With an increasingly popular Lolita community in the UK it’s only natural that dedicated events should start to become regular features on the calendar.
Milk Tea Day took place in London in December, following on from an earlier event (Austen And The Abbey) which had been staged in Warwickshire in the summer. The summer event had featured the involvement of Keren Oliphant of Teatime Treasures who was taking over the chief coordinator role for Milk Tea Day.
As venues go, Milk Tea Day made a fine choice in selecting The Nave in Islington (essentially a church converted for events and concerts). The event had been divided into two distinct halves: a day of stalls and tables selling everything from clothing and accessories as well as tea and cake, with the evening set aside for a concert by Japanese music outfit Die Milch. The event was also designed to raise funds for a worthy cause, in this case the CF Trust, a charity for Cystic Fibrosis.
To say that the attendees for the event had dressed for the occasion would be a dramatic understatement. With a strong Gothic Lolita theme, there was a palpable atmosphere of grace and style throughout the afternoon. Also amongst the visitors was Marshmallow Llama Time’s own Finny Attridge who was on hand generously dispensing cakes and taking care of stage announcements.
Meanwhile, visitors to the stalls were treated to a wide range of Lolita fashions and accessories, such as Tanabata – the accessory shop established by UK cosplay coordinator Emily Bastian. ShinkuRose offering up their winter clothing collection, plus a Bring & Buy table which was directly raising funds for the CF Trust. Another treat was Lizzies Tea Stall offering up some very tempting tea blends. As a bonus, attendees could also buy tea and cakes from UK-based Maid Café outfit Ai My Maid who had set up shop at the rear of the venue.
During the course of events, Coco from Die Milch took time out to talk about performing in the UK and plans for the future. “I love Lolita and there’s no such music that suits this fashion” Coco tells us, “so I thought I’d make some genre or music that suits this fashion. That’s the origin of Die Milch”. Taking on a German title for her musical outfit (Die Milch means “the milk”) might strike some as an odd choice, but the short and easily remembered phrase appears to give the outfit a sense of impact.
Hailing from Tokyo, the classically-trained Coco cites influences that include a diverse number of musical styles, such as Malice Mizer and violinist Emilie Autumn. “I love classical music, which is based in Europe and I love UK rock”. When asked about what UK-based music she likes, Coco has to think carefully, “I like Coldplay and bands that tend to more from the 80s. I can’t recall many names! I love Sting!”.
Die Milch’s debut album Metronom arrived last year and boasts a superb collection of baroque pop. With a strong sense of classical influences and contemporary musical touches, the album encapsulates Die Milch’s distinct musical concept.
Die Milch also exists as a multi-role outfit, with Coco acting as the chief coordinator. Members – or “Dolls” – are swapped in and out as the occasion demands it. “I have cello performer and doll dancer, doll performer” comments Coco, “I might have someone playing a different instrument in the future”. For the Milk Tea Day performance she’s joined by Yui (original Die Milch violinist Jasmine being unavailable), a skilled musician who says very little – a behaviour which is actually an essential part of the theatrical aspect of Die Milch (of which, more later).
Coco’s superb English skills suggest that she’s a frequent visitor to the UK, but surprisingly this marks only her third visit to these shores. Declaring an affinity for the UK (“I fit here more!”), our changing weather is apparently the only thing that scores a black mark in Coco’s book: “I’ve been here in the winter first time and so cold and so dark! I wanted to go back home!”
For Milk Tea Day, Die Milch deliver a brief afternoon performance to provide a taste for the evening entertainment. It’s clear that Coco has a confident stage style and an equally confident vocal. By the time the stalls and tables are packing up for the evening, there’s a definite sense of anticipation for the concert.
The performance opens with the first two songs from the Metronom album, including a superb rendition of ‘Rosaria’, which is clearly the standout song on the album. Coco is obviously very keen to emphasise the visual elements of the performance, hence the doll-like movements she weaves into the live show.
A brief introduction by Coco follows in which she introduces herself and Yui before launching into the instrumental number Daina. This gives Yui an opportunity to take stage centre to demonstrate her violin talents.
Deciding that audience participation would be a good idea, Coco then suggests “Let’s all sing together!” and embarks on a suitable choice for the time of the year with a brief rendition of ‘White Christmas’.
With an announcement that the next song is the last song, Coco then opts for more audience participation. The idea is that the audience should form the title ‘DIE MILCH’ letter by letter with their hands – a task that’s trickier than it suggests! Armed with her own wand, Coco encourages the willing audience to join in – even going so far as to step into the audience and ask select members to give their names to the mic.
But as the song concludes, the crowd aren’t happy with things finishing just yet and a cheer goes up for an encore. With the selection of instrumental track ‘fear…’ (taken from Die Milch’s ‘MaMa’ single release), Yui then has to exit stage left to find the correct sheet music (a pause that allows Coco to engage in more entertaining back and forth with the audience). The dramatic elements of ‘fear…’ shows Yui again at her strengths for some fierce violin performing while Coco takes up duties on the piano.
The performance rounds out with ‘Robin’s Blue’ (a song that Coco had penned for her solo career as Yauko) built up around an organ intro, its gentle melodies providing an appropriate closing to proceedings. Die Milch manage to combine good tunes with an appreciation for theatre and engaging with the audience. Hopefully, we’ll see them back in the UK for future performances.
Milk Tea Day raised £220 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and anyone wishing to donate can contact the Trust via: https://www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk/get-involved/ways-to-donate/online-donation.aspx
J-Pop Go extends its warmest thanks to Keren Oliphant and Coco.
Photos by Saoirse Clohessy Photography.