It was a cold Saturday night, the peak of a drizzly, chilly Melbourne Winter. Outside the iconic Festival Hall, it looked incredibly dull; a dark grey sky turned into a dark night, an icy wind whipping from the bay. A line of people had wrapped their way around its concrete walls, huddled together, leaving a spectacular trail of glitter. In any other circumstance, lilac-coloured tutus and bejewelled kimonos might have caused a raised eyebrow or two; indeed, in stark contrast, their bright outfits, multi-coloured glow-sticks, and beaming smiles stood out as remarkably delightful, although curiously unusual. However, on this particular occasion, Melbourne was playing host to a very special guest. Marking her second and last Australian stopover as part of her Five Year Monster 2016 Tour, Harajuku icon and Japanese-Pop sensation, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu had come to the southern Australian city to play for her adoring fans.
It was the first time Melbourne fans had the opportunity to bear a first-hand witness to Kyary’s own unique musical stylings. Fortunately, the bitter wind did not quell the high spirits of those waiting to go into the venue. With doors open, everyone filed in, slow at first. However, before too long, the standing floor of the venue was packed full of people and not a spare seat could be found. Quite unlike outside, inside was a colourful, technicolour fantasy world. Altogether, the atmosphere was electric, and as time passed, excitement grew, so much so that it felt as if the roof might possibly pop.
I had never been to anything quite like it. Surely, I had never been to one of her concerts before, nor did I know what to expect. However, most assuredly, I knew that the next two hours was going to be something rather spectacular. From the outset, I was not disappointed.
Kyary quite literally jumped upon the stage, along with a quartet of brightly clad dancers and her infamous mushroom DJ. Opening with “Kyary ANAN”, “5iVE YEARS MONSTER” had nearly everyone within the audience, including the small groups of chaperoning parents, jumping up and down.
Regaining my own breath, Kyary effortlessly spoke to the audience, swapping between English and Japanese. It was in this moment that my own particular attention was arrested by her astonishingly pretty, bright-red, tulip-like outfit. It encapsulated everything that the music and style icon is known for, and was only further emphasised throughout her performance of fan favourites “Cherry BONBON”, “CANDY CANDY”, and “Furisodeshon”.
After a kaleidoscope-like video break and a dramatic costume change, Kyary came back on stage with a truly stellar performance of my own personal favourite, “Fashion Monster”.
Throughout the concert my mind was in three places. I was either entirely obsessed with her outfits, finding myself increasingly addicted to the beat of her songs, or utterly astonished by the remarkable energy that her and her back-up performers remained to sustain throughout the show. And remarkable it was – if her dancers were not jumping up and down, they were leaping across the stage, or twirling and spinning on the spot in movements that were altogether precise and perfect. Everything was executed professionally, including the elaborate stage and lighting design, and as the night progressed, the concert seemed to go from strength to strength. Fans were treated to performances of “Invader Invader”, “Saigo no Ice Cream”, “Mondai Girl”, and her latest catchy release “Sai & Co”; each song, in turn, was met with a huge reception of cheers and thunderous claps.
“It’s like the kind of music that kids would listen to if they went techno clubbing, isn’t it?”
Nearing the end of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s inaugural Melbourne concert, my companion turned to me with a great, entirely infectious, smile on his face, almost shouting in my ear over the rousingly loud music. I looked around; instantly, just by quickly glancing across the expanse of the room, it was easy to determine all the ways in which her music reached her fans, in all of their diversity. There were young children, wide-eyed and smiling on the back of their parents, their parents equally eager and interested; groups of young girls and boys mimicked the dance moves of those on stage, while others avidly waved their glow sticks; smaller groups of people had formed larger groups of people, all of different age-groups, genders, and identities. In the corner of the hall was a father and daughter, a young dark-haired girl in a bright pink party dress, who were twirling and spinning to “PONPONPON”.
And in the midst of this whirlwind of glitter, there was one thing that was common.
Everyone was smiling.
You could see joy emanating from everyone’s face. Together, we were joined by the truly unique experience that is Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Very truly, I had not experienced anything like it. In fact, Melbourne itself had probably experienced nothing quite like it, either.
Indeed, it was kind of like the music that kids would listen to if they did go techno clubbing, only in all the most spectacular ways; it was innocently joyful, infectiously addictive, and grin producing. It wasn’t dangerous or threatening. Nor did it harbour some larger message or political point of view. It was just fun. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and her own particular brand of sugar infused Japanese Pop brought nothing but utter happiness. I like to think that is quite remarkable, utterly significant, and entirely necessary.
“You know, I think you’re quite right,” I replied, arms in the air, hand clenched into monster claws, with a great big smile on my face as we all, old and new fans alike as a collective group, danced in unison.
Photos by Rebecca Houlden