Tegan & Sara, an indies act who’s become fairly popular and mainstream with their latest album, Heartthrob, performed three shows in Japan last weekend. Western musicians come and go all the time in Japan, but their tour stop in Japan was particularly notable because 7 years had passed since their last visit.
A couple of my friends and I made the the trip out to see them play in Yokohama & Tokyo, and both times definitely topped my list of memorable concernts. So for any other Tegan & Sara fans, or those interested in the Mugen Festival put on by Asian Kung-Fu Generation every year, keep reading!
Mugen Fest 2014 Day 1 @ Yokohama Arena
One of my friends and I decided to get up at a buttcrack of dawn and take an early local train out to Yokohama Arena near Shin Yokohama station. Amazingly we both made it to the station with time to spare, and the ride didn’t seem as long as usual because we had a lot of catching up to do. Our other friend was wise enough to spend the night in Tokyo and stay overnight so she wouldn’t have to wake up so early.
We got to the venue a bit early and chilled at Starbucks inside the station over frappes and quiche. We were more than happy to settle for the giant mermaid because there aren’t any good coffee shops in our neck of the woods- not even a Starbucks, lol. Then we took a look around Bic Camera some some phone accessories before joining our buddy. The walk to Yokohama Arena is about 400 m from the station, which isn’t far, but it was already getting hot, hot, hot outside.
After showing our tickets and getting our badges, we checked the time table posted in the lobby. Mugen Fest can be annoying in the way it doesn’t post the artist performance timeline until the day of at the door, nor can you leave the venue and be admitted back in. Tegan & Sara were up second on the main stage, so we had a little time to spare. We decided to join the huge line for tour goods, but after we finally got to the front we saw that Tegan & Sara didn’t have anything out at their table besides two shirts, and they were quite a bit more expensive than buying them from any one of their online stores that ships internationally.
So coming up empty handed on that end, we decided to go inside and check out KANA-BOON playing first. One thing Mugen Fest really had going for it was layout. There were a series of boxed off areas across the standing floor that guests could move in and out of. Once a box was full, staff waved you on into the next box. As long as boxes weren’t full up you could come and go as you pleased. They had a live cameraman filming the stage, which you could watch no matter where you were standing/sitting on any of the huge TV screens above.
We were shown to the front box farthest left from the stage. It was cool because we mostly just people watched since KANA-BOON’s fans were really getting into it. I was kind of ambivalent about them just checking them out on YouTube, but they were pretty fun live.
After their set It’s a Musical! played on the side stage, and since they weren’t very well known, the crowd was heavily split into people moving towards the right side of the arena where the side stage was to get a better look or taking the time to grab some grub from many of the food stalls outside. We took the opportunity to move into the front stage center box and landed first row for Tegan & Sara’s set. 🙂
Before their set started it was explained that they’d been offering Tegan & Sara a spot in their festival for years, but this was the first time they’d accepted to perform. You’d think in that case they would have gone out of their way to really push and promote them, but it was clear when their set started that wasn’t the case. I felt kind of bad for them because they opened up with “Goodbye, Goodbye”, which should have got the crowd really moving, but most of the Japanese people were just closing their eyes and swaying with the music or staring. You could tell they were both a bit unnerved by the quiet reaction, but they kept doing their thing and said they were happy to be back in Japan after so long. It looked like they’d at least won over a few peeps by “Closer” at the end of their set. Our group was one of the few getting down during the set, and Tegan acknowledged us with a wave. 🙂
No one wrote down a set list, so we’re not sure about the order except the opening and closing songs of their set, but in no particular order we’re pretty sure it was:
“I Was a Fool”
“I’m Not Your Hero”
“Now I’m All Messed Up”
“Walking With a Ghost”
“Drove Me Wild”
“Back In Your Head”
So as you can see the set was sadly too short, and pretty Heartthrob-centric! Not that we really minded the latter 😉 Up until the live Tegan & Sara posted they were taking requests on Twitter, but I don’t think they did a lot of requests until the After Show performance the following Monday.
Afterwards we went out to get some food and drinks and chill in one of the live cafe areas they had set up. It helped that they had a lot of lounging space dispersed amongst the floors, and we were pleasantly surprised at how efficient everything was for such a big festival.
There were also a lot of different food choices available. They had Japanese snack foods, Indian curry and tandoori chicken, noodle bowls, rice bowls, desserts (pancakes, ice cream, Japanese shaved ice, etc.), hot dogs, hamburgers, lots of fried stuff, and little mini convenience stores set up all around. It was all reasonably priced, too. I think our favorites were the Racco Burger (Otter Burger) with egg, bacon, garlic, and the tandoori chicken. The staff people were really friendly and remembered our faces, although that might be because there surprising weren’t an overwhelming amount of foreigners in attendance.
Other bands we caught were Straightener, Owl City, The Young Punx, The Rentals, and Asian Kung-Fu Generation. Two of us (including me, lol) conked out for mostly everything between Owl City and Asian Kung-Fu Generation.
