Birmingham has seen a surge of Japanese music events in these past few years, hosting such groups as Necronomidol, 2& (Double And), Screaming Sixties and even BABYMETAL, but it’s safe to say that some in Birmingham, were probably not expecting the Indie, Idol and Infamous show.
Situated across the busy road of Smallbrook Queensway, opposite Birmingham’s famous Bullring, sits a small bar called The Sunflower Lounge.
Stepping into its entrance, it looks just like any other, but take the stairs down towards the toilets and you’ll find that a small basement is accessible, also a little closer and you will find that particular basement, is a small gig venue – reminiscent of the Japanese live houses.
With a great atmosphere and dedicated fans, this small bar became a hub for anarchy when the time came for the final show of the Indie, Idol and Infamous tour to start.
With special guest Rukatama or MELON BATAKE A GO GO opening the final show with the new MELON track Mother of Pearl, the energy in the Sunflower Lounge was building. Rukatama was delightful to watch, it seemed she had come along as support for Yuffie Sakimura, assisting with operating the GARUDA merchandise table, and made the last minute decision to open the final show.
Following Rukatama’s Mother of Pearl performance, Yuffie Sakimura walks through the crowd to the stage and steps on as GARUDA. If you are not familiar with GARUDA, the solo project of Yuffie Sakimura, member of the idol group MELON BATAKE A GO GO. With its roots clearly deep into Industrial Metal, GARUDA debuted in 2017.
As GARUDA stepped on to the stage, wearing her signature Plague doctor masquerade mask, she performed on the audience, she explained that she had been fortunate to visit the Harry Potter studio in London, but she was disappointed that she was not able to see Severus Snape. (Yuffie is a huge fan of Slytherin House).
In a touching moment, Yuffie explained that she was so happy to have visited England and thanked the event organizers, ORIONlive UK and Kushikatsu Records for hosting her, before thanking the audience. The Audience applauded, thanking her in return and then GARUDA then delivered a passionate, well-rehearsed, energetic and visually stunning performance that will be impossible to forget. Given the audience’s overwhelmingly positive response to Yuffie’s music, It’s almost unfathomable that it’s GARUDA’s first tour in the UK.
Following GARUDA’s performance, silence fell across the room as we waited for the appearance of Hanako-san, who had been smuggled through the packed entrance hall, covering her face so as not to spoil any of the mystique.
One of the greatest qualities and mysteries of the artist known as 14th Generation Toilet Hanako-san, is just how secretive she keeps her performances, this creates a certain level of hype, so the time came for Hanako-san to step up to the stage, there was a collective intake of breath.
She introduced herself in a light-hearted method, by way of cardboard signs, seemingly pleased that some of the audience had found this amusing. She explained that she could not speak much English, but she would be working through an interpreter. It had been mentioned on social media prior to the show, but the audience was once again reminded that photos were allowed, videos were not.
In reading this, it’s likely you are familiar with Hanako-san, her style, her voice and her stage act, but nothing quite compares to watching it live, the voice is tremendously powerful, filling the room in seconds. She powered through her performance without skipping a beat – eventually, black bin bags were handed out for the audience and that’s when the real show started – Those who had been to earlier shows had already equipped themselves with protective raincoats and were now ready for whatever Hanako-san threw at them – literally.
Members of the audience stepped up towards the front, and knelt down as though receiving mass in prayer, as Hanako-san covered them in flour, honey and HP sauce. Following the performance, there was a cleaning ceremony where the fans used toilet roll, brushes and a mop to clean up the mess – while Hanako-san watched on. Once the cleaning ceremony was finished, the audience once again fell silent, as some ran to clean themselves and others decided to remain covered until after the show, there was an excitement that was building, to see the headlining performance – 2& (Double And).
If you’re not familiar with 2& – it’s the solo project of Saki, once a member of popular idol group Guso Drop. Saki visited the UK in 2018 as part of NECRONOMIDOL’s Black Wings on Albion tour and has since gained a reputation for her lively, energetic and positive performances. Saki was a joy to watch because she looked like she was having a great time just being there. She spent a short time conversing with the audience, which emphasized her English language skills – Saki almost wanted you to know that she was trying to learn English, by speaking it at every opportunity.
Following the performances, the merchandise tables opened back up, operated by Rukatama, ORIONlive UK and Kushikatsu Records. There was an extended cheki meet-and-greet with Hanako, Yuffie and Saki, which continued until almost midnight when the curtains closed and the tour was finally over.
By now, many of the patrons had exhausted their energy, but many decided to continue the evening, holding their own little after party in the Sunflower Lounge, until the bar closed and everybody went home – happy.
The Indie, Idol and Infamous tour ended in Birmingham on April 23, it has left many fans with unforgettable moments, performances and encounters with their idols and with fellow like-minded people.
Not only did this tour create even deeper recognition towards the great artistry of 14th Generation Toilet Hanako-san, GARUDA and 2&, it also created many new friendships, it allowed a platform for some to meet new people, so that at the next show, they can always look forward to seeing their friends – and if you ask me, these positive experiences is what this fandom is all about.
In the aftermath of the Tour, Hanako-san expressed her emotions towards the UK tour, explaining that she worried about the language barrier, but that she was thankful for the experiences she had and was thankful for the love she received from her fans overseas – she said that she would return (to kill us all again).
Saki appeared to have a great time, she expressed her delight that her overseas fans enjoyed her performances, she also expressed her love for English food. Her Twitter has been inundated with posts of the food she has enjoyed and since returning to Japan, is continuing to post photographs of anything from Fish and Chips to Lemon Curd – I think it’s safe to say that Saki will return.
Yuffie appeared to enjoy the show just as much as we did, she thanked her overseas fans for their support, she said that she was worried or the reception she might receive in the UK, but after all of the positive responses to GARUDA, we are confident that she will return to England – although it’s still unlikely that she’ll get to meet Severus Snape.