In late 2012, I discovered indie idol group RYUTist from Niigata prefecture through some Tokyo Idol Festival footage, and noticed a lot of qualities that seemed interesting from their performances, but they were still very new at the time and hadn’t released much music yet. At that time, I took note of them as a group to watch out for, but still hadn’t gotten to the point of following them more closely.
Then, in 2013, I was exposed to them again when I met with some generous promoters from their management company in San Francisco, who shared some of RYUTist’s music and videos with me and we got to talk about the group for a while.
By then, the group had released much more material and had grown a lot since I last saw them, and after listening to and viewing all the material I had access to from RYUTist around that time, I realized there was something very special about them. I noticed a lot of qualities that seemed somewhat non-traditional about their activities as idols, from their organic music production and live vocal harmonies to their sharp dance moves and quaint, homely image.
Fast-forward to a few months later, I was so impressed and interested in them that I found myself interviewing the group and featuring them in my Top Idol Releases of 2013. Needless to say, they were quickly rising in the ranks of idol groups that I followed closely.
Shortly after I interviewed the group, my contacts with RYUTist let me know that they were officially in talks for the group to appear at the first Idol Matsuri in Washington this year. I didn’t know much about Idol Matsuri at the time, but quickly found out what a unique and exciting event it was shaping up to be, and took the initiative to help with the event as much as I could.
Now its a few weeks after the show and I’m still a bit in shock at how fun and deeply meaningful it was to experience RYUTist in person for myself. Here’s a summary of my experience with RYUTist at the event.
RYUTist activities started on Friday with them appearing at the opening ceremonies and a Q&A session just after the ceremony. The Q&A was really enlightening for some people who weren’t familiar with the group, and it also had a unique opportunity to ask questions for their producer, who was also on stage with them.
One of the most unique questions that I thought was a highlight of the session was when someone asked their producer if it’s difficult to make music for an idol group. He said something to the effect of “It’s very difficult to make music for idol fans, because most idol fans tend to be very cultured people who know a lot about the world and have already experienced many things, so creating music that’s exciting for someone who’s already seen and heard so many things is very difficult.”
His answer rang very true with me and is one that I relate to, personally, but it’s something that I think he does a very good job with, considering how much of RYUTist’s music is exciting to me, when I often find it difficult to find truly exciting music from many idol groups.
Here’s a few shots from those events:
Later on Friday, they had their handshake and autograph sessions, where lines stretched through the hotel hallways with fans waiting to meet RYUTist for the first time. There’s a few short video clips from those sessions from their YouTube channel:
After those appearances, they started the photo sessions, where they chose to go outside by the gorgeous waterfront near the hotel, making for some scenic photos for the attendees when they got their picture taken with the group. Before the fans got to take their pictures, they had a short impromptu photo session for their own purposes, and I managed to grab a few great shots of my own, which I’ve been told that many RYUTist staff and fans from all over the world fell in love with. Here’s a few favorites:
The real excitement on Saturday started late in the afternoon, when RYUTist took the stage for their concert performance. I had seen dozens of their live performances on video before, but nothing could prepare me for seeing them right in front of me, performing all the songs I knew. They took the stage to their trademark intro dance number before bursting into the very appropriate “Arrivals and Departures” to start things off. The setlist continued as follows:
- Arrivals and Departures
- Wind Chime!! ~Furumachi no Tunnel~
- Colorful Milk (カラフル・ミルク)
- Taiyou Iwaku Moeyo Kaosu (Ushirokara Haiyoritai G cover)
- Tetsugaku Suru no da (哲学するのだ)
- Arashi wa Nichiyoubi (嵐は日曜日)
- Shooting Star (KOTOKO cover)
- Natsu no Mahou/Fuyu no Mahou medley (夏・冬の魔法メドレー)
- Beat Goes On! ~Yakusoku no Basho~
- Rariri Reru (ラリリレル)
They had a big variety of songs from all throughout their repertoire, including some cover songs and a few from the very beginning of their career. There were a few MCs with some cute English messages for the crowd and some segments where they talked about their home town in Niigata and encouraged everyone to come visit if they come to Japan.
Aside from sounding great, they had a powerful visual element to the show, with their dancing catching everyone’s attention on every song, and lots of crowd interaction with chants and interactive dances that weren’t just your standard wotagei fare. Here’s some photos from the show as well as a close-up video of their performance of “Tetsugaku Suru no da”:
While many people went into Idol Matsuri not knowing much about RYUTist, by the time their live show was a few songs in, you could easily see the crowd was won over by their performance. The whole tone of the attendees towards RYUTist vastly changed after the performance, and everyone I met with after the show couldn’t stop talking about how much presence they had on stage. It became obvious to me how many new fans they had won over that day.
Early on Sunday, RYUTist held a special event that involved many attendees and many of the other guests from the convention, where everyone gathered outside to record a tribute dance video of BiS’s “nerve” for the collective project to send BiS off as the group disbands this month. Here’s the final product of RYUTist & Idol Matsuri’s “nerve” tribute.
Sunday was also the most important day for me personally involving RYUTist, as it marked a very special event for me. It was the day I got to make one of my long-time dreams come true, and that was to be able to perform live music with one of my favorite idol groups.
After interviewing RYUTist in 2013, I started to think, and realized that it would probably be hard to come up with some questions for an interview at Idol Matsuri, since I had just interviewed them not even one year before, and had already asked so many of the questions I wanted to ask.
While I probably could have come up with some new questions if I tried hard enough, I thought I’d go out on a limb and ask if they would be interested in doing a live performance with me instead. After asking, their extremely generous producer kindly agreed. I had already completed sheet music for one of their songs long ago, but I felt compelled to finish at least one more, and had less than two weeks to complete it after finding out this was a reality.
Through some hard work and practice in a very short amount of time, I managed to get two songs down pretty well. All that work was building up to this one performance on Sunday, and while it takes a lot to get me nervous, this is one thing that easily did just that. I managed to power through the uneasiness and walked into the room on Sunday ready to play.
With no time to rehearse or practice with the girls before meeting that day, we just had to rely on our own musicality to bring the performance together. When I arrived, they were graciously expecting me, all ready to go. Before starting, I gifted the girls some musical percussion shakers that matched their individual member colors so they could keep the beat with the songs and then went over some very quick general preparations with them before starting, as we had a very limited time.
The following is the result of our collaboration (available in 1080p):
The girls all sounded better than I could’ve hoped, and we seamlessly collaborated musically, despite having never performed together before, showing me that they were more than just a few young girls who wanted to sing and dance, they really were capable musicians in their own right. Not only did they keep the beat perfectly and even playfully changed the rhythm of the songs at times on their own accord, but they sang on-key the whole time and we were all actively feeding off each others’ performance, like musicians do. Despite a few small mistakes on my part, I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.
After the performance, I unfortunately had to get ready to depart the convention, so I had to rush off for that, as they had other obligations as well. This was the last time I’d get to see RYUTist before leaving to go back home, but the impression they made on me at this event was more than I ever could have imagined. They went from being just one of my favorite groups to something much more significant.
I cannot thank RYUTist staff enough for the opportunity they awarded me to perform with them and for coming out to Idol Matsuri to make the event something truly special for everyone who attended.
If you haven’t already, you can follow RYUTist through their constantly updated blogs, social media, YouTube channel, and website, which are all listed below, and if you’re ever near the Niigata area, please go see them perform live at their home theater and experience what they’re all about.