[Live Review] Calling In::Music Feat. Waa Wei魏如萱, Hello Nico, Boon Hui Lu文慧如 & More @ The Esplanade Singapore (9-10/6/18)
By Stella Soon
Photographs by Jenn Seah and Stella Soon unless otherwise stated
Kowen Ko (柯智棠)’s raspy, soulful vocals. Hello Nico’s throbbing rock tunes. And Waa Wei (魏如萱)’s hit songs that roused everyone to a head-bobbing, torchlight-waving crowd.
Those were the highlights of Calling in::music (呼叫好 in::樂), a Mandarin indie pop music showcase held at Singapore’s Esplanade Annexe Studio on 9 and 10 June.
A first-time collaboration between Singapore’s in::music and Taiwan’s Calling Music Festival, the two-night showcase saw eight Singaporean and Taiwanese musicians take to the stage for an hour each.
Day 1 - Kowen Ko, Hello Nico, Boon Hui Lu, Zooey Wonder
Kowen Ko (柯智棠)
Leading the night’s performances was Kowen Ko (柯智棠). The 28-year-old’s husky, soulful voice rang out tunes to crowd favourite songs and his new jams alike.
But while the Taiwanese singer-songwriter’s popular tracks, like “If You Still Wander 你不真的想流浪” and “It Was May”, were met with loud cheers from the enthusiastic audience, it was songs on his new album that got me excited. Look out for “Man Without A Mission” when it drops next month!
Zooey Wonder (黃玠瑋)
By Matt Taylor
London is no stranger to being a pit stop for some of the biggest stars of the Mandopop world on their world tours. With a thriving Chinese language community built of people living there for generations to students studying abroad, there has long been a market for live mandopop concerts in the UK’s capital. Last year alone, the city welcomed Jay Chou 周杰倫, A-Mei 張惠妹, and Fire E.X 滅火器. This March, Mayday 五月天 even managed to sell out the o2 Arena – a 20,000 capacity venue and the busiest live music venue in the world.
The Troubadour, despite being a small venue, has had a mighty role in the UK’s music scene. Whilst the basement of a bar may not seem like an overly impressive spot, legends of the music world such as Elton John, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix have previously graced the stage as newcomers to the music world, only to later go on and fundamentally alter the pop music landscape forever.
It’s an intimidating venue, but the perfect place to introduce two fledgling Taiwanese indie bands to the international live music scene. They were brought to the UK as part of LUCfest – a festival originating in Tainan that aims to promote Taiwanese underground and indie music to a larger audience. By bringing this to the UK, it shows that Taiwanese bands and their promoters understand that music is the true global language, and that Taiwanese indie has something to offer music markets far beyond its own shores.
At an event where two Taiwanese indie bands are performing, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to imagine the majority – if not all – of the audience to be Taiwanese. Of course, the percentage of the audience that was from Taiwan was naturally the majority. What was a delightful sight however was that the gig managed to attract a sizeable local audience as well. This potentially had two different positive implications – one, that Taiwanese music has an audience outside of native communities, and two, that non-Taiwanese audiences are increasingly accepting (or at least curious) about non-Western music, with local bands and promoters willing to indulge their curiosity.
The first band to take to the stage tonight, The Fur, only formed in late 2016. Despite this, they’re already in the midst of their own European Tour. Just three days prior to this concert, they performed a full set at the Focus Wales Festival in North Wales.
On disc, their music is a dreamy 1980s inspired hazy synth-pop ideally suited for hot summer days, and at times reminiscent of bands such as The Cranberries. Sung entirely in English, it’s a perfect pop package designed to connect with an international audience, and gives them a unique selling point as compared with the vast majority of Taiwanese indie bands.
