November 12th, 2012 – Shimokitazawa LOFT – Live Report

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November 12th, 2012 – Shimokitazawa LOFT Live Report
Author: gotchi

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Continuing on from the previous live report.

November 11th, 2012 – Shibuya O-nest
November 12th, 2012 – Shimokitazawa LOFT 
November 15th, 2012 – Kichijoji CRESCENDO – upcoming post!

If you haven’t read the three 2012 October “Live reports” from Kikino & myself, here they are:

Oct 16, 2012 – Shibuya Gee-Ge Pub
Oct 17, 2012- Shindaita FEVER
Oct 18, 2012 – Shibuya LOOP Annex

Warning: Heavy text. Apologies for the possible run-on sentences and swapping of grammar tenses.
Disclaimer: I’ve changed some names and blurred pictures of people’s faces to protect their identities.

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First off, this is the live I’ve been personally most excited to write about (even though the best moments had already happened in October ^^).

Earlier this day, I met a family friend for lunch and spent the afternoon with her at a nice dessert/cake shop in Ginza. It felt wonderful to speak in English freely and to finally reflect (and digest) the experiences during my trip over some delicious cake and tea. (I seriously don’t know how Japanese people are so thin O_o even if you are commuting daily by train/bike, there’s so much good food).

Shimokitazawa is a fun area that has a young and bohemian vibe to it. There are a lot of unique shops with second hand clothing or self-made jewellery stores. I could probably spend the whole day there and still not be done with it (I went back again the next day haha!). I hear a lot of young artists and performers are also in this area. The LOFT venue has been around for a while now, my Japanese neighbour (back in Vancouver), told me she used to go there when she was a teenager too!

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Tonight, the doors opened at 6:30pm. I had heard that more people have been discovering yui’s secret lives being performed under the name FLOWER FLOWER. This prompted me to make my way and to be there at least 2 hours earlier. Back in October, we didn’t line up any earlier than maybe 30 min-1 hour? There weren’t too many people there yet, however, it’s been a month and people have been catching on.

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I arrived at 4:30pm and already there were 8 people ahead of me. As soon as I had arrived, more people were starting to pile up in a line along the side of the road. If I had been 30 minutes late, I’d probably be like the 20th person getting in. I met the female friend from yesterday (let’s call her Mayu) and she introduced me to another female fan (Saki). This was my first time meeting Saki and even though she did not speak a word of English…she tried her best and just had a hilarious personality! She kept joking about not needing to understand through language and that the both of us could understand each other. We joked back and forth about us having “heart to heart” connection and that was all we needed. It was super random but I really appreciated someone like this waiting in line for 2+ hours with me.  I discovered that I’ve seen her before in a picture where she was dressed as one of the “power rangers” during the Honey Bee Studio meetings.

While we chatted amongst ourselves, I almost didn’t even notice that yui was walking right by us. I caught a glimpse of her wearing something casual with a white cardigan and her hair tied up into a middle height pony tail.

As the time drew near, we made our descent down the staircase into the basement floor where the stage was. After getting my ticket and pamphlets, they would make your drink right away so I ordered an Italian campari. It was a very tiny space. The smallest venue out of all the ones I went to. I’m super glad I got there early because by the time the performances began, the entire place was PACKED to the brim. Honestly, I didn’t notice this until it was FLOWER FLOWER’s turn to perform. I hadn’t turned my head to look back but when I did I could see that the staircase I had entered from was filled with people just standing there to listen in.

Here’s a rough floor plan that is not drawn to scale.  When I got into the venue, the first row was taken already so I quickly made my way to the side bench and sat directly beside the speaker. You can see how small the stage was really in the picture below.  I had a direct line view of the performer from where I was. The first row was seated right to the edge and the curtains in the backdrop was actually where the performers area was (I discovered this when I took a little washroom break).

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I can’t remember if the  venue realized they had forgotten to hand out this paper or we had received it upon entering. This is yui’s handwritten FLOWER FLOWER letter/msg that has been photocopied for everyone. I didn’t realize it when I was there but, tonight’s performance was special.

The entire evening’s performance was all grouped under and named as “FLOWER FLOWER Presents Vol 1.” Even though the letter has a Vol 5.6 (I’m not too sure what exact #s are referring to). Anyway, this collective of performers were chosen by yui to showcase their music in her “show.” And boy, I was utterly impressed.

Compared to the previous night’s live, where I felt a bit “disconnected,” this was the total opposite. It was the best live show from start to finish that I had been to. The crowd, the small cozy atmosphere, and the performances were all just perfect that night. The whole show had this sort of super relaxed, genuine feeling that came across in every performer. It was super inviting and the artists’ performances just wanted you to be there to listen and have fun. You could tell these artists were super passionate about their music. They all had that similar emotional quality in their singing that yui has when she performs. The show started a few minutes late…around 6:45 pm.

