Coming from a blog like mine, moments when I write about things outside of H!P and the few kpop stars that I do manage to keep up with are far and few between. However, I do like to take pride in the fact that when I do write about groups off my typical beaten path of jpop and kpop, I actually put an effort into learning about them before writing about them. It’s just common courtesy and the least any decent writer can do. Unfortunately, if you stumbled upon this article from the Washington Post, you probably scoffed and found yourself put off by how crudely written it was, and what a lame depiction was given of Japan’s mega-super group AKB48. As a very casual fan of the group, I can’t say I’m an expert, but I can definitely write something better. Here’s a quick snippet of what went down at the 4PM show at the Lincoln theater!!
It’s a rare occasion for me to be the fan in the audience, and I mean really rare. Previous press-work kept me up on my toes to get the perfect shot, or write the perfect article. To be able to sit back with fellow fans and relish in the pure joy of being in a crowd, enjoying the group performing before you, yeah, it’s a beautiful thing. And as much as we all would like to freak out and cry over press pass privileges, nothing beats the fan’s concert experience.
My day started off at the crack of dawn, with a long drive to the metro station, an hour long ride on the metro, and finally landed to my stop in our nation’s capital. Great stuff, but my friend and I arrived far too early. We joked around, musing that if we stumbled upon the Lincoln theater at around 9AM (when we had initially arrived), that we’d probably already see fans. We later learned that yeah, there were fans already lining up at around that time.
After burning some time around the sites, we had gone up to the Lincoln theater around noon and damn, the line was already down the street, around the corner of the theater. Yeah. Noon. The concert was at 4PM, and we weren’t “technically” allowed to line up until 2PM. Yeah…
And that right there was the line at noon. It got even worse when the show started in less than 5 minutes. A fan in the crowd had gotten really bored with her life waiting in line (I would be bored too if I waited since 9AM), and counted all the people, and came up with about 260+ people, not including the last minute attendees (mostly mothers with their children). The line loitering game was a fun one indeed. You definitely meet a lot of interesting people, and a lot of AKB merch hustling was going on and on along the line. Fun times. The occasional “CAR!!!!!” yells from the people at the front made me reminisce of the good ol’ days when we used to play kickball or something on the neighborhood street, but I digress.
So as the moment of truth finally drew near, press members from various Japanese news sites/papers were scrounging along the line of avid concert goers, taking video footage, pictures, and interviewing a few lucky fans in the crowd. By the way, if you see two girls holding up Takahashi Minami and Miyazawa Sae‘s heads in any footage, yep, I was with those ladies. We probably made asses out of ourselves one way or another, but regardless, we all made the wait that much more bearable with our antics and chili dog lunch runs.
Once the security (one speaking English and one speaking Japanese) made their rounds down the line, warning us to get our tickets and IDs out and ready, the tension was rising. Badly. Once past the security check, it was practically an ordered line into the theater and into our seats. Various warnings from the overhead projector reminded us that if we took pictures or videos, we’d get kicked out right away and have our materials confiscated. Gotta love how these shows roll.
While we sat there and counted down the time until the start of the show, fans from all over were finally in a secluded, more comfortable and intimate environment, where we were free to communicate and intermingle. And as fans bonded over common oshimen and the sort, AKB’s music was playing loudly on the speakers, and fans were able to sing along and practice their fan chants. Staff were kind enough to pass along glow sticks, but a good majority of the wota fanbase were already armed and ready with their own personal arsenal of pretty epic glowsticks and fan signs. Fans were packed on the first floor seats and even the balcony seats were filled with mostly parents and their children, all armed and ready with their glowsticks, of course. Even the media were lined up along the front, back, and aisleways, as well as the side balcony seats right before the stage. Leave it to AKB to pack a house full with vivacious fans!
