Head-banging in Japan

Visual Kei then and now: grasping for the right to be irresponsible

Cleo Qian
Gay Mag


Illustrations by Louisa Bertman

WeWe got to the concert three minutes late. There wasn’t a line for security outside the Playstation Theater, and the interior lobby was empty. As we rode down the escalator, we heard the strains of bass and heavily-distorted guitar warming up the audience. I worried aloud to my friend: Maybe no one had shown up. Maybe The GazettE would be playing just for the two of us and whatever handful of other nostalgia-suckers were still, in 2019, listening to them.

My friend was only coming with me so I wouldn’t have to go to the concert alone. He’d bought his ticket at the last minute. “What if there aren’t any left?” I’d chided him. “Angela,” he said, “do you really think it’s going to be sold out?”

It wasn’t.

II wasn’t a rebellious teenager. I went to a public high school known for its competitive academics, robust extracurriculars, and large proportion of Asian students, a feeder school for UC Berkeley and UCLA as well as top-ten colleges like Stanford and the Ivies. I was a devotee of the rat race, signing up for my own SAT classes, driving around from volunteer events to MUN conferences, and graduating with 14 AP classes on my transcript. When my parents protested my late nights doing homework, I went to my room, turned off…