Fun fact: I barely go out at all when I’m here in San Francisco. I like my Xbox and HDTV waaaaay too much. But when in Tokyo – which is where I spent most of June this summer – I’m continually running around, bugging people if they “know of any events”, and hightailing it to whatever weird scene or place makes itself available. Case in point: Heavy Pop Vol. 16, a head spinning mix of crazy outfits, Anison delights, packed with assorted jpop and techno highlights.
Heavy Pop, organized by Ray Ochiai, is a regular club party event with strong ties to the Harajuku scene. To wit: a typical Heavy Pop event will see lolitas getting down with cyber kids, goths, decora, and other varieties of fashion monsters. While the event was open to the public, my invitation to Heavy Pop Vol. 16 came from a girl named Merupan I’d met a few months earlier at a gallery opening where artist Hiroyuki Takahashi’s work was on display. Turned out Merupan was an Anison DJ and was going to be spinning at Heavy Pop while I was in town. I looked at the flier below and figured I had to go…
Some other friends and acquaintances were on the bill, including Raveman, he of dark wave duo Aural Vampire, and The Lady Spade who have performed at Anime Maturi and whom I’ve interviewed before. So I shotgunned a sugar free Red Bull and made for a tiny dark club called HELL’S BAR in Tokyo’s Sangenjaya ward. Below is my video report on what when down….
My first impressions were: practically everyone seemed to know each other. Despite the various fashion and music tribes present at Heavy Pop, it was still a very tightly knit scene. This inclusive vibe is pretty rare. Subcultures can be extremely exclusive in Tokyo sometimes, and you’ll often know right away from glares and stares if you’ve strayed too far outside your boundaries, which tend to be even thicker than normal if you’re a wacky foreigner. But the denizens of Heavy Pop were totally open to whoever, or whatever, wandered in the door.
With a lot of mingling going on, the dancing and DJ-ing sometimes felt secondary to surreal socializing among the attendees and shop stall staff that filled the floor with spooky handmade goods for sale. The proceedings could be stop-start. Just as the music threatened to fully take over, the scene would switch to a fashion show, a live performance, a mini-birthday celebration complete with candles and cake. The vibe was slightly bittersweet throughout: the HELL’S BAR venue was set to close down for good after this event, even though Heavy Pop continues to be a thing, the vibe of something changing and coming to an end was palpable. The family feel reached its apex when everyone gathered together to take a group portrait to commemorate this installment of Heavy Pop. And hey, what do you know, I wound up in the picture as well…
So yeah, while Anison and otaku culture didn’t play a central part in the proceeding – aside from Merupan’s spirited DJ set – experiencing the underground eco-system of Heavy Pop was totally worth the trip.
ATG and Lotta from THE LADY SPADE