1st Act: Saito Mari

This girl just performed with her acoustic guitar and that’s really all she needed as her vocals really surprised me. I really liked her “Monster” song. Unfortunately, she didn’t have that CD which had that song on it for sale that night.

After her performance, there was a small break to set up the next performers. At this point, I had to make a visit to the single washroom. Obviously, there is a line up and of course, they’re all ladies who are waiting to use the washroom. While waiting in line, Mari-san, was walking by towards the “backstage curtains.” I decided to just compliment her vocals and that she as a great MC. I remember I just approached her saying Hello in English and quickly blurted in Japanese that I was from Canada. Then I just spoke in simple words saying “your vocals are very good! you’re a great MC.” I could tell she was super surprised as she had a moment where she didn’t know what to say other than “thank you …nippon yoko…so” and then she stopped midway there and said “Well….welllcome to Japan!” It was adorable and I appreciated her effort. We shook hands and she went back behind the curtain.

There were two other women behind me waiting in line for the washroom and heard/saw my little discussion. They were super curious and one of them spoke to me in English. She asked me where I was from and who I was here to see. I told her and she translated to the other girl. She further asked me how did I know about “YUI” in general so I told them I had been a fan for a long time and that I was one of the “es.car” dancers in the Hong Kong concert. They were super surprised and kinda talked amongst themselves but were a bit loud as some people overheard.

By the time was out of the washroom, the next duo already began their performance and I was stuck standing in front of the curtain watching their performance.

2nd Act: ALLaNHiLLZ
Twin brothers with skilled vocals and had great harmonization. They were super energetic and really fun to watch. One of them played the guitar as the other sang. They looked over to me during their performance and would really get the crowd riled up. They would mix up their singing styles with beats and mini raps. As performers they had a bit of swag to them. It was kind of nice to have little energy boost from them amongst all the acoustic guitar players.

3rd Act: ???
I wasn’t able to catch his name but he was also another acoustic guitar player. He was an older male performer who has a nice singing voice.

4th Act: FLOWER FLOWER

Tonight there was only yui with her guitar & murajun on a classic piano performing. She was wearing a light material dark blue dress that had small yellow flower vintage patterns on it. The dress ended right above her knees. She was wearing light purple stockings that had an argyle pattern. Again her hair was in a ponytail and was wearing the long pearl necklace from the night before with it looped around 4-5 times around her neck and wore a pair of black leather shoes.

She sets up the music stand that holds her notepad and pen while murajun gets on the classic piano.

SET LIST for November 12th, 2012 – Shimokitazawa LOFT:

1. Cover of an Okinawan song by:  BEGIN – ????

yui: Konbanwa, FLOWER FLOWER desu. kyou wa arigato gozaimashita | Good evening, this is FLOWER FLOWER, thank you for [coming] today.

The audience claps as yui warms up a tune on the guitar and her vocals. She then goes on to talk about today’s FLOWER FLOWER event has lots of people and she’s thankful. Then says a few things I didn’t understand but she is playing a few notes and goes right into the song.

This is a popular song from Okinawa that originally uses the Japanese shamisen instrument. Yui performs this with just her acoustic. This was the first time I’ve heard this song. She plays through the first verse in a gently. The song has a nice melody as the continues singing.  After the first verse, yui kinda stumbles and says “ah I almost forgot this part or almost made a mistake there.” It seemed like she was in a great mood as she was smiling quite often throughout the night. It just looked like she was purely having fun in a relaxed environment.

After the first chorus, yui keeps playing the guitar and asks in a playful tone if the audience knew this Okinawan song and if they knew the other extra verse as singing it alone would be a bit embarrassing. Some audience says something but she continues along into the next verse. As she enters into the pre-chorus, out of nowhere the audience belts out next few words of the lyrics. This encourages yui as she sings with even more energy. The song gets to the point where everyone can join in on this “sei sei sei?” kind of chant in the song but she kinda giggles and says “yea something like this!” as the audience joins.

I’m just really enjoying this as everyone’s just having such a fun time singing along. The song has really fun parts that join in from and is catchy. Again the pre chorus comes along and the audience sings out the few lyrics as yui continues into the chorus. As yui loops the last line in the song to wrap it up, she thanks everyone and mentions something about Okinawa and then Fukuoka. Then moves onto introducing Murajun as the audience applause.

The two of them kind of joke around throughout the show with silent looks/facial expressions. It was nice to see they were both having fun.

yui asks if everyone was well in a cute way emphasizing different parts with odd mini pauses of “Gen-KI-desu-ka?”
Everyone replies “genki!” She continues saying “ah that’s good isn’t it!” She tells everyone that she had gone to France and audience replies “eeeehh |wow/really ?”

