Paris Japan Expo: Day Two

I got as decent a sleep as I could hope for in a small hotel room in France with no air conditioning. In fact, so much so that I completely slept through two texts from -Kitsune- informing us that he was, first, waiting for us at breakfast, and then second, in line for the Expo. We got up around 8 and, after learning from -Kitsune-'s texts that the line was already pretty long for the Expo, left as soon as possible. On the way out we ran into Paul.Thomas in the elevator - though I had no idea it was him until he got out and Ole told me who it was. I do remember wondering, "Why is he here? Shouldn't he be at the Expo already too?"

When we got there we found ourselves a little lost. We tried walking in the same entrance that we took the day before, but the staff stopped us and informed us that the doors weren't open yet. So clearly this wasn't where the line was. We wandered around a bit, looking out for where we were supposed to go when another staff member kindly showed us where the entrance to the queue was. And so we began queuing. The heat was becoming just as unbearable as the day before, and I'd left my uchiwa at the hotel, but the three of us took it in our stride, as we winded our way through the line, before we reached a large warehouse filled with nothing but barricades and people lining up.

There were alot of people, and we were stuck lining up here for a good 20 minutes before we finally got to the end and got to rejoin the queues in the sun outside. This one moved a bit faster though, but we were still getting a little impatient. But eventually we made it inside.

Gunnar went off on his own to check out other parts of the Expo as Ole and I made our way straight to the line for the signing lottery. It was already pretty long. Long enough that it had already reached the barricade seperating it from the exhibit/stall behind, and the line had somehow forked off in either direction, so you had two lots of people lining up to join a single line. We got there just before this forked tail started to really develop though, and we had about 30 minutes to an hour before the draw actually started, so the line kept growing, but wasn't moving. (By the end of it, it became twice as long as it was when we joined it)

Ole had brought a speaker that he bought specifically for the Expo, however, so we hooked our iPods and MP3 players up to it and killed the time by blasting out some Hello!Project music, which those around us seemed to enjoy.

I noticed a familiar looking wota sitting next to us in the line, however. I recognised him as one of the Mexican wota, and one who had joined the FNAC queue around the same time we did (though his group were slightly behind us). In fact, in that queue he came up to us all and told us about the plans for the concert and us singing Happy Birthday to Sayu. He didn't want people to chant Sayu's name before the encore as is normal in concerts in Japan, as he felt it would put a little too much attention on Sayu and not enough on the fact that this was Morning Musume's first concert in Europe, so instead we would all sing happy birthday to her after she introduced herself during the first MC. We all agreed that this was a good idea and we would be sure to tell other people about it too. I found it strange, though, that at that time he knew me by the name "Dran" and, even though I recognised him, I didn't have a clue who he was.

So back to the present, lining up waiting for the signing draw to start, I spoke to him asking him who he was and how he knew me. It turned out that it was Carlos, a fellow lurker/chatter in the #hyakupa IRC channel under the name OkAichan. So that was how he knew me.

Actually, this turned out to happen from time to time over the course of the Expo, where people would recognise me and say, "You're Dran, right?" and I wouldn't recognise them immediately or at all until after they informed me their screenname (usually by way of flashing the H!O nametag attatched to their bag). This always made me feel a little bad, that so many people knew me, but I couldn't return the gesture. I'm not particularly good with names or faces, but I do feel I should have made more of an effort to learn what people looked like beforehand.

Anyway, the line started moving, and so we turned off our music and prepared ourselves for the lottery, drawing on the power of Maasa (or whatever other Idols were favoured by the others) to guide our hands to winning tickets. Well... Unfortunately the answer to our prayers was a clear "No." None of us got a winning ticket. Slightly dissappointed we joined our group (which was to now include Kiss!Kiss!Kiss! [or Dean], gina and markRAWR and blu-cheri.) only to learn that Gina had won a ticket. She and Mark hadn't bothered to turn up for the fnac signing, so at least she got to go to one of the sessions.

We spoke to Oroboras and Maoh for a bit, who were a bit further back in the line than we were, before deciding to go get some water and then make our way to the signing session. We also ran into CFB in the line even further back, who informed us that there were already people lining up for the concert - about 30 or so. This came as a bit of a surprise as the signing session hadn't even started yet, but we spoke about it a little and he directed us on how to get to the concert, when we left him to finally grab that water.

