Some might remember when I once said not to be too shocked if in the future you found me screaming and sobbing in the front row of a j-rock concert.
Well, minus the sobbing part and the fact that I was about ten feet from the stage instead of the front row my prediction became reality July 5th.
The trip was a birthday gift from my parents. Ikuni and I flew to San Francisco and attended the sold out Hyde concert at Slim’s nightclub, opened in 1988 by legendary R&B artist Boz Scaggs. We had the time of our lives.
For those who may not know who HYDE is—he’s a Japanese rock musician, who sings solo and is also the vocalist for the band L’Arc~en~Ciel . He has a unique and gifted voice and is also one of the most dynamic performers I’ve ever seen. He performed four concerts in California for his first ever solo tour in the United States.
Our experience started Monday evening at an American Airlines counter, biting our nails because they couldn’t get our boarding passes to print. Tickets finally in hand, backpacks and shoes scanned, we boarded the small jet that would take us to Dallas.
Ikuni had never flown before. I’d flown a number of times but not for over twenty years. She was as calm as a lily on water. I was as calm as a drowning cat.
After a bit of turbulence, a cup of Sprite, and one stunning sunset on top of the clouds, we landed safely and I decided we just might make it alive to hear Hyde. We boarded the plane to San Francisco, and I listened to Hyde's most recent album, FAITH, three times on the way. Ikuni writes:
Okay, so we land and find the shuttle that would take us to the hotel. The driver was an adorable little middle-aged Asian man with thick glasses and an even thicker accent. I watched him catapult my mom’s bag, with a sickening thunk, into the back of the van. When asked if I wanted mine stored, too, I said, “Um, no.” We buckled ourselves in and…BANG! Imagine the Night Bus from Harry Potter, except with seatbelts. We nearly collided with two cars on the way to drop off another prisoner–I mean, passenger. The van shook and shuddered, kind of like a spaceship entering the atmosphere. I’m thinking, “Great. We’re probably going to be the very last ones he drops off…what’s left of us anyway.” But, just a few minutes later he skidded to a halt in front of the hotel and we were still breathing. Amazing.
By now it was after midnight, California time. We checked in, brushed our teeth and collapsed into bed.
That evening we met Novel for dinner (she'd also flown in for the concert). Good food and conversation, with talk of Hyde, of course, then back to our room to watch L’Arc-en-Ciel DVD’s on her laptop.
Wednesday morning, Ikuni and I had planned to visit the Museum of Modern Art but discovered it was closed. So instead we talked for over an hour about music, theology and the current state of world affairs then did some more shopping and eating in Japantown.
We headed to Slim’s in the early afternoon to meet Novel. The plan was to check out the venue then spend some time at Starbucks until 5:00 (when Slim’s said people could line up). Turned out, though, they had let people line up early. Some had even stayed the night there! So, to the back of the line we went.
We spent the next seven hours sitting on the sidewalk—snacking, talking (met a dad who was there with his teenage daughter and he said the last concert he attended was Pink Floyd) and explaining to passersby why hundreds of people were wrapped around the block.
We finally got into Slim’s at 8:20 PM (Ikuni noted the exact time). We found our spots and waited for the rest of the venue to fill. I couldn't believe how close we were.
At 9 PM the opening act, The Black List Club, played for a bit then Hyde and band took the stage. Hyde's hair was shoulder length and he was wearing eyeliner. His outfit was, in Ikuni's words, a "death inducing mix of cloth and leather." She writes:
The crowd surged forward, and we all screamed like there was no tomorrow. Suddenly, a small-purple-and-black-clad-half-masked-by-way-of-bandana-ball-of-engery-with-a-guitar-and-fantastic-hair exploded onto the stage. It was HYDE!!!
He and the band instantly struck up a heavy riff, and Hyde kept leaning over the audience. The riff morphed into Made in Heaven as he reached the mic and ripped down his bandana to sing. That's when I just lost it and stopped thinking. I moved with the crowd and sang with Hyde without thinking about any of it…His energy level was through the roof and therefore so was ours.
I won’t give a song-by-song report, but I will say that the concert was an awesome experience. Hyde’s voice was in top form and he gave an electric performance. The songs on his latest rock album are spiritual/philosophical in nature. Through character studies and also his own perspective, Hyde's lyrics speak of faith and doubt, life and death, and the connecting power of love. Well-used themes, to be sure, but presented with fresh inspiration and personal reflection (and a good percentage of the songs on FAITH are in English).
Hyde also did a fabulous cover of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. His voice and the arrangement perfectly fit the psychedelic nature of the song. And no Beatles crowd could have been any more into it than we were!
Speaking of the crowd, this was the first time I’d been to a rock concert in such a small venue (it held about 500 people). It was standing room only and once the music started personal space disappeared. After the initial pushing and jockeying for position stopped, though, I really enjoyed the closeness of the other fans and the unity felt as we responded to the music together.
After the concert Ikuni, Novel and I met back up briefly. We were drenched in sweat and practically speechless. Just too overwhelmed to talk about it yet. Novel did comment that Hyde completely controlled the audience. I agreed.
Ikuni and I flew out the next day. It seemed we were destined to have ticket problems each way. I'd never used a self service machine before, so I somehow missed getting all our boarding passes and needed help from a polite, older man who kept saying, “Oh, my goodness!”
We finally made it to our plane and then endured a long, turbulent flight with what appeared to be a pilot in training (shaky take off and landing, sudden turns and “Uh, sorry folks, I turned off the seatbelt sign too soon, please, return to your seats and buckle up”). I was so freaked out by the bumpy ride that I seriously thought of skipping the last flight and taking a bus home. That was, until Ikuni came down midair with a high fever and I realized I had to get her home as soon as possible.
During the last flight Ikuni dozed under a blanket next to the window, a Mrs. Doubtfire look alike worked Sudoku puzzles on my left, and I listened intently to a CD, trying to block out all my premonitions of an early death.
Nothing to fear, though. The pilot was obviously experienced and when he landed the plane so smoothly we didn’t even feel the touchdown, Mrs. Doubtfire said (complete with Irish accent), "That certainly was the nicest landing I’ve ever had.”
Yesterday, Ikuni sat cross-legged on our second floor landing and I lounged on the top step, while we reminisced about our little adventure. As we laughed and talked, Ikuni’s eyes sparkling, I realized that one of the things that made the trip so memorable was experiencing it with my daughter, my friend.
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson