Moi dix Mois at the 15th Wave-Gotik-Treffen

live report - 12.01.2006 07:00

Report of the band's live performance at the world's largest Goth festival, Leipzig, Germany, 4 June 2006

Mana, the leader and creative force behind Moi dix Mois, Malice Mizer and the Gothic Lolita fashion label Moi-même-Moitié, was one of the first J-Rock artists to attract the attention of the European Goth scene. This wasn't surprising, given that both musically and aesthetically the eccentric guitarist blends almost seamlessly into the Gothic universe.

Even so, Moi dix Mois' performance at the Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig, the world's largest Goth festival with 20,000 visitors every year, was a bit of a gamble. Despite cover stories in several well established Goth magazines, Japanese artists are still considered outsiders in the scene and Moi dix Mois were making their debut as headliner. More importantly, J-Rock is increasingly portrayed as a mainstream trend by the European Media and the Goth scene, which, like all subcultures, fears commercialisation and a sellout of its ideals, views such trends with deep suspicion.

The band was visibly nervous when, at 1.00am in the morning, they took to the stage as the "Midnight Special", directly after Deine Lakaien, one of the most respected and musically brilliant acts of the scene. Deine Lakaien had filled the large Agra hall to breaking point and after their performance, despite the late hour, most people stayed on to check out the guests from the Land of the Rising Sun.

In typical Moi dix Mois fashion, they opened with their fastest and most aggressive songs, starting with deus ex machina. The contrast between the introspective music of Deine Lakaien and Moi dix Mois' energetic Gothic Metal could have hardly been greater and, as a result, the audience spontaneously changed, as is often the case at festivals where bands with different musical styles share the same stage: around one quarter of the audience left during the first three songs. However, the remaining crowd still numbered several thousand and, lured by the music, more and more people wandered in from outside until the hall was packed again.

As expected, Moi dix Mois played mostly songs from their most recent album, Beyond the Gate, but also slipped in some old fan favourites such as Forbidden, Perish and The Prophet. Band and audience needed some time to warm to each other. From the puzzled look on the musicians' faces when this huge crowd, instead of cheering and going wild, watched the goings-on onstage intently but in silence and applauded politely after every song, it was obvious that they had never before performed in front of a Gothic audience. The turning point came when Moi dix Mois introduced a new ballad, which gave vocalist Seth the opportunity to demonstrate the full extent of his considerable talent. All around, people listened in awe as the heart-rending tremolos brought tears to their eyes. When Moi dix Mois then switched back to more aggressive material, the crowd reacted with enthusiasm and many even raised their hands to form a devil sign –- a gesture usually frowned upon amongst Goths.

Encouraged by the positive reception, the musicians gradually overcame their inhibitions until they were bustling all over the stage. Despite wearing his customary platform boots, Mana climbed on top of the huge speaker boxes in front of the stage, posing proudly and brandishing his guitar, while Seth and K fought jokingly over the microphone. By the end of the set, both musicians and audience were in a celebratory mood and finally the crowd clamoured for an encore.

Normally Moi dix Mois, like most Japanese bands, impose a strict photo ban at their shows but at the WGT taking pictures is allowed, and so the band had been virtually blinded by flashlights when they first entered the stage. Now Mana and K took revenge as they strutted back in for the encore, armed with a handycam and a digital camera, and "shot back". The band was already over their time limit and so they only played one more song before waving good-bye to the loudly cheering audience. When finally only Mana remained onstage, posing and pirouetting with his Jeune Fille held overhead while coaxing an impromptu solo out of her, the entire audience applauded and cheered him on. Then he, too, disappeared and the crowd began to shout for another encore but by now it was past 2.00am in the morning and the hall had to be cleared.

All in all, both band and organisers should be satisfied with Moi dix Mois' WGT debut. CDs and merchandise sold out within minutes after the concert – no mean feat considering that, until recently, most of those present had never even heard of this band. Of course, the next challenge will be to reconcile this new audience with their core J-Rock fan base, which won't be easy, but if Moi dix Mois want to realise their full potential they will have to find a way.
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