Event Report

KIMI MO SOLO DE UTAU-ZO! 9
March 5-6, 2005 at Hideaway, Nishi Shinjuku, Tokyo
Featuring Akira Kushida, with guests Ryousuke Sakamoto, Takayuki Miyauchi, Kenta Satou, Shin'ichi Ishihara and Shocker OH!NO!

For a quarter-century--where does the time go?!--Akira "Qu-cy" Kushida has been belting out anime and tokusatsu theme songs, from Sun Vulcan and Xabungle, through Kinnikuman and uchuu keiji galore, and on to Go Dannar and Abaranger.

And since 2000, he's brought fans something still more: the "Kimi Mo Solo De Utau-zo!" event, featuring an onstage karaoke-fest in which fans sing their favorites of his songs, plus a mini-live performance by Qu-cy himself, too!

First an annual shindig, and then twice a year, and last year held three times, "Kimi Mo Solo De Utau-zo!" had its 9th renewal March 5-6 at live house Nishi Shinjuku Hideaway. The cost to attend was 3000 yen a day, with sign-ups taken in advance on Qu-cy's official site.

Ever since reading about past editions of the event on Qu-cy's site last November, I'd been fired up to try to take part. Love having a contest to train toward...but this had a further level of incentive.

Back in the land of 1982, anime wasn't widely known in my part of the world, and life was a quest to find more of it. At that year's World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, someone turned up with a tape of the first four episodes of a Sunrise robot show that had recently begun airing in Japan, Xabungle, and it was commandeered for the video room, where we huddled eagerly around and puzzled it out. I was crazy for it, and soon after, when my monthly issue of MY ANIME magazine arrived thanks to subscription agent Books Nippan in L.A., I was all over the issue's songbook freebie. Worked two jobs part-time then, at a laundry and a radio station, trying to earn money to go back to college after having only been able to afford the first year. Whenever time allowed, I hammered at romanizing the lyrics of Xabungle opening theme "Shippuu Xabungle"--the very first of, man, gotta be a good hundred anime songs I've romanized since then.

And not too long after that, got my first car--a $200 '74 Ford Galaxie 500, sky-blue with yellow hubcaps. A front license plate wasn't required in Michigan then, and for Christmas my folks gave me a custom-made front plate bearing my car's name: XABUNGLE. No way could I afford a stereo system, but had a battery-operated cassette player, and would drive around playing tapes of anime songs recorded with mike held to TV speakers (the 300 or so of us North American fans swapped VHS and Beta [go ahead, laugh] videotapes of anime episodes back then). Life always seemed at its most anything-is-possible best when flying down the highway singing "Shippuu Xabungle" over the roar of my Xabungle's V-8--and to this day, the song brings that feeling back to me like no other.

So, some 20 years later, to have the chance to sing it on the same stage with Akira Kushida, the man who recorded it--I wanted so much to try...but was mighty damn scared too, not knowing what to expect. Qu-cy has always seemed so good-natured and encouraging when I've seen him perform at anime song concerts, though--always looking so delighted to be there, and making sure the crowd is singing with him--and the thought of getting to see him perform again is what finally got me out the door.

Had entered for the Saturday-night session, and was among the last of some 25 or so people to arrive at the Hideaway, a dark, comfy place like an extra-large living room outfitted impressively with a bar, stage and sound system. You're required to buy a drink when you get there, and then my 1300-yen Bloody Mary and I were directed over to a seat between a photographer gal and a boisterous clump of guys. Sat pretty nervously for a while, but the photographer, Yo-san, thankfully had more guts than me, and soon we were chatting.

The show was emceed by a fellow known as Notchi, and Qu-cy sang a new song called "Dragonman To Issho Ni." Then they drew gashapon balls, each labelled with a show title, from a bag to determine the order entrants would sing. The entrant would be called up to the stage, and Qu-cy would speak with them as Notchi leafed to the page of that song's lyrics in a songbook on a music stand onstage (no TV-screen karaoke system, and no furigana; you read the lyrics right off the page). Then the song would start, with the entrant singing and the crowd singing along, and Qu-cy sitting onstage listening; in the break between the first and second verse Qu-cy would jump up next to the entrant and a staffer would snap a photo, and then the entrant continued with the rest of the song. After that, Qu-cy would speak with them a little more, most often asking, "How did it feel?" The beaming entrant would grin, "It felt great!", and we'd all roar!

After a couple hours, my turn came to face the fear--not of singing; of being interviewed in Japanese in front of a crowd! But it went surprisingly well; he wanted to know where I was from, and if I've been to any onsens (my prefecture is known for them), and what I thought of Tokyo, and how I'd first heard "Xabungle," and if I'd be all right reading the song lyrics from the book. And then the song was going, and we fans all belted it out (I only missed one kanji, ["kate"])...and then just before the chorus of the last verse, Qu-cy joined in too, and I was singing "Shippuu Xabungle" with Akira Kushida!

