By the way, if you haven't read my previous convention reports, in particular the Nekocon 2009 one... well, it's not mandatory, but it'll give you a better idea of what's going on, where we are, who's who, etc.
Also, you'll notice lots of external links throughout this report. Most of them are pictures. I highly suggest NOT ignoring them. :B
And I guess that's enough of an introduction... so without further ado I present to you part 1 of my Nekocon 2010 report, covering the first day of my adventures and the journey leading up to it (in other words, Wednesday through Thursday)!
~Nekocon 2010 Wednesday & Thursday~
So... for the first time in my con staffing history, I had a bit of trouble getting geared up for Nekocon this time. At first because I had no idea what to expect from this band making their US debut, The Sound Bee HD... but mostly because Roger, head of Tainted Reality, wouldn't let me fly there. >> But none of the other Ohio staffers I've carpooled with before (Suicide Ali's crew) were going to go, and I wasn't about to attempt a seven hour drive by myself with little to no sleep the night before, so Roger's genious suggestion was that I join up with his merch booth guy Don in Pittsburgh, and we'd drive to Hampton together from there. Four hours to Pittsburgh and another eight to Hampton... in MY car, my poor little gimpy cramped four-cylinder economy car... *cringe* So in the end I decided to leave a day early and crash in a cheap Motel 6 in Pittsburgh, pick up Don in the morning, and go from there.
Well. I am NOT doing that again. >> Yeah, Don and I took turns and that helped a lot, but eight hours of driving in rain (seriously, it rained ALL THAT TIME), two near-death experiences thanks to wet and sharply curving exit ramps, idiotic traffic... by the last couple hours we were both so irritated we could've killed something. And to top it off, we couldn't make it to the hotel in time for me to go with Roger to meet the band at the airport. And after all this crap, Roger was upset with US for not getting there fast enough. >_> We were both very, very keen on strangling him by the time we got to the hotel only to have to wait in the lobby for at least an hour for him to get back with the band and our room keys.
Yeah. Not the way you want to start off any con.
But from the moment the shuttle carrying the band showed up, pretty much all the aggravation melted. I was pretty much on my own identifying each member since there were no one-on-one introductions, which I had been nervous about even though I'd seen official photos and stuff, since visual kei bands often look TOTALLY different out of makeup... but after a good onceover, it was no problem. Tak was the first I recognized since his features remind me a lot of former BLOOD guitarist Taichi, followed by Yuichi because of the red streaks in his hair. Then I saw this huge tall guy on the far left with short hair and thought maybe he was staff, because he was so much taller and more masculine-looking than the others that he didn't even look like one of them. XD;; But nope - that was Hiro, haha. From there it was easy - the tiny cute one on the far right was Daisuke, and the one and only girl of the group was You.
First impressions? Simple: Daisuke was just as gorgeous as I expected. *_* Honestly, after seeing images like this, what else could I expect? Didn't help that he had his hair half up and half down and all cute and girly and pretty and kbgsdkabgdfkjhj
*cough* Anyway... Roger introduced me and Don to Angel, the screwattack.com guy that Roger was collaborating with to head Tainted Reality's first gaming tournament on Friday (and various other stuff like MCing and video filming), and then he introduced Don and me to the band. I just started with a "Becky desu, hajimemashite" and none of them really reacted with more than a polite bow, haha. But that's ok, because as we were congregating in the lobby later with everyone's luggage, I overheard You next to me commenting that she was sleepy, and I started a little conversation in Japanese about their long flight and how I drove 12 hours to get there and stuff. After that subject died down I finally did a "By the way, I'm your translator lol" kinda thing and they were like "Ohhh, ok :D!" Hiro and You seemed to be the first ones to grasp that concept and actually approach me speaking in Japanese, haha. But that's ok too, because the others picked it up pretty fast. :>
So after a few minutes we took the elevators up to the fourth floor, found the four side-by-side rooms reserved for our party, and I was given the task of distributing room keys and explaining how they and the breakfast cards worked. In the end it was decided that You and I would be rooming together in 422 (neat :D), with Yuichi and Hiro next door in 423, Daisuke and Tak next to them in 424, and Roger in 425.
