|Baltimore, MD, USA. August 4th, 2006|
|Reporter(s): Lady Sage|
|I’ll admit, I didn’t really do a lot of actual congoing at Otakon this year. Between the lengthy commute to and from the hotel, various misadventures with Le Bread‘s car, and more time spent socializing and wandering around Baltimore, I found little time to actually go to any events. There were two, however particular standout events: the Voice Actors Uncut panel (the attendance of which came with a veritable nondisclosure agreement) and the Nana Kitade/MUCC concert. Niner, Mugs, Kain, Alex, Mana, Roark, Dirty Harry, his mother, and I joined the mass migration of attendees to the Ram’s Head Live, a club a few blocks away from the convention center. After a quick jaunt across Baltimore’s fragrant Inner Harbor, we discovered that not even the combined power of four press passes could rescue us from sitting in the rather lengthy (and rapidly growing) line to get in the door. So we relaxed outside for a while and took the opportunity to spend some time getting to know each other face-to-face. I did not leave that weekend overly fond of Baltimore, but I will give it this: Ram’s Head Live is one of the best concert venues I’ve been to. Our merry band situated ourselves in the less-crowded bar area rather than the packed floor and balcony, but we still had a great view of the stage, several widescreen HD TVs that offered an even more direct view, and best of all, places to sit. Good company, good seats, and good music â€“ it was shaping up to be a great evening. Then Le Bread called. “Please tell me it’s not his car again,” Niner groaned, an expression of horror spreading across his face. And indeed it was. He had crashed his car not once, but twice on the way to the video game music concert he was attending about an hour. Fortunately, it was still functioning enough to get him there (getting back later turned out to be a whole other story), and he just needed to hear to the soothing sound of my voice. Once I was able to confirm that he was alright, I was able to return to the others.
After what seemed like an eternity of American alternative playing over the loudspeakers, Nana Kitadefinally emerged. Clad in a lolita-style maid dress with nappy hair extensions down to her knees and clutching an electric guitar, she greeted the crowd, “I’m Nana! I’m a Japanese princess. I’m so happy to be here in Baltimore.”
The inherent entertainment value of her music was quickly used up for me: the first thing she played was “Kanashimi no Kizu,” the Fullmetal Alchemist theme song that had made her name at least recognizable in the US. I recognized her next song as a cover immediately: it was “Lum’s Love Song.” I must confess, I did thoroughly enjoy the update of the classic theme song, although I will always prefer the original. The rest of her music, however, was rather unremarkable bubblegum J-Pop.
Fortunately, the greatest source of fun during Kitade’s set was not the music. No, it was all in, as we in the business like to put it, “the lulz.” When the chords she was “playing” did not match the music, we chuckled. When her hair extensions got tangled in the guitar strings, we giggled. When she swiveled her hips back and forth in an attempt at dancing, we laughed. And, best of all, when she unplugged her guitar halfway through the concert so it would no longer hinder her movement back and forth across the stage, we guffawed.
Not long after the novelty and amusement started to wear off, Kitade gave up the stage. The crowd was growing restless, and I was surprised to realize that they were looking forward more to the hard-core J-Rockers than the anime-friendly J-Pop princess.
After a brief 15-minute turnaround, MUCC took the stage to the excited screams of their fans. A few of our party members squeezed their way over to the main floor, while I remained perched at the bar. I didn’t know much about the band, to be honest, although the energy in the room was infectious. Normally I wouldn’t really consider them my kind of band, but it was impossible not to get into them.
Put simply, MUCC rocked. Their intensity, combined with the enthusiasm of the audience, made for a great live show. Illuminated by pulsating red lights, the lead singer Tetsuro writhed and wailed in apparent torment. Between songs, fans shouted to the band the usual: “You guys rock!” and “I love you!” The music itself was very raw: Tetsuro’s talent obviously leaned more towards the screaming than the melodic. About fifteen minutes into the show, I found myself drifting toward the main floor, and there I stayed for the remainder of the show.
MUCC stayed onstage for 90 minutes, not once losing an ounce of force or charisma, even as Ram’s Head slowly started to empty out. Still, once they exited the stage, the remaining audience members clapped and cheered for an encore. Our group decided that, considering the encore is mainly an American phenomenon, we would be better off exiting before the flood. (It later turned out that they did in fact take the stage again. Oops!)
As we walked back to the convention center in the relatively cool evening air (and anything feels cool after several hours spent among hundreds of moving bodies crammed into a small space), I could feel the rush of adrenaline that comes from seeing a great live show with good friends. It was, without a doubt, one of the best nights I had ever had at a con.