AnimeFest, September 5, 2015
Live report by Jen Wang
What does American J-Rock sound like? That was the question lingering on the minds of AnimeFest attendees unfamiliar with the music of akai SKY. Nevertheless, they were ready to rock. They were perhaps a little too amped up for the orchestral opener, Ramen and Rice. The duo played several anime favorites on violin and cello and even invited members of akai SKY to join in, but this was not a night for classical musical.
No, what the audience wanted were the high energy numbers that began akai SKY’s set: “Burn Out” and “Mugen”. Jinra pounded away on the drums while guitarist Hayashi tackled his solos with the perfect mix of drama and aloofness that made him the epitome of cool. Umi was the most fun to watch, as she had a natural charisma that made her adorable even when laying out ferocious bass lines.
Unfortunately frontman Ryuusei came across as tentative. He seemed more comfortable chatting about going to Medieval Times than singing. However, his vocals began to come out more later in the set. He also seemed quite at home with the guitar when he took on the first solo in “Moonfall” before Hayashi nailed his own. Umi’s background vocals gave the melody an ethereal touch.
Ramen and Rice came back on-stage to join the band for the next three songs. Hayashi teased the anime fans by announcing that they would be playing the theme to Sailor Moon Crystal, only for the band to bust out the openings chords of “Guren no Yumiya”, the opening to Attack on Titan. It was perfect choice for a collaboration: akai SKY put their own hard rock spin while Ramen and Rice provided the orchestral elements that evoked the original theme. “Marionette” was akai SKY’s strongest number with passionate vocals and a haunting bass line contrasted with the violin.
Umi and Ryuusei poked fun at Hayashi’s penchant for ocean-themed titles in the songs he wrote. “To the Sea” was softer than expected with with its ambling pace and easy-going strumming by Ryuusei. Even though it had Hayashi’s signature wails, the guitarist abandoned his hip persona and smiled during his solo. The closer, “Break Down!”, saw a return to akai SKY’s enthusiastic, post-punk style with the audience shouting along.
Although “American J-rock” at times seemed to sound like typical American rock with Japanese lyrics, akai SKY’s love of the genre was evident throughout their set. Despite their shaky start, the band won over the AnimeFest crowd with their energy and approachability. They might be cool rock stars while playing, but they were obviously fans too just like everybody in the room.
3. “Fight On”
5. “On My Way”
6. “Guren no Yumiya”
8. “All the Raging Waves”
9. “To the Sea”
10. “Break Down!”