To the left of the stage, a crowd of sweaty adolescents, and to the right, the local yiffer collective. Yes, it’s that time of the year again where comic book nerds, anime fanatics and basement dwellers alike take over London’s Excel to embrace their nerdy fantasies that, at any other time of the year, would land them a night or two in the slammer (example A). With over a hundred thousand attendees in October last year, this event has made it onto my avoid list for three years running, but it was time to make an exception.

Joining the line-up of rough dance numbers and press play DJ sets on MCM’s Fringe Stage, making their first UK appearance, was Tokyo’s latest gimmick fuelled international up and comers BAND-MAID, or at least that’s how they look on the surface. Don’t let the maid costumes cloud your judgment though, as unlike other bands in the same vein, behind the outfits lies a technically talented hard rock group that isn’t afraid to let loose and deliver some incredible heavy tracks. Ripping into their short set, each member gave their own show defining highlights from drummer Akane’s relentless beats and lead vocalist Saiki’s powerful shouts, to guitarist Kanami’s rip-roaring solos on tracks like LOOK AT ME and alone.


Well polished and performed almost effortlessly, BAND-MAID provides a sound that is easy to get behind compared to other acts catered towards the anime lovers and idol oglers that events like these tend to attract. While listening to them it’s easy to forget about the band’s aesthetic, and that’s when they shine the most, but it’s not long until reality hits, and as lead girl Miku starts off a sickly sweet call and response of “moe moe kyun!”, you remember where you are.

Great music certainly sells, but sex sells more, and it’s the people who this brand of cute/sexy brings to these shows that distract from what is a great breakthrough band. Comments like “on the floor, where she belongs” when one of the guitarists knelt down to set up her peddles, made it a struggle to stick around, and unfortunately it’s something that we now expect to hear at idol performances, but not at a rock show.

Musically, BAND-MAID has earned a lot of respect and a following that takes them for more than just eye candy, but their maid cafe roots have also attracted fetishists and the submissive connotations that come along with it. Any band should be able to own whatever look they want without being labeled an object, and over the years we’ve seen bands like Otoboke Beaver and TRIPPPLE NIPPPLES assert that mindset and demand respect on the stage. BAND-MAID has the sound and the skill, now it’s just a matter of what direction they want to take the band and how they want to be perceived in the years to come.

Words and photos by Charles Shepherd

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