J Culture Con

 
dobly, Soma, Rika Minami & GOTHIKA
Assembly Rooms
Derby
26th September 2010
Written by Rachel Yarwood
Photography by Lorna Ransome

I don’t think that the good old marmite saying of you either “love it or you hate it” has ever meant so much. This event was probably quite a fun filled one for many who turned out, meeting with friends, making new ones, being in character and stocking up on volumes you were missing from your anime or manga collection.

On the other hand, it was probably more cringe worthy for the ones who were perhaps new to the whole scene. Especially if a very close call for the camera equipment is beyond your tolerance.

Putting this aside for the moment and stepping into the actual hall where the artists were due to be playing that afternoon, you’re initial thought would possibly be that this was one of those American style school assembly or sports auditoriums. You could easily hold a basketball match in here and have your audience to view from the seating stalls above. However, for the amount of people that attended on the Sunday, you could not help but think that this was perhaps a little too big for the occasion.

The show finally kicked off at around ten past three in the afternoon, after the few technical problems with the computers being used (which had delayed the show already by about hour), had been repaired.

The hall filled, only a few stragglers remained outside to chat with each other, or mooch around the stalls, with everyone taking stance at various spots or seating themselves against either side of the wall to wait for the first act to take to the stage.

DOBLY

Dobly, hailing from our very own London stepped out and with no hesititation began the show. Only after they had played their first two songs, did they stop for a brief moment to introduce who they were before storming ahead with another four songs.

Dobly's style is mainly rock, but with surprisingly soothing vocals from Rie. hide is not just the bands drummer, but also he sings the backing vocals and together both he and Rie worked exceptionally well together, their harmonies sounding amazing live.

Half way through Dobly's set we are introduced to something a little less rock as they took on a more sublte and melodic style. A smoke machine was actioned which gave the whole atmosphere a significant, almost grandeur feel, irrespective of the fact that there were no other stage decoratives to speak of. There was only basic lighting used on stage, no backdrop, and this effect would have stole your attention focusing entirely on the band.

However, one thing that was noteably dissapointing was, for a rather individualistic band like Dobly, there seemed to be hardly any enthusiasm from the crowd. On the other hand, what with Rie's smooth and irresistable vocals and the edgy compositions which would leave you with the sense that you can never tell where they are going to take you next, may justify the lack of motion as sheer dumbfoundedness at the clear skill they were showing here today.

SOMA

The second act of the afternoon is SOMA. TOMO is now taking on SOMA solo but it is clear from his enthusiasm on and off stage that there is no chance of him taking things easy. Head held high and clearly full of energy, TOMO opens to his newest single "Wasurenai" much to the excitement of his fans who have turned up today to see him perform. With the lyrics displayed on a back drop screen, TOMO shreds away at his guitar, sometimes it seems rather impulsively, but try as you might you cannot tear your eyes away from the stage.

TOMO plays around three more songs before he pauses to fully introduce himself to the crowd and also to his supporting vocalist. Rika Minami steps out elegantly to take ownership of the spare microphone on stage and the pair began the first of two songs together.

For "Yuki no naka", the first of the songs the two performed together especially, the sound quality was not all that good. Although it was obvious from the troubles that all of the bands had had during the sound checks, that this was of no fault of their own. TOMO's guitar and the backing music almost completely drowned out Rika, so unfortunately, the crowd could only make out her extremely high but still beautiful and faultless notes.

One of the more strange highlights of SOMA's performance, was not the guest appearance of Rika Minami, nor TOMO's charisma and funky dancing, but for some reason the final song of his performance willed some of the members of the crowd to start a mosh pit, which for a simple onlooker was quite bewildering in the circumstances. Nevertheless, SOMA performed an exceptional set and, considering the size of the stage and the number of people in the hall, entertained like a true professional. 

Rika Minami

There was another short break as SOMA's set was removed from the stage and replaced with not one, but two keyboards, a drum kit and a couple more microphone stands. The artists today really do not mess around with the time they have been given as Rika Minami and her band start almost as instantaneously as the other acts that have performed so far.

 

We are now being introduced to another different style of music compared to the last two acts. Here we have a slightly more pop sound with Rika's sweet and melodic, almost retro style vocals, in which she hits all the high notes with absolute precison, combined with a jazzy soft rock element from the electric guitars and strong drum beats. All of this is complimented to great effect by the smoky atmosphere and the use of orange and pink lighting.

The crowd now has begun to sparse out a little bit, however for those few who have come here to see them, give them big cheers inbetween each song played including Dobly and TOMO who stood by the front to watch. Even with the numbers disintegrating a little, Rika Minami and her band are the only ones up to this point to successfully get the crowd to actively participate, clapping in time and dancing along to the music. 

Especially fascinating to watch is the moment in which Rika let loose all of her energy into her keyboard, pounding the keys with such force you wouldn't have known whether to feel more sorry for her fingers or the equipment!

As they close with their final song, Rika ends politely by thanking everyone involved whilst also enthusiastically announcing where they will be touring next in the UK before exiting the stage just as calmly as she entered as if performing was a complete doddle.

Gothika

The last artist to take to the stage is Gothika. Unlike the others, Gothika do not enter straight away, rather the smoke machines are set to what must be the highest setting, slowly filling the hall and onlookers' lungs. There is hardly any lighting what-so-ever but you can just about make out the backdrop which adorns the band's logo.

Full house lights turn off just like you would expect from a proper gig and the opening theme "Overture" begins as we now anticipate the headlining act.

Gothika certainly got a good reaction from the crowd; it did not take the guys long at all to get the crowd involved. The only thing that seemed to let this down was perhaps the stage itself. It couldn't be helped, but the distance from the floor to the stage was a little too much which in turn seemed to distance the band from the crowd. Gothika are just one of those bands that do really well when they are on a level with the crowd making it a lot easier to interact. However, before anyone could take the time to blink, Yoshiki had jumped down from the stage taking a wander through the crowd perhaps picking out any stragglers who could not keep up. He doesn't even seem the slightest bit bothered when he knocks the whole of his synth set off leaping back up.

The entire show was very energetic. Andro, Gothika's lead vocalist even cheekily suggesting that the crowd may be tired as he encouraged them to keep up and keep moving to each song. They certainly played a decent set tonight, many tracks off their more recent album "ZeitGeist", with sheer assertion. They received a great reception from the crowd here, even if they did not know quite what to expect, but all in all Gothika certainly gave it their best and ended the evening spectacularly even coming back out onstage with the crowd's prompting to play an encore.

All in all, JCultureCon offered everything you would expect from a convention. Two whole days to completely and unashamedly lose yourself in another world separate from that outside. Plus, who can complain when this weekend also offers a live show with four amazing artists to end this time on a high? I'm sure that everyone who turned out can appreciate the hard work that went into making the JCultureCon possible and we can only hope that next years event will go ahead with even more success for both attendees and the musicians that get the chance to show a rather diverse crowd what they've got.