actually finished with X JAPAN’s performance. That made it even more enjoyable for the audience to simply just have fun with their beloved LUNA SEA. Happy audience made the band even happier and happier band drove the crowds louder. So it was actually a never ending positive feedback loop between both parties.
Their ease in interacting with each other was also a sight to behold. Like when J and INORAN’s eyes met and it prompted them to smile or laugh brighter. Or when RYUICHI brought his mic over to SUGIZO so the guitarist could play guitar and sing at the same time without having to return to his post. Or when SUGIZO and INORAN were playing guitar while leaning on each other’s back. And when they played facing each other and laughed together just because of the happiness they saw in each other’s face. Or something a bit special, like when INORAN went over RYUICHI who was singing in the center stage. As RYUICHI turned to face him, INORAN held the vocalist waist with both hands for a brief moment so RYUICHI could not wander off. Then INORAN got down on his knees and played his guitar in front of him. Their sincere and bubbly interactions were solid prove of the strong bond they shared, which did not waver even by their years of inactivity.
LUNATIC FEST. Day 1 one was over with flying colours. And fans just couldn’t wait for Day 2!