Exclusive Music

“19sai” – Live at A&G Ohio March 18, 2010 – Cincinnati, OH

This is a great example of a backing track – in this case, a simple rhythm pattern – being absolutely essential to making a song work. Without it, the syncopated electric piano and percussive vocal have nothing to play against, and it all just falls a bit flat. This performance, however, is very much alive with the funk-inspired energy of Suga Shikao’s signature xxxHolic opener.

“Dark Shame” – Live at BlurrieCon October 16 2016 – Erie, PA

I had completely forgotten that I was still doing one-off shows for select cons in 2016! I do remember putting together this setlist, however, as it was easily the most bizarre, “anything goes” collection of songs I had ever done. From the live debut of Girls und Panzer’s “Dream Riser!” to an exclusive performance of Subtle Inversion’s “Disconnect” to the inclusion of Parlormuse’s still-unreleased “In That Home So Far Away” at an anime convention (?!), it certainly made for an interesting afternoon of music. Nevertheless, there were several surprising highlights, with this performance of Code:Breaker’s “Dark Shame” being one of them. I debuted this song at Glass City Con in 2014, and had only performed it a couple of times, but felt that it was due for a revisit, despite the fact that it is one of the most vocally challenging songs that I’ve done. Light years better than the Glass City performance thanks to proper breath support and some added fire in my delivery.

“Dress” – Live at Shinbokucon April 30, 2011 – Westlake, OH

Contrary to the vast majority of my sets, which typically opened with something far more reserved, I decided to throw caution to the wind for this show and launch right into one of the most dynamic and vocally challenging songs I knew. It was a great confidence builder for one, and the string-driven arrangement provided a nice diversion from all the piano that would inevitably follow.

“Drive” – Live at Erie Anime Experience September 24, 2011 – Erie, PA

THYME’s stellar “First 2uality” album does contain several anime songs (“Forever We Can Make It!” and “Fly Away”), but I decided to forego those in lieu of the jazzy album track “Drive” for this set. It wasn’t the first or only time I had pulled non-anime material, but unlike FLOW’S underrated rocker “Astro Slider,” which usually garnered a very positive response, this one seemed to fall a bit flat on this audience. Nonetheless, it was a blast to play and allowed me to stretch my wings a little, both vocally and on the keys.

“Forest” – Live at A&G Ohio March 14, 2010 – Cincinnati, OH

Always eager to add more English-language songs to my sets, I initially thought that El Cazador de la Bruja’s cinematic “Forest” would find a fairly regular spot in my roster. The original arrangement features a lovely breakdown section with multi-part vocals, and a heartfelt chorus that contrasts nicely against the more folksy, whimsical verses. Sadly, it tended to fall a bit flat without the vocal harmonies and with only a piano to carry the instrumental. Couple that with the fact that El Cazador de la Bruja, the third installment of the so-called “Girls with Guns” trilogy that began with the niche classic “Noir,” wasn’t nearly popular enough for this song to be well-recognized amongst most audiences.

4 Honey

Cardcaptor Sakura’s lounge-infused “Honey” seemed tailor-made for this early Sunday morning performance. Little did I know that a video of this performance, which also featured the Eastgate Holiday Inn’s trademark fountain in the background, would be my YouTube calling card for quite some time afterward! This song always seemed far too mellow to add into most sets, but once in a while, when the mood was right, that chimey electric piano would ring out against an imagined bossa-nova drumbeat.

“In This Life” – Live at KotoriCon January 12, 2013 – Sewell, NJ

This opener from Deltora Quest was one of those songs that I desperately wished more people knew, as it was always a very welcome uptempo English-language addition to my set. Unfortunately, it only saw a handful of performances over the years, with this one at 2013’s Kotoricon providing an early highlight.

“Kujibiki Unbalance” – Live at Shinbokucon April 30, 2011 – Westlake, OH

This mid-tempo rocker was always a welcome addition to any set. I was often tempted to do the opening and closing lyrical mantras in the moe style of the original, but “moe” and “forty-year-old male singer” just never seemed to be the wisest choice during an actual performance. Ah well…I still heard it that way in my head.

“Nano Desu” – Live at BlurrieCon October 16, 2016 – Erie, PA

I made a promise to myself very early on in my run as an anime music performer that someday, somehow, I would do this song. It’s utter insanity – from the ultra-cutesy delivery of the original (which made it so memorable and adorable) to the tongue-tangling tempo of the verse lyrics – but it’s a bucket list item that I was thrilled to finally check off at Glass City Con in 2014. Where that performance was unfortunately marred by me unknowingly misordering the three pages of lyrics I had in front of me, this one gets it right in that department and more. It’s rare that a character song rises to the level of popularity that this one did – I think I heard “Nano Desu” more times on Internet radio than any of the actual opening tracks from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. I just wish I had learned it sooner, as I’m sure it would have raised more than a few eyebrows at other conventions. Hauuuu~!!

“Secret Base” – Live at Yama-Con December 7, 2013 – Pigeon Forge, TN

This was one of the last anime songs I learned, as my days as a musical guest would come to an official close following this performance (I returned to the stage once in 2014 as a favor for a friend who also ran Glass City Con in Toledo, OH). Much like the heart-wrenching anime from which this track was taken (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai, or Anohana), the story here is a bittersweet one.

Toward the end of 2012, I began to notice a trend among my audiences: they were becoming noticeably less invested in my performances. My speculation at the time was that the appeal (novelty?) of hearing acoustic renditions of popular anime songs had simply run out. I had downsized my performance rig fairly dramatically, due to the ever-increasing space demands of being a vendor, so in hindsight I wonder if not having the vocal harmonizers, backing rhythms and live-triggered accessory sounds might have factored into this as well. Regardless, I had decided early in 2013 that the time had come to close the curtain on my run as a musical guest and focus solely on vending.

Where 2012’s Yama-Con still stands as one of the most impressive, well-attended first-year anime cons I’ve ever done, 2013’s outing proved to be a bit less…sunny. Literally. Seemingly non-stop rains cast a pall across the entire weekend, and my final performance on Saturday was outside in a tent that had been set up in the parking lot of the convention center. By the end of the night, the asphalt had become a labyrinth of shallow pools and flowing streams, and my final set (by that point, to an audience of no one) was cut short because the water was quickly threatening to submerge nearby power outlets. C’est la vie – so much for a grand farewell.

I was thoroughly surprised to find this song included in this set, as I didn’t think I had any recordings of it at all – it only saw one or two performances in 2013. The audio quality is a little rough, and there’s a fair amount of background noise, but overall, the performance itself isn’t terrible, all things considered.

“Shell” – Live at ColossalCon June 5, 2011 – Sandusky, OH

I think this might have been this song’s performance debut, but it would most certainly not be the last time I used it as a set opener. Given how piano-dominant my later performances became, largely because of the increasing demands of being a vendor, it’s nice to hear how much a little tambourine and steel string accompaniment can add to a performance.

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