My friend Mayu and I were thinking the same thing and said outloud “Bonjour” (Hello in French) and she hears us and says “yes bonjour!”…and I blurted out “Parlez-vous francais? (do you speak French?) as she says French phrases like “bon soir (good evening)…and merci beaucoup (thank you very much)…I’ve forgotten everything else so it’s not possible”  I was pretty happy and really enjoying myself as I was able to actually participate and understand this dialogue! (Hooray for being Canadian…except my French has gone down the gutters as I’ve forgotten most verbs now).

2. Seesaw

She plays out a chord on the guitar and begins whistling. She wrote this song back in October and we got to hear it before. This is another one of my favorites. The song is super light and has a happy tone.  I am amazed how well she whistles on point without breaking! Murajun joins in with the classic piano as well which became  a nice accompaniment to the playful singing and guitar playing. Yui actually stops playing the guitar and just holds it as Murajun continues with the piano. He is amazing on the piano and it was nice to hear a real piano being played too (versus a digital keyboard). The whistling comes back to end off the song. Seesaw is short and sweet.

3. 1,2,3

The piano plays the melody to start the next song. Yui sings only with the piano as the instrument and it’s really nice. I’ve already heard the acoustic guitar version but the piano melodies work super well in this song.

Everything is ending nicely with the piano and then yui kinda drops a pen off the music stand pretty loudly “ruining” Murajun’s fine piano notes at the end. He kinda turns over and stares at her while the audience has a laugh at this. Yui quickly says “Gomen! Sorry! gomen gomen” as some guy says “murajun kawaisou poor Murajun…” and yui responds but I only caught her saying “….you didn’t see it happen!”

Yui continues MCing “alright alright…we can’t think about that. Murajun’s great on the piano that’s all!”

4. Coffee

Onto the next song, she has her guitar and begins strumming the chords as the audience claps to the beat. Yui says “arigato …merci beaucoup!” and goes into the verse. The clapping stops as you can tell the crowd is really wanting to listen. I really liked hearing the piano and guitar for this song. They were playing the song with a little bit more speed compared to yesterday. Although the pacing was a little faster, it didn’t feel rushed. The classic piano gave this song a very smooth and rolling/flowing impression.

Song ends and everyone claps again.

5.Kaeritai Basho

Yui launches into playing her guitar while Murajun adds the piano keys. People quickly catch onto the rhythm and begin clapping along too. This is a fun song that I loved being able to be there to for as it really invites you to interact and participate. I don’t know why but she just blurts out “3, 2…” in Japanese maybe the clapping was off.

She thanks everyone for today and something along the lines of….it was surely nice to come back this place happily with everyone  and am always thankful. She then thanks each of the performers that participated in the live and of course the venue.

The piano parts in this song are quite cute especially with yui’s lyrics where eventually everyone joins in and sings a long “oooh la la lu lu…”  Yui says something about “this is the b-melody…wait what” and kinda trails off laughing a bit but people join in on the “ooh la la lu lu” and yui thanks them again. She’s pretty much talking in between these little parts and trying to orchestrate people to change it up to “re re re no re (or le le le or le …since Japanese don’t pronounce L’s).” Yui then calls out only the girls to sing it and then the guys she is surprised by the sound and then everyone to join in and thanks them. She kinda laughs and is improv-ing the words as she’s goes on with “la la la la la….really anything can work here…” and everyone kind of laughs. There’s a last and slowing “la la la la….la …la” and her voice kinda cracks a bit lightly and we all laugh, she laughs..and murajun plays along prolonging the piano note while yui tries to time his ending note with her last “la” but it’s obviously off but it didn’t matter since at that point it was all just fun and laughs.

Everyone applauses and she thanks everyone adding that this was FLOWER FLOWER. Then I think well then why don’t we have an encore ! And everyone cheers! She thanks everyone again and calls each of the previous performers to come out as everyone cheers. She kinda messes up and said “Saito…..ah Saito Mari-san!”

The entire stage was tiny already but once everyone was up there, it was pretty tight and cozy.

