September 22, 2010

KOTOKO live in Sapporo

Though I've only been to a few places in Japan so far, I feel like Sapporo is going to stay up there as one of my favorite cities. It's like the perfect modern city - clean, spacious but not barren, and most notably, laid out to make sense to anyone with an ability to interpret coordinates. (Or maybe I've just been successfully bribed by their food)

Downtown Sapporo is designed as a grid so it's quite similar to Manhattan. But it does better, because Sapporo actually bases its origin on a logical city center of Odori and counts North/East/South/West from there. So, if you get an address of 2 North, 2 East you just remember where Odori is and count 2 streets north, and 2 streets east to find it. In New York, if you get an address of "East 45th Street", even if you know the system you might still need a map to know where to go and where you are at any given point. In Sapporo, I arrived with my phone battery dead and not a single map, but managed to find my hotel right away by just following the street signs.

The goal of the day was to attend the KOTOKO concert, so as soon as I checked in I followed the grid over to Sapporo Cube Garden on foot. Cube Garden is an extremely small club house that's very easy to miss, especially since it's next to Sapporo Factory, a huge former brewery now converted into Sapporo's primary shopping mall.

Upon arriving, I noticed there was no crowd. Initially fearing a "Budokan" mixup like with JAM the day before, I was only calmed after spotting KOTOKO's fanclub van parked outside the small venue. I guess I was still in the TGS mentality of "huge crowds, limited spots" so I was surprised to see nobody around even though the concert was only 3 hours away. After milling around in the Factory for a while and returning, it was reassuring to finally see a small group waiting around the area.

Everyone got through the goods line in just a few minutes, and the rest of the time was just spent hanging out in the parking lot until showtime. The Sapporo group was very tight knit and every time someone came out of a taxi or walked in, the core group waiting in line recognized them.

Squeezing into the floor was a very difficult ordeal. Once entrance time came, we filed into the live house. Although there were only about 300 people, the small space meant you were elbow to elbow with someone and uncomfortably close. Luckily, like Momoi fans, KOTOKO fans are also quite friendly. Since I wasn't familiar with the new style of wristbands, the guy next to me helpfully volunteered to show me how to fold it, which really broke the ice. And taller fans would constantly turn around and check for shorter people and rotate them up front even though they originally entered the hall based on ticket number.

Then lights dimmed and, KOTOKO LIVE TOUR 2010 Natsu da, Raibu da, Zenkoku Angyu Matsuri! in Sapporo began. KOTOKO ran onto the stage wearing a matsuri themed costume of designer yukata and rope headband which held her huge ponytail in place. Since I missed my chance to see her at AX a few years back, I was knocked back with a huge rush of "OMG KOTOKO in real life". The kind of impact these "first time sightings" cause is always pretty great, and as a fan for almost 8 years, this particular incubation period was even longer than Momoi (who I saw after only 5 years of fandom).

First up was two songs from her latest BLAZBLUE single, Hekira no Ten e Sasoedo and Digital Snail

Unlike JAM Pro, I actually do keep up with newer KOTOKO songs so I was able to cheer for this. The crowd was still trying to adjust to the tight space and we weren't sure whether we should use glowsticks or not given the crampedness. Some people put away their stuff and just used hands, myself included.

During MC, KOTOKO got massive cheers of "Okaeri" as she tried to pump the crowd. She explained one major premise of the Matsuri Live was fan participation, including the selection of the set list. Many of the songs which would be playing tonight weren't limited to her latest album or promotion, and would instead come from popularity polls she conducted on her website prior to the live.

She continued by going into Ao Iconoclast which is a song she did under her Kotoko name.

By this point, we were really exhausted as I don't think anyone had anticipated how hot the room would get, especially with so little space or ventilation. To give us a break from the blistering heat, she went into a slower selection of songs like
La Clef ~meikyuu no kagi~
Imaginary Affair
flow~mizu no umareta basho~

KOTOKO pointed out flow was a very nostalgic song from very long ago, and branched out into an MC asking how many people in the room were new fans or old fans. A lot of 10+ year fans rose their hands, but KOTOKO focused on people who said they were newer fans and went to great lengths to explain her older songs to them, like what album they were from or games (she was very tongue-in-cheek with explaining the game content).

At this point, KOTOKO pulled out an iphone with a sound level meter and explained that to further increase interactivity with the crowd her next songs would be decided by live vote. She would give us the song options, and then sing one based on cheering loudness.