With one final warning from the ominous speaker regarding pictures and videos, we received a message from Takamina and a few minutes later, the show was starting! As many of you already know, the girls in attendance were the following:
Team A: Asuka Kuramochi, Aki Takajō, Minami Takahashi
Team K: Ayaka Umeda, Reina Fujie, Sakiko Matsui, Minami Minegishi, Sae Miyazawa
Team B: Shihori Suzuki
Team 4: Maria Abe, Miori Ichikawa, Anna Iriyama
Research students/trainee members: Rina Kawaei, Natsuki Kojima, Juri Takahashi, Rina Hirata
All the girls looked absolutely lovely, and to be quite honest with you, Ayaka Umeda was absolutely stunningly gorgeous in person. My eyes were on her the whole time, and I never even noticed her much before *gets shot* Hilary was another sleeper hit for me. And to be quite honest, I can’t quite remember all the names of the songs they performed (especially the subunits and their songs) but from the top of my head I remember the crowd-pumping introduction of Flying Get, the show-stopping, room shaking rendition of River, the eardrum breaking (this is a good thing!!!) performance of Beginner, the light-hearted performance of Everyday, Kachūsha, and the smoothness of Kaze wa Fuiteiru, to the crowd-pleaser Ponytail to Shushu. Not necessarily in that order; I honestly can’t recall.
[Quick edit] Here are the subunit’s and their songs:
Bird, kiseki wa ma no awanai, gyakuten oujisama, heart Gata virus. – from almond
After the first song performance, the girls introduced themselves one by one. As always, one must applaud these girls for their efforts in trying to communicate with a predominantly English speaking fanbase. Although most of their greetings included the generic “Hello, my name is…,” ” I am so happy to be here,” “Did you have fun?” and the sort, claps are deserved. If any of the girls were nervous to perform today, well they sure as hell hid it well, or I just didn’t notice. They carried themselves beautifully and conducted the speech portions professionally and as they would any other concert…just in English. Perhaps the most awesome moment from the intros was when Sae and Takamina saw my one friend’s epic HUGE cut-outs of their faces and waved them around like signs during the introduction portion. Their reactions were pretty hysterical and the media had a FIELD day. Seriously, once the video footage comes out, you cannot miss them.
The later MC portions had a translator present to translate the girls’ words one by one. Most of the “questions” and such were pre-determined and not open to the fans to ask, but that’s quite alright. A lot of the English was spoken by the member Hilary, who was probably having a difficult time speaking in English (because she seemed like she was thinking everything in Japanese). Regardless, it made her very, very adorable in my eyes. The girls shared how they did a lot of sight-seeing that morning (damn shame we didn’t run into them during our morning adventures…) around the White House and the Lincoln Memorial (lol), Sae mentioned something about reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, and a lot of the girls were basically egging fans on to come visit them in Akihabara and to see a show live. One fan from the balcony in the back even exclaimed “TOKYO DOME OMEDATOU!” to which the girls received very happily and said their thanks.
Finally, as the girls “closed off” with Sakura no ki no narou after some pretty amazing and uplifting performances of like every kachuusha and such, it felt like we were cheated out of a decent ending, but I guess at the time it made sense they would end off with a song about sakuras. And as they walked off the stage, it only took about half a millisecond before some fans in the crowd began their mixed chants of EN-CORE-EH and A-K-B! This went on for a good 5 painfully long minutes. My arms were getting pretty tired from waving glowsticks, and my throat was in no better condition, but we pushed through. After that excruciating wait, the girls were BACK and ready to get the crowd pumping AGAIN with the crowd favorite track HEAVY ROTATION!! The energy shot through the roof and if I could only count the feet this one guy in front of me jumped all throughout the duration of that song, I would let you know. That’s just how crazy happy we all were that they had come back.
The girls paused after that performance to inform the crowd that the true final song would be one that was near and dear to their hearts and very appropriate for the times: Sakura no hanabiratachi. And that was that. The girls thanked the crowd for the opportunity to perform an encore and thanked us all for coming and supporting them. A group bow, and fans were ushered out the door to prep for the next show at 7:30. Some fans were held back for press interviews and others bolted immediately back into the alley way line for even better seats.
Despite the long wait, the awkward off-beat glowstick waving gestures by the various fans in the crowd, and the even more awkward “lost in translation” moments throughout the show, I was surprisingly pleased by the performance. As a casual fan, I can say damn, I had an awesome time. Being a free concert was just the cherry on top! And though the 4PM performance was absolutely bustling left and right with press, fans, and wota from all over, I can say with total confidence that the 7:30PM show tonight was just about as exciting, if not more, than the 4PM one. Regardless, it was an awesome show, and I was happy to be a part of it as well as be reunited with my friends from JpH!P. Leave it to a group like AKB to leave me breathless.