Gig Report: Dir en Grey with Dagoba (San Francisco, California)

The announcement of the Ghoul Tour was a very exciting moment for the american fans of Dir en Grey. With the Japan-based band’s last US Tour canceled due to the hospitalization of their vocalist Kyo, it had been been a decent number of years since the last US show. Famous for their on-stage self-mutilation, shocking performances, and otherkin-identifying fanbase. Dir en Grey would also be supported by Dagoba, a metal band from France, who had released their fifth full-length album, Post Mortem Nihil Est earlier in the month. It was clear that this event simply could not be missed. On the day of, I set off to attend the show with high expectations.

by Noel Holmes

When I arrived at the venue, the first surprise that took me was the number of people who came alone. More than any other concert, the line was scattered with men, women, boys, and girls flying solo. Being a niche (morbid-themed metal?) within a niche (J-rock), most fans seem to have trouble convincing their friends to come along.

Understandably so. With the volume of fashionably dressed gothic lolitas in attendance, it’s easy to question whether or not J-Rock is a valid category of music. In most cases, it’s not. As with many genres, the majority of of modern J-rock is template-driven pop music, engineered by marketing professionals to appeal to fans of Japanese fashion and culture.

With song names that translate to Rain of Rape, Dir en Grey are an exception to this rule. Starting as what could be most closely equated to a cross-dressing pop-punk band in the 90’s, Dir en Grey has released eight albums without changing a single member, and has since evolved to something that can be best classified as a shock-inducing, experimental death metal band.

The tour itself had thrown in some challenges for the groups. After being rumored to be stuck in a security lockdown in the Dallas airport, to then having a bus break down in Seattle, forcing one of their shows to be rescheduled with one day’s notice, they had been taxed quite heavily.

Unaffected, both Dir en Grey and Dagoba were prepared, and delivered solid performances that captured the hearts of both the hardcore, loyal fans, and the newcomers.

Dagoba was first to take the stage, and they took it with passion.


From the moment I saw the intricacy of Shawter’s mustache, I knew that he was totally for serious. As a passionate singer utilizing both low, controlled growls, and ballad-driven nu metal cleans, he kept the audience alive with his divine focus and energy. When the lights dimmed for the slower, more controlled parts of their set, faint whispers of “they sound kind of like Pantera” could be heard from the older members of the audience.


After closing out with a heavily accented “I love yo, yo, yo, yo, and yo!” Dagoba took a well-received bow while exiting off the stage.

Since the Ghoul tour was well-rehearsed in both the US and Japan, the set up was quick. The set list and audio-visual components were deeply integrated, and as a result everything was structured and orderly. The performance was completely pre-arranged to the point that it seemed as if Dir en Grey were auditioning for an upcoming Cirque de Soliel performance.


Starting with hard, heavy metal, Dir en Grey began with their more intense songs in an attempt to let the crowd blow off the reserves of excitement they’ve been building up in anticipation of seeing their favorite band.


The leader singer, Kyo, is veiled in a black sash which covers his face, which blows in the artificial wind generated by the carefully placed fans below him. After beating off a couple fan favorites, the band transitioned into the more highbrow elements of their intricately designed performance.

The lights went out, allowing the crowd to focus on a projection screen mounted on the stage. Upon the projection screen was pure black, nothingness, but soon it was revealed that the projection screen would be a live, giant magnification of Kyo’s face.


The super-sized screen allowed the crowd to take in the details of Kyo’s intimidating make-up setup. His face had been painted in a horror-like fashion, but he also wore contacts that caused his eyes to appear to be exploding, and routinely demonstrated rehearsed faces that made the audience feel as if his head were about to fly out and eat them, which I’m sure most of us would have been OK with.

The first song to experience this treatment would of course be The Blossoming Beezelbub, the song most associated with Kyo’s ventures into creative, yoga and death prone performance.

“Dude… it sounds like he’s fucking praying to Satan…” said the tall, confident bro as he stood in the crowd beside me.


After the circus act, the band returned to more familiar rock and metal songs. Being late in the tour, the strain in Kyo’s voice could be heard as he sacrificed the flesh of his physical throat to summon his demonic Persona. The projection screen turns to the type of disturbing videos you’d see from a solo EDM artist opening for an industrial show, such as deformed babies melting, and Hiroshima being bombed. Meanwhile, Shinya thrashes on his giant overhead cymbals, and Toshiya, token dreamy bassist, wears an elegant dress.


When the act closed, Dir en Grey, acting as avatars of terror, came to the front of the stage to please the crowd with the usual pick-throwing and bowing, but something was different different. Contrary to their usual always-in-character-to-the-point-of-cutting-themselves-on-stage act, they looked at the crowd…


…and smiled.



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