vrijdag 28 augustus 2015

Encounter At Europe Central: BABYMETAL And Their Magic

Japanese translation / 和訳

Was it all a dream? It certainly feels like it now, as I try to hold onto the feeling I brought back with me from Frankfurt. However, just a couple of days ago as I write this, it was a reality.

This year me and my family had plans to finally go on holiday together again, like we used to do. My first real holiday away from home in six years. But due to issues with my father's health that trip had to be cancelled. So to ease the pain I came up with the idea of going to Frankfurt together with my sister and catching the BM concert there. It would be her first time seeing them live.

We finally arrive at Batschkapp about an hour before the doors open. I walk along the crowd spotting quite a few Japanese BM fans who travelled half way around the world just to see them up close. I also notice how I stand out like a sore thumb with my bright green t-shirt and blue jeans. Almost everyone is wearing a BM shirt, and if not at least something appropriate for a metal gig. I'll have to rectify that once I'm inside. Whatever, I'm glad I managed to be here at all, since from the start our journey was anything but blessed. We departed by train early in the morning from Groningen, but only got as far as Meppel before the Dutch Railways let us down yet again. We immediately called a taxi, which we were able to share with a bunch of other people, among them an American very worried about catching his flight and two kids who saw their own holiday go up in smoke. Despite the driver's best efforts we missed the international train in Utrecht, at which point we had a breakdown moment. From what I understood the next train would depart late in the afternoon, too late to catch the concert. At the ticket service office we explained our situation, the lady behind the counter smiled and told us the next train would be leaving in only two hours. She put a sticker on our tickets and gave is two coupons for free hot drinks. We left the office both heaving a sigh of relief.

I walk back to where my sister is standing and see her talking to a girl handing out fake BM euros to use during Onedari Daisakusen. After getting two wads of them (they look great, and there's even a little flyer with it explaining when to throw them) we sit down and sing a few songs from our primary school days. When the gate opens and we can finally walk up to the actual doors of the venue it's still a little while longer. While standing in line someone walks by with a raised camera, which we greet by raising our voices and our kitsunes. We also see some familiar faces passing.

After leaving Miffy's city the rest of our journey went without incident. We spent the hours chatting, playing games and watching the landscape change from flat lowland to more and more wavy hillsides, with one idyllic village after another shooting by (not to mention getting the closest view I ever had of the famous Cologne cathedral), until finally the skyline of Frankfurt rose before us, glittering under the bright sun. The Frankfurt central station was huge, but cosy and inviting at the same time. The weather left nothing to be desired as well, so after buying U-bahn tickets we headed out into the city, feeling absolutely free and without worries. Our afternoon was filled with relaxation and good food, eating ice cream while laying in the park before the European central bank, sitting on a sunny terrace while eating delicious Thai food. While there I noticed four people in BM shirts sitting some distance away from us. I waved my kitsune at them and they walked over. We chatted a bit and they commented on my t-shirt. Damn, I'll definitely have to rectify that tonight!

When the doors finally open we start shuffling in. The concert hall is small. Apparently it has a maximum capacity of 700 people, but it's not entirely filled. A crowd has already formed around the stage and we join them. By pure coincidence we find ourselves behind three fellow Dutchmen. We kill time by babbling about nothing and shout our throats sore like we're piss drunk. Then the lights go out, right on time. The intro starts playing as the Kami band enters the tiny stage. Finally, after looking forward to it for days, finally the moment is here. Then the familiar machine gun riffs sound through the hall and the girls slowly walk up, covered in their hoodies staring serenely at the ground. The audience reacts by storming forward, pushing us to where we are but four or five meters removed from the action. DEATH is first followed by Iine, while the people behind us keep pushing. At last we've had enough, shoulder to should my sister and I start pushing back with all our might. After a while the pushing dies down, with only the occasional resurgence.

