Playing with the sand at the side of the road

Watson The Radio #0

So this will be my first blog post on this site in over five years. Considering the gap, you might think this subject is of great importance.

You would be wrong.

I’ve been spending a lot of time since lockdown watching virtual YouTubers, mostly (but not limited to) those from the Hololive agency.

Oh God, what happened?

I remember being cognizant of falling further and further down, but cannot remember when I had finally ticked off the stages of grief and arrived at acceptance. It’s been one of the most terrifying rabbit holes I’ve fallen in to on the Internet.

Being in the hole generates daily musings that are born and die just as quickly, most being too ill-formed and maniacal to bother my Twitter peeps with. Rather than see them go to waste, I’m using this blog as an outlet for these shower thoughts.

  • engaging characters and chemistry
  • entertainment that feels more real than constructed reality
  • accessibility to fans, and the unwritten rules that govern the sphere
  • culture clash (not in a perjorative way!) introduced by groups from outside Japan

Aside from these vaguely academical ideas, it’s just really fun to watch!

You might say I should go and see a doctor about this. I’m afraid I already have.

Dr. Amelia Watson

A recent stream from Hololive EN’s number one detective Amelia Watson pressed many of my buttons. So many, in fact, it was the inspiration to end this five year hiatus.

It was a “listen-along” stream where we all listen to the same music organised around a theme. The music leads the conversation, and we see which avenues it leads us down.

This is an unenviable task. I feel abject terror when choosing music to play with friends in the same room. Try scaling that up to quadruple digit numbers of strangers on the Internet.

The theme this week initially focused around ska music, which is a real blind spot of mine. I’m not even sure if I’m using the term correcly, but my lack of knowledge made me excited.

We’re heading on a journey through a genre with someone engaged and much more knowledgeable than I.

It comes in waves

Blind spot number one appeared very quickly. Amelia and chat mentioned “waves” of ska music during Somewhere In The Between by Streetlight Manifesto, specifically third-wave ska.

American ska is alien to me, which confused the hell out of me. Being raised in the UK, precious little filtered through to chart pop radio stations of my youth.

But I feel bad for missing out on an entire decade of music. It goes to show that pockets still exist despite the pervasiveness of American culture.

It’s no exaggeration to say that this album has been my only experience in American ska so far. Amelia played The Mighty Mighty Bosstones from here; Less Than Jake are also a notable example. As a quick sidebar, this compilation has no right to be as good as it does. Don’t sleep on the Digimon movie soundtrack!

Operation Ivy’s Sound System is brought up as a progenitor of skacore, as it’s also known. This was a really cool song for me - it has a totally different feeling to the later examples, sounding much thrashier and dirtier. It also doesn’t have any brass! The familiar off/on twang really cements the through-line from there to here.

From here we went a little deeper on some other avenues. Streetlight’s lead singer Toh Kay’s solo material includes some forays into orchestral fusions. Large bands with many instruments are so much fun to watch live. Side note: I will pay money to see any band that uses two drum kits.

A few things really made this stream special. The connections from song to song made in the moment felt organic, and Amelia’s gig war stories were endearing and reminded me of all the good times I’ve had at music events too.

If you’d asked a few months ago on the odds for Japanese idol agency Hololive having a connection to wedding reception perennial Come On Eileen (even a ska cover by Save Ferris), I’d have given you hat-eating numbers. These days it feels like we cross the Rubicon every week.