In anime blogging terms, Otakon (and several other cons like it) is a wellspring of ideas. You can write a long article on Kanaria DX, but for a con-goer you could also write a long article on just finding Kanaria, trying to haggle price on it, fail and come back the next day and bite the bullet, then take pictures of it with Kanaria cosplayers and finish it with a parody sketch of Vita hammering down on Nana or something equally nonsensical. Now multiply that by fifteen or something.
Yet at the same time, American-style anime cons are not for everyone. Even as fans, we cling onto different ideas of what it means as a fan, what motivates us to act like a gaggle of idiots, and what makes us shell out the big bucks. Even what makes memorable memories vary from one fanboy to another. I respect that.
To that end, that is why I love fangirls at cons. Don’t get me wrong; more often than not they are bringers of headache and long waits. They’re the kind of people who would wait 8 hours in line, overnight, for a Seki Tomokazu autograph (and well worth it, I say). They may also be kind of self-absorbed and singled minded to the extent that they behave like a scary mob of … fangirlness in which levels everything in their path on their way to rush from one line to the next. It’s hard to talk nice about fangirls unless you’re just as equally self-absorbed to care. However, in the context of an anime con in the US, they fit right in.
Especially at the right types of musical venues.
I’m not sure how many people are at all aware the plight LOAE and his cohorts had in order to “get it right” for a certain variety of musical guests. Some concerts are the type you sit down and listen, like PLAY (I would’ve, could’ve, didn’t)–an orchestral rendition of pop video game music hits. Some concerts are the type you want to stand up sometimes (Kanno Yoko‘s piano interludes). Some concerts have seats but you’re not suppose to use them if you can help it (Yoko Ishida), and the rest you are just suppose to stand (any kind of Jrock, or MUCC for this con).
When we have these strange yet wonderful Japanese musical guests at anime cons, the problem is this: a lot of people at the con, and attending the musical events, just don’t know what sort of a show it may be. Unless you live near a major city, too, you are probably a tad shy in terms of concert-going experience. It’s not like going to a movie theatre–most people don’t hit up musical venues in their spare time unless you live in real proximity to them, or chase concerts like, well, a fangirl. A two-tier problem.
On top of the fact that an anime con is really a conglomeration of many kinds of fans with many different kinds of programming, shy of bands like L’arc~en~Ciel, you will really only be reaching a very specific audience segment. Even artists like Yoko Ishida or other more “mainstream fanboy” is going to shoot short of gathering the right kind of crowd. The MUCC concerts at Otakon this year are a good demonstration of this problem, and partially, the solution.
1. The right venue. Just to get it out of the way, the Powerplant sucks–to walk to it requires going around some really seedy parts of Inner Harbor, plus this is still probably the Hottest. Otakon. Ever so I really wanted to spare both my back the heat, and my feet the wear–it’s about a 15-minute powerwalk. Both times I did it I was doing it upstream of a bunch of Yankee fans, too. Generally a blah experience. Still, a proper musical venue is a must. I remember seeing a bunch of punk kids at ACen’s SID concert. No. Even worse was BOA (the UK band) at Otakon back in 2000. No no no. You need the right venue like Ram’s Head for a band like them. It REALLY makes a HUUUUUUUUGE difference.
2. The crowd. Friday night’s MUCC show with Nana Kitade opening was probably MUCC’s best performance out of the two. They were high and mightily powerful, and probably not exhausted yet. But the crowd on Saturday was about 10 times easier to work with. Part of the cause, I imagine, was because of Nana Kitade. She draws a radically different crowd, although I think some fangirls do like her as well. While I may be a gothloli fan, I don’t really like gothloli culture at all, and she’s all about that. I’d say about half of the crowd was into the show overall during MUCC’s gig, and the other half were just there. The hardcore fangirls took the lead and there were even some mild moshing, but it’s nothing compared to Saturday’s crowd. People were broken in, the fans were more organized, and people who can’t bother with cheering just didn’t go through the added effort to come to the show again.
3. The repeated showing. Having two separate shows probably helped sifting through the fans as well as giving everyone a chance to get familiar in terms of what to do at their shows. The second show may be a lot more tiresome for the artists, it was just a better fan response. I think just between Friday and Saturday Kitade’s fanbase at the con doubled, so go her. It probably helps that her hair didn’t get tangled up with the guitar the second day.
In that conventions in the US have been getting musical guests for some time now, these considerations are nothing new. I’m well aware that cons have bigger worries and other restraint too, making these things simply not possible sometimes. But it makes a huge difference, especially when we’re talking about a band that’s playing in a foreign language, from a foreign culture, and don’t have the resources to play the crowd like how a big shot stadium-like concert can.
I think for the rest of this week I’ll try to squeeze in as much Otakon-related entries as I can, so please look forward to that!