6. Encore (performed with all performers) Cover  –
 Southern All Stars –  ?????? Itoshi no Ellie (Ellie My Love)

Yui gets everyone organized and ready. Then she announces the song they will be performing. She warms up the tune for everyone and intro. She’s playing the guitar while murajun stays on the piano with the microphone being passed along amongst the singers. Mari-san starts…but because the song has a bit of a lower tone…you could barely hear her until the male singer comes in with a very charming voice.  He brought out the fun side of the song with everyone with his singing as he exaggerated a lot of parts but it made it really fun. Everyone jumped into the chorus as the crowd clapped along. “Ellie my love so sweet…” This song is an oldie and is originally Japanese. Ray Charles did an English cover of it.  Yui starts the second verse and again it is a lower tone so it was harder to hear her but once it got to the chorus everyone was kinda just belting out the song.  The performers don’t wanna end it yet so they yell out “one more time!” and they keep going. I didn’t want it to end haha but the male singer finishes the song in a silly voice and everyone just cheers and has fun. Yui yells out thank you again and to take care.

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The last two songs performed summed up how awesome this live was. The live just had a feel good vibe throughout. For the performers, the people, the venue itself. It had a warmth and honest atmosphere where people wanted to share their time with each other over music. Loved the interaction. You could see how much fun yui was having and that this was what she loved. The FLOWER FLOWER set they chose to perform were the right ones for this show.

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Even after the performance, it was pretty packed so there was no way we were leaving soon so we waited. When there was enough space, I went up and approached some of the performers that were there as I wanted to buy Mari-san’s CD. At the same time, Saki really wanted to take a photo with her but was super shy. I told her to not worry about it and that I’ll play the “foreigner” card and that we should take the picture together. Mari-san remembered me and tried to speak to me in English again and was super surprised when I said I’d like to buy her CD. She asked for my name and I handed her my sharpie. She was nice told me to take care and I thanked her. Right next to us was one of the twins so I greeted him with pretty Western approached handshake (it was like a bro handshake hug) haha! I complimented his vocals and harmonies and he said thanks!

At the point of the night, I was pretty happy and I wasn’t expecting yui to come out as she didn’t the other night. I guess I stayed long enough though as I saw yui pop her head out of the curtain near the front desk talking to a lady I’ve never seen before. They were discussing things for a long time. I gave it a shot to just wait there to try to say a few words as I was leaving Japan in a few days.

Their conversation was ending and yui looked over to me so I greeted her in French and she replied back with “Bonjour!” I told her in Canada we learned French too. I’m thankful that Mayu and Saki were with me as they somehow helped me translate things. The lady who was just speaking with yui heard me and she actually spoke perfect English! So in tandem, they all helped me translate what I wanted to say. I pretty much just told her that I was returning to Canada and that I had a great time. I brought along some gifts from my travels and handed it to her.

The lady was really nice and was surprised I was Canadian and kept offering me space to speak with yui as I would probably never get the chance to again. I was thankful to her but I honestly had nothing more to say. I explained to the lady that I’ve been a long fan and was one of the Hong Kong es.car dancers and that I threw in a LED glasses for her “es.car” performance. The lady translates all this and yui says she remembers this and she reaches out to shake hands again. I thank her again. Her hands are so soft and gentle!  She actually uses both hands, one to shake and the other to wrap around the other. This all happened so quickly. Yui also thanked mayu and saki who helped me translate and we then said our goodbyes as other people wanted to speak with her too.

The lady continued to speak with me in English and we both were in agreement about how awesome this FLOWER FLOWER project is and how much respect I have. She complimented the few Japanese things I was able to say and she told me she was a huge fan as well and had followed yui as YUI for a while to a lot of her tours. When I returned home to Vancouver, I watched some DVDs again and saw her face in the crowd. What a small world eh?

At this point, there were familiar faces from previous lives that I recognized and had dinner with. There were a few that I’ve never spoken to before but they all heard me being the Canadian girl. It was so random but I didn’t care! I was super happy…so happy!

When we were outside, someone wanted to have a smoke but we saw one of the twin brothers out here too. So we all took a picture with him. Mayu wanted his autograph so we got that done too. I was super elated from the whole night…I didn’t care where were headed off to but Saki needed to catch a late night bus back to Osaka. It was late and we all haven’t eaten dinner so we literally went to the Mcdonald’s for something quick to bite. I paid for dinner this time as a thank you for accompanying me and just to celebrate what a great night we had. It wasn’t much but it was the least I could do. I had no idea if I would ever see Saki again.

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It was a great night! I was giddy all the way to my hostel and constantly thinking “what just happened?!” I knew there was only one more live to go to and I was starting to feel a little sad. I didn’t want to leave. There had been so many moments (not just these lives) that were so awesome. Deep down, I knew it was time though. These experiences were precious and I’ll always cherish the people, the moments, and the fun I had. I looked forward to seeing one of my last FLOWER FLOWER performances. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance or time to go back to Japan to attend anymore lives so I am just going to full-heartedly soak up as much as I can.

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Continue reading:

November 11th, 2012 – Shibuya O-nest
November 15th, 2012 – Kichijoji CRESCENDO – upcoming post