Straightener was Straightener. They’re veterans. If you like Asian Kung-Fu Generation you’ll probably like them. Owl City was by far the most boring set for us. The lead singer was heavily auto tuned and seemed really full of himself, but they’re somewhat popular in Japan because of that one collaboration song they did with Carly Rae Jepsen. The Young Punx did live mixing with special guest girl duo Red n’ Pink on vocals. Their animated videos were amusing to watch. Not my kind of music, but they put on a good show and played up the crowd. Completely conked out during The Rentals; sorry ya’ll! Asian Kung-Fu Generation was good, but all their songs tend to sound the same after awhile IMHO, which is why I only own their first two albums. Surprisingly they played quite a bit of old stuff, including “Rewrite” and “Kimi to Iu Hana”. At the end they did a cover with one of the guys from The Rentals (originally from Weezer) of Weezer’s “Sweater Song”. We left after because we figured nothing was going to top that and we needed to catch the shink back home.
The festival went on Sunday as well, but we only did the Saturday one day ticket. They were also selling tickets for Tegan & Sara’s after show live on Monday, so we all decided to all give a collective screw it to work and go. After all, it may be another 7 years before they make it back over, if they’re even making music that long!
After Show @ Daikanyama Unit
The After Show live was held at Unit, which is a small indies live house (lots of visual kei bands just starting out perform there) located near Daikanyama station on the Tōkyū Tōyoko/Minato Mirai Line. I think the last time I’d been was to see Metronome play there 7-8 years ago, if memory serves me right. I was having a pretty lazy day and didn’t shink it out there until late afternoon.
Before the live I grabbed a quick bite to eat and margarita at Hacienda de Cielo a short walk away. It’s a good date spot if you like a nice food over pseudo-Tex Mex food because of it’s outstanding patio view, but if you’re looking for real Tex-Mex or Mexican skip this place. One of my peeps joined me for drinks a bit after I arrived. They had an all-Spanish itemized menu, yet our waitress was only familiar with the Japanese translation of the items off to the side. My friend ordered fresh guac and chips, and what she got contained neither lemon, lime, nor cilantro in it. We had to ask for lemon and the waitress was all like, “What do you want if for?” + WTF look and we just stared back like WTF this isn’t guac with out some citrus in it, lady.
So anyways, we paid our bill and made it over to the live house a few minutes before the show began. Our other friend was holding us a spot second row to the right of the stage. In twilight zone-esque fashion, a good friend of his we didn’t know was coming to the live happened to be standing two people over from us. Our area of Japan was definitely represented, lol.
It was unreal being so close to Tegan & Sara both performances when you consider how big the venues they usually play now are. In comparison, Daikanyama Unit only holds about 600 people. They played most of the set list numbers from Mugen Fest, plus a lot of older stuff. Obviously they couldn’t accommodate every song request so they did sang a few acapella choruses of shout out request songs from the audience like “Nineteen”, which was amusing because they’d be like “blah blah let’s skip to the good part of this song” or “c’mon we’re not gonna do that song because it sucks”, lol.
MCs included learning “saiko (pronounced similar to psycho)” for “awesome” in Japanese, explaining why it took so long for them to come back to Japan and all the excuses their management gave in between, introducing the band members and getting them to dance for everyone on stage, poking fun at how excited Jasper (on bass) was for Germany’s World Cup win, and how Tegan & Sara had their own, separate early evening after parties in their rooms, passed out from exhaustion the night before.
Their set for the night:
- “Goodbye, Goodbye”
- “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend”
- “Back In Your Head”
- “The Con”
- “Walking With a Ghost”
- “Monday Monday Monday”
- “On Directing”
- “I Know I Know I Know”
- “I’m Not Your Hero”
- “I Was a Fool”
- “Now I’m All Messed Up”
- “Sentimental Tune”
- “Living Room”
- “Shock to Your System”
- “How Come You Don’t Want Me Now”
- “Drove Me Wild”
- “Call It Off”
- “Dark Come Soon”
- “Open the Door” (Cover)
The encore wasn’t a surprise because they told us in advance after hearing from a fellow band that Japanese people didn’t know they were supposed to call for an encore after the performance. Maybe that band just sucked, lol? As long as I’ve been going to lives I’ve never encountered Japanese fans being shy about calling out for an encore, or ankooru.
Although it would have been nostalgic to demachi (wait for the band to exit the venue) for old time’s sake like you do for v-kei bands, we figured the girls wouldn’t have been familiar with the concept and would have thought us creepy stalker-ish, so we just went on back to the station.
We were all pretty pooped from our crazy long weekend on the shink ride back home and although me and another friend went out to a Japanese pub (izakaya) after, we called it a night pretty early on.
In fact I’m still feeling it today and I was having trouble even getting this post written up and time, so look forward to some edits tomorrow with pictures. Edit: Pics are up. 🙂 Maybe more pics and video to come when I get ahold of my buddy’s memory card he recorded everything on.