Haru Nemuri grips DNA Lounge with poetry rap, primal screams

Photo of Haru Nemuri at her concert
Kyle Garcia Takata/Staff

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With glitter-coated cheeks and a gentle smile, a guttural scream isn’t what you’d expect to hear when first laying eyes on Japanese singer-songwriter and “poetry rapper” Haru Nemuri. Clenching her claw-like fingers toward the ceiling, her body arched backward as she unleashed her outcry, giving rise to the mosh pit inside San Francisco’s DNA Lounge March 9.

Performing under the stage name Haru Nemuri, Haruna Kimishima has a way of captivating the crowd with her every move. At times she evoked a fairy-like presence, gracefully gliding across the stage in her ankle-length pleated skirt and a puffy-sleeved blouse reminiscent of a gothic Victorian aesthetic. During faster tracks, erratic energy took over her as she jumped in her thick white sneakers, embodying the full range of emotions in her songs.

Beginning her set with “Kick in the World,” Kimishima immediately burst into rapping the song’s Japanese lyrics with clarity and precision. By the time the first chorus broke and she switched to singing drawn-out English lyrics, the whole crowd was passionately moving and singing along.

Visuals of color-morphing musical notes and psychedelic polka dots ran across the projector screen behind Kimishima, adding vibrancy to the venue’s darkness. Once she launched into “Who the f— is burning the forest?,” an unreleased single from her upcoming album Shunka Ryougen, the screen took a more experimental approach. A live mirrored image of Kimishima appeared behind her, doubling the power of her presence as flaming visual effects fragmented her replication.

With just one person operating the backing tracks, the minimal setup worked in Kimishima’s favor as she was able to take up most of the stage. But that didn’t keep her from exploring every section and crevice of DNA Lounge. One look away from the stage and suddenly she would be gone, running through the balcony or floating midair, trusting fans to catch her every stage dive.

Kimishima impressively amped her energy throughout the night, heightening the intensity of the slower moments. With eyes closed, she grasped the mic stand in absolute stillness, entrancing the crowd with silent anticipation. A loud “F— yeah Haru!” emitted from an individual in the close-knit pit, followed by a roar from all directions that broke the ephemeral tranquility. A wide smile ran over Kimishima’s face, and she laughed as she put her pointer finger to her lips to sweetly say, “Shh, be quiet.”

Intimacy and warmth unfolded from Kimishima’s presence and eagerness to constantly engage with the audience. One of the first Japanese phrases to spur from the pit was “aishiteruyo,” and Kimishima eagerly returned the phrase to the crowd and even translated it to English, saying “I love you” before the hypnotic beat of her latest single “Deconstruction” trickled in.

The ease with which Kimishima drew out each powerfully elongated scream unfailingly cast expressions of awe throughout the crowd that bubbled into collective cries of unlaced pain. Though many audience members may not have fully comprehended Kimishima’s fast-flowing Japanese lyrics, her authentic display of emotions said it all. From passionate rage to forlorn gloom, Kimishima couldn’t help but voice a vulnerable honesty for her fans to bask in.

After expressing that her next song was the easiest to sing along to, she asked, “Can you sing with me?” A rhythmic “ah ah ah ah ah,” collectively spilled from the crowd, singing along to the simplest part of “Sekaiwotorikaeshiteokure.” The room sparked with electricity as Kimishima jumped down into the pit, running to the back of the crowd. Arms shot up to secure her blue mic cord, creating a trail of pink heart-covered wristbands as Kimishima sang face-to-face with her fans.

The night of moshing, rapping and screaming ended with Kimishima pouring a water bottle over her head, leaving a glossy finish to her glittering cheeks. She gathered fans for a group photo to document the fruition of her repeatedly postponed North American tour, peace sign hand gestures all around. As she made her final exit, the bounce in her step heartened the reassurance that her presence persists in her music, leaving her fans with spirit and a ton of sparkle.

Contact Amanda Ayano Hayami at [email protected].