If it wasn’t for Yoko, the winner of the Otakon concert would have been one of the bands at the matsuri. Except the ultimate winner was really the… rain! Indeed, a good chunk of the matsuri got rained out. The Slants never got to play, their flyer feeling forever forlorn in my pocket. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and thought it was much improved from last year.
The new location, less than fifteen minutes walking from the BCC, greatly enhanced the matsuri. The West Shore Park is literally a stone’s throw from the water providing a magnificent backdrop to the festivities. It also attracted significant passing attention from office workers to students on school trips, the latter of which felt robbed that the Aquarium/Science Center/Whatever didn’t measure up judging by some of their expressions as the teachers themselves hesitantly ushered the kids along.
Booths formed a horseshoe on the grass facing the stage. Besides tents of the performers, nearby area organizations such as the DC Anime Club and Anime USA made appearances. The Otakon tent had refreshments at very reasonable prices with two bottles of ice cold water for only one dollar.
I was surprised and disappointed that there were no food vendors present until I visited Press Ops during one of the rain delays where I learned that the three food trucks parked on the street were actually hired, not entrepreneurs seizing the opportunity. More food options are only a five minute walk away at the mall. Finally, I counted three booths where kids could amuse themselves with the typical fairground games.
The Chin Hamaya Culture Center and DJ Cutman returned from last year. Both performances were solid but I have nothing to add a year later. The taiko drumming sensation did perform a rendition of “Who Let the Dogs Out” which amused me.
Adam WarRock opened his set with a song about Pacific Rim. His rapping is impeccably average against solid booming beats. A woman behind me remarked his good taste for the lack of profanity but I demand much more in my hip hop. While he proclaimed that “it’s really tiresome to rap under the sun”, his energy did not show it. Indeed, it was his personality that endeared us. For someone rooted to the same spot for practically the entire time, his movements carried us in the moment. I found myself nodding along as his arm and head slashed and snapped about. Even as rain started to fall, some remained getting soaked in place to watch him. Entirely revolved around pop culture and all things nerdy, he proudly professed his nerdom and encouraged all of us to do the same. It was a simple message that he delivered wholeheartedly.
There was supposed to be a yukata contest and I think it did occur except I had expected it to do so on stage not on the grass infront. I saw maybe ten women beautifully attired with some holding lovely paper umbrellas gathered around for photographs. I would have taken photos but opted to hide from the drizzle under the tent. My decision proved wise as rain poured shortly after. The matsuri washed away instantly as staff placed covers over equipment. However, before long, the next band would easily cajole us out under the tents for an epic performance.
There are bands who are really good live. Then there’s Uzuhi. You can watch the video to see what I mean. At one point, he started speaking to us before slowly degenerating into Engrish. Asking us if we understood him, he accused us of being too otaku when we replied in the affirmative. What I didn’t capture in motion picture speaks even louder. He jumped off the stage into the crowd but what happened next was utterly and unpredictably awesome. Pointing and grabbing people, he commanded them to dance together. Boy girl boy girl then boy boy. The two guys did not look thrilled yet voiced no protest then shaked out a move or two that ilicited smiles and laughter all around.
Smile. Happiness. Those are Uzuhi’s mission. And they do not dissapoint. The pictures tell all. Unfortunately, I was supposed to pick up Linda and company from the bus stop and they just had to arrive during the best set of the matsuri. I originally asked her if she could wait then felt bad at my selfishness so after roughly half past five, I departed the matsuri with a heavy heart, not knowing that I wouldn’t get the chance to return, the music of chocolate smile fading behind me.