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In 2022, Kouki, the vocalist of D=OUT, graced the upstairs Nekocon ballroom, accompanied by the renowned guitarist HIZAKI (Jupiter, Versailles). However, for Nekocon 2023, the concert was relocated to the first floor, providing better accessibility and a more suitable concert space. Not only was the lighting better suited for a concert, but the concrete floors also provided more powerful acoustics than last year. We felt the bass radiating through the bottoms of our shoes.
In terms of Nekocon’s attendance, the smaller capacity of the convention contributed to a more intimate and accessible experience. Securing a decent viewing spot was painless, and the standing room in front of the elevated stage provided excellent vantage points.
Flanking the stage were two large projector screens that ensured even the seated audience could see the show. There were also vibrant LED screens on stage, where colorful visuals accompanied the music.
The spacious venue, thoughtful setup, and privileged view provided an experience surpassing the expectations of a typical Japanese live house. Add to that the intimate English emcee sessions, and it truly felt like something you could only experience overseas at a convention.
During both Friday and Saturday, the exclusive session duo delivered a sincere introduction in English. Before they could even introduce themselves, fans in the audience were already calling their names, causing them to smile. In our interview with Yugiri, he mentioned feeling nervous about how he would be received at the event but was pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome.
Both members donned furisode kimonos, with Yugiri in vibrant red and SARSHI in deep indigo blue. SARSHI was particularly creative in styling the traditional garment. By utilizing a black silk obiage—an accessory typically used to secure obi on women’s kimono—he was able to tie back one of his long, flowing sleeves, so it wouldn’t interfere with his guitar playing.
Despite the language barrier, Yugiri delivered heartfelt emcee sessions in English, forging a bond with the audience. Before the start of the second concert on Saturday, he energized the crowd by belting out a few lines from American rock band Bon Jovi’s anthem Living on a Prayer. The audience joined in without restraint, making both musicians grin with delight.
While SARSHI tended to be more reserved during the emcee sessions, he stumbled upon a delightful discovery. Simply uttering “kyun” and forming a heart shape with his fingers prompted an instant ripple of joy through the audience. The gesture, symbolizing a heart throbbing, resonated across language barriers.
A vitalizing kickoff
The set burst into action with the song Fujiyama, the call echoing through the concert hall, “Are you ready?!”.
Yugiri wasted no time showcasing his showmanship, delivering powerful high-range vocals. SARSHI juggled the roles of lead guitarist and tech wizard, skillfully mixing the backing track from his laptop.
Fujiyama exuded a vitalizing aura, much like its namesake, Mount Fuji itself. The echoing chorus ramped up the audience for an electrifying performance.
Next up was Dandelion, a song that holds a special place in DaizyStripper’s history. Released on February 13, 2008, Dandelion was the band’s inaugural single. Including it in the setlist tugged at fan’s heartstrings, as a nod to a pivotal moment in the band’s journey.
The nostalgia extended beyond the music. Early in the set, Yugiri and SARSHI delighted the audience with a dose of visual kei fan service. Yugiri leaned in, giving SARSHI a playful peck, sparking a scream of delight and surprise from the crowd. It was a moment that transported everyone back to the heyday of oshare kei—where the music was uplifting, and bands thrived on spreading joy to their audience.
From anime to ballads
The setlist was dynamic and diverse, weaving a narrative in melody.
The iconic track Dandelion flowed into Sunday Driver, followed by Zetsubou no Freesia. Yugiri warmly introduced the latter, a song renowned as one of the ending themes for the long-running anime series “Yu-Gi-Oh!”.
While Yugiri and SARSHI only performed DaizyStripper songs this weekend, it’s worth noting that SARSHI has also composed an anime theme song before. One of SARSHI’s bands, HERO performed the song Te no hira, which served as the opening theme for season 12 of the adventure anime hit Fairytale.
From there, the band pivoted into the delicate songs Hoshizora to kimi no te, and Amaoto no Waltz.
Amaoto no Waltz, meaning “waltz of the sound of rain” in English, is a ballad enveloped in the embrace of romantic strings. It left a lasting impression on us throughout the weekend with its moving composition and vocals.
The bass, notably elevated for this performance, resonated through the hall, pulsing like a heartbeat. Adding to the charm was the song’s distinctly Japanese melody. It set it apart from the other rock-driven compositions and added layers to the musical tapestry. Last but not least, it was a breath of fresh air punctuating the set, allowing the audience to pause and soak in their internal reactions.
After the rain
Following the gentle ballad, Yugiri introduced the next song in the set, Hanareta toki ni ai ha. The vocalist explained the concept of the song as “Distance makes the love grow”, referencing the well-known English saying “Distance makes the heart grow fonder”.
This song seamlessly flowed into the next, Tresor. As Yugiri revealed in our later interview, “There’s a link between those two songs, lyrically. In Hanareta toki ni ai ha, it’s like the lyrics of Tresor have grown up”.
Similar to many Jrock bands, DaizyStripper has an official fan club with the distinctive name “Tresor”, (トレゾア) meaning “treasure” in French. The next song in the set, appropriately titled Tresor, was crafted with deep affection for DaizyStripper’s fans.
Yugiri, speaking sincerely during the emcee session, explained that his fans, including those present that day, are his personal “treasures”—thus inspiring the name of the song.
Voices in unison
The performance reached its climax with three final songs: Kyuso Nekokami, Decade, and Kibou no Kakera -shiny days-.
In Decade, the crowd echoed the resonating bridge, their voices harmonizing in unity. This spirited call-and-response interaction carried through to the final song, Kibou no Kakera -shiny days-.
Towards the end of Kibou no Kakera -shiny days-, Yugiri took center stage, singing the main hook of the chorus acapella. He prompted the audience to sing it back, and in response, a swell of voices echoed, “Oh, you are my shiny, shiny days”. Clearly moved, Yugiri allowed the audience to carry on singing, standing at the edge of the stage.
After listening for a few refrains, he resumed the chorus, bringing the song, and the concert, to a powerful close.
In a heartfelt closing statement, Yugiri told the audience, “You all are my US treasure—and my shiny days”.
We hope you enjoyed reliving the Nekocon concerts with us! The setlist is provided below—the sets were the same for both Friday and Saturday’s events.
If you’re still fondly reminiscing about Nekocon, check out our exclusive interview with Yugiri and SARSHI! From their visual kei journey to musical advice and Yugiri’s favorite cosplay, dive into the discussion here.
- Sunday Driver
- Zetsubou no Freesia
- Hoshizora to kimi no te
- Amaoto no waltz
- Hanareta toki ni ai wa
- Kyuso nekokami
- Kibou no kakera -shiny days-