Buck-Tick Fish Tanker's Only 2014
November 22nd at Osaka Namba Hatch
December 13th at Zepp Tokyo
Live Report by Cayce

(Photos were stolen from various parts of the internet. Sry guise.)

Since 2009, it has been Buck-Tick’s practice to launch a fanclub-only tour simultaneously with their general admission standing tour, and this tour cycle proved no exception.  Concurrent with the Metaform Nights or Anarchy tour, Buck-Tick also played a five-stop Fish Tanker’s Only tour, with shows at Akasaka Blitz (in Tokyo), Nagoya Diamond Hall, Sendai Rensa, Namba Hatch (in Osaka) and finally, at Zepp Tokyo.  All the fan club only shows were held on Saturday nights, back to back with a Sunday night general admission show, except in the case of the tour opening at Akasaka Blitz, where the Sunday night show was only open to members of Buck-Tick’s mobile web service Love & Media Portable. (To my knowledge, Love & Media Portable is not open to overseas members at this time.) 

As with previous standing tour/fanclub tour combos, the band members used the same set and costumes on the fanclub-only nights as they did on the general admission nights, and performed many of the same songs on both nights as well. Still, eligibility to attend fanclub-only shows is one of the main perks of Fish Tank membership, so they’d be selling us short if these shows didn’t include a little extra special something. In the past, these “special somethings” have included costume exhibits, photo exhibits, costume design contests, advanced screenings of new videos, prize lotteries, and on the 2013 tour, a “gacha-pon” game, where fans could queue up to pull goodies featuring cute cartoons of the band members out of a Mystery Box.  What new surprises could this Year of Anarchy have in store?

The answer was: Dadaist trolling.  Far from badges of Buck-Chibis or a chance to design Acchan-chan’s first pair of frothy white lace knickers, this year’s “special event” consisted of nothing more than the venue staff trapping the entire crowd inside the venue after the show was over and releasing the fans one by one after gifting them with one flimsy polyester tote bag apiece, done in a different ugly color for each show, and emblazoned with an even uglier illustration.  Fans who spent more than 5000 yen at the goods booth also received free “eco-kairo” stamped with the tour insignia.

For those of you who don’t already know, a kairo is a small instant heat pack that can be used to warm pockets and the insides of boots during the cold winter months, or even be stuck down the front of ladies’ knickers at any time of year to provide soothing warmth during periods of bloody melancholia. Most kairo are disposable, making them a guilty pleasure for the ecologically-minded (which should be all of you, quite frankly), but the ones given out by Fish Tank can be re-used again and again—just flick the metal switch to activate the heat, and when the kairo freezes up and gets cold, toss it in a pot of boiling water for five minutes to return it to its original gelatinous state, ready and waiting for more knicker-warming.  But considering that these kairo were only given to fans who spent the big bucks, and considering that simply seeing Yagami Toll live in the sweaty flesh is liable to instantaneously warm up the knickers of most fangirls, and quickly reduce the girls themselves to a gelatinous state, I’d argue that this time around, Fish Tank has cheated us bigtime.

   
Above: an ugly tote bag (left) and eco-kairo (right)

The choice of an ugly tote bag as a freebie seemed especially odd given that the Fish Tank-only tour goods this year were especially beautiful, featuring designs by none other than superstar graphic artist Uno Aquirax (FYI, his given name is pronounced “Akira,” not “Akwiracks.”)  The choice to use Uno’s artwork on the tour goods was no coincidence—Uno provided the illustrations for the newly re-designed version of the Fish Tank member ID cards which were first issued in August, and the Uno tour goods featured adaptations of the same images.  Uno has had a stellar career doing posters and designs for all kinds of underground artists, most notably the legendary angura film director Terayama Shuji.  At some point he added Imai Hisashi to his circle of illustrious friends, offering Mr. Imai a chance to exhibit his own crude crayon drawings at the Yokohama Romankan back in 2011, and even drawing an original mini-mural directly on the wall of Imai’s house.