We got back, and Orob and Maoh were getting pretty close to the front of the line, so we stuck around and spoke with them a little more. Throughout the Expo there was no-one we felt deserved a ticket more than Orob, after he was in line for the fnac session since 3am and got the last CD in the store, but they had somehow managed to run out of tickets before they did CDs (which they neglected to tell anyone until after the CD had been bought and paid for).

But he and Maoh both failed to draw a winner. So we all made our way to watch the signing session.

We actually got there pretty early, there weren't that many people there. But for some reason which escapes me, we didn't immediately take a spot at the front of the crowd. We hung back, and joined (what became the middle) of the crowd about half an hour before the session started. We ended up at the barricades behind the line, but on the rightmost end of it. A good spot if you're an 8th Gen fan, but it wasn't a great spot to lurk if you wanted the attention of the other members. I made the most of what I had though.

Whenever a gap developed in the line and one of the girls were free, we'd yell her name and wave to her, or various other hand gestures also became frequent. And these gaps developed an awful lot around the 8th Gen members, as Reina was just before them, and she takes notoriously long to do her signature. Despite the fact that we only ever got to wave to those 3 members (and sometimes Sayu or Reina), I had a great time. And it didn't take long before I noticed something odd. Aika kept looking at me, I'd wave to her, and she'd wave back with that grin on her face. I hate Aika. Or I did. Over the course of the time I was there, she waved to me more than any other member (with LinLin bringing up the rear in a near 2nd*). I gradually started to think that maybe I had misjudged Aika. And that became something of a theme at the Expo, there were countless Aika haters in the audience who went home at the end of the 4 day Expo as an Aika fan.

*Actually, there was one moment during one of the signing sessions where LinLin wasn't doing anything, but I noticed her looking over in my direction, so I waved to her. One lone wota waving to the beautiful Idol at the end of the table. She saw me, and happily waved back, which then sent all the other fans around me (and ultimately the whole crowd) into an uproar trying to wave to her and catch her attention. I was quite pleased with this little moment we shared.

I also got JunJun to wave to me from time to time, but not as much as I would have liked - her being my favourite member, of course - nor, indeed, as much as the other 8th Gen members.

Gina went up there at some point, and apparently Brian managed to sneak in pretending to be a Press member who had lost his Pass (they saw his camera and thought it must be true?), but I barely even noticed any of that. My attention was entirely on the three 8th Generation girls sitting in front of me, who time after time would smile and wave to us as we yelled.

Anyway, time went on, and the girls left. And so, we made our way to the shuttle bus for the concert. The heat outside was unbearable, I briefly tried to sit on the concrete, but realised after only a few seconds that my arse would catch fire if I sat there for any longer.

Eventually the bus arrived, and everyone crowded on. In fact, it was crowded to the point that it looked like those buses you see in India with people hanging off of the sides. Okay, a slight exaggeration on my part, but it honestly wasn't much of one. Anyway, half of us decided to go for the next one, which was stopped 30 seconds behind, as they honestly couldn't close the doors we were packed in so tight.

We got on the next one which was alot easier to move in. It took us to the carpark and everyone else but the half of our group on the bus got off. For a moment I was worried that we had gotten the wrong bus after all, but Orob spoke to the driver and asked him if it went to the Morning Musume concert, and the driver simply replied "Concert? It's over there!" and drove us there. It was a little strange, after seeing the previous bus leave packed to it's bursting limit, and then us turning up at the entrance with an entire bus to ourselves.

We had no idea where the others were, but Orob, -kitsune-, Maoh, blu-cherri and myself all joined the queue and sat down. It was only around 3pm, so we still had 4-5 hours to wait. But we passed the time well. There were lots of Japanese wota around trading/selling photocards and my only regret about the whole day was that I didn't buy up all of the Maasa photocards. Oroboras had lots of H!P PVs on his phone, so we put a few on. Maoh found it very funny when Orob and I started doing the nose flick thing with the thumb from Hana wo Pu~n. Then we asked Blu-cherri to request a song, and she chose Yuke Yuke Monkey Dance.