It ended, and the roar was like a wall of sound, and Qu-cy was "Bikkurishimashita!"--and I went back to my seat in a happy daze, folks clapping me on the back. A little later they had first-timers come back up and sign Qu-cy's "Utau-zo!" happi coat, and then there was an intermission. Qu-cy was strolling around, speaking with people, and I thanked him for singing the last lines of "Xabungle" with me--that for a split-second it had seemed like years ago when I'd sing along with the 45rpm record, but then I looked over and saw him singing with me, and it was like a dream come true! He seemed tickled and mentioned that he'd seen me at some concerts, and we got to talking about concerts outside Japan; he said he'd like to sing at American anime cons but the terrorism threat is just too dangerous right now. He's going to do an Anime Friends concert in Brazil this summer, though.

During the intermission, staffers announced that there'd be time for some people to sing just the first verse of a second song, if they'd like. I thought what the heck, and signed up for my second choice, Xabungle end theme "Kawaita Daichi." That led to a janken round between Qu-cy and all of us who had signed up for a second song; five winners would get to sing. I was one of the winners!

And boom, I got called right up. This time Qu-cy asked about my job; explained I work for a shop that sells a lot of tokusatsu toys, which got an enthusiastic response from the audience. The song started, and I sang my one verse...and as I was starting to put the microphone back away, there was Qu-cy. "Not yet!" he said. "Take a rest." I stood back--and he started to sing the second verse, which starts with the line "Moshimo yume ga aru no nara..."! I thought I'd died...and then he motioned for me to join in, and I knew I'd died! We sang the chorus of the second verse together, and then traded lines on the third verse and finished the chorus together. Think I spent the rest of the evening floating a good two feet in the air, and the rest of the winners got to sing duets with him, too.

The night ended with Qu-cy singing a handful of songs, and having us join him, each person with a different line, on the Gavan opening theme. Then he saw us all out, thanking each of us for coming. Yo-san walked to Shinjuku station with me, promised to e-mail me photos (and came through in spectacular style!), and made sure I got on the right train. I made it to friend Mighty M's place in Chiba by midnight, absolutely sky-high.

How do you top a day like that?! You can't, period--so although I had left Sunday open on the possibility of going back for the second day, figured I wouldn't go unless Mighty M wanted to go; best to end on a high note. Mighty M is another longtime Xabungle fan, and had signed up for Sunday but wasn't sure she would go through with it, especially since she could only stay for an hour and a half, having to be to work by 4:30pm...but come Sunday morning, she was game, and it was back to Nishi Shinjuku.

Although I hadn't reserved a spot, they kindly let me pay in and managed to wedge me into a crowd more than double the size of the previous night. Several folks had also been there the night before, and I was so tickled that some greeted me like we'd been pals for years! I didn't sign up to sing, just being there to support Mighty M. She did a great job on "Shippuu Xabungle," but then had to scram to get to work, leaving me with her hat to have Qu-cy sign...and when a staffer asked during the intermission if I was sure I didn't want to sing anything, again figured what the heck, and signed up for Gavan end theme "Hoshizora No Message."

When my turn came, Qu-cy asked if I'd first heard the song by seeing Gavan broadcast anywhere. Had to admit that no, the first I'd heard it was on the DVD of the Super Hero Spirits 2000 concert. He recommended seeing Gavan if I get the chance. I asked if it would be strange for me to sing an otokorashii song, and he assured me that it's the human feeling that counts, not whether you're a man or a woman. I sang, and got another gratifying response from the crowd.

There was another intermission, and I hung out with Yo-san and Ki-san, who mentioned he would be the DJ at the following week's 24-hour Special 30th Anniversary Comiket. Then the door burst open, and in came a flock of special guests--Ryousuke Sakamoto (star of Bioman), Takayuki Miyauchi (who sang the theme songs of Bioman, Winspector, Exceedraft and lots more), Kenta Satou (who sang Turboranger), Shin'ichi Ishihara (who sang Go Go Five), and Shocker OH!NO!, who emcees the Super Hero and Super Robot Spirits concerts! The crowd went bananas, scrambling to find things for them to sign, and then Qu-cy and the guests presented a mini-concert! Qu-cy also sang some R&B songs--his main interest--and can he go!

After seven hours, the second day came to a close, and this time clad in his "Utau-zo!" happi coat, Qu-cy again saw us all off. I told him how much I enjoyed his R&B performance, and he said that when he was young, he got to see the Temptations and Fifth Dimension, and was also a fan of a group called the Ohio Brothers. Turns out he has R&B concerts down in Yokohama several times a year...think I'm gonna have to check that out!

Was able to catch the last train home, felt pretty good walking back from the station despite the chill...but man, I was exhausted, inside and out, for the next couple days. Must be the aftermath of the monster adrenalin rush of one of the most wonderful times of my life!

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This page was created April 10, 2005. Last updated July 24, 2006.

This page's text and source code are copyright Ardith Carlton; photos are copyright Snowkey and Queer Yoko. Do not reproduce any of the content or images on this page.