Performing at the Aoyama Moon Romantic

In September I wrote a review of one of my favourite Japanese bands, Mushi Furuu Yoru Ni. As well as their stunning performance, I was also enchanted by the venue – The Aoyama Moon Romantic (青山 月見ル君想フ). The Moon Romantic is a ‘live house’ (Japanese English for gig venue) in Omotesando with idiosyncratic yet ever-so-trendy décor including a FRICKIN HUGE MOON behind the stage. When I was awed by that gig in September I didn’t think that I would be playing my harp at the very same amazing venue 6 months later.

A couple of months ago, my boyfriend decided he wanted to start gigging in Japan and so started sending out his music to various live houses. On a whim, he chose to send his EP to the Moon Romantic, not thinking that they would want an unknown to them to perform. Surprisingly, they wrote back really quickly, saying that they would love to have him play just two months later! We often play together, though it’s more common for him to play on my music than vice versa, or for us to play covers together. We wanted this gig to be special so we decided it was time to reverse roles. We had fun figuring out which songs would work with a sprinkle of harp or female backing vocals. A couple of weeks practicing and plugging the gig to our friends and followers flew by and then it was show time!

harp tokyo metro
Me looking super grumpy on the train after carrying my harp in the rain

A less glamorous part of the day was walking from Meiji-jingumae station to the gig with harp, keyboard and the rest of our gear. Believe it or not, taxi prices are even worse in Tokyo than London and so my spindly arms and I were hating life a bit. Mostly I can do fine living without a car but it’s times like this when I really miss my bashed up Vauxhall Vectra.

harp backstage Aoyama Moon Romantic
When you’re instrument is a little too big for the backstage room…

When we got there everything was great though. The venue’s set up and treatment of my harp (something I always worry about outside the classical arena) was really professional. Something I’ve noticed when hanging around gigs in Japan so far is that soundcheck appears to be more thorough – I’m used to the, “Is it plugged in? Good,” approach but sound engineers in Japan sometimes want you to run through your entire set. I really enjoyed chatting with the bands backstage, and they were kind about my harp taking up more than it’s fair share of space…

It was both of our first times performing to such a large crowd in Japan so we were nervous. In the end though, we had a lot of fun on stage and our set was well received. Performing in such a beautiful venue felt magical. The other acts were all of a really high standard and we felt proud to be able to play alongside them! I would particularly recommend checking out Mami Kawamae, an impressive vocalist with a lot of energy and large presence for a solo act.

Here’s a video of us playing one of Arthur’s songs spaces. We really hope we can perform here again!

Gig review: Into the enchanted forest with Mushi Furu

I’ve been enchanted by Mushi Furuu Yoru Ni since watching the chilling video for their song Inu (犬) a couple of years ago. Since then their style has softened from emotive hard rock to alternative pop and, perhaps not un-relatedly, their following has increased exponentially. My boyfriend had first seen them live in Japan three years ago before they got big, in a small venue showing five bands for ¥1,000, so when we saw that they were playing a one off gig without support we were interested to see how their live sound had evolved.

moonThe gig took place at a venue near Omotesando called the Aoyama Moon Romantic. It was worth going just to see this place alone. Even though the venue had ‘moon’ in the name, I didn’t expect it to actually have a massive projection of the moon. It’s set up like an enchanted forest at night in a way that isn’t tacky but draws you into the venue’s romantic world. I presume that artists usually perform on the stage, but seeing as this was a 360° in-the-round performance, the band were set-up slightly below the stage. Being the the gig geeks we are, we got there early and nabbed one of the tables on the stage and enjoyed some organic white wine in an oh-so-trendy wide glass to the Moon Romantic’s gorgeous, gentle pre-gig playlist. They got extra points for including some harp music with electronic backing. Anywhere that plays harp goes up in my appreciations instantly.

Remember how I commented on the interesting toilet art at the Shinjuku Marble? Well this venue offered some fascinating foliage to enjoy whilst using the facilities...
Remember how I commented on the interesting toilet art at the Shinjuku Marble? Well this venue offered some fascinating foliage to enjoy whilst using the facilities…

The music faded into some sampling of water and cicadas from one of Mushi Furu’s releases, taking us even further into the enchanted forest. The band opened with two new songs and I found myself thinking something mushy about language having no barriers because, despite barely understanding a word of singer Ari’s stirring opening rap, I found my eyes misting up.

green lightThe in-the-round set-up really allowed the band to connect with their sold-out audience as they moved into more familiar territory. The four piece outfit was joined by a backing vocalist, a keyboardist and rapper Gomess adding depth and a welcome freshness to their sound. Between songs Ari told us that she viewed the gig as a journey through forest by moonlight, exciting but scary. The band’s friendly energy, as well as being able to look into their faces and the compelled faces of our fellow audience, did make it feel as if we were all going on a journey.

After a string of rockers, they switched to performing stripped down songs by candlelight, including Inu, my personal favourite. Pianist Harakanako’s almost saccharine piano inflections in this live rendition might have seemed almost jarringly sweet to anyone who has watched the gruesome music video, but were actually appropriate given the heart-rending double meaning behind the lyrics.

12059198_10153178927337916_184125013_oAfter drawing us in with these softer songs, Mushi Furu pressed on with the hits from their most recent mini-album スターシーカ (Star-seeker), a more positive album than their previous releases. I said in my review of the first gig I went to in Japan that there appeared to be a lack of ‘woo-ing’ at Japanese gigs. I take that back. During the upbeat anthem to self-love, わたしが愛すべきわたしへ (To the me I should love), the audience stood up and danced like crazy. I have hardly ever seen an audience so reactive, yet so respectful of the music. There was a wonderful communal feeling as the crowd danced along to the final few songs. The band’s high level of energy was juxtaposed with a surprisingly subdued Gomess, staring at the floor during his freestyle rap on  同じ空を見上げてた, but the contrast was haunting and effective.

dat cakeGasping for an encore after the band left the stage, we endured an agonisingly long wait. I learnt that ‘encore’ in Japanese is indeed ancōru and they do chant it at the end of decent gigs. The band surprised us by returning to the stage to present drummer Ikumi with a cake as apparently it was his birthday. N’aaawwww.

After Ikumi blew out his candles, Ari introduced the encore 明星, which means morning star. “As we play this final song I want you to think about something special to you. We began this night entering a dark forest. Now dawn is breaking.”