One of the biggest breakthrough bands in metal in the past few years are Babymetal, a fusion of J-pop and metal consisting of three teenagers singing with a heavy metal band backing their music. Reaction within the metal community has been polarizing, as metal is known for being reluctant to embrace change, especially involving outside influences. But some go against the grain, and are megafans of the Japanese act.
Babymetal recently concluded their tour across North America, and one of their stops was at The Wiltern theater in Los Angeles, CA. With the popularity the girls have attained since their 2014 debut album, it was no surprise the show was sold out and packed to its maximum capacity by eager fans of all ages and backgrounds. It would be easy to assume that most of the fan base would consist of teenagers with a love for Japanese music, but the girls have shown infinitely how they can attract some of the most die-hard metal fans.
There were some who risked the chance of not getting in and simply show up in hopes to snag a last-minute ticket at the venue, which was the case of Bryan, one of the true followers of the band. He explained why he had an affinity with them:
I like Babymetal mainly because they have a lot of different genres mixed into one. You have metal, you have a little bit of J and K-pop and other forms of music that I can’t think of [off] the top of my head. The first time I went to see them was at the Fonda two years ago and it was one of the best shows I had ever been to at the time and I truly enjoyed it. So I’m here again to see if I can get into The Wiltern theater but I don’t have a ticket, so I’m trying to see if I can score a ticket without having to pay for one, so we’ll see what happens.
The venue opened its doors at 8pm with the show starting an hour later with no opening bands as this was meant to be “An Evening With Babymetal.” During the time, many people decided to stick around the lobby and patio areas to talk about the band and their favorite things about it. While this show took place in the Los Angeles area, you could easily fans from all over the world as we found with a couple of friends standing outside, Chang and “Jimbo” with the latter coming all the way from Japan.
Jimbo is an old-school metal fan with fascination for bands like old Metallica, Megadeth, Sepultura and some industrial metal but he found himself drawn to the girls as he revealed:
I like Babymetal because… it’s very weird, how do I say it? When I listened to it, I heard and thought “this is such a cool riff” a cool guitar riff and then they started singing, I thought “what am I listening? It’s so dumb” haha. But I kinda got addicted, but of course, metal heads are very conservative so I couldn’t say I liked them for a while until I saw them at The Fonda Theater two years ago and saw a bunch of weird metal fans rocking and thought “ok, now I can say I like Babymetal.”
Chang, on the other hand, wasn’t a metal head and only heard about them from his friend but still had an opinion about the band after listening to them on Youtube and said:
The backing band obviously is super highly professional and it’s pretty much manufactured which is pretty genius. Just like that other band Ladybaby? is that what is called? so I guess it’s a big thing over there now.
There were others who came from other parts of town, specifically Phoenix, AZ and Mojave Desert like the group of friends consisting of Jameson, Jake, Trevor and Richard, who simply put said they were there cause “they’re amazing and so cute!”
Just like the rest of the fans usually state about them, they praised the backing band for their musical skills and the mix of metal with J-pop. They were simply excited to catch the band live that one of them decided to get his ticket after a drunken night and a show announcement in his Facebook feed.
In contrast of most of the people we spoke to was Martha, a non-metalhead who found her way to the show out of curiosity. She found her interest in the band mainly from the J-pop side of the music rather then the heavy metal and considered this her first “metal show.” She described it to be an “interesting and fun experience” to share a show with a different crowd, although she said she probably wasn’t interested in doing another metal show.
The hype for Babymetal is so big that their management are forced to place limitation on certain things like merch, which was limited to only 2 pieces per design, to avoid scalpers trying to sell merch at a higher price and to accommodate their own fans.
The show went on as expected and a massive wave of fans enjoyed every second of it, dancing, singing and headbanging as much as they could. The disruptive impact they’ve created from the typical standarts of heavy metal brings people together to share a unique experience and the Los Angeles show was witness to that. While some avid metalheads might find Babymetal out of place from their scene, we can’t ignore that they’ve essentially created their own genre and are getting the recognition they’ve worked for all this time.
The show was a success and many were seduced by the girls’ charm and the magnificent musical proficiency of the band, although there were some people who couldn’t resist taking some time to catch some Pokemon between breaks, but that distraction couldn’t endure the magnetic show taking place.
If the endorsement of metal legends like Slash, Carcass, or even Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, who recently shared stage with them during the AP Music Awards last night, isn’t enough to give the girls the credit they deserve, we can’t be sure what else could.
[Photos: Karina Diane]