Concert ReviewsHanabie. - May 17, 2024 - Toad's Place, New Haven, CT

Hanabie. – May 17, 2024 – Toad’s Place, New Haven, CT

Having momentum firmly on their side, Japan’s Hanabie. was just over on this side of the Pacific last fall but have saw fit to return for two week trek across parts of the United States and Canada. Given the incredible performance the band gave at the Gramercy last September, it was a no-brainer to finally make it to Toad’s Place in New Haven. Since said tour, the band has released two new songs in “Otaku Lovely Densetsu” and the recent “Girl’s Talk” while their popularity has notably risen in the West, gauging at Spotify listens as well as strong word of mouth for their inventive songwriting as well as their intense live performances. Joining Hanabie. for this tour is deathcore act Left to Suffer as well as metalcore/post-hardcore act Outline in Color.

Getting brought into the venue early, my partner and I were able to catch the tail end of Outline in Color’s soundcheck while having a seat on the side, and saw the VIP set-up as Hanabie. has stepped up their fan interactions for the West in this current tour. Last fall, there was no meet & greet option for the US dates (Europe was lucky enough to have a small one if you were one of the first 100 people to buy merch), so this time around, the band offered a Meet and Greet experience and by the looks of the VIP line in New Haven, there were plenty of interested fans. People were ushered in and given a pre-signed poster (complete with date of the show) as well as a VIP lanyard, and were lined up to get a photo op with the band. Considering the website said it was limited to 50 people, there were definitely more than that inside the venue and to the credit of the staff,  it didn’t impact the experience. It was well organized with people directing fans to the line as well as keeping things moving along. The band seemed to be all smiles, welcoming fans and some of them even brought gifts for the members. Running a tight first day schedule (there was an event in the venue after the Hanabie. concert), the VIP didn’t seem to be too rushed and there were happy fans throughout and the GA doors opened right on time at 6pm.

Warming up the crowd right at 7pm was Outline in Color. The venue was already looking rather packed – the 1000 capacity hall didn’t sell out but came close. The band came out of the gates swinging, literally in some regards with vocalist Michael Skaggs swinging the mic around as the band began their 30 minute set. Having only checked out a few songs before the performance, including the recently released “Won’t Let Myself Become You,” the band was a bit of a pleasant surprise. Lots of energy on the stage, as their metalcore sound included Skaggs doing both screams and some cleans, while bassist Jonathan Grimes took the majority of the cleans. They managed to pack 9 songs into their short set, allowing only the smallest of breaks to chat with the crowd and instead focus on delivering as much music as they possibly could. The crowd was certainly won over by the end, with some of the band’s heavier songs, such as “Eat Your Heart Out,” starting to get the crowd out of their line-waiting legs moving and starting a bit of the evenings pit festivities. Their frequent interactions with each other and the crowd ensured that it wasn’t a much of a fight to get everyone into it, with the effective combination of groove-heavy riffing with a modern slant and some incredibly catchy hooks that accompanied Grimes’ vocals.

Next up was deathcore act Left to Suffer, an arguably much heavier band than the others of the night. Having checked out their previous release Feral last year, there was a bit of wonder as to how some of the crowd would react to such a brutal act. Vocalist Taylor Barber stood during set up and appeared to be an imposing figure, but as the music started, he quickly proved himself to be a gurgling, but very friendly, teddybear. Some props must be given his way for his direction of the crowd at the beginning and throughout the set, urging fans to give their all in the pit and crowdsurfing, but do to so respectfully. And that’s exactly what happened throughout the band’s set. The pit rapidly expanded upon the band’s first notes, at Barber’s urging, and the vicious riffing and breakdowns that were perpetually delivered to the audience. It didn’t take long for the crowd surfing to begin either, quickly drawing some comparisons to Hanabie.’s last performance coming to mind as the middle of the floor was in constant movement while fans surfed their way to the front between crushing breakdown sections. With songs representing more recent times (“Lost in the Dark”) as well as older cuts like “Loathe” and “Anger,” they were able to cover quite a bit as well within the short opening time slot. Barber’s vocals sounded even more intense and varied in the live setting, as the rumbling guitars all but demanding the crowd to participate in their music instead of just watching. It was easy to claim that the crowd was very much warmed up and ready for the main event as Left to Suffer left the stage, having certainly won over some new fans who may not have been exposed to them otherwise.

If there was ever a sign that the crowd was ready and itching to watch Hanabie., it had to come from the fact that as 9pm drew closer, people start to actually crowdsurf during the set-up. Not many, but it in my personal experience of show-going for over 20 years at this point, not once do I recall seeing people initiating that between sets at a club show. As all four members of the band took to the stage, the crowd all but instantaneously erupted. Starting off with “OTAKU Lovely Densetsu,” one of their newest cuts, it didn’t take long to notice that somehow they have managed to one-up their already massive stage presence from last fall. While much can be echoed in terms of the quality from that performance, the Hanabie. crew just seems more confident and somehow even more lively. What stood out the most about their performance in the fall was how much fun they were having and how it transferred over to the audience. The same thing could easily be said of this show, yet it all seemed more massive.

