Monday, December 18, 2006

Doing Stuff: Day 17, A Event for Japanese Rock Afficianados, FINAL CHAPTER

I admit that I was initially interested in attending the J-Rock event for the potential of ridiculousness. My familiarity of Japanese rock music is limited largely to the one time my friends dragged me to see Melt Banana a few years ago. The profiles of the people going to the meeting had a lot of potential -- many said they enjoyed "cosplay," a popular hobby for Japanese teens who enjoy dressing up in elaborate costumes based off of anime or other Japanese pop figures.

The meeting group was scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Starbucks tucked away inside The Phoenix, a mixed-use apartment/office complex located at 16th and Market, right across the street from city hall. I arrived expecting to see a few girls dressed in neon colors and spiky hair and guys who looked like the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

Instead, I found Tim, an ordinary looking 18-year-old whose fashion sense combined the comic book shop with a skate rat and Lisa, a Tina Fey-ish 25-year-old dressed in a normal T-shirt and jeans.

The two of them were drinking coffee, sitting on a couch outside the Starbucks, with a big laptop computer in front of them. They told me to sit down next to them, I did. And then we watched Japanese rock videos.

I could probably say a lot about how interesting Japanese rock music is -- how it takes an American art form and transforms it into its own, with a greater importance of a visual aesthetic, how a lot of the stuff sounded exactly like the pop-punk I listened to in high school and college, and how much The Pillows rocked. Tim and Lisa both had dressed up in cosplay before ("because it's what you do at concerts," Lisa said) and both had hundreds of J-Rock MP3's.

And why did the group start?

"Because it's hard to find people who like it," Tim said.

This makes sense -- you can't casually be into something like J-Rock or swordfighting or chasing ghosts. You either embrace it fully or you don't embrace it at all. And if you embrace it fully, it becomes a large part of your life, but it's not something you can easily share with your friends and family. There's lonliness to being into something like this, but there's also optimist that you can find others who are into these things just as much as you are.

I've never had an obsessive hobby with this sense of ennui to it. I've also spent my years being a cynical, heartless person willing to cut down anything and everyone. I've never had something like this in my life, something that I could completely call my own, without caring what anyone else thinks about it.

So the three of just sat down on a couch, watched these videos, drank Starbucks and talked.During this whole project, I met plenty of people who were trying to be someone else, at least for a little bit of time. But with Tim and Lisa, I met people who knew who they were.


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