Upon entering our room, You immediately glee'ed over the huge size and well-furnished layout of our suite, and happily trotted inside to explore. :3 Then we discovered a HUGE welcome basket of snacks, munchies, cookies, even dips... all kinds of goodies, sitting on our counter. We were confused since there was no card or name or anything on it, but we assumed it was a gift for the band from the con staff or the hotel or something. Didn't open anything in it yet, though - Roger informed me that we would all be meeting up around 9pm to take everyone out to eat, and had me ask what they wanted. Their first answer was "Anything! We like everything! :D" I like these people already. XD Then they managed to get a little more specific by saying "something American-ish." Sooooo, of course, the verdict was... burgers. >> And when I filled them in on that, they were PSYCHED. Haha. Japanese people and hamburgers... :P
Anyway, we had an hour or so of downtime before we planned to leave... and I most of it getting some of our laptops hooked up to the internet. At the Hilton's ridiculous $9.95 per day rate, but oh well. >_> Specifically, I tried setting mine up right away, and soon Yuichi was trying to get his hooked up next door too. But neither of us was having any luck getting the system to accept any payment method, so we went down to the lobby to get it figured out. At last the lady at the desk set us up, billed us, and said we'd be able to surf once we got back upstairs... but she was wrong. We got back upstairs and neither of our computers was online. -_- So I went downstairs AGAIN to see what was going on, but the same lady wasn't there, and the guy at the desk told me to call the support number I'd find on the desk in our room. WHAT THE CRAP HILTON. >_>
Ok, fine. So I called the support number and FINALLY got my computer online, told You she was welcome to use it anytime, and went next door to repeat the process until Yuichi was online too. And one interesting happening through all this was that I could hear Hiro practicing drumming on... the bed, the floor, something... in the next room of their suite. Then later You was talking about how everyone from several rooms around, and probably even the floor below us, could hear him. XD;
But yeah, with that done I returned to my room and You was typing up an Ameba blog post on my laptop. A few minutes and one submit button later, it was posted... on MY blog, because Ameba was logged in to my account and she hadn't realized it. XD;;; She figured it out when she viewed the blog though (and after a moment of freaking out, she commented on how cute my Pigg avatar was LOL), and asked me to erase it ASAP. So I did, making sure to copy it first so she could paste it to her own blog after she re-logged in. It was a cute little freak-out moment. XD
Anyway, we still had a bit of time before dinner, so I had a chance to chat with You for a while. As I expected, she's a total sweetheart. ^^ We talked quite a bit about languages since I'm learning Japanese and she knows a bit of English... about Nekocon, about the weather... and that led to a fun moment in which she told me that they call Tak the band's "ame otoko" (rain man) since it always seems to rain when they go places with him. "He even brought rain to America with him." XD So I commented that Suicide Ali always calls Hiroshi their "ame otoko" too, and she said it's rough times when their two bands play in the same live house together. XDD Oh, also, it was during this downtime that she met my famous stuffed white tiger Yuu-kun, whom I've taken to every band event with me since 2008, and she loved him. 8D Yay~
Sooooo finally 9:00 rolled around and everyone gradually started gathering in the hallway to prepare to go to dinner. The true highlight of this waiting time for me was when I noticed Daisuke's shoes. HE HAS FUZZY SHOES. 8D I thought they were slippers at first, but a closer look revealed that they were black open-heeled sandals of some sort. So I squee'ed over how cute they were, and he told me that he'd MADE THEM HIMSELF. *dies of ohheckyes* As in, he'd had some fuzzy colorful material leftover from a costume or something, and didn't want it to go to waste so he used it to make "winter sandals." XD He totally won me over from that moment on, haha *flop* (And look, he showed them off on his blog weeks later!)
