Self Help Fest 2016 – This year’s punk-rock/heavy metal festival was held on Saturday March 19th at the National Orange Show (NOS) Event Center in San Bernardino, California. The infamous Japanese rock band, ONE OK ROCK, was set to start the musical festivities at 1:35 PM with doors opening at 1:30 PM. Despite the temperature hitting 82 °F, the non-VIP fans ran as fast as they could to the stage.
Given the band’s recent popularity in the U.S., it came at no surprise that there was already a large audience standing in front of the outdoor stage waiting for the band to play. At first glance, it might appear that the fans were just there to stake out a good spot for the next show but once ONE OK ROCK stepped onto the stage, the overwhelming screams and cheers from the fans proved that theory wrong.
The first band member to walk out onto the stage was Tomoya (drummer) wearing a loose-fitting solid black tank top with black shorts with his brown hair just touching his shoulders. He was shortly followed by Ryota (bassist) who was sporting a similarly laid-back outfit of a black and white T-shirt that had a collage of writing and pictures that created a newspaper effect. The two of them started playing the introduction song off their new album “3xxxv5” as Toru (leader and guitarist) took to the stage and the first visibly energetic cheer erupted from the crowd. He was wearing a solid black tank top, gold chain necklace, and black pants with long washed-out aqua blue hair. Finally, Taka (singer) walked calmly out onto the stage where he was instantly greeted with a cascade of screams, cries, and cheers. The beloved singer was wearing a black Metallica tank top and black ripped up pants and his hair was short, brown and slightly permed on top.
With all four band members on stage, ONE OK ROCK launched into their first song “Take me to the Top”. Despite the sweltering heat, Taka wasted no time in pouring his energy into the song by head banging and getting the crowd involved by having them sing the “O”s in the chorus. Halfway through the song Taka shouted, “Are you fucking ready for this?” which rallied a resounding “Yes!” from the audience. Once the song had finished and the cheers died down,
Taka took the chance to talk to the crowd by saying “We only have a short time so let’s make a good one. Are you guys ready? This next one is called “Cry Out”. This song was a little slower and more melodic than the previous one so for the first time that day it was possible to hear the crowd singing the lyrics. The most surprising part of this punk-rock track was hearing Ryota live backup vocals for the lyrics “Voices all around, we’re going down” since it was even more rough than on the album.
The third song of the set was “Decisions” that featured Tyler Carter on the “3xxxv5” album but the track managed to sound fantastic without him live. Taking advantage of the song’s catchy and rather slow verses and chorus, Taka opened his hands wide, an emotional display of embracing the cheering crowd. And in return, the crowd could be heard singing along with Taka for the majority of the song, especially during the chorus where sentiment was at an all-time high.
Not skipping a beat, Toru took to the center of the stage and continued to head bang despite sweat running down his face and his long hair that was getting wet as a consequence. It was almost as if he was reciprocating the support that the fans were giving him by singing along. It was around this time that the heat was starting to become unbearable and Ryota took off his shirt. His multitude of tattoos glistened in the mixture of sunlight and sweat to the admiration of his fans.
“Suddenly” was the fourth song and it was at this point that the pit in front had become noticeably bigger with an incoming swell of festival members attracted by the punk rock sound emitting from the speakers. It was the slowest song of the day and yet despite the increased viewers, the audience was not singing along, fist pumping or jumping around. Picking up on this energy slump, Taka asked the crowd “Are you guys having a good time?” and the crowd’s responding scream voiced their happiness. Without delay, Taka replied with “Me too. We only have two songs left so l want to feel more energy from you guys!” He then began to prompt the crowd to lift up their hands and clap and shouting “Make some noise everybody!”.
This was just the rally that the crowded needed and almost everyone in the first four rows clapped during the entire duration of the introduction of their next song, “Stuck in the Middle”. Keeping up with the renewed vivacity, Ryota and Toru swapped sides of the stages to which the crowds on either side went wild. Similar to “Crying Out”, Toru provided backup vocals that were rough, almost as if he was screaming. Without any prompting from the band, the audience clapped during Taka solo in an exhibit of encouragement for the band they all so dearly adore.
“Mighty Long Fall” received the loudest response yet just within seconds of the opening notes. In order to cherish the last song of the day, almost everyone in the crowd was either jumping up and down or bobbing their heads in time to the music. It truly felt that the fans had taken a “Mighty Long Fall” that day – they had fallen into love with the diverse and memorable ONE OK ROCK’s album“3xxxv5”. From the end of the song and until the band walked off, the crowd screamed the entire time in happiness and in protest that they were only able to enjoy the Japanese rock band for a matter of 30 plus minutes.
Once the ONE OK ROCK fans were absolutely sure that there was to be no encore, they quickly pushed their way out of the pit that had morphed into a massive blob of hot and sweaty bodies and rushed to the band’s table. The extended version of “3xxxv5” was being sold for $10, “3xxxv5” zip-up hoodies for $40, “3xxxv5” T-shirts for $25, and “3xxxv5” wristbands for $5. Regrettably only those fans who bought the ~$200+ limited VIP passes were able to do the meet and greet and pictures with ONE OK ROCK. But for the other fans that had gathered at the merchandise table, they all seemed content to chat and relive their favorite moments together.