On a cold, cloudy Friday night, a single high-strung Japanese rock band set the glistening crowd at Club Nokia ablaze. The crowd itself was ready to spontaneously combust on its own as it anxiously sat 20 minutes in anticipatory fervor. Fans waited at least three hours ahead of time to ensure a guaranteed spot in the mosh pit.
For the disappointed fans that were cut off from entering the first floor of Club Nokia, the second floor held a slightly promising aerial view of the band. Normally the second floor provides a better angle of the performer; however the venue filled up all the way to the far sides of the second floor, which blocks out half of the stage from sight. As the lights dimmed and darkness obscured the stage like an invisible black curtain, angry grumbles and excited shrill voices were drowned out by a wave of ear-numbing cheering and whistling.
One by one, the band took its place on the stage under a veil of shadows as the speakers thundered with the heavy bass of the introductory song. Prepared with horns and fist pumps, the crowd uncontrollably cheered when lead singer Taka sprang out on the stage edge to greet the sold out venue. To return the crowd’s enthusiastic cheering, ONE OK ROCK launched a flood of violent sound on the welcoming Los Angeles crowd. The band did not hold back; members gave their A-gameby opening the show with two of their most intense, head banging numbers which transformed the already restless full house into a fist-pumping goliath. For the next two hours, Club Nokia shook harder than a building undergoing liquefaction during an earthquake.
ONE OK ROCK’s discography includes many songs that combine both English and Japanese lyrics but, interestingly, the group’s style can be described as a blend of rock and post hardcore with a hint of screamo. During the band’s introduction, each member spoke in English, but eventually admitted they could only speak the English lines they had rehearsed beforehand. Even so, they wooed the crowd by showing off their knowledge of English innuendo by tastefully sliding in a “that’s what she said” joke before returning to their performance.
According to Taka, the band is known as ONE OK ROCK in the United States, whereas in Japan, it is known as One O’ Clock. The name refers to the time the band used to practice on weekends. The band noted that in the Japanese language, l’s and r’s sound the same, so they changed the “o’clock” to “o’crock” which later became the pun: “ok rock.” Anytime they ask, “What time is it?” the crowd is expected to say “one o’ clock!”
Surprisingly, the band felt comfortable with the Southern California crowd as all but one member donned casual clothing. Ryota, the group’s bassist, wore nothing but a low hanging pair of sweatpants and graced the crowd with his chiseled upper body. On the other hand, the band’s leader and guitarist, Toru, wore a conservative collared long sleeve T-shirt, black jeans and leather loafers. No matter what they wore, they all danced around the stage, encouraging a fervent continuation of high energy in the crowd. With high jumps off small stage step ladders with intermittent back and forth dashing, the band owned the stage as if it were their own garage practice room in Japan.
Friday’s concert marks one of the many Japanese musical performances in Los Angeles over the past six months. The sold out concert holds a promising outlook for future and upcoming Asian performers as more international artists play at bigger venues to larger crowds. Prior to ONE OK ROCK, Dir En Grey and Back-On both saw a huge crowd turnout that propelled a massive push to bring more Asian musicians to America. Another popular Japanese artist, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, is coming back for her second LA concert on Sunday Feb. 16.
The diverse age, gender and cultural turnout at these concerts exemplify the need for more visibility of international musicians as they prove to be just as popular as domestic musicians. Furthermore, these concerts provide an opportunity for fans of all backgrounds to come out and support their favorite band. An especially devoted fan held up Mexico’s national flag throughout the concert. A young boy intensely cheered with his mother on the edge of their seats on the second floor. He eventually ran out of steam, however. By the time the encore rolled around, he was lying exhausted as his mother still swayed left and right with her son in her arms.
Pleasing both old fans and new fans alike, the band played songs from their first massively successful album, “Niche Syndrome,” to their newest album, “Jinsei×Boku=.” But during one of the slower songs called “Be the light,” hardcore fans stuck out their lighters and joined in with the cellphone lit light show. This caused a small scuffle between the fans and security as more than one person had to be escorted out for unruly conduct. Aside from this minor blemish, the crowd engaged in no other extreme action other than mirroring the band’s head banging and hair flipping maneuvers.
In comparison to previous Japanese rock performers, ONE OK ROCK’s kickback song “The Beginning” was a surprise as the crowd expected to hear another body thrashing song before the night ended. Understandably, this last song was used to bring the concert to a full circle as the band intends on coming back to Los Angeles and that this show was only “The Beginning.” Of course, that was not their last song. The crowd relentlessly yelled “encore” in both English and Japanese until oscillated cheers reverberated throughout one’s veins. After the world’s longest minute, ONE OK ROCK jumped out of the sides and triumphantly waved their welcoming banner, full of well wishes by their endearing fans.
As homage to the many great rock bands before them, the band closed the night with their slow power ballad, “Wherever You Are.” The song promised the crowd that the band will return to Los Angeles in the future but until then, they will “always be by [our] side.” In the final chorus of the song, Taka showed off his singing prowess one last time as he tightly clenched his microphone and bellowed out a mighty “I love you L.A.!” while holding his F-sharp note for a lengthy 10 seconds. Strangers and friends alike put their hands up to the ceiling one last time and joined as a single entity that waved farewell like a parent to a child who is leaving for a bright, prospective future.
Even though the show ended on a subdued song that left the crowd waving their hands high to the strum of the electric guitars, exhausted fans jumped and wailed at the night sky. Some mustered up energy from their depleted bodies to push and shove to form a line in front of the merchandise booth. Overall, the show left fans wondering how they just spent two hours continuously jiving to one of the best rock concerts of their lives.