Uno has also worked with Buck-Tick before in a professional capacity—he provided the cover illustration for Razzle Dazzle, elements of which were also used in the designs for the tour goods on that tour. That illustration featured Uno’s signature fantastical animal-women rather than anyone from real life, but this time, for Fish Tank, he has drawn a portrait of the Buck-Tick members themselves, and it’s just as beautiful as we’d expect it to be—childlike without being the least bit cutesy, lyrically lovely while still preserving an accurate likeness of the five gentlemen in all their DILF-y dignity (I can’t believe I just typed that.)  Uno also created a second image featuring a mermaid and a fish, highly appropriate for Fish Tank and its largely female membership.

The tour goods featuring his designs included a vibrant purple t-shirt with the mermaid image overlaid in gold, a pale cream t-shirt with the band member portrait in psychedelic periwinkle, a miniature lunch bag done in unbleached cotton, and a large tote bag done in purple and acid yellow, which I had expected would be hideous but turned out to be quite stylish.  In short: elegant, mature designs on useful items, the sort of thing that actual adults can use and wear (worlds away from the invasion of cartoon pandas on the general admission goods.)  Who wouldn’t want to buy a whole pile?

 


At first, we thought it was these beautiful tour goods that had the fans queued up from 2:30PM outside Osaka’s Namba Hatch on November 22nd, where the line extended all the way across the venue lobby and onto the outside terrace, squiggling back and forth like an overgrown game of Snake (who here remembers calculator games?) But as the line slowly began moving, and fans began to re-emerge from the hidden cul-de-sac where the goods were being sold, we noticed that in fact, most of the fans appeared to have little interest in anything that could be deemed “adult goods.” I’d hazard a guess that the majority of Fish Tank members are in their forties, but they must be kids at heart, because what they wanted was gummies, and how! You’d think one tin of strawberry-flavored chemical-laden gelatin would be more than enough, but no…we saw fans walking away from that table loaded down with five, ten, or even fifteen tins at a time.

How could their poor mouths handle so much gelatin, we wondered. One of our dear readers who was actually brave enough to eat some of the gummies from the previous tour informed us that they taste a lot better if you soak them in vodka for a day or two before eating them, but realistically, rather than eating ten tins of gummies, wouldn’t it be easier to simply drink the vodka and have done?

However, when we inquired further, we discovered that there was more to these gummi-tin buyers than met the eye—what they were really after was not mouth candy, but eye candy. Each gummi tin contained a limited-edition trading card that was not included in the usual trading card packs, and for fans who collect the trading cards (there are a lot of them!) to miss out on a single card would be intolerable—gotta catch ’em all!  Fans who dispersed from the goods line didn’t go far—they simply moved off to other corners of the lobby, where they cut open trading card packaging with meticulous care and began a fervent swapping ritual, totally silent but for occasional squeals of “COMPU!”

“What do you mean, ‘compu’?” asked a friend of ours—a native speaker of Japanese, but just as lost as we were.

“It means she has a complete set!” one of the card-swappers gushed.

“Oh,” said our friend, nodding.  “By the way, I hear that the bar down the steps serves Toll's third favorite flavor of box wine. Shall we go drink some?”

But the question fell on deaf ears, as the card-swappers had already gone back to their high-speed Buke-Tike-Pokemon game, and there was no snapping them out of it. Plus, after spending 1000 yen per gummi tin and pack of trading cards, they’d already dropped more cash on glossy pieces of cardboard than they had on tickets to the actual show, and by this point, they were flat broke. We had no choice but to go sample box wine without them.

And yet, even as we left the madness of the venue lobby and headed down the steps of Minato Machi River Place in search of a bar, escaping the Pokemon was nowhere near as easy as we thought it would be.  Throughout the early afternoon, stray groups of anime cosplayers had been drifting across the terrace in front of the Hatch entrance, pausing occasionally to pose for pictures and stare at the mass of Buck-Tick fans as if they thought we were aliens who had just emerged from the Hatch octagonal flying saucer.  But as the afternoon wore on, what had started as a few lost Pikachus and Naruto ninjas became a steady parade, culminating with an unidentified individual whose body was entirely obscured by a Disneyland-style felt fish suit that looked vaguely like the picture below, but much larger and more menacing.


