Saturday, 20 September 2014

Con Report: Saboten Con 2014

What do get when you mix the dry, Arizona heat and four days of non-stop shopping for the latest and greatest in otaku wares, anime & cosplay, and amazing Jrock concerts? Saboten Con in Glendale, Arizona, of course. I had the privilege to be able to attend this year and can I just say that it was an absolutely AMAZING experience. I had the chance to jump into the beautiful chaos as media with this year’s three music guests: Kazha, Iruma Rioka, and MoonStream.

Let me just start off by saying that I REALLY wished I could have done more with Kazha, but because of event overlaps and my early departure I missed a lot of content with them, including the Q&A, signing, and photo-op. Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed what I did get to attend.

Kazha are Kazuha Oda on vocals and bass, Hideki Matsushige on guitar, and Masaya Kondo on drums. And to be quite honest, I hadn't listened to them once until a few months right before Saboten, which I now regret. I went into their concert completely unaware of what kind of live show they put on, while everyone surrounding knew what was about to happen and had prepared for impact.

Unlike other Jmusic concerts I have attended, there wasn't quick or even often movement back and forth all over the stage during the time I could stay and watch. Everything was very calm and relaxed, but exhilarating and beautiful at the same time. Both the music and lyrics blended perfectly to create balanced pieces of art. The melodies were very rich. And, unlike the regulars of the con, I was blown away, left in the dust of the meteor that had hit. Definitely a performance you can go in knowing nothing, but leave an instant fan. I just wish I could have stayed through the whole concert, but unfortunately awkward panel scheduling left me scrambling.

Luckily, I was able to catch all of the acoustic performance. And, despite Kazuha’s cute headgear, the acoustic performance was just as beautiful as the performance the night before, especially the acoustic of their cover for “Don’t Stop Believing.” I do think that was the most beautiful sing-along of that song that I’ve had the chance to be a part of. Hopefully, some day in the near future I can have the chance to attend a full performance. I would LOVE to be able to see a whole show without other things interfering.

Next up is Iruma Rioka. Vocalist Iruma and guitarist Nemu (Nemu-sama as he asked us to call him after the chants of Nemu-chan) make a fantastic pair who not only look good, but also sound phenomenal! With this duo I went in completely blind, no pre-listen or research, just kind of hopped in and hoped I would enjoy myself. And I think I did more than that (Guys, I was dancing and jumping in heels. Not something I have the natural ability to accomplish). The concert was fun and energetic. Iruma danced around across the stage and catwalk, with Nemu sometimes joining her.

Unlike the other concerts, the chair barricades were taken down, allowing for everyone to be right up close in the action. Before long the room was a cheering, dancing mess (in the absolute best way possible). The only calm moments existed for Iruma’s keyboard pieces, which were absolutely lovely. Then it was back to being wild.

And some exciting news: later this year Iruma and Nemu will be joined by Jill of Rose Noire as their violinist and begin touring as Hollow Mellow. Iruma stated that she has been wanting to incorporate violin more into their music, and with Jill joining the team it is their perfect chance. I greatly look forward to seeing the band back in the US and hope to be able to attend the performance at that time.

And lastly, the whole reason I left my little home in Oklahoma to fly all the way out to the deserts of Arizona: MoonStream. MoonStream is a collaboration between Satsuki and Tomo Asaha, together with Raanen Bozzio on drums, Poel on bass, and their mascot Apollo. This makes my second time to see them live and I had an absolute blast!

Starting off with the first track of Satsuki’s album Luminous, Twilight, MoonStream went full force into their performance. It didn’t take long for the audience to take to the band, joining in with the callback and following Satsuki’s actions and cheering for Tomo and Poel as they danced about the stage. Many, as I could tell, were prior fans and sang along with Satsuki (including me of course).

The band even gave us the pleasure of hearing some MoonStream exclusive tracks and the both pieces from Satsuki’s latest single, Lily. And of course, me being the crybaby I am, busted up crying when he played Brave (which became a personal favorite of mine the first time I heard it).

I already knew from prior experience that the show was going to be amazing, but it far exceeded my last experience seeing this band live. They played with much more passion and power. Many times I was on the verge of tears from just how well they were doing and how well the crowd reacted to them.

MoonStream, minus Poel who had to return home, also performed an acoustic set after all the contestants of the masquerade had walked the stage. Having missed the acoustic performance last year at Izumicon due to delayed flights, it was great to have a chance to finally hear it for myself. They even played Guren no Yumiya, which Satsuki had told us last year was a song he really wanted to cover, and Carving, a MoonStream exclusive song. And Raanen realized his dream of a hip-hop callout at an anime convention.

The night ended with the VIP event with a private acoustic session and a few rounds of drinks (virgin for this little baby). Followed by cheki and a little bit of partying afterward (I’m sworn to secrecy about some of what took place, sorry. But if you were there you know EXACTLY what took place). I even had the chance to chat with Satsuki a little bit during that time, just some small which was a nice break from my social awkwardness. Let’s just say I was a little sad to see the night end (AKA I was a gross, crying mess), but I couldn’t say that I didn’t have the time of my life getting to hang out with them again.

News from the MoonStream side: While it looks like this may be their only show this year, with Satsuki heading off on a European tour this winter for his solo project, MoonStream are working on recording tracks to compile into an album.

So, the overall rating: FANTASTIC. I really got to enjoy myself at this convention and seeing all these wonderful artists perform. Let’s hope that the near future will give me another chance to see them in action and share my experience.