“Nihonggo desu ka?” was a question posed to me by one guy to my left in the crowd. He has probably been asking me several questions before that, but I was too busy to pause and reply, since I was trying my darn best to shoot SNH48, an idol group based in Shanghai, franchised from the Japanese pop moneymaking entertainment juggernaut and cultural phenomenon that is AKB48.
I was buried six rows deep from the front row. Most of the people in front of me were about my height, hence I think I got a favorable position, considering I was there only an hour and a half before the performance. This was advertised in their Facebook group, to coincide with one of the Hongkou District’s Lantern Festival events, which fell on a Sunday. It was also a free gig, so even if there’s the fact that I don’t really enjoy the music much myself, I bet it was going to be a worthwhile experience, minus the usual cost in seeing these sort of things.
The actual taking-pictures part was hellish though. Armed with a newly bought (but used) 70-300mm zoom lens, I don’t think I’d be able to churn out any shots without it. Once the show started, it seemed that everyone in front of me suddenly grew, and I could not see the stage anymore, which was probably elevated by a mere foot, or even less. The only way for me to get any shots would be to fully extend my arms upwards, aim at the stage, angle the articulated LCD so I could see something, and shoot like a madman.
Alright, I admit to knowing more about the group that I’d care to. This helped, however, since 1) the gig will be only 30 minutes long, and 2) I can’t just aim at any random member of the group, and hope for the best. There were two that stood out for me: Dong Zhiyi, and the girl whose name was being shouted throughout the set, Tang Min.
There’s also this little known fact that I did try to get tickets to their debut performance last month. I inquired via email, using their English-language address, since they were expecting foreign visitors coming just to see the show. I was then informed that the tickets were sold out since late December of last year. This was for a group that hasn’t officially performed anything yet. One more bit? Yes, I do plan to watch their show eventually when the their regular theater show run starts. The question to pose here for the uninitiated to the idol universe would be: What?! See, the lead group in the franchise has their own theater where they hold shows daily. I think they had to resort to doing ticket ballot sales instead of just straight-out buying one because of the incredible demand. They also have other theaters in Japan, where their ‘sister’ groups perform as well. I don’t think the SNH48 theater has been completed yet.
I wasn’t able to check what time the show ended. All I knew when it was over was that my body ached, my feet were painful to use walking, and I just had to get out of the most little space I found myself in, and make my way through the now 2-3 hundred thick crowd, the sooner, the better.
There were no regrets about not being at the gig venue earlier to get a good spot. Precious time like that is reserved for my girls.