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Live Report: AVO J-Music Festival 2018

AVO J-Music Festival 2018 | Esprit D'Air | Photography: Francisca Hagen

AVO J-Music Festival 2018 | Esprit D'Air | Photography: Francisca Hagen

In a city which has seen occupation by Spanish, French, and German invaders, a small festival for Japanese music, food, and culture went by seemingly unnoticed.  Passers-by within 500m of the stage likely noticed, people playing some night tennis on the nearby courts certainly heard, but it was those in its epicentre who where the focus and who will be left with a lifelong memory.  They, we rather, will mark the event in our personal histories to be stored for the long term.  It may not have been a life-altering occasion, but it will be at least a great “that one time”.

Whether the skies were clear or not isn’t worth remembering.  Even though the stage was in a forest park, the lights from the surrounding city washed out any view of the sky.  The night was cool, but not cold.  That was important to people who didn’t bring coats or sweatshirts.  There was onigiri (Japanese rice balls filled with unicorn dreams) for sale.  That was paramount for those who love Japanese food.  There was also a rainbow assortment of Japanese snacks and candy for sale.  And, of course, there was beer, which proved to alter the memory of the event for some.

Beyond the refreshments, there was the music, which is why most the attendees had come in the first place.  Local DJ Nachtraaf provided music to entertain revellers before and between the bands.  On a stage large enough to re-enact the Battle of Waterloo, REMNANT started things off, after a welcome and introduction by AVO founder, Francisca Hagen.  Dark coloured electronic tones surrounding a surrealistic guitar sound and a child’s voice is probably the best way to describe Remnant.

As a shoegaze band, REMNANT is probably better suited to a dark basement club that smells of spilled beer and unwashed armpits.  Vocalist Marie crooned the lyrics while occasionally providing extra rhythm by ringing several bells which were hung from the microphone.  Takmi provided some melody but mostly ambient sounds from his bright red Fender Stratocaster.  The majority of the rhythm backing instrumentals came from a laptop.

Some festival-goers danced in front of the stage, but most just took in the haunting, gothic music.  Even though the music was gloomy, most will remember the happiness of the event.  Everyone in attendance recognized how special the event was and treated each other like family.  Attendee and photographer Arlequin commented, “It was great to attend because of everyone being super nice and respectful to each other.”  Whether you wanted to dance about or just quietly enjoy the music, you did it surrounded by people who love all things Japan as much as you do.

Following REMNANT and a brief interlude by DJ Nachtraaf was Esprit D’Air.  The faster tempo of this symphonic metal band pulled most people out of their contemplation and out of the seats.  Where REMNANT’s music asked the listener to think about their own death and why should they wear any other colour than black; Esprit D’Air asked why you should sit when you could be jumping, and why to stand upright when you could be bent over and banging your head until it leaves your shoulders. The party was on from the first song and raged into the clear night.  Those with short memories were reminded the next day about how much fun they had by sore necks.  J-music fan Remco told AVO, “We headbanged shoulder to shoulder. It felt like family; it was a fantastic evening with fantastic people.”

When the last encore died away and the band left the stage, everyone who had witnessed the event knew that they had been part of something special, something unique.  The bands hung around for pictures and autographs. They likely will remember that evening as much as the fans did. We came for the experience, for friendship, and for a mutual love of music from a small island nation half a world away.  We left with memories that will last a lifetime and will bring many back next time.

Setlist REMNANT:

1. Coma of unknown pleasures (SE)
2. Darkness coming
3. The birds (SE)
4. Funeral chapel
5. Requiem
6. Artificial Tears
7. Amaranthus
8. The end of the world
9. Death penatly
10. We can’t be die (SE)

11. Witches’Sabbath
12. La mer Morte

Setlist Esprit D’Air:
Guiding Light
Serafine (DEAD END)
The Beginning (ONE OK ROCK)
The Awakening
The Hunter
Calling You

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