4 Unpredictable and Memorable Performances From The Strawberry Stage of @JAM EXPO 2015
Making it to the Strawberry Stage of @JAM EXPO is a checkpoint in the careers of the hottest rising acts of the idol scene in Japan. For some it may be the first time for them to step on to such a large stage, as it is usually reserved for groups like AKB48 or Morning Musume and superstar artists like Namie Amuro and Ayumi Hamasaki. With such a big stage, some groups may have no idea how to use the space and stick to their usual performance but, here are 4 groups that took advantage of a stage that allowed for them to get up close and personal with the fans.
Hime Kyun Fruit Can 11:40am – 12:00pm
Having spent the 2 days before @JAM EXPO celebrating their 5th anniversary at TSUTAYA O-EAST, it was no wonder that main vocalist Mai Okamoto had a slight hoarseness to her voice as Hime Kyun Fruit Can opened with their hard-hitting indies classic “Killer Tune”. Despite this, her dancing was as powerful as ever as she and the other members swung their arms and shuffled across the stage of Yokohama Arena.
Sakurako Tanio yelled for the audience to get more excited as Okamoto took a sip of water for her throat before Hime Kyun Fruit Can continued with “Andante”. A song where the other 4 members share the vocals more equally, it took on a heavier down-tuned quality due to the lower registers being being sung this day.
Shifting to another song from their indies period “Strawberry KISS”, Hime Kyun Fruit Can kept the fans bouncing up and down as they smiled cutely while they sang from the bottom of their hearts.
Midway through “Seize the days!”, Mayuri Okamura and Yuria Kikuhara took off running along the ring of the arena, both with a group of fans trailing behind them on the lower level. Waving to fans on the upper levels, they continued down into the floor area before returning to the stage to finish the song.
In contrast to their 2014 Strawberry Stage performance, this was not a nonstop set. Mai Okamoto expressed the group’s happiness at being invited to @JAM EXPO again and hoped that Hime Kyun Fruit Can would also continue to grow as the event has before introducing their final song, their latest single “Kakusei Mirai” (release date: September 9). Joining hands and bowing to the Back to the Future 3 theme song at the end of their set as they always do, several hundred fans in the arena could be seen returning the gesture, displaying their thanks for an unforgettable Hime Kyun Fruit Can performance.
1 Killer Tune
3 Strawberry KISS
4 Seize the days!
5 Kakusei Mirai
Kiyoshi Ryujin 25 12:25 – 12:45pm
Male and female voices mixed together in the dark as they shouted for their favorite members of the harem-themed idol group, the loudest shouts, as usual, were for Ryujin. A spotlight shined down on “Ryujin-sama” as he paused for a moment before growling out a gruff “Omae to Love♡Boxing” while striking a Saturday Night Fever pose to get things warmed up.
All 7 members unleashing near head high kicks, Ryujin let out another deep shout and the formation criss-crossed the stage. Yuuka (#7) poked him playfully in the belly, Misaki (#4) wrapped her arm around him, and Momoka (#2) tapped his cheek as they walked by. Although considered an idol group, Kiyoshi Ryujin 25’s performances seem to have more in common with a Las Vegas show.
Momoka (#2), Ami (#3), Misaki (#4) picked up Ryujin on their shoulders to kick off “A・B・C Ja Gutto Konai!!”, Sakino (#1) doing a cartwheel as the foursome made their way to centerstage. Setting their beloved husband down, the wives danced around the stage robotically and hopped around like jiangshi (Chinese hopping ghouls) while shooting out imaginary Ultraman beams into the audience.
The stage went dark and when the lights came back on, the elusive Ryujin was nowhere to be seen! His 6 wives introduced themselves, each receiving loud cheers from the fans. Like a ninja, Ryujin appeared from the shadows as the wives led the catchy “sukebe” chant that begins the jazzy big band number “Mr.PLAY BOY…♡” which had the members box-stepping and twisting all over the stage like a production out of the swing era.
Ryujin couldn’t help but laugh to himself as the audio skipped a beat during the intro of “Will♡You♡Marry♡Me?”, shouting for the audience to get excited one last time! Making his way onto the walkway circling the floor area, Ryujin kept singing, pausing to stop and dance and high five fans as he passed by as his wives shook their heads and pointed at their impulsive husband. As Ryujin took a short rest in one of the VIP seats near one of the entrances, several male fans jumped over a guardrail in order to get closer. Ryujin cupped the cheek of a young man in a hat and said to him, “Ore itsudemo matteruze!” (I’m always ready), before he jogged back to the front stage to scoop up Ami in his arms and bring the performance to an end.
