m-flo presents “OTAQUEST LIVE” powered by LDH USA
Normally I don’t focus on the full name of a concert, but I’m going to make an exception here. On July 5th, Anime Expo and the Microsoft Theater were host to:
m-flo presents “OTAQUEST LIVE” powered by LDH USA
Let’s break that down. Headliners m-flo were putting on OTAQUEST LIVE, with assistance from LDH USA. I suspect you’ve already heard of m-flo, but if not, don’t worry. I’ll cover them in a bit.
In their own words, “OTAQUEST is your one stop destination for all of the latest otaku and subculture news straight from the heart of Japan.”
OK, good. We have a famous Japanese band and a Japanese news website working together with Anime Expo to put on a concert. But, what is an “LDH USA”? From their CEO Mori Mori:
“LDH USA will actively address all things being done in Japan. I want to deliver “Love Dream Happiness” to the world from all of that by opening up various ways such as music, clothes, eating and drinking, movies. LDH is now full of possibilities. For example, students of EXPG learn music making under Afrojack, there are various ways in education and development of human resources such as training of dance and performance by the world’s top leaders in LA and NY It is possible to create an environment that extends talent more than ever. In the field of entertainment, it is also true that there are many things that America can do in Japan alone. The possibilities extend to infinity. LDH USA wants to create a place to tell “Love Dream Happiness” even in the land of America.”
They have EXPG dance studio in New York (specializing in street dance) and Project Taro. Project Taro is designed to nurture and develop Japanese artists, such that they can achieve international success. For Project Taro, LDH is partnering with Avex.
They also have an incredible level of talent across numerous fields under their umbrella, which is why m-flo presents “OTAQUEST LIVE” powered by LDH USA had such an insane roster. (Editor’s note: Seriously. Click on that link and scroll down. It’s absurd.)
The line up for OTAQUEST LIVE:
Six hours would be required to give each of the artists a set. The concert was scheduled to go from 4 PM to 10 PM.
Hatsune Miku was in the house with Hachioji P kicking us off. The set was high-energy and a lot of fun. He toured various genres without any of the transitions, which proved to be jarring. If you want to get a sense of what it was like, well, it sounded a bit like this. By the time we got to Blue Star, the crowd was jamming along. It was a high bar to start the show.
Next up was YUC’e. I was unfamiliar with her music coming in, so I didn’t know what to expect. What I got was… Club Kawaii? Moe Music? Sweet Dubstep? See for yourself at her Bandcamp page. However you’d describe it, the crowd loved it, with Cinnamon Symphony being the particular favorite. Personally, it was my second favorite set, behind only m-flo.
Masayoshi Iimori brought an entirely different energy to the show. It was the kind of music you want to dance to at a Tokyo nightclub at 1 AM. And, frankly, it felt completely out of place. One of his stronger tracks is aptly named “Hardcore”, which is what his set was. You can check out Iimori’s music on his Soundcloud stage and get a feel for his set. Also, he’s part of the TREKKIE TRAX label. I highly recommend you check out their 2012-2015 mixtape. (Editor’s note: His m-flo remix was a nice touch.)
TeddyLoid got things back on track. He performed at Anime Expo in 2016 and 2017, and is a regular on the con circuit. His music went viral back in 2014, via ME! ME! ME!. It premiered at the 2014 Animator Expo, and was was a huge hit. That’s not to say I was prepared for him to show the video during his set (with accompanying stage dancers). Be warned, it’s both brilliant and NSFW. He later remixed it, with additional animation. For what it’s worth, my favorite of their collaborations is completely different stylistically.
PKCZ® (DJ MAKIDAI, DJ DARUMA, and VERBAL from m-flo) kicked off the second half of OTAQUEST LIVE. These mixmasters cast a wide net in their first US performance. A list of artists they’ve worked with:
- EXILE THE SECOND
- Sandaime J Soul Brothers
- EXILE SHOKICHI
- Hiroomi Tosaka
- DOBERMAN INFINITY
- Crystal Kay
- Mighty Crown
- METHOD MAN
oh… and Snoop Dogg (plus Yultron).
They sampled all the big names (Kendrick Lamar, Kill Bill, Evangelion and the biggest of all, Godzilla). It was another eclectic and fun set. Fun fact: they’re produced by EXILE HIRO, who also doubles as LDH president Igarashi Hiroyuki. Bow Down!
Crystal Kay only had 20 minutes so she performed a short set featuring Motherland and Boyfriend Part II. When VERBAL said he’d like to bring out his sister, the crowd knew what was up. As they said, “we’re family”. A short set, but an excellent one.
I tend to think of Yasutaka Nakata as the guy with the trippy music videos. Seriously:
- White Cube
- Crazy Crazy (with Charli XCX and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu)
He’s best known as the creator of Perfume and producer of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. He played such his as Fashion Monster and Pon Pon Pon, as well as a version of Ninja Re Bang Bang that I hope leaks online so people can see the video of the mouse copying KPP’s dance. Perfume’s Tokyo Girl is one of my personal favorites and it was cool to see it remixed as part of the set.
Nakata gave a fantastic and informative interview to Patrick St. Michael. I highly recommend you check it out if you want to learn more about his history or process.
It was now time for the headliners to take the stage. A bit of background here: VERBAL and ☆Taku (Taku Takahashi) formed m-flo with LISA as their singer. After a few years she decided to go solo. VERBAL has gone on the record saying that m-flo without LISA was like Guns N’ Roses without Axl Rose. LISA eventually returned to the group. Fifteen years later.
Seriously, check out this interview from J-MELO (it’s in English). (Editor’s note: They play MAKE IT BREAK IT five minutes in.)
Here’s a hugely abbreviated timeline
- come again (2001)
- LISA leaves (2002)
- REEEWIND! (with Crystal Kay) (2003)
- LISA returns (2018)
- No Question (2018)
Why am I skipping over a huge swath of time? Well, it’s not like m-flo were sleeping in:
- Planet Shining (2000)
- Expo Expo (2001)
- Astromantic (2004)
- Beat Space Nine (2005)
- Cosmicolor (2007)
- Square One (2012)
- Neven (2013)
- Future is wow (2014)
But it wasn’t the same without LISA. It was a long time between the tripod e.p. and the tripod e.p. 2 They’re celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2018. Seeing them all together on stage at AX was a big deal, no question.
Highlights of the m-flo set? gET oN and d.w.m were both fantastic. REEEWIND!, with Crystal Kay coming back out to sing was a special moment. YUC’e and Iimori joined them early in the set. Been so Long felt completely appropriate. No Question showed off their current style. Closing with Come Again was an inspired choice.
As for what’s next for m-flo? It’s Miller Time!
m-flo presents “OTAQUEST LIVE” powered by LDH USA was an absurdly good value. Six hours is a bloody long time though. In retrospect, it might have been better to allow patrons to leave and grab a bite to eat and then come back. That’s a technical issue for the Microsoft Theater to look into.
Thanks to Anime Expo and LDH USA for making this concert possible. Thanks to Kaori Suzuki for the concert photography.