Title / Artist
VAMPS Heat Things Up in Okinawa for BEAST PARTY 2017
Date: 2017.08.31
Artist:   VAMPS  
Date of Concert: 2017.08.05
Image © Universal Music 2017
VAMPS has been putting BEAST PARTY on for 5 years, and it's evolved from a little outdoor show (called BEAST ON THE BEACH) to something much closer to a summer music festival in vibe. This year was the first year the band decided to take a stab at putting the show on outside of mainland Japan, and like most of the things they try doing, they either go hard to go home. BEAST PARTY became something of destination concert with the location choice of Okinawa, a tropical island so far away from the rest of the country it's closer to Taiwan than Tokyo. With visions of Fyre Festival dancing in my head, I headed to the balmy city of Naha to check out what VAMPS had planned.

First thing first, let's talk about everything that wasn't the performance itself. The scale was much smaller than previous years, likely due to the remoteness of the island and the fewer number of fans projected to attend. Roughly 2,000 folks were in attendance, which sounds like a lot, but this is a band that sells out venues of that size or larger for days at a time. A grassy area behind the outdoor ampitheatre had a variety of stalls set up for merchandise, food, drink, traditional Okinawan dress rental, and there were many leisure tents people could take breaks beneath. This was immediately beside a very picturesque beach with soft sand and lively waves, though no one seemed particularly interested in swimming. It felt intimate, exclusive, and super chill. Perhaps the scaled-down nature of the event did both VAMPS and the attendees a big favor in that regard. Things didn't feel crowded or hectic, and the different areas were never a pain to navigate. Nobody seemed overtired or overheated or underfed, all problems summertime outdoor show attendees often suffer.

Something else worth note was the affordability and quality of the food. The spare ribs were so fantastic I bought two, and I still think about them often, to be honest. It was cool that prices were kept low – about $5USD per plate – when the isolation of the venue could have easily tempted jacked up prices. Probably the most difficult thing about the experience was figuring out how to get to the park where everything was going to go down, but even that was pretty painless, as shuttle buses had been arranged to bring folks to the event space four times an hour from an easy-to-find and well-marked spot at a popular shopping mall. To summarize, the event was well-organized and seemed to really be geared toward showing the fans a good time without bankrupting them.

Let's get to the meat of BEAST PARTY though. The performance. VAMPS always starts this gig off with some kind of fun, big entrance. In the past it has been stuff like vocalist HYDE and guitarist K.A.Z riding up onto the stage on ATVs via ramps, or rolling up to it on some huge suped-up monster truck. This year the two took to the air, using zip-lines that descended to the stage from a tall platform behind the audience. Special hookups that HYDE and K.A.Z could stand on hung from the zip lines while they aimed fake pistols around to 'shoot' as they slowly glided over the audience to the stage.

The band moved right into the first song, "THE JOLLY ROGER", which already had people dancing on the grass at the back of the ampitheatre. After getting his guitar on, HYDE grabbed his mic and immediately taunted the typhoon that had been threatening to put a stop to the event all week. "No fucking typhoon! Are you fucking ready?" With satisfactory hype levels achieved, the next song, "AHEAD", began. They kept up the momentum with "ANGEL TRIP", and K.A.Z moved to stand on an elevated platform on the right side of the stage while bassist Ju-ken went to rock out on the platform on the left side of the stage. After sauntering back down, Ju-ken got all up in HYDE's business, but he was ignored in favor of teasing the audience.

"It's hot, huh?" HYDE asked everybody needlessly in the 90-something (30-something if you aren't of the American persuasion) degree heat. He then brought out a big, high-power squirt gun that was almost like a miniature fire hose to spray the audience with, moving between those platforms on either side of the stage to get as many people as he could. He started to do this in time with some low, playful 'uh--oh's, turning the water flow on and off to the beat, and that's when everyone knew what song was coming next – "TROUBLE". HYDE seemed really eager to interact with the audience, getting into the front row and slapping hands with fans.

"Okinawaaaa. Okinawa bloodsuckers," HYDE growled to get everybody riled up. "We don't really come here to Okinawa. I've only been here like, twice, on things like family visits. About that typhoon that was supposed to come today, it was really scary to check the weather everyday, seeing it headed toward here. But the weather's perfect, huh?" It really was. Overcast was about as good as you can get for a show in the tropics. After that, the band launched into "COSMOS", earning a big cheer from the audience. Everyone was so hyped up to hear this one that HYDE only had to clap twice to get everyone to do it in unison for a good chunk of the number. The next song, "GLAMOROUS SKY", also earned a huge cheer of appreciation. HYDE got up in the front row with a water bottle, splashing people here and there. He seemed to be enjoying himself a lot as he belted out the lyrics, including a nice vocal run at the end.

After a spirited "3, 2, 1, go!" the crowd absolutely erupted with excited screams as the band launched into "HELLO". There seemed to be some sound issues (mixing), but everyone was really feeling it despite that, everybody singing along to the chorus. When compared to when this track was initially recorded near the beginning of HYDE's solo career, his voice has definitely roughened and changed over time. A particularly poignant moment happened as a bird took off and flew over the stage as one of the final lines about flying away was sung out. Pretty cool even if it was completely coincidental.

