Saturday, December 30, 2006

It’s About Time…Dir En Grey are FINALLY doing a real US tour
Finally, almost 10 years later, a real Dir En Grey tour in the US. An actual tour, with a full set and opening bands and the whole shebang. OK, so the opening bands kind of suck, but nobody’s going to see them anyway. I do feel kind of sorry for them though – they’re probably going to have to play their whole sets with the crowd screaming for DEG all the way through, and musically they’re a pretty poor fit.
I’m very happy about this tour. I was starting to think I’d have to fly back to Europe to see these guys play a full set, and much as I’m happy to go home and visit, the crowds in Germany are kind of scary. I’m a small woman (158 cms), I’m not too fond of being trapped in a mosh pit with big drunk guys. This is a much better option.
The whole thing is kind of amusing, though. To give some background for those who have no idea what I’m going on about, Dir En Grey started out as a visual kei band. Think pretty boys in make-up and feminine clothes. They initially attracted an audience full of adoring teenage girls, like most visual bands do, although in their case these were not the more mainstream teenage girls, and they still aren’t. Then a few years ago they changed their look. They pretty much look like a “normal” rock band now, although the eyeliner still makes the occasional appearance. No more skirts, though, and one of the guitar players has been sporting a rather sexy little goatee recently. For anyone who’s been paying attention over the last few years it looks like they’ve been deliberately moving away from the whole visual thing. One would think that now that they’re making an effort to conquer the West that would be a pretty easy thing to do, since most people here wouldn’t recognize a visual band if one walked up and smacked them in the face with its shiny hot pants. One would think that, but one would be forgetting the power of the internet.
What’s amusing me is that the visual thing seems to have followed them over here. I went to see them back in August as part of a big summer tour with Korn (who were better than I expected them to be, BTW. The Deftones sucked, though.). You could tell who most of the DEG fans were a mile off. There were literally dozens of teenage goth girls in silly stripy tights, cheap corsets and various other Hot Topic-spawned ensembles. In California, in August. It was kind of hard not to point and laugh, but I bravely resisted the temptation. There were even a few dressed up like the band – not the way they look now, they way they looked in 1999. The whole thing was bizarre. The metal guys who were there to see Korn seemed a bit bemused by the presence of angsty, horny teenage girls, especially when they started squealing as if they were at a Justin Timberlake show.
The kiddies seemed terribly upset to realize that the band don’t look particularly girly any more. The funniest moment of the whole day was when a couple of the guys came out to do a meet and greet and one of the girls screamed “Oh my God, Shinya’s a man!”. Now granted, he spent the first few years of his career in a skirt, but still, he’s been photographed shirtless enough times that one wouldn’t think his gender was really in doubt. There was another group of girls who kept complaining about the bass player’s choice of footwear – Doc Martens, or something similar. I spent most of the show with a constant chorus of “Why can’t Toshiya wear the pretty girly clothes like he used to?” droning in my ear. The man’s almost 30, 6 feet tall, and has abs you could bounce quarters off. He’s not a pretty little boy any more, and there’s really no reason he should be. Actually he looks much sexier this way (those who are reading this on LJ – see my current icon and try not to drool. But of course I only appreciate him for his bass-playing skills. Hey, stop laughing!). I was tempted to ask the kids what the hell was wrong with their libidos, but my parents brought me up to be polite…
So, it would seem that the visual subculture is making some inroads in the US. On the one hand this is a good thing. American girls need some alternative to the constant “you must love macho frat boys, even if you think you don’t” brainwashing they’re usually subjected to. The shit-stirring part of my personality is delighted that something that flips the gender script as thoroughly as the visual scene does is taking hold over here. Visual’s anime and manga cousin, yaoi, is also making serious inroads (more about that later), also thanks to the internet. On many levels this is a good thing.
It’s just kind of a shame for Dir En Grey. This is an amazing band. Seriously, everyone I’ve ever introduced to them who likes music at the heavier end of the spectrum loves this band. They deserve a wider audience overseas. On a purely musical level if there’s any Japanese band or artist that could cross over to the US, it would be these guys (although Ellegarden and D’espairs Ray have a pretty decent chance, too, and I would love to see someone take a shot at marketing Sakarai Atsushi or Kiyoharu). The problem is that on a musical level the natural audience for them in the US is metal, punk and industrial fans, and that demographic is mostly male and more than a little homophobic. I can’t imagine what they’re going to think of the cross-dressing, making kissy faces at each other during live performances, being followed around by hordes of screaming fan girls aspect of DEG’s history, especially since it seems to be following them over here.
Just to clarify, I have no problem with cross-dressing, boys making out on stage or any other aspect of the visual scene, although I’m not too fond of the shiny sparkly Alice Nine-style stuff. Back in college I had a group of Japanese friends who were all into the visual scene, which is how I discovered it. I like pretty boys in eyeliner. Pretty boys in eyeliner and skimpy clothing are even better. I’m just not sure how this is going to play out in America. I also suspect that there’s a storm brewing about yaoi, and that once American parents realize that many of their darling little girls are essentially reading gay porn they may not be entirely happy about it. DEG is inextricably tied in to that subculture, no matter how much they may have changed over the last few years. I just hope they don’t get caught in the crosshairs.
If anyone wants me to post some mp3’s I’d be happy to do so, BTW. I’m a huge music geek and am always happy to introduce other people to artists I love. Think of me as a female version of the John Cusack character in High Fidelity. I won’t post whole albums, though, because my connection is too slow and because I think that if you like a band you should actually buy their stuff and not just leech. Support the starving musicians and all that good stuff (and frankly Shinya could use some feeding up – hey, we could use him as the “support the starving artists” poster boy. I like skinny guys, but his arms scare me).
More music blogging later, and if anyone wants to go check out Dir en Grey in February I’m posting a link to the Free Will site below, they’re selling tickets there. Ticketmaster is selling them for some venues too.

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