What do school uniforms, pineapple sunglasses, and bass-pounding electronic music have in common? 

They could all be found at the New York City stop of ATARASHII GAKKO!’s “The SEISHUN Tour,” which had the Music Hall of Williamsburg on their feet all night. This 10-day tour is their first venture across North America, hitting cities like San Francisco, Washington D.C, Chicago, and Toronto. Despite New York audiences having had the rare chance to see them earlier this summer at 88rising’s Head in the Clouds festival, the Brooklyn stop was still sold-out in anticipation. 

Flowing seamlessly between jazz, punk, and EDM influences, the four members of ATARASHII GAKKO! – Mizyu, Rin, Suzuka, and Kanon – treated New York City to an exciting, hypnotic, and truly next-level show.

Photo courtesy of Niamh Murphy.

Free Your Mind

ATARASHII GAKKO! are a masterclass in showmanship, and their show on Saturday was a prime example. From the first notes of the opening song, “SEISHUN WO KIRISAKU HADO,” they had the crowd in a frenzy. Everything in their set worked together to create a near manic feeling of excitement: strobing LED lights, bold, chanting choruses, and lively, acrobatic choreography.

Photo courtesy of Niamh Murphy.

Known for their genre-bending sound, ATARASHII GAKKO!’s set covered a variety of feelings, from the upbeat “CANDY” to the Sukuna-dubbed “sexy song,” “Otona Blue.”  “Suki Lie” added a jazzy, music-box sound with a matching doll-like choreo, while “The Edge” mashed up a rock chorus with a retro 8-bit bassline. Some songs even mixed genres throughout them, including “Pineapple Kryptonite,” which jumped from an upbeat, repetitive chorus to an eerie, melodic post-chorus. And in a fun twist for their American audience, they added in a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic.” It fit so well with ATARASHII GAKKO!’s existing songs that it took some concertgoers a moment or two to recognize that it was a cover.

Photos courtesy of Niamh Murphy.

Each song had an accompanying complicated choreography. But unlike many other choreographies, ATARASHII GAKKO!s involved pyramids, lifts, tumbles, and cartwheels. The choreos shown weren’t just movements to accompany the lyrics: they added a rich, visual experience to each song that could only come when watching the group live. “Pineapple Kryptonite,” for example, featured dramatic, emotive “fight scenes” and mimed murder to complement its haunting “before you die/sing a lullaby” post-chorus. On the other hand, more playful songs like “Fantastico” had lighter elements — including a mid-song limbo game — to complement the track’s gibberish lyrics.

Photos courtesy Niamh Murphy.

Tokyo Calling

Perhaps the most impressive of the night was the level of passion from the audience. Despite the group asking a few fans to say something in Japanese, it was not likely the whole crowd was fluent in the language. But that didn’t stop fans from singing along with “Tokyo Calling” and “NAINAINAI,” jumping so hard the floor shook.

Photo courtesy of Niamh Murphy.

ATARASHII GAKKO! did an excellent job keeping this energy high. Member Suzuka could be found randomly popping up in the audience, from standing on the barricade to sneaking up onto the balconies. Rin, Mizyu, and Kanon held down the stage, pointing their mics to fans to sing and gleefully waving to the adoring crowd. During pauses in the set, they played around with fans, handing over the mic and asking them to say something, anything, in Japanese.

Photos courtesy of Niamh Murphy.

It was clear why fans liked ATARASHII GAKKO!, language barrier or not. The songs were exciting, perfect for amping up crowds and keeping them at that level. The members themselves were charismatic beyond belief: they had complete control over the stage yet never overpowered one another. As a concert, it was pure, unadulterated fun. 

Not Your Typical Girl Group

Positioning themselves as representatives of Japanese youth, ATARASHII GAKKO! rebel against the “norms” of Japanese society through expression and individuality. While many could consider them J-pop, it’s not a title they embrace, instead preferring to be known as a performance unit.

And performance is definitely the word for it. From the costumes to the genres to the facial expressions, every aspect of ATARASHII GAKKO! is crafted to be the antithesis of a girl group. They contrast their innocent, schoolgirl-esque appearance with decidedly “unladylike” movements. It’s a delight to see them on stage, doing all the things young women are often scolded for doing, such as squatting, high kicks, jumping over each other, making faces, and rolling on the ground. There’s a youthful joy to their performances, reminiscent of a childhood before growing up and being told to “act like a lady.” It’s freeing. And during their set, fans were given that freedom, too. Freedom to dance, jump, sweat, scream, all in tandem with ATARASHII GAKKO! 

Photos courtesy of Niamh Murphy.

The only complaint? An hour-long set wasn’t nearly enough time, leaving audiences still clamoring for more at the end of the night. While this may have been ATARASHII GAKKO!’s first U.S. tour, it seems like it’s far from their last. 

Photo courtesy of Niamh Murphy.

For more from their tour, be sure to follow ATARASHII GAKKO! on Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube

Want more ATARASHII GAKKO!? Check out our artist spotlight of the group here.