Photos and article by Langen Goldstien
Sometimes doing this night after night does turn into a bit of a job. There are nights when I envy those people who just get home from their day job, make a nice dinner, and then just chill all night. Then there are nights when I am beyond honored to be able to have the job I do at night. It may be a lot and I may be perpetually exhausted and completely out of it but shows like the one on Thursday night at The Amsterdam Bar & Hall in Saint Paul make it all worth it.
I love the fact that going to a concert can transport you to another world. I feel like I’ve been across the entire globe (even though I’ve never left the country other than stopping in Canada once to go to the bathroom but that’s another story for another day) purely through the shows that I go to. I’ve been to Israel, France, Russia, Mexico, and now, Japan. I’m sure I’ve seen a Japanese act before but Thursday night was my first time witnessing the magic that is J-Pop.
The sibling genre to the buzzing K-pop scene, J-Pop is Japanese popular music. Okay, that was kind of a given but I figured it wouldn’t help to just get that out there. J-pop comes with its own brand of electronic-infused-hyperpop sounds and absolutely insane dance moves. Although I knew very little about this scene (or K-pop even if I’m being quite honest), after spending my Thursday afternoon watching videos of ATARASHII GAKKO! (the band performing on Thursday night), I knew that I was going to get a complete show if nothing else. I was enthralled by the videos I was watching and, for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t excited for my after-work nap, I was excited for the show. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed– ready to dive into a whole new world head first.
ATARASHII GAKKO! is a Japanese girl group that was formed back in 2015. They are one of those bands that challenges the norms of their own society in their own way. From their sound to their videos, you get this sense of ferocity and that translated perfectly onto the stage on Thursday night. The power of their voices is something that can not be ignored but it’s the power of their dancing that had me standing in the photo pit completely forgetting that I was supposed to be taking photos.
The members of ATARASHII GAKKO! are machines. No other way to put it. There wasn’t a moment throughout their twelve-song set and one-song encore where these ladies weren’t moving. These weren’t just simple moves either. The perfectly synchronized dancing was mesmerizing and, as if that wasn’t enough, they threw in some acrobatics just to spice things up here and there. The icing on the cake? None of the members seemed out of breath. Whereas I would be gasping for air, the four members of this group still found time to pose perfectly throughout the set giving fans one of those priceless photo ops that we all dream of.
This brings me to the next fascinating thing about the show on Thursday night– the fans. I didn’t know what to expect but I know I wasn’t expecting the wide array of audience members that I got. There were definitely some young kids who had come all dolled up in their best anime-styled outfits but there was also no shortage of older attendees. I was talking to a friend who works at this venue and she explained to me how J-pop is almost an extension of the anime scene so you get some people who are older but still addicted to their geeky anime days. It makes sense when you think about it and it also added this sense of admiration that radiated from the audience to the stage that was as deafening as the beats that were vibrating through the hall.
The audience didn’t let a single note or word pass them by. There were even people in the back who had clearly watched the music videos one too many times and had the balls to try and dance along to the infectious sounds. Although they didn’t have the stamina to keep up with the fast-moving set, I loved the fact that they were trying and loved how this was a connection that ATARASHII GAKKO! has with their audience.
Thursday night’s ATARASHII GAKKO! show was one of those shows where I was there but I wasn’t. I was so lost in everything going around me that I really don’t remember much of anything other than just being completely captivated. After taking photos, I made my way to the back of the sold-out audience just to take it all in. I bumped into that friend of mine who works at the venue and she just kind of chuckled. “Your face is the fact of a first-timer!” she joked. At first, I didn’t understand what she was talking about but then I became more aware of how badly my cheeks hurt from smiling ear to ear. She was right, I was giddy, I was excited, and, for the first time in a while, my mind had been blown.