I had never bought a VIP concert ticket and I had never missed class to see a concert, but I decided to do both those things just this once. I am not condoning this seemingly reckless spending and academic irresponsibility because mostly, I had never felt like it was worthwhile to do either of those things… that is until I found out Japanese pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was performing in New York City for the first time. I will be the first of many to tell you that it was worth every penny.
Kiriko Takemura, known by her stage name Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, or Kyary for short, is a Japanese Harajuku fashion icon turned pop star. She adopted the name Kyary, the Japanese version of the name Carrie, after classmates called her that because of her love of western culture. Ironically, she is one of the most stereotypically Japanese pop stars according to western perception. (Think Saturday Night Live’s JPop Funtime Now) After having a fashion blog, she began modeling for Japanese magazines such as Kera!. Kyary has been heavily associated with the Japanese brand 6% Dokidoki designed by Sebastian Masuda who also created the set for her hit single “Pon Pon Pon” which became a YouTube sensation, going viral and acquiring just under 48 million views to date.
Despite that Kyary is open about the fact that she does not write her own music, the lyrics and upbeat nature of her tracks suit her personality. Her songs cover a wide range of topics including putting on false eyelashes (“Tsukema Tsukeru”) and catching a train (“Girigiri Safe”) to ninjas in her most recent single “Ninjari Bang Bang.” Like “Pon Pon Pon”, Kyary’s music videos are notoriously over stimulating, as is her general persona. Consequently, so are many of her fans.
Kyary embarked on her 100% KPP World Tour in February. The tour included stops in Europe, Asia, and two performances in America- one in New York and one in LA. Fans from all over the United States made the trip to see Kyary’s first New York performance at the Best Buy Theatre. The girl who I stood next to drove 14 hours from St. Louis! There were even these two guys near me who had seen her show in LA 2 days prior. Some of her fans prepared a flashmob dance to “Tsukema Tsukeru” which gained the attention of Japanese news program Fuji TV who walked up and down the line of fans waiting several hours prior to the show and conducted interviews. This was not just a concert; it was also a fashion event. Waiting in line for this show was the closest thing to Harajuku, Japan that I had ever witnessed in America. Yes, even considering Anime conventions. Needless to say, there were a lot of interesting looks and remarks from Times Square passersby. While they were all shooting us stares, Kyary fans were making friends with each other. Never had I experienced people so happy while waiting hours for something. As anticipation increased while the wait time decreased, designer Sebastian Masuda walked by and received applause and cheers.
VIP allowed early admission and lucky for me, that included a spot front and center.
The screen on stage began playing clips of Kyary’s music videos in order of release and the audience was already singing along. When the video was over, Kyary’s dancers appeared on stage with Kyary herself to soon follow. I know for a fact that there were people in the audience who cried because they were so excited. No, I wasn’t one of them. She performed most of her popular songs, including her soon to be released single, “Invader Invader”, which, as expected, is about aliens.
Kyary spoke in mostly Japanese between songs. Although I am sure most of the audience did not understand what she was saying, they cheered anyway, making it difficult for the translator to get a word in. I go to see a lot of concerts, but I think this has been one of the most fun. Though there was a clear language barrier, it did not take away from the connection between Kyary and her audience. It felt like the whole venue knew all the words to her songs.
Kyary had 4 different costumes. The first was the dress from the “Furisodeshon” video, the second was a lavender princess looking dress, the fourth was a hot pink dress with colorful unicorn illustrations and the final costume was one of her tour shirts and a skirt, which she wore for the encore of “Tsukema Tsukeru”. During costume changes, they played videos of Kyary including clips from TV John, which is only available in Japan. During one costume change, they brought out someone in a Pamyurin, Kyary’s bunny character, costume and played information about it as it danced on stage. Though the stage setup was rather minimal with only some polka dot banners on the side, her performance, like all of her videos, was overstimulating just as expected.
Afterward, all of the VIP ticket holders had their 10-second meet and greet interaction with Kyary. Although it was a short exchange, many fans came prepared to shower her in gifts, many of them shark related because they are her favorite animal. Others took the photo opportunity as a chance to make hengao (strange face) with Kyary as she is famous for making silly faces in photos. While the meet and greet experience was short, my one real complaint was that there wasn’t enough room to dance.