31 August 2017

Road to Justice

Woman Worldwide: Summer Sonic Osaka 2017

18. “The way to get things done [is] to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens,” says Richard in the Alex Garland novel, The Beach. That bit didn’t need underlining; it was stuck in my head since. For the longest time I dreamed of traveling to Japan and of taking a proper vacation: something completely mine, well-planned but also aimless. I never thought that I had the resources nor the guts to fly to a land which language I don’t speak, until Justice announced a world tour, with appearances at Summer Sonic 2017.

19. Last April, Coachella streamed Justice’s full set, giving me a taste of Woman Worldwide. What I digested was theater, where each element — may it be aural, visual, lexical — meant something to another element to another element. Everyone talked and will talk about the lights: because they don’t just dazzle, they communicate.

20. Once you hear the live version of a Justice song, you’ll forget about the original. “Access All Arenas” taught me as much. In this current tour, the duo made Love S.O.S — my favorite from “Woman” — even more special by running its trademark siren from the tail-end of Stress (a nice connection, considering both tracks, despite contrasting moods, seem to pivot on having a heart attack); and then adding a layer of keyboard in the midsection (a tingly surprise). Another masterstroke was ridding Chorus of its chorus for one final bass-heavy, head-banging stretch before the set’s hypnotic Audio, Video, Disco denouement.

21. Summer Sonic is a weekend music festival simultaneously held in Tokyo and Osaka, and between the two cities, the latter feels more like me. Chill. It is also, overall, the cheaper alternative. My initial plan was to backpack to Osaka, watch Justice, have curry and ramen, then go home. But excitement had me packing for a five-night escape.

The Osaka Castle, a tourist spot near my hotel

22. As the plane taxied on Kansai Airport grounds, my mind shot through different directions: How will I find my hotel? How will I find Maishima Arena? What if my credit and debit cards weren’t working? Oh my god I’m really going to see Justice. What if they suddenly got sick and cancelled (like Charli XCX later on)? The first problem I had to solve (at 10pm) was the hotel. Lucky me, the customs officer was chatty and knew some English. He directed me towards the train station. Which was big and intimidating. But not without a friendly face behind the counter. I showed Mr Ticket Seller the address written in my pocket notebook, he flipped through the pages of a railway atlas. Got my route. Arigato. That was pretty much how I survived Japan — short words, miming, the kindness of strangers, Google.

23. Hello, Chuo Ward. Hello, hotel. (Quiet elation.) Unpacked. Checked my phone, naturally. Justice posted an invitation to a meet and greet at a pop-up shop… in Tokyo. FUCK YOU, GASPARD AND XAVIER. AND PARDON MY FRENCH. I did contemplate maxing out my credit card to get from where I was to where they were, but Sensible Me prevailed. This was how I consoled myself: If I met them, I would have no fangirl ambitions left. Plus, if I went there, I’d be broke and starve to death. I chose to live to tell this tale.

24. My fear of being lost and unfound diminished with every train ride. Everything in the subway is laid out systematically — the stations are identified alphanumerically; the rail lines, color-coded; the exits, numbered. Trains arrive on time. Another person might perceive coldness from this impeccable clockwork, but for someone who’s MRT-LRT-phobic, it is the most thoughtful, humane design. This magnificent underground web, however, is not idiot-proof. Forty-eight hours of exploring the city before the festival gave me enough commute rehearsal. I boarded from the wrong platforms, got off the wrong stations, adjusted fares. Sonic day itself offered a fresh challenge: riding a bus. Well more of finding the goddamn bus station. All along I was looking for a huge terminal instead of an inconspicuous bus stop on the roadside.

At the Sonic Stage, minutes before Justice's set

25. Plotted my sched: Honne at 5:15, Phoenix at 6:30, Justice at 8:40. What I regret: Not squeezing in Blood Orange at 5:50. As soon as Phoenix closed their very groovy, very sexy set, I dashed to the Sonic Stage to secure my spot. At that point I had seen every livestream, every recording of the show on YouTube and Instagram. When I entered the arena, they were setting up the stage. Seeing those four deck stands atop a square platform flanked by stacks of Marshall amps made me giddy.

26. I want to pee. I just peed ten minutes ago. If I peed now I would lose my spot. Okay lights out, can’t pee anymore. (Buzz.) This is it. (Buzz.) Man everything in this country’s on time. Aww, their faces! It’s really, really them, waving. Okay that is anticlimactic. Oh shit.

27. DISCO.

Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay live

28. For a while I was reading the performance like a book, fussing about minute details. I was bummed that Japan didn’t get the production with mobile LED panels (due to venue limitations, I suppose, or logistical challenges), but the substance of the light-work remained intact. What captures my imagination in Woman Worldwide’s staging is the way that light meets metal, passing through slits, or bending — the music’s optic equivalent. Songs in “Woman” are strong and limber. They bang, but breathe elegance.

29. More bouts of synesthesia. I listened to colors, I witnessed notes fold and contract. I was standing still but felt as if I were jumping because everybody else was jumping. I felt alcohol on my skin, because someone splashed her beer. I felt skin on my skin. Gorgeous, shirtless men were pushing their way to the front. Dancing so hard.

30. Alakazam and Fire blossomed into a euphoric remix. From there until the dying bars of We Are Your Friends and Phantom Pt. II, I cannot remember most of what happened. Within that space, I may have left a piece of myself for good.

31. Xavier’s antics, Xavier messing up, Gaspard telling him something, gesturing, “No, no” — these must be mentioned. You might think that attending this concert is an item to be crossed off from some stupid list. No, I want more. Justice didn’t play Randy and Stop (my second favorite from the latest album), so here I am fantasizing about their next tour where I will hear those songs remixed.

Somewhere in Uranamba

32. Paradise for me is a city where I can let my guard down. The night I arrived in Osaka, I climbed out of a subway and into a pitch-black district occasionally brightened by convenience stores. That was the only moment I felt scared and alone in that city. The following morning I had the most boring, most un-Japanese breakfast of bacon and eggs. Upon a friend’s advice, I visited tourist spots and street markets. Umeda was chic, Uranamba was shabby. Dotonbori, I chanced upon after taking too many wrong turns. In a Shinsaibashi café I eavesdropped on two women’s velvet conversation. I haven’t had so much fun commuting and walking on concrete, under the sun. On my last night, I met a local who spoke English — the universe giving me someone to say farewell to. Leaving was tough because I didn’t know how to go back to a life without Osaka’s safety.

33. When Madonna brought her Rebel Heart Tour to Manila, people raised ruckus over the P57,750 SVIP tickets, quickly noting what (better things) an avid fan could buy with all that cash — a MacBook, a year’s worth of tuition at a private university, etc. But as far as I’m concerned, your happiness, your money, your business. I might pay more to catch my idols. Oh wait… A one-day pass at Summer Sonic Osaka was P7,109.49. Including air fare, accommodation, visa application, and daily allowance, the cost of my entire trip was a little shy of P60,000. For that amount, I saw Justice live, grooved to Honne and Phoenix, and took temporary lodging in paradise. What a bargain.


Read Part 1 and Part 2.

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