Though many of the Fish Tankers found the vacant eyes of the Fish Mascot unnerving and terrifying, Mr. Fish quickly identified the Fish Tankers as his long-lost people, and shuffled over to the line on his fabric flippers, bouncing and waving his fins, while the Buck-Tick fans edged slowly away.

Though we’d hoped the gentle buzz of the box wine would soothe the pre-show tension, quietude was nowhere to be found, for on the steps just below the bar, a full-blown anime idol festival was already in full swing, and crowds of cosplayers and painfully awkward, batty-looking otaku were bouncing jerkily to the off-key warbling of a pair of teen girls doing synchronized dance moves.  It’s a known fact that otaku don’t drink alcohol, which is why it was no surprise that the entire bar was full of nothing but black-clad Buck-Tick fans, blinking at their wine glasses in bemused silence, completely at a loss for words. On top of that, the wine came in bottles after all.

The idol fest was still going strong when the Hatch doors opened at last.  By this time, the sun had set, and the unusually warm day had grown windy and cold. Entering the packed crowd on the venue floor was almost a relief, especially since we were treated to a special advanced screening of an extended trailer for the Arui wa Anarchy Tour Final DVD, due out on February 25th—slightly less exciting than the backstage footage that has often preceded Fish Tank only shows in the past, but still fun, even if the low resolution of the backdrop screen made the band members resemble Super Mario Bros. characters in many of the shots.

Usually, at Fish Tank shows, the band come onstage to “Theme of B-T,” but on this tour, they used the same technoise stage entrance music as the general admission shows, which was fine with me—the day that Buck-Tick release an omnibus album of stage entrance numbers, I’ll be the first to buy it. Still, we knew that since tonight was fanclub only, tonight would be different, and the band members made that clear immediately when they strode onto the stage in the semidarkness and immediately struck up “Hyper Love.”

Imai mentioned in the most recent issue of the Fish Tank newsletter that the band haven’t performed this song live in its original arrangement since before This is NOT Greatest Tour, more than 20 years ago.  With its propulsive, tribal drum intro, it’s a killer opening number, but getting caught in the frantic crush of fans all trying to get to the front of the hall at once made it slightly less enjoyable to the point that I wished the band had left this song for later on the show, once the crowd was more settled.  Though the fangirl elbows in my back made it slightly hard to focus on the details of the performance, I can say the band did a very faithful rendering of the original arrangement, right down to the guitar solos. Purists surely rejoiced, but I wouldn’t have minded hearing a new arrangement—while it’s thrilling to hear these songs from the band’s green baby days resurrected into full mature majesty, it’s even more thrilling to hear them evolve into something new.

After “Hyper Love,” the band reverted to the general admission set list, continuing with “Devil’N Angel,” “Phantom Voltaire,” and “Baudelaire” in much the same vein as they’d played them at the other shows, before moving on to some more special Fish Tank-only numbers—“My Funny Valentine” and “Romance.”  Both of these are fan favorites and overall great songs, but they’re also live staples, and since I come to the fanclub-only tours expecting to be surprised by the unexpected (and especially after hearing the likes of “Mona Lisa,” “Thanatos” and “Gesshoku” on the hall tour), I admit I had hoped that tonight we’d hear something slightly more unusual.

Perhaps if the band had had more energy, the choices of songs it wouldn’t have mattered, but despite the fact that Osaka shows in general have a (well-deserved) reputation for being wild and rowdy, tonight the band members seemed to have fallen into a bit of a mid-tour slump, and gloomy, gloopy down-tempo songs like “My Funny” and “Romance” did nothing to liven them up. Though their performance was mostly flawless, they didn’t show the same kind of energetic spark as in Roppongi, and rather than crossing the stage and teasing the fans, for the most part, they preferred to remain in their usual corners, playing the music but not going much further.