The set itself was a collection of well crafted, easily accessible indie-pop friendly to the ears of a UK audience, who in turn lapped up song after song, giving the band a rupturous round of applause each time, cheering them on when they appeared slightly nervous. The band bopped in unison as lead singer Savannah 柚子sang as perfectly as on record, with guitarists Zero中凌 and Ren唯任 keeping pace; providing the vibrant melodies from which she could springboard. What really elevated the live performance was synth player Wen Wen 溫溫, whose keyboard skills added a layer of sheen to the concert lost naturally through live guitars.
Sometimes in a live setting bands which have such a shiny finish to them run the risk of coming across lacklusture, or accused of being better suited to disc than to stage. Whilst it’s true that live, the band does lose some of the glamour and distance which makes their records so addictive, their live performance instead adds new depth, and shows the listener not just a passion for the music they make, but for music and instrumentation in general.
It’s a rarity for newly formed bands to be able to encapsulate and portray their musical aesthetic visions as well as The Fur did on Tuesday night, and it’s a testament to how well the band work together, how well the songs are crafted, and ultimately, how well they understand themselves as an entity.
Although armed with only a two track EP at the moment, their performance set the stage for their debut album due in August this year. Judging from this performance, we not only can’t wait to get our hands on the album, but neither can we wait to catch them live again, to both see how they grow as live performers and how they incorporate new songs into their set.
The second band to perform, Outlet Drift 漂流出口, who hail from Taitung and have been making music since 2010, exist on the entirely opposite end of the spectrum to The Fur. Rather than producing aesthetically clean images and radio-friendly pop, they snarl over heavy guitars reminiscent of grunge with a hint of psychedelica, and are heavily influenced by their Amis Aboriginal heritage, which comes through in all aspects of both their recorded songs and live performances.
From the moment they came on stage, they caught the attention of the audience, perhaps none more so than vocalist and bassist Putad Pihay 布妲菈.碧海. Her personality beamed across the basement venue, as she tells us she didn’t expect London to be so cold (it was actually one of the warmest days of 2018 so far), then proclaims that “didn’t you know Aboriginals have a drinking problem?” before drinking half a glass of wine in a single gulp.
The most enchanting thing however was the scope of her voice, which, inspired and influenced by her Amis roots, is entirely non-comformist to typical pop or rock standards, and instead pays homage to the traditional singing style of her ancestors. It is emotional, sophisticated and intruiging. Rather than be constrained by how the original record sounds, or attempt to create the same performance continuously over multiple tour days, she instead lets her voice dictate what it wants to do, a refreshing concept.
That said, the band as a whole provided the audience with a fierce and invigorating set, with a set list focused predominantly on their 2015 debut album ‘Drowning’ which won them Best Rock Album award at Taiwan’s Golden Indie Music Awards. The band were loud in the best possible way, and often played themselves into a fervour. Lead guitarist Wusang Pihay 巫尚.碧海 was visibly passionate throughout, at one point being brought down onto his knees by a prolonged guitar solo. Drummer Kurt Ken 林肯 was almost unnervingly intense, playing with a speed, rhythm and intensity that made him mesmerising to watch.
Their on-stage aesthetic also seemed to embody the music and personalities on display tonight. Tattoos, bare feet and T-shirts with Aboriginal style patterns were the outfits of choice, but felt entirely organically chosen as opposed to a deliberate decision, adding yet another layer of authenticity to this enigmatic group.
So engaging were the band and their music that by the end of their set, they had the audience on their feet, jumping around and headbanging until they were sweating. The energy in the room was palpable. So enamoured was the crowd that they demanded an encore, and the band were more than happy to comply.
Their songs were enchanting, angry and fascinating; able to simultaneously transport the listener to another world whilst also reminding you of the cruelties of reality, perfect encapsulations of the yearning of Aboriginal youth to find a better life for themselves, yet desperate to hold on to what makes them unique, and this was something that Outlet Drift managed to convey to a room of Londoners on Tuesday night – no easy feat, but a testament to their capabilities both as musicians and live performers. Outlet Drift didn’t just provide a concert, they provided an experience.
It was evident that both bands struck a positive chord with the audience tonight, not just in the different but welcoming receptions that both bands received, but also in their ability to sell their merchandise. The bands had to hurriedly restock their merchandise of T-shirts, CDs and pins as the vast majority of the audience wanted not just one, but several mementos to take home with them to remember the night they had just experienced.
It was a powerful end to the night, and a hopeful reminder that regardless of location, ethnicity or language, music is the one thing that can bring anyone together. When the audience left The Troubadour on a late Tuesday evening, they came away not only having two new favourite indie bands; they left comforted by the knowledge that Taiwan not only has a vibrant underground music scene; but have one that is ready to take over the world.
Photo from 聯成娛樂 On Line's Facebook
Before I even stepped into the venue, I knew Anpu’s ‘Refining Clouds煉雲’ live performance at the career-defining Taipei Arena would not be just any other concert. The enigmatic indie singer-songwriter has been in and out of the scene since announcing the retirement of her former persona Deserts Chang in 2014, yet has made several unannounced pop-up appearances at indie gigs since then; most notably at Taiwanese Waves showcases in New York from 2016 to 2017.
Although this provided some reassurance to fans of her continued influence on the scene, she has yet to release any original music since her retirement in 2014. So when the concert was announced, the term ‘a pleasant surprise’ was probably an understatement for diehard lovers of her music, cumulating in two sold-out shows at the famous Taipei Arena, bursting at the seams with fans eagerly awaiting what the mysterious artist had prepared this time around.
And indeed, the concert was like none I had ever experienced. While most concerts in the pop realm are built around an artist’s persona and their repertoire; featuring flashy costumes and concepts, ‘Refining Clouds’ took every expectation and unspoken rule of the concert experience and broke it with sophistication and artistry. As while the best way to categorise this concert was as a ‘cover’ concert, it was non-traditional to say the least; incorporating 22 hand-picked songs; many by unknown or independent artists over the last three decades to piece together varied perspectives and facets of life. From songs by indie pioneers Susu Yeh, Lin Qiang and Sandee Chen to contemporary game-changers such as No Party For Cao Dong and Sunset Rollercoaster; Anpu left no stone unturned in her 22 song-long set list, surprising time and again with each song.
Yesterday night I had the pleasure of attending 龍虎門音樂節 Long Hu Men Festival, one of few (if not the only) festival in Taiwan primarily showcasing Taiwan's local hip-hop scene. Beginning in the 1990s, Taiwan's underground hip-hop scene has gone from strength to strength, with much of it‘s best and brightest including 蛋堡 Soft Lipa, 李英宏 aka DJ Didilong, DJ Mr Gin, 熊仔, Julia Wu 吳卓源, SmashRegz/違法, RPG, NEOSO 戴岑樺, and more in attendance at the festival.
A venue packed with youngsters who wore black caps and showed their appreciation by yelling rather than clapping (is this what the hip crowd does these days?), it was an eye-opening experience to be able to witness what I would say was a coming-of-age event for the Hip Hop scene, cementing its rise to the forefront of Taiwan's mainstream.
By Guest Contributor Ciarrai Donnelly
It’s not every day that you hear a nose flute on 5th avenue, but walking through the Upper East Side towards Central Park on a hot Saturday evening, the soft and distinct sound washes over me, and I know I’m in the right place. July 29th marked the second of SummerStage’s Taiwanese Waves: a showcase of Taiwanese musical artists on Central Park’s Rumsey Field stage (the first of which, in 2016, broke SummerStage’s 30 year attendance record). 2017 boasts a completely new lineup of four Taiwanese artists from different ends of the music world: punk, indie folk, and aboriginal music. Not only are the artists performing in completely different genres, but also in completely different languages: Puyuma, Taiwanese, and Mandarin. As someone who knows virtually nothing about Taiwanese culture, I’m certainly excited to see the multitudes of talent that tonight has to offer.
