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Made in Japan: Dir En Grey @ The Fillmore, 11/23/09

November 24, 2009

Over the years, Dir En Grey has come up as a band I should check out. I had tried listening to them several times, and it just never stuck. But when I read this article that talked about fans lining up the night before to see these guys- I knew there had to be some merit to the claims. I have done this myself one time for my favorite band- NIN– and I know it takes a certain passion that stems from a band’s X-factor that can never be fully explained- only witnessed in person.

So I found myself standing in The Fillmore on this Monday evening, looking at the tightly packed crowd, camera in hand. I thought about how last time I was here was for Alice in Chains. A threesome of Japanese girls roll up with shopping bags in their hands, and casually stash them behind the garbage can, adjust their sporty-metal style outfits, and take a position in front of me. It’s obvious that they’ve done this before. They would become the star of the show for me.


I’d never photographed at The Fillmore before. When the band’s intro music started and I filed into the photo pit, I was struck by how narrow it is. Honestly, I wanted to photograph the people at the barrier more than the band, but it was hard enough to maneuver in there. Plus, as soon as I stood there waiting, some girls behind me at the rail- ‘rail bitches’ as they are referred to in NINland- started saying, “OH HELL NO! She’d better not be standing there the whole time!!!” I laughed.

When the band came out- one by one- the sound was near deafening even with earplugs. High pitched girl shrieks- immediately I thought ‘wow, I had avoided going to see New Moon for this very reason!’ Especially for the singer- a small, blonde haired guy who’s face read that this was exactly the reaction that he expected.

The barrier is rocking behind me as the crowd goes crazy. No crowd surfing, no slam dancing- just a sea of individuals losing their minds. The singer hops onto a platform and doubles over, growling like a wild animal. The lighting was too dark for my little camera, so I left the photo pit pretty early.


The music is incredibly interesting- death metal with the occasional J-Pop vocal filtered in. It’s two genres I would never think to combine- but it’s fascinating how they pull it off. Not to mention their intense stage presence- it’s as if each guitarist and the bassist have carved out a section of the audience to constantly….umm….undress with their eyes would perhaps be the cleaner term here.

A girl standing near me has her palms at her cheeks, as if barely holding herself together. She barely removes them the entire show. But it’s the Japanese girls in front of me that were the most amazing to watch. One of them would essentially air piano to certain hooks in the music, with her arms extended in front of her, and ferociously headbang in between. It was so perfectly timed that I started watching her as if she were in the band. The other would just bend down in that one foot forward metal stance and headbang, without even looking at the band much at all. Between songs, they would look at each other and giggle. At the very end, they turned towards each other and headbanged at each other. It was obvious this was not their first show….in fact….I wouldn’t be surprised if they follow the band around.


About midway through the set, the music mellowed out and became very spiritual sounding- Buddah Rock, if you will. It lost me for a while, but when they came back for the encore (there might have been a riot if they hadn’t- more deafening shreiks…) it got heavy again.

All of Dir En Grey’s lyrics are in Japanese. Despite their nonverbal communication, they never said a word to the crowd….until right before the final song. The singer starts screaming, “Last song! Last song! Last song!” over and over and the crowd REALLY went nuts. And when it was over, he left the stage while the rest of the band made a big production of throwing out picks and drum sticks for the crowd to fight over.


Seeing Dir En Grey put a lot into perspective for me. I saw a bit of myself in those girls in the crowd- it was almost like having an out of body experience. I left the show thinking, no matter what happens, I never want to lose sight of being that passionate fan, chasing after that feeling that I could see on the faces of the crowd at Dir En Grey.

Read my friend’s account of last year’s show here.


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