The show is flawless, neither the girls nor the band making a single mistake. They do it without fluff, without special effects, without pyro or even a video projector. The show is modest and the girls don't have too much space to do their choreography, in front off the hall that's only about three quarters filled. Yet they give it their all anyway, dancing and smiling just as enthusiastically as would they do in front of an audience in the tens of thousands. Being so close, in such limited company before such a small stage is... odd, to say the least. The atmosphere is strangely informal. I feel like I could spot them sitting at the bar after the show and I could walk up to them to shake their hands, thank them for such a wonderful performance, like I've done so many times after going to see a friend's play, or that of some amateur theatre group. We paid to see them of course, but it's still kind of humbling to consider they too flew half way across the world just to play for us few fans who showed up here tonight. It's almost like they're singing especially for us, for me and my sis. With that thought it dawns on me that this is the best concert I've ever been to, even better than the one in Brixton.

When Akatsuki starts playing my sister smiles: it's her favourite song. She once trained to become a professional singer as well, and though she turned her back on that ambition a long time ago, she takes the opportunity to sing along as loud as she can. After passionately enjoying every note I turn to her. "She sure can sing, can't she?" I say. She nods with admiration. At one time I considered doing a written review of every single Sakura Gakuin album for The SG sub, since BM prompted me to give them a listen as well. I decided against it when I realised I only really like one album (and I don't feel like dealing with all the shit that would be coming my way when I give one album after another a bad review). Maybe coincidence, maybe not, but it's the 2012 one, the one which Su is on the most. Since then she's improved so very much, especially during her live performances, it's something to behold. Anyone who thinks she sounds great on a record, even a live show recording, might I urge you to go listen to her directly with your own ears. You won't be disappointed.

Other highlights include the coolest performance of Megitsune I've ever witnessed (with the looping intro, dimmed light and the girls slowly appearing out of the smoke), singing and dancing along to Doki Doki Morning and joining in the wall of death at Ijime, Dame, Zettai. By that time the girls are covered from head to toe in sweat, no handlers to blow dry their hair here. Despite that we, after the usual chanting and applauding, get Headbanger and Road Of Resistance as an encore. I try to savour the moment as much as I can, knowing that when BM will next leave the stage I won't see them again for a long time. So it ends, under applause the girls say goodbye in what is for me unintelligible German. Just before that though I look in Su's eyes as her smile fades. I see a moment of what is.. yeah what is it exactly? Disappointment, relief, sadness? Is she sad it's over, or sad so few people came perhaps? Or is she just tired and am I reading way to much into this. For me one of the best days I had in years is drawing to a close. I'll be sleeping in my own bed again tomorrow night. For her it's another job done, many more to go in the following days, sleeping in a strange bed again tonight, far away from home. I'm sure she enjoys being in BM, but there will undoubtedly be those moments when melancholy strikes and she just wants to be home.

As my sister and I walk out we're both giddy as hell, the adrenaline pumping through our veins. We're both on such an emotional high that nothing can seemingly bring it down, not even finding out I've been incredibly stupid. Would you believe it: I didn't bring enough cash to buy a t-shirt and there's no ATM anywhere in sight. Dammit! Outside we encounter the same group of people we saw on the terrace again. They too notice the distinct lack of BM t-shirts on my body...

Later that night we walk through the now quit and dark centre of Frankfurt, feeling high on one side, feeling blue on the other. As I look up to the sky, I hear my sister whispering: "I feel like I'm in a dream". I can think of nothing to say except "Yeah, me too."

Maybe coming to Frankfurt was a bit of a waste of time for BM from a business standpoint. Some might say they should focus on places with larger fanbases. But never let it be said that concerts like these mean nothing. The magic is there, whether it's with 5000 or 500 people in the audience. That's 500 stories like this one, or at least, I hope so.

We take the train back the following day, both sad we have to leave this wonderful place where we've saved up so many beautiful memories in such a short time. I sleep a lot on the train, but despite that I have the feeling I've woken up and am desperately trying to hold on to the feeling I had when I was dreaming. I'm home now. Everything seems just a little bit more mundane and boring than before. Coming back and reading of the Wembly announcement kept the fire going just a little bit longer, but I feel fully awake now. As my experiences of this past Wednesday sink deeper and deeper in my memory, me and my sister agree on one thing completely: there will be a next time. We can't wait to feel the magic again.

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