Posts Tagged ‘live music’

Post-quake aid on a musical note

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

All Tomorrow's Parties' fundraising event Made in Japan will raise money for the Japanese Red Cross

The music industry both at home and abroad is rallying to raise funds for disaster-hit areas in the northeast of the country. Though it’s perhaps easy to be cynical about the motivations of artists to get involved with good causes, Japan’s disaster victims indisputably need the funds, as well as the morale boost that comes from knowing that music fans across the globe are digging deep to support them in their time of need.

One of the most heart-warming stories to come out of the domestic music scene was news that Johnny’s Jimusho would be lending their trucks to the relief effort. Cancelling all performances for the month of March, the agency’s pretty boys were instead loading up trucks to be sent north. Stars like Hideaki Takizawa helped to load the trucks with much needed relief supplies that included items like toilet paper and antiseptic. Johnny’s acts are also working on a special CD whose proceeds will be donated to a tsunami relief charity.

Across the Pacific Ocean in the U.S., a who’s who of top pop and rock icons took part in the “Songs For Japan” charity album project. Now available on iTunes for $9.99, artists on the 38-track album include Lady Gaga, Madonna, Bob Dylan, Foo Fighters and Justin Bieber. With royalties waived, every cent is going straight to the Red Cross relief fund. This week, Kyodo reported that it was iTunes’ top-seller in 18 countries.

One of the artists on the CD, Ne-Yo, has also showed his moral support by going ahead with his post-quake dates in Japan and donating some of the proceeds to relief efforts. The artist felt it was the right thing to do, giving fans something to smile about in a difficult time. Not all foreign artists scheduled to play Japan during March agreed with Ne-Yo’s stance, though. Ke$ha cancelled her Japan dates out of respect for the victims. A statement on her website reads: “My heart is with Japan right now through this disaster and these hardships. I genuinely don’t think right now would be appropriate timing for me to perform in Japan given the content and the spirit of my show, which is all about feeling exuberant, rowdy and wild.”

While the question of whether concerts in Japan are appropriate at this time is a thorny one, plenty of charity concerts abroad are going ahead. The international indie scene has been particularly quick to mobilize itself behind the cause. As soon as the news of the tragedy became apparent, organizers of SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, which already had 20 Japanese acts on the bill rallied to collect funds at the festival for the American Red Cross relief effort and raised in excess of its target $100,000. In New York on March 27, acts from Japan and elsewhere, including Sonic Youth, Sean Lennon, Cibo Matto and Yoko Ono, performed at a concert to raise money for Japan earthquake relief efforts. In the U.K. All Tomorrow’s Parties, which just held its first-ever festival in Japan before the quake, have organized a fundraiser slated for April 21. Acts on the “Made in Japan” bill include LFO, Fuck Buttons and Squarepusher.

A more mainstream music fundraiser, to feature as yet to be announced global music talent, is currently being planned in London for April. The event is organized by Live Nation and will take place at Wembly Arena. Also coming up in April is a special fundraiser being held at Manchester’s iconic Hacienda on April 22. “From Manchester to Japan With Love” will be headlined by Basement Jaxxx and funds raised will go to the Japanese Red Cross.

I want my Ustream TV

Friday, June 11th, 2010

There are very few live performances up on Nico Nico Douga right now

There are very few live performances up on Nico Nico Douga right now

At recent gig in Tokyo broadcast live over Ustream, a group of Visual Kei bands showed off their wild hair and musical style to the world, gaining a virtual audience of nearly 2,000, in addition to those attending in person. The people behind the live stream were Sync Music Japan, a group founded in March this year that have made it their mission to promote Japanese music at a global level.

In an industry fiercely protective of copyright, it’s unusual to see free content like this broadcast live. Management makes sure that unauthorized content doesn’t leak out; even at small gigs, people are admonished for trying to video proceedings. But with the advent of apps for the iPhone that allow users to broadcast live over Ustream last year, it’s hard to see how at crowded gigs at least, record labels can keep a lid on free content leaking out. Recently, Cerevo Cam Live!, a palm-sized digital camera with the ability to stream high-quality video over 3G connections to Ustream, was released to the market, meaning that it’s now theoretically possible to stream pirate-quality live content.