Between Allegretto and Leaf Ticket, Leaf Ticket won the vote at somewhere around 113 decibels.

Second choice of the night was between
Face of Fact and Restoration ~chinomku no sora~

We voted for Face of Fact which she gladly obliged. Satisfied with the voting minigame and anticipating the now heightened nostalgia, KOTOKO then launched into Love a Riddle and won major points with the crowd. The floor predictably erupted in cheers, UO, and whispers of "Ontei" at last.

Another old favorite
β- Nendo no Wakusei

For every song played, KOTOKO would also tell us the year it was released, making the whole live feel kind of like a career celebration. She continued with more voted songs, like jihad and Collective, during which she put on a ridiculous headbanging display and started whipping her pony tail around, causing everyone in the crowd to follow suit.

Then, without any warning, she launched into Re-sublimity which I figured would be a final song. UOs flared up everywhere and the whole room pretty much exploded with synchronized calls. With no MC break, she continued with Shooting star (where we all learned new hand motions to follow), and then transitioned into Wing my way. Basically, 3 of my favorite KOTOKO songs in a row.

This was KILLER. As each track was reasonably upbeat, we were all dehydrated and practically dying from heat stroke from jumping the whole time. But there was no mercy, as she followed up with Oboeteteiiyo and even included a special request that everyone sing the choruses. It seemed like the finale was about to come.

Finally, she closed with the top voted song Onaji sora no shita de.

Cue almost 20 minutes of encore chants until she came back. KOTOKO apologized for taking so long to come back for the encore and asked if the guys chanting for so long were OK - because if they were, then this next set should finish them off. As it is well known, KOTOKO's encores almost ALWAYS go into her claim to fame and this time was no different. She announced her final weapon: moe kyoku.

Before the mercy blow though, she introduced the band members and did a final MC asking if they visited anywhere in Sapporo. In an amusing segment the drums guy said some flirty stuff, and KOTOKO shot him down hard ("I'll punish you for that remark later") and told the crowd not to believe his lies. Another guy, maybe the same guy, said he went to Susukino and KOTOKO asked why guys always seemed to enjoy it. "Oh, I guess for reasons I can't mention" (implying he went there for red light districts).

Seishun Rocket

The interaction in this was insane. 300 people singing the chorus and chants in tune is truly something else. All the otagei in the world doesn't beat a well executed chant which actually works with the vocalist parts.

She then teased with Just as time is running out which was another round of calls and responses, with her enthusiastically throwing the microphone in our direction several times.

Sadistically to eliminate anyone who was still clinging to life she announced the true last song for the night Bumpy Jumpy.

At the end, the band members came in with giant sign congratulating her on 28 concerts well done and she teared up for the final MC, repeatedly thanking everyone for coming and hoping to see them again next year.

When we filed out of the hall, you could see everyone completely soaked from top to bottom. As soon as you got out of the room, you got hit by what felt like a blast of cold air (actually just room temperature). We crowded around the goods table which was now selling CDs after the live. KOTOKO came out to meet fans. I didn't get anything signed since all my stuff was in a locker but I got a handshake instead. My memory is fuzzy after this but I remember looking at the clock when I got back (almost 10pm) and remarking how incredibly long it was. To be honest it only felt like an hour to me, but I guess that's just a testament to how well she managed the pacing of the live. KOTOKO is a true concert master.

Final goods for the day:

Towel, 3 shirts, charm, pamphlet, 2 coats, and a wristband

Posted by Paranda at September 22, 2010 9:17 AM


Shooting star (where we all learned new hand motions to follow)

Wooo. Yeah, i hope it didn't require hitting someone in the head lol.

damn, sounds like pretty epic otherwise.

Posted by: omo at September 22, 2010 10:22 AM

that sounds like a very, very enjoyable concert! I love it when there's a real interaction between the artist and fans.. and woot she greeted the fans personally after that! glad you had a good time.

Posted by: danie~ at September 22, 2010 11:05 AM

Wow, sounded like you had a great time, even if you were on the verge of melting from the heat. XD Even though there was hardly any room for glowsticks, how organized were the calls compared to say a momo-i concert?

Posted by: zalas at September 22, 2010 12:29 PM

@omo lol we hit people in the head pretty much every other second regardless of the song due to how crowded it was

@zalas a lot less organized compared to momoi, until the encore at least. A lot of KOTOKO's material isn't really suited for calls though so it makes sense

Posted by: paranda at September 23, 2010 10:33 AM

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