Summer musical thrills from Hyper Japan…
Nothing really beats a summer event packed with Japanese culture. As ever, Hyper Japan were on hand to provide 3 days of food, fashion, gaming, cosplay, anime and music all connected with that particular theme.
For this year’s event, Hyper Japan had a broad variety of music guests designed to appeal to everyone from rock fans through to idol pop enthusiasts. As a result, the likes of Yukika, Deadlift Lolita, The Sixth Lie, Roa, Ezypt, Tokyo Flavor and LONDON BLUE peppered the weekend with music performances.
The multi-talented Yukika provided one of the first music performances on the Friday. She wears many hats as an artist, including radio personality, youtuber and musician – an exhausting set of roles for anyone. But what swiftly emerged on stage was Yukika’s boundless energy and enthusiasm.
Coinciding with her Hyper Japan appearance, Yukika also released her new album Who I Am. Not surprisingly, her live set drew heavily from the album in a performance that swapped between both an electric and acoustic guitar. That change of styles kept things interesting as she powered through an energetic set of tunes, particularly the dynamic melodies of ‘LET IT GO’ which also employed some eager audience singalong moments.
In a brief MC segment Yukika enthuses about her first UK visit and how the country has lent some inspiration to her writing. “I wrote a song about London” she comments before launching into the mid-tempo number ‘Everyday is Beautifulday’.
In fact, despite her comments that “My English is not good”, Yukika seems to have little problem alternating between both Japanese and English lyrics in her set. Meanwhile, the audience response reflects Yukika’s energy on stage – and it’s a chemistry that continues across the weekend for all her stage performances.
It’s become almost a staple part of any Hyper Japan event to have some idol outfits performing. The 2018 event is no exception with some surprisingly solid performances from the acts of choice. For the Hyper Idol contest, Tokyo Flavor managed to beat off the other contenders in the Idol Battle to make it through as the winners this year (see the J-Pop Go interview).
Hyper Japan represented another stop on Tokyo Flavor’s busy schedule as they’d previously performed in Bangkok as well as in Paris (as part of the Japan Expo lineup). None of this hectic routine appeared to phase the idol trio (down one member as Sumire was unable to make the UK jaunt) as they presented a kinetic stage presence delivering serviceable idol pop. As ever, this particular idol group are all colour coordinated – which gives the stage performance a visual flourish with the red, pink and yellow outfits flitting across the stage.
The electropop outfit EZYPT had already graced London earlier in the year, albeit in a 2-man effort. But for their Hyper Japan debut they were here as their full 3-person strong team was completed with the addition of Patra. With a vocoder-treated vocal delivery and a sharp line in crunchy beats, the group also offer up an engaging element of choreography and theatre (it’s difficult not to notice a pyramid-headed character on stage!). It probably helps that Ryosuke has a great sense of presence on stage, particularly when he straps on his keytar.
The clipped tones of the likes of ‘WANAWANA’ and ‘Kiss Of Fire’ offer up infectious melodies that get the audience’s feet stomping. All 3 members go into cheerleader mode for the club-infused rhythms of ‘EDM’ with pom-poms held high. But it’s the busy beats of ‘Pyramid Tyoten’ that is perhaps EZYPT’s finest. The moment the triangular Pyramy leaves his laptop to clash two cymbals at just the right time during the song manages to be both bonkers and euphoric at the same time.
One of Hyper Japan’s summer highlights was the UK debut of Deadlift Lolita. The ‘kawaiicore’ duo represents Ladybeard’s latest foray into idol pop territory following his departure from Ladybaby (who graced the Hyper Japan stage back in 2015). Now teamed up with the equally muscular Reika Saiki, Deadlift Lolita demonstrated a powerful delivery of their brief, but beefy catalogue of songs.
There’s certainly a harder edge to Deadlift Lolita through tunes such as ‘Six Pack Twins’ and ‘Kimi Terasu Sairiumu’. But on stage, there’s a powerful delivery that manages to wake up pretty much the whole of Olympia. Reika offers cartwheels across the stage while Ladybeard gives menacing growls directly into the audience (who, at this stage, are lapping up every moment).
