Friday, June 9, 2017

°˖✧✝ YOSHIKI Overload pt. 1 ✝✧˖°

YOSHIKI doing the iconic "X" gesture, which was created
to symbolize his band, X Japan.


Whenever a visual kei artist or band comes overseas to my country, I try to support them, especially if whatever they're doing, a concert, a meet-and-greet, or so forth, is close to where I live. Unbelievably, YOSHIKI, the founder and leader of one of the biggest and most successful bands in Japan, X Japan, planned two major events for New York City: multiple movie showings for his music documentary about his band, X Japan, and two personal, classical concerts, featuring the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, at the illustrious Carnegie Hall.

I don't have too many friends who are visual kei fans like myself, but I do have one who is: my friend Ashley. And, while I'm not the biggest fan of YOSHIKI or X Japan, we both agreed that these events were going to play a pivotal role in YOSHIKI's overseas success, and create possibilities for other big named visual kei artists in the United States. So, we told each other we would get tickets to both events no matter what! And, in the end, did just that. 

Movie poster for X Japan's documentary, We Are X.

Source: YOSHIKI's Facebook

Months before the actual theater releases, YOSHIKI made tremendous efforts to support his band's documentary through all of his social media brackets and partnerships between well known Japanese and Western musical artists and multiple enterprises dealing with Western pop culture and music. If you were a fan of Japanese based music during this time of the film's promotion, it would've been hard not to see some sort of blurb or publication about its release. One of the most shared piece of YOSHIKI's promotional material was the finalized version of the We Are X official trailer.

From the trailer, you can see a few of the Western music artists who participated in giving their opinions and comments on X Japan and the differences between the musical environment in the United States (U.S.) versus Japan, which severed as a tremendous barrier for X Japan to translate their success over to the U.S.

Screenshot of Gene Simmons taken from the official We Are X documentary trailer

Screenshot of Marilyn Manson taken from the official We Are X documentary trailer

Because of the the large amount of promotional materials being release, there were a lot of different teasers and clips of the documentary being pasted around. One of them focused on comments from Japanese based bands, which included footage from the band Dir en grey (a visual kei band that received a prestigious opportunity to have YOSHIKI produce the majority of their first singles from their major debut, which lead to the success of their first major full length album back in 1999). And, in case you couldn't tell, I'm a major Dir en grey fan, hehehe~

I couldn't find this certain trailer on YouTube or from the original distributor, but it was re-uploaded by a visual kei enthusiast page on Facebook called Visual Loner. If you have a Facebook account, you can watch the clip here.

Screenshot of Karou, Dir en grey's lead guitarist, from a We Are X documentary teaser clip
Screenshot of Dir en grey from 1999 from a We Are X documentary teaser clip

Originally, there were only a couple of showings over the span of two days, Friday and Saturday, when the documentary first debuted at the Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in New York City (NYC) back at the beginning of November, last year. But, because the special Q&A Friday screening, with YOSHIKI and Stephen Kijak, the director of the documentary, sold out so quick, a second special Q&A screening was added for Friday. Unfortunately, my friend and I already had purchased tickets to an earlier screening when we found out the original special screening was sold out. If we would've waited another day or so to buy our tickets, we would've been able to go to the second special screening they added (we were so close!). 

There was also a collaboration with Tokyo Rebel, a NYC based clothing store that sells authorized items from Japanese street fashion  brands, with the documentary's NYC debut. If you purchased a ticket to the original Friday and Saturday special screenings and wore a visual kei inspired outfit, you would would be entered in contest to win a copy of an art poster drawn by the fabulous comic artist Becky Cloonan and signed by YOSHIKI.

Screenshot of post on Tokyo Rebel's Facebook page

Source: Tokyo Rebel's Facebook

Poster for Tokyo Rebel's collaboration with We Are X documentary

Source: Tokyo Rebel's Facebook

Print of Becky Cloonan's illustration for We Are X documentary

Source: Tokyo Rebel's Facebook

I'd never been to the Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse Cinema before, but it turned out to be a charming theater. However, it's located in a huge retail center with single floors dedicated to a certain department store, like Century 21 and Target, so, at first, I didn't know what to expect. But, when I finally got to the theater on the fourth floor, it was such a contrast to the building and other modern, big name retail stores on the other levels. The overall appearance of the theater gave off vibes of an Edwardian styled interior mixed with a 1930s vintage feel.

