Over this past weekend I played the MIKU EXPO kick-off party "Digital Stars" at Fred Wildlife Refuge in Seattle, alongside a great line up of Mark Redito, Meishi Smile, Boa Constructor, Dog Noise & DJ Hojo. I'd say about 150 people or so came out to help get the weekend started. There was some really cool exclusive merch for this event including beautiful Hatsune Miku skateboards. Meishi Smile's set was wonderfully intense and probably one of the more difficult acts I have ever had to follow. All the performers either played songs that included Vocaloid, or drew inspiration from that aesthetic, so it was cool having a really varied line-up. I got to debut a special song I recorded just for the event featuring Hatsune Miku vocals. Getting to meet the staff from Crypton Future Media was great too, you can tell they really wanted to put on a great event. I think this will definitely go down as one of the most memorable parties I've ever played, and I feel lucky to have been a part of it!
My friend John and I attended the MIKU EXPO concert on Saturday at WaMu Theater. A sold out (as far as I could tell) show with 3,500 people! Anamanaguchi opened with a short but exciting set. It was a shame they didn't have the full visuals they had last time I saw them in Toronto, but given that they were the supporting act and also playing on a stage that already had an elaborate set up, I think that made sense.
I'd seen videos of Miku performing but I wasn't really sure what to expect. Visually it is really a treat, but you do have to suspend disbelief a little bit. When the show started I was really confused why she didn't appear bigger so she would be easier for people farther away to see, but then I realized she needed to be the same height as the live band members or it really would have ruined the effect. I'm not 100% sure of the projection technology being used, but it looked very clear and fluid from where we were sitting. The live band was super energetic and it was cool to hear the live arrangements of some familiar tunes. Many other vocaloid characters joined the show, and my favorite was "Remote Control" by Kagamine Rin & Len, a super high energy song with some great visuals to match that I was still humming after we left the theater.
I was already a fan of Miku, but there were still a few times where I was really surprised at how touching the experience was, and I thought "why am I tearing up at a projection of a virtual character?" One moment in particular stood out in her final encore song. The band left the stage and the last song was just Miku herself playing piano (a Yamaha electronic piano, nice touch). During part of the song she stopped playing and sang acapella. I actually felt myself gasp because I noticed how quiet everything else was. 3,500 people in the show and you could have heard a pin drop. That brief moment was a testament to how beautiful and touching technology can be, and I don't think I'll ever be able to forget it.
Everyone in the media seems caught up on focusing on Miku's "fakeness", as if this is the next logical conclusion after autotune or Milli Vanilli, or "you won't believe this crazy thing from Japan", but I see her as something much more globally human. Miku was created as just a tool, a blank slate & an image. WE collectively wrote her songs, collaborated with her and each other, developed her voice, told her story, and through our music brought her to "life".
So yes, I'm the sap standing there tearing up while I watch a singing hologram, but I can't help but experience the humanity deeply embedded within it at every level. When you know something isn't really human, you can project whatever personality you want onto it. In Miku's case, what we've collectively manifested is a utopian experience that crosses boundaries of language, geography, technology and physicality through music.
I'd say that's profoundly human.
Long live Hatsune Miku.