Anyway... soon enough we were loading up and heading for Five Guys, the same burger place we took Suicide Ali to last year. This time also showed promise from the moment we got them into the restaurant and they all broke out their cameras and Daisuke started shooting video of the place (and caught me on the camera >_> ahaha) and etc. This was also my first glimpse of what would turn out to be a regular habit when he was filming a new place: he'd hold the camera high up in the air, pointed at himself, and whirl around in circles to film the entire background behind him. Seriously, he did that everywhere we went. XD
So Roger brought me a menu to help them figure out what they wanted, and they set about learning how the sizes and toppings worked and stuff. And of course, this place has a GIANT list of toppings. Its trademark "All the Way" burger has, like, 10 things on it, and that's only half the list. So we all had a good laugh when Hiro said "Maybe I'll just get one with everything..." XD In the end though, they basically all ordered All the Way doubles, some with varying sauces. I just put myself down for an All the Way too, to make things simple. >> And yeah... someone brought a thing of peanuts for everyone to snack on (which of course amused the band :P), we settled at a couple of joined tables, and the wait began. I ended up sitting between Angel and Tak and across from Hiro, but not a lot of conversation happened that involved me, heh.
Their reactions to the food when it finally arrived were, of course, priceless. They all "oooo"ed and "sugoi"ed and "uwaaa"ed and spent several minutes just taking pictures of the burgers and pile of fries :P... and haha, Tak made the most awesome "Uwoooaaaah!!" noise when he unwrapped his burger. XD They all had a total blast... it was awesome. I mostly got wrapped up in random conversation with Angel, Don, and Roger though, so not much interaction with the band happened... but ah well, their food love alone was worth watching. :P And by the time we were done, even the lady who had served us was all interested and asking questions and wanting pictures of our group, hehe.
So after everyone finished, we headed back outside to wait for the con car to take everyone to Walmart. The wait wasn't too eventful... it was still raining a bit, so everyone just stayed clumped together under the awning, waiting... laughing when Roger was being loud and obnoxious >>... etc. Wasn't long before our car arrived and we loaded up again... and thus began another Japanese band's Walmart debut. :P
Of course, these guys didn't let us down - as soon as they entered the store, they were oohing and aahing and whipping out cameras. XD Then they began the process of wandering through EVERY aisle in the grocery section, just looking at stuff and commenting on the sizes, the volumes, and whatever else. The first to wander away from the group, several minutes later, was Hiro... then Tak wanted a toothbrush, so I led him to the opposite corner of the store to find those... headed back and found You looking for shampoo, Yuichi also looking for a toothbrush (he bought one for kids since he thought the adult ones looked too big to fit in his mouth XD wtf haha), and various other members wandering around in random places randomly... haha, it was great.
At one point I wandered back toward the sound of Roger's voice (it's impossible to miss >>), and found him trying to discuss something with Daisuke and not getting very far, so he enlisted my help. Apparently Daisuke was asking if he'd be able to buy some kind of green neon light to use for the concerts, to illuminate the box thingy he had asked the con to arrange for him to stand on during the show (he's THAT short XD). Roger said we could look at Radio Shack for a neon light the next day if the con's lighting crew didn't have anything suitable. So with that straightened out, more random wandering in random places ensued.
But yeah, my favorite part of the Walmart run was when I returned from one such random wandering spree to find a small portion of our group, including Daisuke, hanging around the toy aisles for some reason. I can't remember how it started, probably with some question or comment from him... but I ended up starting my next wandering track through the toy aisles, and Daisuke started following me, making conversation about the huge variety of stuff in the store, how he liked the clothes but none would fit him because he's "kids size" XD, their concert the next day, and probably some other stuff. So eventually I started wandering back toward the front of the store for some reason, and he was STILL just following me everywhere and nowhere, chatting about stuff. 8D He's so precious, omg. At some point I commented that this store was so big, even Americans get lost in it, and he laughed his pretty little head off. XD I quickly grew to love being around this guy, as you can probably guess by now... he's just so adorable and sweet and cheerful and good-natured and augh ♥
Annnnd I guess this brings us to the issues we went through trying to buy them some beer. First You tried to buy it herself, but they denied her because she hadn't brought her passport. So the second time she took Yuichi with her and they tried to use his passport, but for reasons unimaginable they denied that too. AND they confiscated the beer. WTF? So finally You just gave Roger some money and asked him to buy it, but even THAT didn't work for some reason none of us ever figured out. Soooo, long story short, no beer for You. *bad pun fail... ahem* But the last of our TR staff to arrive (or the last one I met at least), the female Angel, generously agreed to pick up the beer instead, so the rest of us went on ahead to the hotel.