“The next song is a dance song!” announces Ladybeard as the power pop melodies of ‘Pump Up Japan’ kick in. The song’s positive message (composed by BABYMETAL’s ISAO) runs almost like a theme tune for Japan itself. It’s a jubilant finish and it seems unlikely that anyone is going to wipe the grins off Reika and Ladybeard’s face anytime soon.
If anyone was concerned that Deadlift Lolita were content to just roll out the same performance over the weekend, then Saturday’s stage show came as a big surprise. During their set the wrestling duo were interrupted by a similarly muscled villain – who proceeded to mop the floor with the pair of them. But the Six Pack Twins soon rally round to kick several shades of stuffing out of the stage invader.
Deadlift Lolita’s adventures at Hyper Japan weren’t quite concluded after that episode, but more of that later. Meanwhile, another idol act were also making their UK debut this weekend in the shape of LONDON BLUE (see the J-Pop Go interview).
As the name might suggest, LONDON BLUE look across the sea for their inspiration. With a nod to the classic rock band history of the UK, the idol group take to the stage to a playback of a rock-inspired take on the National Anthem. Their material is still cached in the classic idol pop style but there’s more guitars at work – and a nice line in melodic lifts, as with tunes like ‘Rock Me, Shock Me’.
LONDON BLUE are down one member this weekend (which seems to be a theme for idol groups at Hyper Japan this time around), but even as a 4-piece outfit they deliver an energetic performance on stage. Considering that they’re occupying the early morning slots on the schedule, this is no mean feat.
A brief MC segment allows the various members to speak to the audience in halting English, particularly about their visits to many of the popular tourist attractions that London has to offer. The iconic musical landmark of Abbey Road Studios is top of their list – a destination that Yukika also found time to visit (in fact the solo singer shows off a fetching Abbey Road guitar strap during her own set).
Despite being assigned the first Sunday slot for her performance, Yukika somehow never manages to deliver anything less than her consummate best. Despite a slight mic mishap (which superstar Dave Batey fixes mid-set), she somehow manages to outdo her previous performances.
Deadlift Lolita slotted in an extra treat for Hyper Japan audiences with a special Q+A session. The room was packed solid for this crowd-directed interview segment and, as if to emphasise what a powerhouse she actually is, Reika was perfectly happy to run into the audience with the mic to pick up questions from audience members. This offered some intriguing insight into Ladybeard’s first experiences with his unique look as well as some top class banter. To round it off, they used the experience to film themselves with the audience for a possible future video outing.
Aside from the musical performances gracing the stage, Hyper Japan was also hosting anison DJ sessions under the skilful eye of Taketeru Sunamori (see the J-Pop Go interview). Although he’s primarily known as a novelist and composer, Taketeru’s venture into DJ duties is a more recent addition to his talents. The weekend saw Taketeru occupying one of the side rooms at Olympia for regular music-fuelled parties – as well as a stint on the main stage. But perhaps the highlight is a joint session between Taketeru and Ladybeard which sees a contrast of sounds somehow seamlessly coming together.
Taketeru delivers some choice tunes with classics such as the Lucky Star OP and the immortal GO!!! By FLOW. But getting the audience to dance in a circle to the Hamtaro OP is just plain fun.
Meanwhile, Ladybeard’s entrance isn’t particularly restrained and he jumps onto the DJ desk to join in on a heavy metal version of Sailor Moon’s legendary opening theme. It’s clear that both he and Taketeru are enjoying themselves enormously – and that chemistry is reflected in the audience who are bopping away to every song that’s offered up.
Ladybeard’s vocal offerings culminate with a dramatic rendition of Ladybaby classic ‘Nippon Manju’ which manages to drive the crowd completely nuts.
Hyper Japan has darted around several venues in recent years, although its return to Olympia (where some of the earlier events were held) seemed to be a fitting homecoming of sorts. The event has also expanded to the point where 2 floors of Olympia were occupied for this summer outing.
While Hyper Japan continues to offer a bewildering array of Japanese cultural-themes activities every year, their musical schedule also continues to offer surprises. With the next event scheduled for the winter months, there’s little to do but ponder on what music guests will be gracing the Olympia stage this coming November.
Bonus Hyper Japan Gallery
Hyper Japan Winter will return to Olympia on 16th-18th November 2018.
Photos by Paul Browne.