Finally, an obituary for a cultural artifact I never liked to start with: Velfarre — Avex’s inessential megaclub in Roppongi has contracted a severe case of reality and has two months to live. Apparently the fancy complex lost money from the start and had to move from “trendy” 4:30 am trance parties to pro-wrestling events in order to maintain some semblance of cash flow.
Avex no doubt started Velfarre to be the inheritor to the Juliana’s disco crown. Velf came out of the womb in Dec. 1994 — just three months after the legendary Juliana’s bit the dust that August. Avex can thank the Bubble-era disco boom for its entire existence, making a fortune selling “Best of Juliana’s” CDs to boastful white collar workers with
terrible no taste in music. So they open Velfarre to keep the Eurobeat fantasy alive, but by the time the first limos left the lot, it was clear to everyone Avex was just pulling a Weekend at Bernie’s.
Sure, the VIP area probably played host to some major moments of J-pop production lore. According to legend, Komuro Tetsuya would ask unsuspecting girls to write down their favorite words on cocktail napkins and then throw the results — “Chase” “the” and “Chance” — into the chorus refrain of Amuro Namie songs. But perhaps, the failure of Velfarre to sustain the Eurobeat Rave Factory in Japan pushed Avex into going more strongly into the J-Pop world. As I have theorized before, “As t —> infinity, all Japanese music becomes J-Pop.” In the case of Avex, Eurobeat begat TRF, Amuro, Max, etc. etc. and the company became the nation’s largest record company as a result.
Okay, so Eurobeat died with the Bubble, only to make its way into being the main influence on late ’90s pop music (Scatman John, too? Yes.) But since 2003 or so, we have been witness to a full-scale Bubble revival. Why did Velfarre not become a convenient meeting place for the Society for Creative Anachronism — Japanese New Rich Chapter who drive orange Porsches and buy their girlfriends who request Cartier watches Cartier watches? Maybe the sin of Existentism — still around in 2004 even though the best work was in 1994 (like Oasis)? More likely, I can imagine no time in Japanese pop culture history (or remember reading about a time in Japanese pop culture history) where music has meant so little to the overall culture. Eurobeat was tied to the Bubble at the hip. All products in the late ’90s had their personal J-Pop theme songs and vice versa. This kind of tie-up still exists, but no one is listening or checking the little note symbol in the lower left side of the screen. Mass culture barely has a soundtrack — okay, the song from the Fuyu no Sonata drama but you can’t dance to it. Koda Kumi sells records, but she does not make songs that anyone actually hears.
I can only remember going to Velfarre once — maybe for a Moodman/Ukawa Naohiro event in 2003 — which is not exactly a reflection of the OL-bangs-LV-trancesynth-$$$-chapatsu culture the hall was raised to enshrine. Another relic of ’90s culture dies in December, but this is just social restructuring, clearing the deadweight. The DOA club finally gets put in the morgue.