Sakurai in particular appeared tired, and perhaps this was why he chose to perform the entirety of “Romance” with his bling-trimmed black lace scarf draped over his head, hiding his face completely.  While this technique worked well for “Coyote” on the Yumemiru Uchuu Tour and “Kirameki no Naka de” on the Cosmic Dreamer tour, here, it was a clear miss take.  Both “Kirameki” and “Coyote” are ensemble pieces, but “Romance” is a vocal-centric power ballad in disguise, and it’s really hard to sell a power ballad at a live show with no special effects if no one can see your face. Plus, while the scarf Mr. Sakurai used on the Cosmic Dreamer Tour was sheer enough to let his movements and expressions show through, the scarf he used for this tour was essentially opaque (despite being made of lace), and when he put it over his head, it completely obscure his head and shoulders.

Yumemiru Uchuu

Anarchy 2014

Even so, it might have worked if he had used his physicality instead of his facial expressions to convey the mood, but instead, he sang half the song from a sitting position on the edge of Yutaka’s bass platform, his black outfit working like camouflage, blending him into the set.  Watching him squirm beneath the scarf like a shy kid dressed as a ghost on Halloween, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was secretly imitating a cat crawling head-first into a box, hoping against hope that perhaps, if he couldn’t see the fangirls, that meant they couldn’t see him, either.

I’d hoped that he’d ditch the scarf routine for the last Fish Tank show three weeks later at Zepp Tokyo, but he kept it in place, and even went so far as to use the same technique for “Satan” the following night at the tour final.  Yet for some reason, on “Satan,” it was much more effective, perhaps because no matter how poetic the actual lyrics might be, all the lyrics I really heard were, “Alleycats, rain, sex and headscarves with blings: these are a few of my favorite things!”


Buck-Tick never stay off their game for long, though.  Following “Romance,” Sakurai stood up again, pulled the scarf off his head, and strode right up to the front of the stage, just as the lights dimmed to blue and the beloved, long-lost twinkling noise of angel dust prickled out of the speakers. The crowd wasn’t cheering yet, so perhaps the rest of them hadn’t realized yet what was coming next, but I’d know this song from the first half-second, anywhere in the world—y’all n00bettes can take your “Dress” and “Romance” home with you, because this is probably the song that sold me on Buck-Tick more than any other. Like a drug, so addictive you can't stop listening to it, till you destroy your life just for that next hit, and I hadn’t expected ever to hear it live—yes, my friends, I’m talking about “Heroin.”

I’m not sure anything will ever be able to replace the Sextream Tour, where “Heroin” made its debut, but the band members certainly tried their best, even if Imai wasn’t wearing a black leather facemask this time.  The arrangement was a faithful recreation of the original studio recording, but enhanced by the echoes of the live space, so that the ping-pong delayed notes of Imai’s guitar seemed to bounce back and forth off the walls like little water droplets over a rushing waterfall of feedback, overlaid with Sakurai’s distorted growling vocals, repeating “close your eyes, close your eyes, close your eyes”—except we dared not, because we didn’t want to miss even a second of this song.  The band members moved so close to the audience, they seemed to hang suspended in the air over the gap between the stage and the crowd, who were jumping so high it felt like at any second, we might take off and fly away on that limitless journey right along with Sakurai. I dearly miss this era in Buck-Tick’s sonic evolution, and won’t stop hoping they trip back here again sometime for a re-exploration.  It daresay wouldn’t be out of their way.  With “Melancholia,” “Mudai,” and “Uchuu Circus,” they’re almost back already.

However, it appeared that the digressions into Fish Tank only territory were over for the night.  After “Heroin,” the show turned back to the same general outline as the general admission nights, continuing with “Satan,” “Baby, I want Green Cheese,” “masQue” and friends.  Maybe someday, Buck-Tick will put on another standalone fanclub tour as they did in 2008, and treat us all to a slew of back-catalog b-sides penned by Hoshino Hidehiko, but that day is not now.