When we got back, for some reason everyone kind of congregated in the lobby for a few minutes waiting for... something... permission to go upstairs, I guess? I dunno, but at this point I was starting to realize that these guys are VERY different from Suicide Ali in that they don't have that tendency to wander off by themselves. XP Eventually Roger was like "C'mon, let's go!" and we all went back up to our rooms, lol. But in the meantime we were treated to the sight of Hiro sitting in a chair and Daisuke doing this cute little elbow-dive-bomb thing toward him a couple times. XD
Finally we all got back upstairs, and the members started asking me what we would all be doing for the rest of the night. I told them we were free, but that we always started a con with a little party on the first night, just hanging out with snacks and drinks and Rock Band (when available, as it was here) and a little group toast to get everyone fired up for the rest of the weekend. They were all for it, but there were some delays as Roger was busy dealing with business stuff and setting up the Rock Band game in his room, so there was a bit of downtime... oh, and I believe this was when I was walking around out in the hallway with Yuu-kun in my arms, and Daisuke noticed and squee'ed over him for a moment, so I told him his name and he started laughing and said "Yuu-kun?! And we have a You and a Yuichi in the band...!" XD
Anyway, sometime during this little break Don and Female Angel popped into our room with a couple armfuls of beer bottles, which made You VERY happy. It's awesome how she's the girl in the band, but she's the one who's a total alcohol addict. XD She drank ALL the time throughout the weekend, yet I never saw her show signs of being noticeably drunk, haha. So yeah, the arrival of the beer drew the whole band into our room, where drinks were shared around (Daisuke and Tak aren't drinkers, but they found other stuff to sip on)... but we kept waiting for Roger, Don, and Male Angel to come in, and in that span of time half the band was falling asleep. >> But Roger finally arrived and got himself a glass of water, so the opening night kanpai finally took place and things were rolling. The only thing I really remember happening there, though, was Male Angel making me translate a bunch of random questions to ask Daisuke. We learned some pretty interesting stuff from this first little "interview," though - for example, Daisuke worked on the same label as X Japan when he first started out in his first band, Media Youth, and he actually wrote music with hide and Yoshiki. o______o And I actually found out later that Heath was a member of Media Youth before he joined X Japan and bgisahgkdshg. The man is a legend in his own right! Why is this stuff not being used to promote these guys more?!
Ahem, anyway... finally things were ready (enough) for everyone to migrate to Roger's room for a few rounds of Rock Band. I explained it to the band and they were all kinds of curious and eager to see it, so when we got them into the room and showed them how it works (specifically Roger showed Hiro how the drums work), they were MADLY impressed that such a game existed. So when everything was finally set up and we actually got the band members playing it (three of them anyway - Hiro on drums, Tak and Yuichi taking turns on guitar), they were pretty darn good once they figured out the general idea. They had a blast playing it too, and though Daisuke and You didn't play, I could tell they were having a great time watching. They were all smiles and bopping their heads and in Daisuke's case singing along to most of the songs (he wouldn't sing vocals though, darn lol) and just yeah. ♥ Too bad the Rock Band part of this shendig didn't last too long. I could've watched these guys and their reactions to that game all night. :D
But before too long Roger declared that he needed me to help him talk business with Daisuke, so we stepped out into the hall to do that (and the other members joined us later on their own). And as this discussion was going on, I also heard some of the members talk about sending someone to grab the "omiyage." o_o So as a couple of them were ducking in and out of their rooms checking/carrying merch and stuff, eventually they also handed Roger a handful of The Sound Bee HD official cell phone straps and said they were for everyone on staff. Two types even, one simple black plastic loop with their name and website address on it, and one that was a little wooden block with their name printed on and a little jingly bell at the top. All of us staffers got one of each. :D I immediately attached mine and wore them with pride for the rest of the weekend, haha *geek*
Anyway, by then it was getting pretty late, like almost 3am, and everyone decided to call it a night... so "oyasumi"s were exchanged and You and I returned to our own room. This was when she learned what an insomniac I am, as she grabbed her shower and went on to bed while I stayed up wide awake and working on this report until 4:30am or so. Yep, this con's off to a typical start in that sense. >> And thus ends Thursday...
And now, continue thee onward to part 2!