HYDE left the stage then, leaving the rest of the band to perform a really cool instrumental break that featured some of Ju-ken's excellent slap bass skills. After it ended, the stage was redressed for a sit-down acoustic set. HYDE came back out in a dark red yukata printed with black bats, one of the products of a collaboration between himself and the late Kuniyoshi Kaneko. He told everyone that he would not be wearing a yukata tomorrow, and coyly commented that those in attendance were lucky to see it. The yukata was falling open to show of some leg, and upon noticing the stares of fans he coyly tried to draw it closed, telling people not to look -- well, girls could look. He later explained that he wasn't super keen on yukata until a conversation between himsenf and Kuniyoshi where the late artist told him that he found men in yukata to be very sexy.

After taking out what appeared to be a type of large-bodied ukulele, HYDE then explained about the selection of the first song of the acoustic set, a traditional Okinawan song called "NADA SOU SOU"; that he had wanted to do an Okinawan song from the beginning, but in preparing for the show he ended up listening to a ton of songs to choose this one, but honestly really didn't know it at all when he chose it. He wanted to sing it anyway, though. He continued on to say how the Okinawan title means 'big drops of tears' in average Japanese.

Before the next song, HYDE asked the audience how many people were actually from the local area, and loads of people raised their hands. This extended into a long back and forth between him and the audience about how to pronounce different words in the Okinawan dialect. He ended up taking out a pen to write a note on his hand about how to say something, and couldn't remember how to write the character 'nu' for a solid ten seconds because he hadn't done it in so long. It was pretty hilarious stuff. After that, he took out a tambourine and didn't seem to be as concerned about showing skin as he let his whole leg hang out during the next song, "MISSION". Let it be said that drummer Arly plays a mean cajon drum.

"MY FIRST LAST" came next, with a prelude from HYDE about the meaning of the song; that it's about having a first love, and how that first love inevitably leads to first 'lasts', as in the last time a couple shares a kiss or the last time a couple says goodbye to one another. Four torches surrounding the band ignited during this number, and the band was really on point for this one. HYDE is apparently an expert handbell player. For as rough and rock and roll as VAMPS is, HYDE can still sing in a more traditional manner as well as he could 10, 20 years ago.

It was time for another traditional song, this one the simply named "SHIMA UTA", which is the term used for traditional Okinawan music. HYDE invited a guest sanshin player by the name of Arakaki onto the stage at that point, and explained to both the guest musician and the audience that since he is not Okinawan himself it was difficult for him to keep picking Okinawan tunes for the show. Having Yaratai was a really nice nod to a local musician. HYDE's difficulty in selecting songs turned out to not matter much, as he continued to sing excellently as the sun set, casting the ampitheatre in gorgeous light that really suited the mood of the soulful performance.

The acoustic set ended, the band bowed and left the stage, and while staff reset everything it was time for even more local flavor. Dozens of dancers, some carrying drums and some carrying fans, filed onto the stage and into the empty space between the rows of seats in the ampitheatre. They all performed a long, traditional, energetic song and dance, even going so far as to instruct members of the audience on some of the movements. It was a really special interlude, and the inclusion of this dance number and all the other Okinawan songs showed that the location of the show wasn't inconsequential to the band. VAMPS wasn't just in Okinawa. For BEAST PARTY, Okinawa was in VAMPS.

The heavy rock portion of the show began with heavy blue smoke rolling onto the stage and into the crowd. The wind kicked up, HYDE yelled at everyone to raise their fucking hands up and clap, and the band blasted into "CALLING", a perfect mood--changer. "RISE OR DIE" followed, the simple stage setup only enhancing the mood. With the ampitheatre small enough to eliminate the use of monitors, everyone was focused on the stage. HYDE creeped up behind K.A.Z , putting his arm around him when the line in the song came that declared the identity of a "Japanese vampire". Not stopping the momentum, "BLEED FOR ME" came next, haunting churchbells ringing as the stage was bathed in red light. HYDE spread his arms, asking the audience if they would bleed for him. It's honestly kinda nuts that the band is so versatile in terms of performance. The same five dudes had been doing cool island tunes not 15 minutes before.

"IN THIS HELL", a moody song that seemed to slow things down didn't do that for K.A.Z, who continued to jump around energetically to the song's rhythm. This was a really cool point in the show. With all the smoke and red light, the stage was like a hellmouth opening toward the audience. It honestly felt like this was the ideal way to see the band live. Spouts of red flame burst from around Arly's drum kit as "DEVIL SIDE" began. Ju-ken rocked out on the left-hand platform as he and the rest of the band poured out some serious energy. Ju-ken continued to egg everybody on as HYDE climbed onto the hanging zip-line, drifting back out over the audience during the starting chords of "Revolution II". He sang the song that way, waving a flag as he stood on one foot, holding onto the apparatus with his free arm curled around it, that same hand holding his mic to his face. It looked pretty difficult, but he pulled it off well, even managing to gesture to encourage some girls below him to show their goodies in their bikini tops.

HYDE returned back to the stage, and after a bit more talk of how concerned he was that the typhoon would ruin the show, he invited the audience to make good memories together before starting "MEMORIES". Ballad complete, it was time to finish things off with a bang, both literally and figuratively. After a rousing performance of "B.Y.O.B (BRING YOUR OWN BLOOD)" during which HYDE reached into the audience to snag a fan's little flag and wave it around playfully, the concert ended after the always-wild "SEX, BLOOD, ROCK N' ROLL". A seriously impressive fireworks display followed just as stars were beginning to be visible in the night sky.

VAMPS will seriously have their work cut out for them if they want to top this year's event. The smaller scale, the ability of the crowd to participate in the show and interact with the band, the breezy summertime locale, it all made for a seriously excellent show that most concert-goers experience but once in a lifetime.



Author: M. Minikhiem
last update: 2017-09-01