"Ryan Matthew Cohn in the House of Wax bar, located in the lobby of the
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Downtown Brooklyn." -Cory Kilgannon for The New York Times
Photo by Joshua Bright for the The York Times

Source: The New York Times

"Wax heads are among the items on display. 'We literally
built this bar around the collection,' Mr. Cohn said." -Cory Kilgannon for The New York Times
Photo by Joshua Bright for the The York Times

Source: The New York Times

I didn't anticipate there being a bar located in the movie theater, so we didn't put going in and checking it out in our plans. From what I saw, it was pretty packed, so we decided to go somewhere else to eat and talk about how we felt about the documentary. But, before that, we wanted to get some nice pictures together in the theater. 
My selfie with Ashley

Ashley and I doing X Japan's "X" gesture

We look so silly crouching in front of the movie poster, but,
for some reason, it was really small. We couldn't really get
the full poster in the picture if we stood up.  

Afterwards, we went to the merchandise table that was stationed outside in the lobby for fans to purchase "We Are X" products. I forget everything that was being sold, though I know it wasn't much. I ended up purchasing a bandana with a customized "We Are X" graphic design on the front.

"We Are X" bandana I brought.

Detail shots of the bandana.

I bought the bandana because I wanted to buy at least something at the table to support X Japan, but I don't really know what to do with it. If I fold and tie it, like you're supposed to do with a regular bandana, no one will see the design on the front, which is the entire point of the item. I've thought about framing it, but I kinda would like to wear it, too. I might pin it to the back of a jacket, so it could be admired, like it was intended to. 

As we were leaving, I tired getting a cool picture of my outfit, or even a selfie, with the wax heads from the theater's bar as a background, but there wasn't enough light to capture my face or details in my outfit. The only decent lighting we could get was outside the theater on the floor's landing.

Blouse and Tie: Algonquins
Skirt Putumayo
Purse: Customized Case (I added a handle and
chain  as a strap to a hard case I found)

In honor of the documentary, Ashley and I wanted to wear visual kei inspired outfits, which proved to be harder than I expected. One of the major problems I had was styling an outfit that would fit the type of hairstyle I had at the time, which were Senegalese twist. I wanted to go for more of an early 1990s, drape-y, Goth rock look that visual kei bands were doing at the time, but thought my hairstyle wouldn't really fit. So, I went with a more cutesy, Punk-y look that was fashionable in the mid 2000s when oshare kei, a sub-genre of visual kei, became more prominent in the visual kei scene.

An Cafe, an oshare kei band, in 2004

For this promotional photo, An Cafe is wearing clothing from SEX POT ReVeNGe,
a popular Japanese clothing brand that sells original Punk clothing.

And while I'm at it, here's the music video where An Cafe wears the same Punk outfits they were wearing in the above promotional photo. 

*** For the sake of more clarification, I will like to say that my outfit IS NOT necessarily an oshare kei look, but more of an inspired one, based on different oshare kei elements. The promotional photo of An Cafe wearing clothing from SEX POT ReVeNGe is also necessarily NOT an oshare kei look; it's Punk. A more comprehensible example for what oshare kei is would be the black and white stage costumes in the above music video that An Cafe wears in the scenes where they are playing their instruments. 

These are not the same outfits from the above music video, but they are very 
similar to the ones I described.

While Punk and oshare kei are two different things, oshare kei artists incorporated many styles their fan base (young girls) were interested in into their stage costumes, which created (to me at least) this mishmash of a dark, DIY, Decora, Punk look.***


At the end of the night, Ashley, who's vegan, gave me a carrot. I don't know why, but I thought it was the funniest thing. It was like a vegan joke that happened in real life- my vegan friend just had raw carrots to pass out.

Well, that's all of for the first part of my YOSHIKI post (I didn't expect it to be so long)! I'll make sure to start the second part as soon as I scan the Carnegie Hall program with details about YOSHIKI and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.

 °˖✧ 'Till next time