The crowd was hushed when I entered, mesmerized by our first performer: Sangpuy. Sangpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw is a prolific and accomplished musician with 2 studio albums, the most recent of which (Yaangad) he received Album of the Year, the most prestigious award of the Golden Melody Awards (among others, he also took home Best Vocalist [aboriginal] and Best Vocal Recording Album). He sings in the language of the Pinuyumayan people, an indigenous group of Taiwan, from whom Sangpuy is descended. The audience was completely captivated; both solemn and joyful, soft and strong, old and new, Sangpuy’s vocals take us somewhere else. I won’t be the first (or last) to call Sangpuy’s voice profound or penetrating, but it’s no exaggeration. It’s easy to understand his success, he’s as charming as his voice is stunning. Between his soulful melodies, he joked and talked with the audience, encouraging them to laugh and sing along. I don’t understand a word (aside from the universal “woohoo”) but by the end I sang along too. He brings Taiwanese aboriginal music into Central Park with ease, seamlessly blending traditional vocals and an ancient language with modern musical arrangements with complete success. He departed to great applause as his last notes hung in the air.
Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I last updated this blog, but as I write this, I’m sitting on a plane to Seoul, South Korea for a short holiday! Then I’ll be heading to Taiwan to work for a few weeks. All in all, let’s just say it’s been a busy six months for me. For the last 10 months, I’ve been working on my thesis, which is on the Taiwanese music industry and how it can be internationally successful by applying marketing strategy to the government’s policies. I’m so excited to share it with everyone, but there’s still a bit of red tape so I’m still unable to share it at this point in time! But the thesis is truly my baby! Although many friends and peers find my decision to do honours questionable, to me it was something I have always wanted to do. Essentially, I decided to do honours because it was kind of like an exercise in patience and discipline. I often have a tendency to work too fast and tend towards desiring immediate gratification. For example, this blog post may be done in under an hour and I’d already feel accomplished even though I didn’t put that much work in. I believed (and still do) that writing my thesis would truly be instrumental in teaching me to be patient when I embark on larger projects in the future. It also happened to be a huge time management and organisational feat which certainly enhanced my skills for the future too!
The second reason I decided to do my thesis was that I wanted to make an academic contribution to writings on the Taiwanese music industry. I’ve actually been studying and researching the Taiwanese music industry for about two years since my undergrad days (I was very lucky to have teachers who were supportive of my passion), and from that research, my main conclusion was that there weren’t enough writings on the Taiwanese music industry available. Pitifully few, I might add. Although many people have told me that they see very little value in academic work, I on the other hand find it to be immensely valuable. If you think about it, all knowledge comes from research. And all research has to be carefully handled so that it can lead to trends and those trends have the potential to eventually turn into facts and become part of history. Although writing opinion articles and news articles and dabbling in various formats of journalism has been especially helpful for me as I traverse the Taiwanese music industry, I’ve always felt that it just wasn’t enough. The question of how Taiwanese music (or Chinese language music) in general can be promoted to wider audiences has been on my mind for probably the last decade. And although I’ve desperately yearned for answers, trying every possible avenue I could and doing my research, there was nothing that could give me the answer I wanted. So as usual, I decided to create my own, in the form of this thesis. Suffice to say, it has furthered my knowledge and managed to an extent confirm my hypotheses for me (that Taiwanese music is indeed valuable and deserving of international promotion), but there is still so much to be done before I can find a full answer to such a question.
Nevertheless, I have learnt so much and pushed my boundaries so much farther with this thesis and I am proud of myself for it! So for those of you out there pondering post-graduate study, my advice would be-only do it if you’re truly interested! If you do, that’s when the work becomes fun and research just light reading. If anyone has any other questions about my post-graduate experience or would like me to expand more, feel free to let me know! I really look forward to being able to share my thesis, so watch this space! I've attached one of the songs I referred to in my thesis for you to listen to. Can you guess why I mentioned it?