On first glance, Ustream and Nico Nico Douga (a Japanese website that offers a live streaming service) would appear to be largely free of unauthorized content. Both Ustream and Nico Nico Douga have a policy of policing themselves and remove videos that infringe copyright. Currently, the technology to live-stream from handheld devices at gigs is relatively new but surely the temptation is strong. Will the record companies and live streaming websites be able to keep up once the technology becomes more accessible?

Interestingly, a couple of “live houses” (gig venues) have decided to matters into their own hands. Bungajan in Tokyo are streaming gigs live (presumably with the cooperation of band management) and Osaka’s Shangri-la Live House has its own Ustream channel that features interviews with bands who are about to perform at the venue.

Fans of Japanese music can register with Nico Nico Douga, which has a variety of music channels featuring authorized videos and performances by Japanese bands. For live performances check out Bungajan on Ustream or keep an eye out for gigs at larger venues by checking the Sync Music Japan MySpace page.

Japan’s après ski party scene heats up

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Snow Splash features homegrown and international acts

Snow Splash features homegrown and international acts

Après ski in Japan used to mean sipping malt whisky in Swiss-style mountain lodges while listening to generic smooth jazz. But in recent years this model has got shaken up a bit with the arrival of live music festivals and organized ski trips that target a crowd who like to mix socializing with their snow time.

“Powder inna day, louda inna night,” is the motto of Snow Splash Japan a live music event organized by Outdoor Magazine that is now in its fifth year. “We started Snow Splash in the 2005-2006 winter because we love winter sports and music festivals and at the time there was a lot in summer but nothing in winter,” said Gardner Robinson, the creator of Snow Splash and editor of Outdoor Magazine. The event is getting increasingly popular. “We had more than 450 people in Minakami this year and expect Hakuba to go off.” Robinson is referring to their next event, on Feb. 27, which will feature live music and DJs both local and international.

Another festival that has been, um, snowballing is WeSky a Go-Go, which started out in March 2005 with 60 to 70 participants and grew the next year to around 500. Held in Niigata at the same resort that hosts Fuji Rock festival in summer, the event is organized by Smash Japan in aid of victims of the Niigata earthquake. Aimed at a more clubby crowd than Snow Splash, DJs Takkyu Ishino, Dexpistols, Gold Panda and The Samos will be spinning the decks from 7 p.m. till midnight on March 13.

Continue reading about the après ski scene in Japan →

Tokyo venues thinking outside the box

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

soundgardening

Great music has the ability to transport you to a different place. Sometimes quite literally. Over the last few months, some interesting aural performances have been happening in venues that are not known for – or built for – live music.

Continue reading about unlikely venues →

Latin lovers in Japan

Monday, August 31st, 2009

EKD_625

I’m standing in Treasure Chest, a watering hole deep in the bowels of Shibuya. An old-school Jamaican-style sound system blasts cumbia and rock-en-Español while patrons trickle in, buy drinks and start shaking handmade rattles to the beat. In an hour or so, the band EKD (above) will set up behind the bar and play a free set of Latin-inflected surf-rock. They are relatively unknown so far, but if Japanese tastes continue on the same trajectory, EKD will be playing much larger venues soon enough.

Whether it be salsa, flamenco, samba or mambo, the Latin musical spectrum has a long and storied history in Japan, but in recent years more eclectic and subversive sounds have gained traction with the twentysomething set. These bands frequently mix traditional musical elements with punk ethos or political predilections. Sometimes both.

Continue reading about Latin music in Japan →

Fell in love with a Gypsy

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Gogol Bordello

The gypsies are coming!

Nothing new actually. Gypsy bands have been touring Japan for years, but this summer may mark a watershed moment since two of the most talked-about acts at Japan’s major music festivals were Roma music progenitors: Sweden’s Räfven at Fujirock and New York’s Gogol Bordello at Summer Sonic.

Both are big bands (8 or 9 people onstage) with a big sound. And now, possibly a big impact. Creating a new Fujirock record, Räfven performed eight times at the festival, playing everywhere from the massive Red Marquee stage to the Mokudoutei, a small wooden platform set up along a boardwalk through the forest. Word spread over the weekend (their CD was one of the fest’s highest-selling), and by their final shows, crowds had grown massive . . . and rowdy. Ever seen 200 Japanese kids mosh to accordions and violins? It’s magnificent.

Continue reading about gypsy music in Japan →

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