It’s pretty established fact that I live in an Indie bubble. My weekend at this years Reading Festival pretty much revolved around seeing The Libertines and Peace. I spent most the festival dressed in a red coat for Christ sake! So what does a festival goer do when there’s no decent indie bands to go and catch? Well in my situation you let a bunch of fools (aka work colleagues) dictate your viewing choices. A bit of Flatbush Zombies here, a little bit of Babymetal there.
It’s an odd situation trying to make sense of other genres in general. But what do you do when said act is a totally batshit insane blend of two genres? Babymetal are essentially a trio of J-pop teenagers thrown (pretty easily considering their petite size) in-front of a very heavy metal band. How much of it is a marketing gimmick and how much of it is fuelled by a genuine love of metal is a complete unknown.
Coming onstage to a Star Wars style voiceover telling some absurdest tale about foxes and metal missions it was pretty clear that perhaps my hangover hadn’t subsided…then I realized I wasn’t drinking the previous night and I rather freaked a shit ton.
So the band took to the stage with a thumping metal noise in the background. And then they opened their mouths. We all know laughing gas is a big thing at festivals now (WHY?), but these girls seemed to have been inhaling as much helium as they could without turning into actual balloons.
The high pitched nightmare continued as some Japanese lyrics burst out and the girls moved around to some absurdly 90’s pop-esque choreography…then there’s the adapted devil horns. As explained kindly by my editor (who loves them), their version of the horns are essentially in honour of a fake fox god that they believe sent metal to earth. Come again?!
That said it was a great laugh, in that sort of way that weirdness normally is. It’s pure escapism. Is it metal? Is it J-pop? Don’t ask me you pesky bunch! I wouldn’t have a blinker of a clue. But the fact there’s some strange amalgamation of Metal, J-Pop and trippy LSD foxes means that you either have to laugh or cry… After some debate I chose to laugh.
The set finished and it was clear by the crowd congregated that these 3 girls had some real devoted fans, and I started to try and dissect why. There’s no reason in my head that made it apparent. But I guess they fit in with the Pokemon, J-pop and Anime boom of recent years.
Things took an even crazier turn later on in the media tent when the girls conducted interviews with a large group of assistants powdering their noses and adjusting their hair while these miniature porcelain dolls answered pre translated questions to the congregated masses. I saw some real big names enter the tent, none brought such a surge of press interest.
In contrast, The Mini Band opened The Pit the same morning with a secret set. The group who made instant infamy by covering Metallica so well were only 12-14 years of age, putting them relatively close to the years of the Babymetal girls. On one side you had a truly inspiring story of some pre-teens getting organically popular because of a genuine love of the metal genre and an insanely competent level of musicianship. On the other we have a music industry export who probably won’t have the same members in three years time. These girls have literally traded everything in for that glimpse of mega fame, and once they don’t fit the Babymetal image that they helped create they will be moved on to the big K-pop convention in the sky.
I know what scenario I’m more comfortable with…