Asian Pop Weekly Creator
To all readers (especially the female ones), a very happy #InternationalWomensDay to you! As an aspiring creative professional in a very niche market, it gets pretty hard at times breaking through the clutter. But somehow from my experiences, I get the feeling that it's even harder to be taken seriously as a baby-faced young lady. I've slogged long and hard at this game and clocked in the hours, but especially as I up the ante in trying to turn this hustle into a career, I've met with obstacles that should not be there.
My drive taken for insolence, my kindness taken for granted, my experience exchanged for envy and blocked opportunities, my youth and feminine appearance mistaken for amateurishness. More and more, as I witness the ugly side of this industry do I wonder to myself; 'If I were a strapping young man, would I be facing these exact situations?' If I were a boy, would my drive be admired, my kindness praised, my experience applauded? Would envy dissipate and grant me the opportunities I deserve? But alas, all these 'what ifs' create are self pity and doubt. What use would that be?
So to all the girls out there with a great idea in their heads, with a passion that cannot be snuffed, believe in the potential of your voice. Having a voice does not mean literally having to stand up and speak, or having your writings published. To have a voice means to stand up for what you believe in, to speak when no one else has the courage to. Be brave, and don't be afraid of how other people see you. Sit in the front row of the classroom by yourself, ask for the opportunities you desire, be a strong, goddamn independent woman. Because progress is progress, no matter how big or small. By having your voice heard, prove your mettle to the rest of the world and soon enough, us girls will truly run the world. Happy Women's Day <3
I like to think that finding Kowen Ko (柯智棠)’s music was fate at work pointing me in the right direction. I first heard him live at the Golden Melody Awards showcase in July this year, where he appeared as a special guest for his cousin Waa and performed a couple of songs （Note: This was in fact not the first time I had heard him sing; I had merely forgotten…see the post from April 2015 below. Seems that his music has passed me by more times that I can remember!).
Stressed as I was about the slew of interviews I would have to conduct right after her show, I made a mental note to look into his music later and promptly forgot twenty minutes later. The second time was at the Love Love Rock festival in November this year, where I brushed shoulders with him somewhere on the festival grounds. I had planned to catch his performance the day after, but decided against it due to the hassle of transport to the venue. The next time I saw him was at the Simple Life music festival a few weeks later, and it was this meeting which sealed the deal for me. I was on the way home from a day of performances and pondering over whether I should catch Eve Ai or Kowen’s showcase the next day. As soon as I had that thought, there he was again! Call me crazy, but I promptly decided that that was a sign that I should finally check out his music, and when I did the day after, I was-to say the least-pleasantly surprised.
He took to the stage; a tall, slight figure with a guitar held firmly in his grasp, and when he began to perform, all preconceived notions of his music went out the window. I had assumed him to be somewhat similar to Eli Hsieh, this year’s best newcomer at Golden Melody Awards who was a passionate, driven singer-songwriter who was highly adept with the guitar, but what I found was a boy with a husky, comforting voice and folk-inspired tunes which were the perfect combination of soothing and uplifting.
He began his set with his sentimental and nostalgic song ‘It was May” and followed it with “Me and my Candy House”, a song with a clean, adventurous melody that paired well against his husky vocals. Within the first six minutes of the performance, I was already doubly impressed; surprised to note that he had a sizeable, well-written English repertoire and by his musical prowess in a genre that was right up my alley. His songs were so well-written, that I disbelievingly assumed it to be a cover song, but instead was even more impressed when I found that it was all written by him, music, lyrics and all. Despite the conflicting of sounds that drifted over from a nearby event, Ko had my ears from the moment he opened his mouth to the last note of the song. Using a slight acoustic rearrangement for each of his songs, he sounded just as good as he did on his album that day.
