By Norm Quarrinton
Last night, The Fillmore Silver Spring played host to BABYMETAL–the Japanese Idol-metal fusion band/pop culture phenomenon. It was stuffy, it was loud, and the drinks were reasonably priced. Fun times.
The excitement emanating from the (noticeably diverse) capacity crowd at The Fillmore, was just as much a testament to the charisma possessed by the gang of Japanese performers who were about to hit the stage, as it was to the expanding vibrancy of the area in which the concert was taking place. A very old, and fairly arbitrary border causes many D.C. dwellers to sneer at Silver Spring, despite the the fact that it’s clearly a burgeoning cultural hub because it has a Nando’s AND a Panera Bread! Anyway, the bulk of the aforementioned palpable excitement was emanating from the Fillmore’s lower level, which was packed with a mixture of tough looking metal-heads, and nerdy looking Japanophiles–several of whom appeared to be cosplaying. The upper level was mostly chaperones and older fans who I assumed were also cosplaying–except they were cosplaying as Capitals fans and Sons of Anarchy characters.
The allure of BABYMETAL is difficult to explain to anyone unfamiliar with “idol”, the genre/concept that originated in Japan. It’s essentially a performance style in which the choreographed and manufactured nature of the performer/s is intentionally explicit. Nobody in the Fillmore last night was wondering how BABYMETAL was formed. We know they didn’t meet each other in a seedy rock club, and we know they’ve never had to slum it–we don’t care. There’s something quite liberating about being able to enjoy the music of an unashamedly manufactured group consisting of three teenage, Japanese girls (Su-metal, Yuimetal, and Moametal–probably not their real names) and their kick-ass “backing” band.
You don’t have to be an avid fan to appreciate the production quality of the band’s records. Even casual listeners can tell that each song has been mixed to near perfection, and the results are exquisite. I was curious as to whether or not the band would be able to replicate this sound in a live setting, and I was overjoyed when it turned out they couldn’t. Concerts are ephemeral. Nobody wants to listen to live performances that sound exactly the same as the studio recordings–the imperfectness of live music is what makes it so engaging, and BABYMETAL were imperfectly perfect.
BABYMETAL is usually renowned for its extravagant live shows that feature pyrotechnics, special effects and bonkers choreography (check out footage from their now infamous Budokan show). Unsurprisingly, the Fillmore show was a little more stripped back–there wasn’t any pyro or crazy special effects, but it didn’t matter–the show was flawlessly produced. The choreography insanely meticulous, and the lighting was almost hypnotic. With slightly less emphasis being placed on the visuals, we were able to truly appreciate the band’s unique sound.
Our three heroines are all under 18, and there’s no logical explanation for how charismatic and talented they are. It would be too cynical to assume that they all have pushy stage moms as they genuinely seem to be motivated by a desire to entertain. And the artistic dexterity doesn’t stop there. It’s actually inaccurate to refer to Kami Band as a backing band. It does them a terrible disservice. Their presence is integral to BABYMETAL’s existence. Dressed as zombie/mental patients it was difficult to tell how old they were, but they’re easily as tight as any metal band on the planet. They were even given the stage to themselves for one song and they fucking owned it.
BABYMETAL’s set started just after 8:30 p.m. and they pretty much killed it all the way through. The energy seldom dwindled, but whenever it did, the crowd seemed grateful to be given an opportunity to catch its breath. It was quite bizarre to see so many different types of humans under one roof enjoying the same band. I felt like I’d been teleported to another dimension, where the categorization of people into different subcultures didn’t exist. We were all just humans, and we were all having fun.