Muses

One Saturday night at a photography club gathering, I showed people in the group a book of photographs I took myself, of a young, female-fronted band I decided to follow on some gigs. I was just starting to take photography seriously, and was frustrated I can’t be as good as I want to be. Tapping into live band photography was something that seemed worthwhile that time, more than a decade ago. A veteran photojournalist I looked up to asked if I was in love with the girl in the band, the vocalist. Of course, I said no. It was the truth, but it was a question I may have been too quick to answer, a word of denial to ignore this fog of confusion of why I was even asked that, and that didn’t even merit attention.

It was apparent that no subject on a live stage has attracted me as much as women. No maestros of their instruments can match. There are little voices that tell me how, hey, there are other members of the band, and that this pursuit is somewhat suspect when seen objectively, but before there’d be anyone to satisfy with the images I get to produce, there was me, and my insecure self.

Could this explain why you don’t really reach out to the bands?

No. I’ve always had in mind that reaching out would be a compromise, and my selfish tendencies shot down.

Oh, but the rock photographers of the olden days didn’t do this! They would follow the band like photojournalists!

I know this, but I was a stubborn case.

*

I did reach out on social media. It was a gesture on public display, but that time, it felt appropriate. This entire endeavor was for me, and my pictures, and acknowledgment wasn’t expected in return.

Because you don’t want to be disappointed!

I didn’t want to be disappointed.

*

A(nother) muse, an unsuspecting trigger who started all this, greeted me one weekend night in Quezon City -and not timeline-distant from when I made that photobook- after their live set. I was alone as usual, occupying a table to rest from shooting. The details of the interaction are gone from memory now, and all I remember was this gorgeous being I have not met knew who I was, and that I am, for that moment, a pathetic excuse of someone who should stop being a spectator to it all and be a willing participant, someone who can be more.

A different world

A good chunk of time was spent breathing and existing and peeling tattooed skin since the last time I was in this space. I don’t feel too different, but the air around me does. What surrounds me, and most that I used to care for, is now settled on a cloud of cold disinterest.

There was a crisis of self that had somehow been tamed by how I live now. The apartment building I’m now in is a remnant of – I suppose- late 80s suburban development, full of retirees, and not much parking space for fancy locally made electric cars. The compact high-rise abode I had previously cannot compare, not with elevators, shelter for my scooter, and a new metro station mere steps away. I can hear bird songs most mornings now. The smell of lunchtime fish frying reminds me that its a temporary arrangement for me here, but my neighbor’s live here, the old ones would likely die here, and that rarely seen ceremony with burning paper structures I may witness one day again.

Of course, sometimes I leave. The habit of staying at hotels downtown was justified before, since concerts finish late, and taxi fare can get expensive. I can’t make that excuse now, and I do forget those weekends easily, booked often on a whim, on a fleeting desire for relief. The sun I catch on my face on the metro ride home the morning after each stay is very satisfying, it feels like a light pat on the cheek from a familiar hand.

Yes, I’ve been to concerts since live venues opened up again around May last year, but the music I’ve heard and seen performed on stage has lost so much potency, I can see myself stopping completely. It doesn’t help that I’ve always gone myself, and the handful of people I’ve met in the local scene has stayed as just beautiful, welcoming smiles when I do see them, and nothing much more.

This bleak streak stops here. Going back to not eating lunch here at work.

Tokyo (II)

With a headache that was spoiling my third day in Tokyo, I went with Akiko to the Ghibli Museum on a Friday morning. It was her first time going there, too. Before I even set foot in Japan, I had to ask her to book tickets for us, since there was an admission schedule we had to follow.  The scene replicas from the anime was a treat, among all else. I wonder why this wasn’t the sort of place I see people on my social media rave about.

Ayuni D (BiSH)

Later that day, I was in line for another show at Zepp Diver City. Akiko went with me, and thankfully so, since it looked like navigation from where we were to the venue wasn’t easy to manage. Once I settled, I was by myself, along with a hundreds of idol fans, and not the sort with capes and light sticks, but in the trendy, streetwear inspired garb peddled by management, often with puzzling, sometimes crude text on it.

My entry number was 232, which did cost me more when I was liaising with a specialized for-foreigners service, that will join ticket lotteries for you. This time, I had them get me a ticket for a sold-out concert from auction sites. The lower the ticket number, the sooner you enter, the nearer you are the stage.

As before, I looked for an obvious foreigner, to find out if they knew more about the event than me. Found one, and despite being a white, blonde dude, when I told him where I was from, he started conversing with me in Tagalog.

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Tokyo (I)

The hotel I settled for was near the Hatagaya metro station, and was away from what I expect a feverish Tokyo city vibe would have. The room was more than satisfactory, and I had my mini-tub. There was a reason to hurry just after checking in though, as I needed to figure out how to go to an idol show that weekday December evening.

The map lead me to a building around Taitō-ku. I found the concert from a Twitter post, and there were a handful of idol groups slated to perform. The venue was at an upper floor, and when elevator doors opened, I had seen something that had me re-assess if I was at the right place: a 50-something salaryman, a divine smile stamped on his face, was speaking to a young teenager wearing a very short, sparkling gold costume. Went back down, checked my reference tweet, checked my location, and yes, I was where I was supposed to be. This was the Tokyo Kinema Club. I went back, purchased my ticket, and marveled at the venue’s grandness. This was an old, dimly-lit space, that had stage curtains I would like to think had seen cabaret shows in its earlier days. There were about a hundred men, eager to partake the same air as their favorite idols. I’ve been to events like this before in Shanghai, but this feels so different there was unease, but so familiar.

The group I wanted to see was NECRONOMIDOL. They were popular with my online social circle who share this niche interest, even in idol. They sang heavy metal songs, they sang songs you can dance to. I knew they were all set for a US tour that time. 

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Fukuoka

I had a better hotel in Kumamoto, but the livehouse was just around the perimeter of the park, a park I bet I could see from my room if my viewing angle was right. This was the second leg of the Kyushu tour of an idol group I follow. ‘Follow‘ sounds such a casual description, though. I’m here in Fukuoka just for this, so I better call myself ‘a big fan‘.

The early afternoon sun, the early December chill, swing music from the cafe across me, some convenience store snacks. I had all these with me on that park, on a bench, where an old man was picking fallen autumn leaves a second ago. He’s retired since to the cafe. He’s now talking to -I’m assuming here- his wife. Scenes of possible Murakami storylines come flooding in. The block was a mix of medium-rise apartment buildings, and shorter buildings with stores on the first floor. Ten steps away from the cafe was a heavy metal clothing shop.

I gave myself an extra day here. I had ideas. Oyster shucking and grilling at huts somewhere remote. Or see the beach you can reach by subway. A buoy of regret was bouncing in my mind, too, but it wasn’t anything I paid full attention to during my trip: I should’ve skipped this extra day, so I could catch more idol shows in my next destination, Tokyo.

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