Another reason I found his sound so intriguing was because he clearly subscribed more to British music than the normal American styles his other accomplished counterparts felt so inclined towards (You would not be surprised to know that Kowen’s idol is Damien Rice). I have always admired the clean sound and sophisticated wordplay associated with British folk music, and so was even more amazed to hear the depth within his lyrics and such an internationalised perspective coming from a born-and-bred Taiwanese singer. His meandering, world-weary vocals impressed me most in his performance of “Down oh Down”, while he showed off his versatility by perfectly executing long vocal crescendos in “Strange”.
I also especially loved the pairing of the electric guitar with Ko’s own folksy strummings. As I usually watch pop performances, it was very refreshing to see such a non-conventional pairing, especially when the electric guitar was used as a background piece to lend an uplifting, serene atmosphere to the song, rather than for some sort of screeching solo. He followed this with a stripped down, sentimental performance of a yet-to-be-released new song, so new that it doesn’t yet have a name but which caught on my heartstrings anyway, and finished the set with the strangely familiar melody of “You don’t really wish to be a drifter” and lastly the very fitting “Goodbye and Goodnight” with its haunting yet enchanting atmosphere.
If I may be perfectly candid, I wasn’t focusing too hard during his performance on technique, stage personality, or any of the things I usually take into account when reviewing live performances. Firstly, it was because I was too burned out from work, but secondly, it was because his voice and his music was too mesmerising to concentrate on anything else. That’s what good music is; the kind that allows you to lose your train of thought and throw all logical sense out the window.
Kowen's music reminds me of the beauty that one finds in melancholy; how delectable, tangible, gorgeous it is to sit alone in a dark room and brood over life. Over this past month or so, his music has accompanied me through many ups and downs, made me cry (more than once, I might add), but essentially buoyed me through the tough times, allowing me to find beauty and make time for self-reflection in sceneries and situations that are not classically beautiful. His mesmersing performance has sparked a obsessive cycle of repetition of his music be it day or night amongst myself and my colleagues, and I don't feel one bit guilty for causing a new wave of the 'Kowen Craze'. My only regret is that I missed the previous several chances to watch him perform before I left Taiwan, but I am sure that fate will draw me back to him sooner or later. Stay tuned for my review of his album!
When people hear that I'm a music reviewer, often the first question they have is "How do you appreciate so many different kinds of music?" Believe me, I had the same question for myself when I first tried my hand at reviewing albums. It seemed like such a huge feat that I was most certainly under-prepared for to treat different types of music objectively and appreciate them equally. Of course, I didn't always start out loving all kinds of music, initially I was most inclined towards R&B and Pop, and it took years of patient listening and maturity as a person for me to immerse myself into different genres. Here's a rough timeline of how my musical tastes have expanded over the years:
2007: R&B, Pop
2008: Initial appreciation for Rap and Hip hop
2009: Further appreciation for Hip hop
2010: Grew an appreciation for Rock & Easy listening/Folk
2011: Developed an appreciation for Jazz
2012: Got into Alternative Rock/Folk Rock and Brit Rock
2013: Initial appreciation for Electronic Dance Music
2015: Deeper appreciation for independent genres and Jazz, and gained an increased appreciation for EDM music
2016: Gained a greater love for Rap music, EDM, Reggae and Indie music in general
So as you can see, my appreciation for music and different styles of it has grown over time, and is still growing and changing every single day. Some of my appreciations of genres were love at first sight (rock, folk) but with some others such as alternative rock, they were slow to take shape but got there in the end! I do not claim to be an expert on any of the genres that I love, but as a music reviewer I believe its important to have a base of knowledge and understanding of how different genres have come to be, and what characteristics artists who are inclined towards these genres share.