What happened next I should have expected, but didn't. A girl walking past in the queue behind us stopped and started to do the dance, so blu, who is rather well-known on YouTube for posting videos of herself doing the dances for Hello!Project songs, got up and joined her. And the two of them, there in the queue went through the whole dance for Yuke Yuke Monkey Dance practically flawlessly. The two were pretty tired out by the end, but when it did end our group, and even lots of people sitting around us who had been watching too broke out into applause.

She said she wouldn't, but she did do another dance when Minimoni no Jankenpyon came up, which provoked a similiar reaction from the crowd as the first time.

Soon everyone started to get ready to go inside, so we all stood up and the line tightened up. We managed to move to the front-most line of the the queue. Orob turned to me at this point and, drawing my attention to the time on his watch, said, "It's now Maasa's birthday (in Japan)." And so, moving down the line, we broke out into song singing Happy Birthday to Maasa. Some nearby Japanese wota laughed.

While we were lining up, Morning Musume could be heart rehearsing inside. And every now and then the staff would tease us by opening up the doors, so we could see all the way to the stage where they were practicing, and we'd all cheer, before they close the doors again. Then the UFA staff (or maybe they were journalists?) brought their cameras outside and took lots of pictures of the crowd. They kept running past with video cameras and getting shots of the crowds going wild. If they ever publish that footage, I'll be on it, since we were right in front of the cameras. We also saw on of the UFA staff taking pictures of us on her iPhone. Seeing her would prove to be one of the most important things we did in the queue. We didn't know it yet, but she would go on to lead us right to Morning Musume, which I'll be sure to explain in great detail in the Day Three entry.

The doors did finally open though, and we all rushed in for a pretty fantastic concert. There were no seats, so the term "row" is pretty ill-defined in this context, but it's the best way to describe how close we were to the stage. We got to the 7th "row". We were as close to the stage as one could hope for. And standing behind Maoh, a short Japanese man, meant I had a fantastic view of the stage. No heads in front.

I broke my glowsticks in preperation for the concert, but unfortunately most of them didn't survive the trip from Britain, wether it was the post to my house from England or the flight over to Paris, I'm not sure. But most of them didn't really work. I did get a Gaki green and Sayu pink to light up pretty well though. But next time, I need LEDs rather than liquid glowsticks.

I'm not really going to go into much detail about the concert itself. I've never been one to review concerts, and the people who can TBT them are pretty crazy people in my eyes. But also because I don't actually remember much of the details of the concert. I couldn't even tell you what the setlist was. The heat was incredible, the energy (in our part of the audience at the front) was fantastic, and the performances were perfect. But my recollection of the whole thing is somewhat hazy.

I do remember, however, that the plan for singing Sayu's happy birthday didn't go quite as well as planned. She introduced herself, went to step back, and apparently some people hadn't gotten the memo. Some people like myself and Orob started to sing happy birthday (not at the same time which made it all the more confusing) other people were simply cheering, and some people were yelling "AIKA!" (because she was up next to introduce herself).  Fortunately Gaki realised what we were trying to do, maybe they heard the people at the front singing better than the people at the back shouting for Aika. But Gaki brought a somewhat shocked Sayu back to the front, where she led us into singing Happy Birthday to her. Alls well that ends well, but I guess we all should have done a better job of getting word out about when to sing happy birthday.

After the concert, I was dead. I'd used to much energy up, and I didn't have much room to do any warm up before the concert as the line was pretty tight. I'd been on my feet for the last 3 or 4 hours without sitting down at all, and had done alot of jumping during the concert. So after it was over, I kind of made my way into the grounds outside like a cripple and sat on the concrete and I've got to tell you, the cool, hard concrete has never felt so comfortable. And I'd been sleeping on it the previous morning.

Originally we had planned to go straight to the Parc des Exposition after the concert (it was after 9pm, the Expo had long since closed) and camp there overnight to get to the following day's First Come First Served signing session. After the concert we realised that this wasn't a great idea. We had been sweating like pigs during the concert, and it just felt disgusting. So we all decided to head back to our hotel rooms to shower, before meeting up again at the Expo queue.

Ole and I weren't actually sure if we were going to. We had all planned to, but when we got back to the hotel room we just collapsed on the bed, too exhausted to even shower, we seriously contemplated just staying at the hotel and lining up in the morning, but after we both forced ourselves in the shower, I convinced Ole that we should head to the Expo to line up.


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