8 September 2010
HARAJUKU! Autumn Ball
The Harajuku Autumn Ball on 24th August was the latest installment of a popular Japanese theme night in London. It promised live music, karaoke zone, gaming lounge, Manga lounge, and competitions for the best dressed character.
Not having a cosplay outfit of my own, I embraced the Harajuku theme by aiming to combine as many styles as I could. Creating an outfit from mine and housemates' wardrobes and borrowing a blue wig for emphasis. (Though the neon legwarmers and deely boppers may give an indication of previous 80s fancy dress!). I did not feel out of place, there was a good turnout of Japanese themed costumes and outfits, including Naruto and Gothic Lolita. The buzz was added to by a few fashionistas circulating taking photos of outfits that took their fancy.
This is the first time the event has been held at Proud in Camden. The expansive venue is part of the 200 year old listed Horse Hospital in the heart of Camden market. There are two stage areas set either side of the entrance and then, through the larger of these, a heavy wooden door leading to the ‘stables’. A converted stable block, where stables have been transformed into individual booths with large TV screens and seating. It lends itself well to an eclectic night like this with numerous elements. The stables are fittingly named after famous race horses including Red Rum and Seabiscuit.
‘Desert Orchid’ was occupied by the gaming group DS London which hosted different games throughout the evening played on a large screen. Bomberman absorbing those coming and going through the night. Followed later by Super Street Fighter IV for the more hardcore competitive audience. Another booth was the JPOP listening lounge where the onus was on the individual to bring their own mp3s and play list. A cool idea which will hopefully be plugged more for the next event.
In addition to the stables was the Karaoke room, an intimate room with small stage for those wishing to share or inflict their renditions of songs which ranged from Celine Dion to Kings of Leon. This proved popular and seemed brimming with people all evening leaving when they could no longer take the heat.
The event was hosted by Criminal Records an independent label supporting a range of different bands and artists. There were two stage areas - one concentrating on indie groups with a contemporary sound, look and feel. Although this room had a fashionable trendy vibe and the music was engaging it did feel a little distant from the Harajuku theme of the evening.
The main stage area or ‘Geisha lounge’ showcased a variety of Criminal Records upcoming talent.
The lineup included:
Iraq; an indie pop band with clear influences, a cross between Blondie and No Doubt a band with a gutsy sound. I somehow managed to miss Fuzz Valentine, a band whose name spiked my curiosity and had been plugged as skittish pop whose single ‘Far’ had received extensive airplay.
The headliners The Kut, a three piece girl group who fully endorsed the Harajuku theme coming dressed to impress. Combined with their look their attitude and energy gave them true stage presence. The event promotion said; 'There's no gimmick - The Kut are a group of accomplished musicians, who play a mix of dark indie; in parts upbeat and at other times intense. Combining sultry vocals, kick ass guitar riffs, dubby bass and solid drumming, the songs vary in style, but maintain their Basement Rock sound throughout. Currently in the studio recording their debut album, 'Lies My Mother Told Me' for release late this year.'
In my opinion Mataniu are the ones to watch. 'An 8-piece experimental combo which showcases an amazing variety of sounds and influences that create the perfect backing for the unique songwriting and amazing vocal abilities of singing goddess Mataniu.'
Mataniu had an air of the unusual managing to be both poetic and glamourous. Vintage sounding vocals mixed with modern rhythmic electro beats and effects.
Broken Yolk clubnight said of them; 'North London’s Mataniu is the sound of a twinkling collision as 1920s Josephine Baker drifts down the street and meets the modern beat from a passing car.”
Overall, the Harajuku Autumn Ball was a great excuse to dress up, the theme of variety and mixing up styles was mirrored in the music lineup. The other elements added to the fresh and fun mood. I was a little disappointed that there were no Japanese bands included in the lineup, this would have made it a truly authentic Japanese experience.
Photos by Minh Ngu - Caged Eel Photography