Several months ago it was announced that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu would be performing her first major tour in the United States. When I rushed to buy tickets to Pamyu’s show and heard of so many other people desperate to see her perform live and all of the friends I now know that love J-Pop as well, I couldn’t help but feel an overhwleming sense of acceptance and happiness. It was about six years ago when I discovered the works of Yasutaka Nakata, most notably Perfume. Back then I struggled to find anyone who shared a unique emotional experience with this mystical brand of music referred to as “J-Pop.” It felt as if J-Pop was finally gaining the acceptance it was always meant to have.
It’s only been about one week since that concert at Los Angeles’ Club Nokia, and although it wasn’t Pamyu’s first appearance in Los Angeles for a concert (she played a short set of songs at the now closed Royal T Maid Cafe back in late 2011), the event still can’t be helped but be reflected upon with a sense of surrealism.
Lately, Japanese music has seemed to hit a much more mainstream audience in the United States, leaving the confinements of the anime convention or other niche places of interest, and finding itself gaining interest amongst the indie-conscious music listeners of big music publication as The Fader, who even recently interviewed Pamyu.
While the hype so far has not reached as large of an audience as the hallyu wave of 2012, nor has the United States opened their ears wide enough to welcome a Japanese song on nearly even half the level of something such as “Gangnam Style,” the interest in Japanese music in the states has seemed to have tapped into a rather steady fanbase.
But despite noting such growing interests, Pamyu’s concert did not seem to contain such a diverse audience, nor did it contain that ecstatic sense of hype that is so often attained to her fanbase. In fact, the crowd came off as fairly normal, at least as normal as your standard Japanese music event centered in Los Angeles goes. There were a fair number of cosplayers and the age mostly ranged from young teenagers to those in their late 20′s.
It made one wonder if J-Pop was truly gaining much more recognition in the States, or if it has just been a brief trend, exposing an extremely niche audience who has existed for such a long time already. However, whatever the reality of the situation seemed to be, the true reality was that Pamyu was here amongst us, and we were about to watch her.
As most concerts typically go, there was an imbalance of energy at times. When Pamyu came on, the crowd roared, but her non-single songs seemed to fall flat on the audience at times, with many in the pit seeming very static at times. It wasn’t until songs such as “Fashion Monster” or “PONPONPON” were heard that people chimed in together and created a sense of harmony that made it truly feel like we had all finally gathered here together as the hungry fans of J-Pop we are.
Other highlights of the show included video segments explaining Pamyu’s history, and the introduction of Pamyu’s character, Pamyurin, a giant rabbit with exaggerated nipples who danced on stage with Pamyu. However, the biggest surprises lied in two songs unknown to almost everyone.
Pamyu covered “RGB,” an early capsule song from their album phony phonic. Although Pamyu covered capsule’s “jelly” on her debut EP Moshimoshiharajuku, displaying Nakata’s interest in reworking the aesthetics of his early work into Pamyu’s updated appearance, “RGB” hit with a force that felt not like a cover, but like Pamyu’s own song, her endearingly offtune voice ringing well with the dizzy shibuya-kei elements of the tune.
Pamyu also debuted a new song entitled “Invader Invader,” which most notably contained dubstep elements and even the obligatory “drop.” Despite Nakata finally embracing such current trends of electronic music, the song flowed naturally within the context of Pamyu and seemed like a very promising tune to be added to Pamyu’s repertoire, with the crowd responding quite positively.
Altogether, Pamyu’s show was exactly what would one expect, perhaps even better. Seeing Pamyu performing a full concert (as opposed to her short 3 song set at Royal T) only validated her image as a fully viable artist for Nakata to be working with. The well-crafted, yet simultaneously careless sense of fun that she displayed showed a charm that is so hard to find in most J-Pop now. Although she is about produced as any other pop artist, she displayed a sense of personality that obviously plays an integral role with the music and fashion that she is aided with.
Although the lack of energy seen in the audience at times downplayed the show from being the J-Pop laced fantasy land that one may have idealized entering such a show, many people, including myself, enjoyed the show as much as they possibly could. Perhaps it wasn’t exactly a thing of dreams, but it was still an extremely solid show that provided an enjoyable time and reinforced for at least a brief moment that none of us are alone in our love for J-Pop.