However, my appreciation for a wide range of genres did not happen organically, nor overnight. Some songs from different genres I may have immediately taken a liking to, but for others, it took perseverance and persistence. I managed to discipline myself by taking a critical approach to every song that I listened to. Rather than just listening once and from there deciding whether I liked it or not, I listened again, again, and again (and wore out many MP3 players in the process). If I didn't like the song, I would ask myself why and listen carefully to pinpoint what exactly it was about the particular song which led me to dislike it. Was it bias that had led me to immediate dislike for a song? And likewise, if I liked a song, what was it about the melody, lyrics or arrangement which had attracted me to it? If theoretically speaking it wasn't a good song but I liked it anyway, was I being biased due to a particular artist's participation on the track? All in all, I constantly pushed myself to find justification that was relevant rather than arbitrary for my attitude towards every song. This constant questioning and critiquing of each piece of music I listened to led to an increased need for answers that I usually didn't have. So that meant listening to every piece of music and researching the characteristics and histories of different genres and contexts until I had an answer that I was satisfied with. In this way, finding an answer for why I felt the way I did gave me a greater appreciation for each of the different genres of music that I listened to, because I then had a better understanding of the way they were created and why they were created in that particular way. (On a side note, now you know why album reviews take me so long!)
Cover photo by Roman France.
Review by guest contributor Ciarrai Donnelly
Entering New York's notable downtown venue, the Bowery Ballroom, I was met by the familiar buzz of an eager crowd, excited but still patient, waiting for the show to start. The lights were low all over the house, leaving those up on the balconies in darkness, with the floor illuminated by a large, pink neon sign reading “End of the World” in cursive hanging over the small stage. Skeeter Davis's “End of the World” softly plays on repeat as the late arrivals hustle into the pink haze, pushing as close to the stage as they can get which, with no security barrier, is pressed right up against it. The old fashioned curtains and brass railings of the Ballroom, the neon sign, the people cheerfully chatting away while Davis croons overhead “...don't they know its the end of the world...” is positively dreamlike; and I seem to be the only one who doesn't know what's going on.
My relationship with Tokyo-based J-rock/pop band SEKAI NO OWARI is budding, a recent discovery, and as until last week they had never appeared in the Unites States I certainly have never seen them live. But their reputation preceeds them: an enormous and devoted worldwide fan base, three studio albums, a documentary, and sold out stadium concerts in world renowned theaters like the Nissan Stadium and Nippon Budokan. Their studio work, music videos, and live performances are famous for creative theatrical elements with elaborate and heavily stylized costumes, sets, and personas. So, I was frankly surprised when Bowery Ballroom was announced as the venue for their New York debut, and the final stop on their short American debut tour; an esteemed house of music of course, but a fraction of the size of Budokan, with a small stage not obliging to complex theatrics. The Ballroom turned out to be the perfect choice for a debut show: elegant and intimate, well known, and classically New York. The size of both the floor and the stage proved not to be a limit but an opportunity, showcasing the bands new aesthetic arrangements.
When the band hit the stage, the crowd loses it. The players include the four SEKAI NO OWARI members, Saori on piano, Fukase on guitar and lead vocals, DJ Love on the soundboard, and Nakajin on lead guitar, and two men clad in suits and what appear to be tapir head masks backing up on drums and base. The three male members all wear black tuxes and Saori sports a beautiful but simple black dress, a departure from their typical wild costumes; it's something more mature, even somber, but still maintaining their energy and edginess, matching the Ballroom's rock n' roll/classy art deco feel. They look like they belong there. With no introduction needed they jump right in, starting the night off right with “ANTI-HERO,” one of the band's latest singles, and an English version of “Monsoon Night” (my personal favorite of the night). The audience was having the time of their lives: singing and dancing, most notably during Saori's piano solos, and clapping and jumping at the command of DJ Love.
It's been my dream since I started getting to know more about Chinese music to be able to live in Taipei, and now I'm finally going to be able to! Starting from the 11th of February, I will be staying in Taipei for 139 days and hope to share parts of my experiences that may be helpful with readers everywhere! (Feb 2014)