2 A・B・C Ja Gutto Konai!!
3 Mr.PLAY BOY…♡
Yurumerumo! 12:45pm – 1:05pm
Returning to Yokohama, this time at full power (Chibo was largely absent from the MV for “1! 2! Kung Fu” filmed in Yokohama Chinatown), Yurumerumo! took the stage in their China dresses but, they didn’t stay there for long. Younapi, Chibo, and Ano ran down the stairs to high five the fans before starting things off with “Nigero!”. As if she were participating in a relay, Chiffon made her way towards the stairs just as Ano and Younapi returned, taking a short jog along the front of the stage and yelling for the arena to get excited.
Chibo, who had been absent from previous performances due to schoolwork, looked slightly tentative on stage but, the fans shouted out warmly to her and welcomed her back. The members of Yurumerumo! grabbed folding paper fans for the booming bass and sparkly synths of “OO (Love)”. Known for her lack of motivation during lives and unpredictable behavior in the past, Ano seemed to be giving effort to her dancing, and even smiled a few times (!) as she danced along with the members fluttering their fans gracefully.
After managing to keep themselves on stage for one song, Yurumerumo! were back in the aisles for their final song “Natsu on Blue”. Ano took off down the stairs while singing her opening lines, skipping as she high fived the fans in the standing area on the floor. Next was Chiffon, taking a longer lap through the outer edge of the floor. Younapi sprinted through the VIP area before Chibo finally ventured out for a lap as well. Ano ran back out and she and Younapi climbed up onto the chest high rail for the center standing area while singing and urging the fans to get more excited. As hoped for, Yurumerumo! delivered another exciting and unpredictable performance that made use of the space of Yomohama Arena!
2 OO (Love)
3 Natsu on Blue
UPUPGIRLS (KARI) 6:40pm – 7:00pm
Coming from a tour date in Shiga on the 27th and performing the next day at @JAM EXPO x Idol Koushien in Tokyo, UPUPGIRLS (KARI) were still going strong when they hit the Strawberry Stage right before the closers Dempagumi.inc. Rushing on to the stage right as their overture began playing, UPUPGIRLS (KARI) wasted no time to make their presence known. Ayano Sato’s voice called out to the fans and the members jumped up when their names were announced.
Slipping into formation Konatsu Furukawa leaned back and yelled for the audience to get crazy along with them as they flailed, skanked, and chopped their way through “Appaare”. Lining up diagonally to the right of Akari Saho, the other 6 members scraped their shoes across the stage like bulls preparing to charge.
Pen lights could be seen bouncing up and down as UPUPGIRLS (KARI) kicked things up several notches with the explosive “Zenryoku! Pump UP!!”, skipping from side to side of the spacious stage while waving their fists. The floor of Yokohama Arena trembled as fans jumped up and down in sync with the 7 members on stage for the following song “Jumper”. As always, Konatsu Furukawa got the most height off the stage due to her unusual technique.
For their last song “Uppercut!”, UPUPGIRLS (KARI) did something that only they could do, they performed the song while running around the arena! Of course this lead to their vocals being bumpier than normal but, is there any other group that would even attempt to do such a thing? It was more like watching a track and field event instead of a performance at a large scale music festival as UPUPGIRLS (KARI) kept circling around and high fiving the fans. Amazingly, Ayano Sato managed to give the parting message to the audience without passing out, and after a brief rest, all of the members jogged off stage while professing their admiration for Dempagumi.inc.
2 Zenryoku! Pump UP!!
It has been written before that idol groups need something extra in a time where there are so many different groups active in Japan. This point becomes extremely relevant in the case of giant events like @JAM EXPO and Tokyo Idol Festival. With so many established and promising performers spread out over multiple stages, deciding on who is worth making the effort to see becomes increasingly difficult. There is no questioning the popularity and performance ability of those invited to perform on the Strawberry Stage but, the question of who will be remembered by even those who might not be fans is a different issue altogether.
Hime Kyun Fruit Can Official site: http://himekyun.jp/
Kiyoshi Ryujin 25 Official site: http://www.kiyoshiryujin.com/25/
UPUPGIRLS (KARI) Official site: http://www.upupgirlskakkokari.com/
Yurumerumo! Official site: http://ylmlm.net/
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