Yukina continues to be a potent ball of energy as she leaps, hops, dances, and perpetually moves across the stage while singing/screaming her heart out. Chika is furious behind the drumkit, pounding down on the set throughout the show but still managing to elicit smiles all the while. Bassist Hettsu continues to be almost as animated as Yukina, seemingly in a constant state of smiles while making her way around the stage as well, engaging with the crowd at every possible opportunity. Matsuri, with the challenging role of both guitar and clean vocals, still manages to engage with the audience as well – commanding attention when those big choruses come her way as she capably thrashes away at the same time. The Yukina and Hettsu interactions were even more playful than before, with some highlights being the two of them interacting over beer – one of the few times in the hour-long set that allowed for a stop of more than a few seconds for the band to catch their breath, as Hettsu called for the audience to cheers with her (and Yukina briefly played with her hair). Later Yukina took a sip from her beer as well, with a very animated facial expression.

Playful stage antics are one thing, and they augment the experience, but Hanabie. wouldn’t be where they are without bringing their A-game to the music as well. Seemingly quite confident in their setlist, there was a little less reliance overall on their most recent album, Raise wa Ijin [Reborn Superstar], and more older songs found their way into the setlist this time. So we were treated to more songs from their 2021 release Girls Reform Manifest as well as their first EP, 2018’s Cherry Blossoms Are Blooming. A treat to hear some of these songs, such as “L.C.G.,” which was offered as a choice as an extra song for being an entertaining crowd  – the choice of “Reiwa Dating Apps Generation” or “L.C.G.” was offered with the latter being picked, as well as the groove-heavy and headbang-friendly deep cut  “Ghost Mania.”  “Bukkowasu” as an early song in the mix provided a nice combination of headbanging fun and thrashing energy before the group took their first short break. “Be the Gal” again offered plenty of fun, danceability to it, with the crowd being urged to drop down to the floor before everyone rose back up at a key moment. Not to mention the even louder shout of “What the Fuck” at a pivotal moment in the song.

New song “Girl’s Talk” was a highlight as a more rock-oriented track for Hanabie. with plenty of hooks and groove – making for a fun live song to really dig into. “Tousou” once again saw the band opening up for a massive wall of death that raged itself for the the intense thrasher of a song. “Want to TIE-UP” was a nice surprise too at the end, with it’s stronger melodic undercurent that felt even more epic in the live setting. Admittedly, “Today’s Good Day & So Epic” seems to have solidified itself as the perfect ‘final song’ (before an encore anyways), providing that soaring, fun feeling to fill the crowd and bring about some resolution, before they begin to chant “one more song” in hopes of an encore. In a bit of a ‘whoa’ moment that seemed to encapsulate the energy of the band and crowd for the evening, someone in a wheelchair successfully managed to crowdsurf (very safely) to the front between songs.

Hanabie. is the very epitome of a ‘must-see live band.’ While their studio output is stellar, they manage to provide a live performance that somehow masterfully outdoes it. With their creative musical approach, they are also the type of band that you can introduce to anyone who is seeking something different. There’s a reason they can tour with such a wide breadth of bands, from the incredibly brutal to more melodic acts, and this latest tour is just proof-positive that they have secured a foothold on the international landscape and intend to make the most of it. It’s all but guaranteed that those who left the crowd at Toad’s are going to talk to their friends about this one and bring at least one more next time around (if they don’t simply see the live chaos across their socials from sheer buzz factor). Hell, I did exactly that myself! Catch them now while they are still playing the intimate club shows, because at the rate they are going, it’s just a matter of time before they REALLY catch fire make that leap to the next level. And it’s hard to find reference to another band more deserving of making that leap in the current musical landscape. Hanabie. is putting in all the hard work and dedication to make sure that dream becomes reality.

Hanabie. setlist:
1. OTAKU Lovely Densetsu
2. Neet Game
3. Bukkowasu!!
4. Be the Gal – Early Summer version –
5. We Love Sweets
6. Girl’s Talk
7. Warning!!
8. Ghost Mania
9. Tousou
10. Pardon Me, I Have to Go Now
11. Want to TIE-UP
12. Today’s Good Day & So Epic
13. Sunrise Miso Soup
14. Sentimental Heroine
15. L.C.G.

Hanabie. on Facebook
Hanabie. on Instagram 
Hanabie on X
Left to Suffer on Facebook
Outline in Color on Facebook

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