Yet even with the same set list, the fan enthusiasm kept on mounting, all the way to the point of danger and near insanity—many of the Osaka fans were seeing the show for the first time tonight, and they were determined to get their money’s worth. Though Hatch is well-equipped with crowd control railings both parallel and perpendicular to the stage, in contrast to venues like Zepp Tokyo and EX Theater (which are divided down the center by a stage-perpendicular barrier), at Hatch, the entire front section of the floor is completely open.  In practice, what this means is that if one group of fans falls over sideways, the rest will go down like dominoes. We previously witnessed such an incident at the final show on the 2012 Parade Tour—we wrote about it in our live report at the time, and footage of the scene also made it into the first installment of Buck-Tick: The Movie.

Therefore, tonight at Hatch, when the band started into “Once Upon a Time” and I saw the same thing happening again right before my eyes, it felt like déjà vu.  One minute, the fans were dancing up a storm, colliding with each other like overheated molecules, and the next minute they’d boiled over and were all falling down at once, squealing and flailing. Luckily, it seemed that the fall had been caused more by klutziness than by deliberate violence, and the fans managed to help each other pick themselves up off the floor quickly enough that the band were able to continue playing the song without stopping.

However, the danger still wasn’t over.  Back onstage for the first encore, the band played the same set of four moody dark art songs as they had at the general admission shows, culminating in “Mudai.”  I had already been thinking that “Mudai” was a bit like this tour’s version of “Adult Children,” seeing as it’s the big, intense, personal song where Mr. Sakurai takes over the stage and pulls out all the stops. And if the microphone incident from last year’s tour is anything to go by, Mr. Sakurai hates being interrupted when he’s pulling out the stops (no, that’s not a euphemism.) So when Imai abruptly stopped playing a mere 30 seconds into “Mudai” and the song ground to a screeching halt, I feared we’d be in for another Acchan-chan Hissy Fit of Doom.

“Is everything all right out there?” Sakurai called, squinting ominously out at the crowd.

Two women in the middle section soon put up their hands, and the fans in the front turned around to stare—these ladies were more than twenty rows back from the stage, well behind the crowd crush, and under normal circumstances, they should have no excuse for fainting.

“It’s…it’s okay, never mind, false alarm,” one of the women called.

Imai sniffed and twiddled his guitar strings, while Sakurai decided to laugh the whole thing off.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “I suppose it was my mistake.”

Without saying anything more, the band members took a deep breath and started the song over again. To his credit, Mr. Sakurai did not behave like an anthropomorphic rain cloud, and refrained entirely from throwing the microphone. In fact, he performed the song just as enthusiastically as usual, and when the band came back for a final encore, I almost wondered if he’d forgiven the whole thing—up until right before the final song of the night, when he addressed the audience one last time.

“You know the kind of man…” he began, and the fans fell into a hushed silence.

“…the kind of man who would go so far to save a lady that he’d even stop the music…”

The fans laughed, and he continued.  “You know, that cool guy..."

They waited with bated breath.

I’m not him.”

This time, Mr. Sakurai didn't even need to drop the mic. He'd made his point.

So listen well, fangirls—if you’re planning on crying wolf to get Acchan-chan to speak to you, be prepared for the massive helping of shade he will throw over your head like a big black goth scarf, shutting out all light and warmth forever more.

Atsushi Sakurai is not that cool guynot when he’s your enemy. When he’s your enemy, Atsushi Sakurai is your worst nightmare.

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(P.S. Both Fish Tank-only shows attended by Cayce were filmed by small cameras set on the stage in front of Mr. Sakurai and pointing up at where his knickers would be, if he had knickers to point at. The show at Zepp Tokyo was also filmed from a low-hanging crane camera suspended from the balcony railing. Stay tuned for more info on what became of this video.)


Set List

07. Heroin
08. Satan
10. masque 
14. Zekkai

~en 1
20. Mudai

~en 2