Minami Wheel

Japan loves music festivals. Across the country, there are music festivals big and small happening every week. The most famous of these are the summer super festivals like Fuji Rock, Summer Sonic, and Rock in Japan. They features huge domestic names in musics—the kind of bands, singers, and idols that show up on TV, get radio playtime, do theme song and commercial tie-ins—as well as international heavy hitters like Radiohead, who headlined Summer Sonic 2016. They’re held outdoors in huge parks with outdoor stages and camping or semi-indoors in sprawling convention centers and arenas. Probably the largest number of the most famous festivals take place in summer, like all three I listed above, so they take place under the beating sun and oppressive humidity. But there are other events running yearlong, and many of these feature indie bands as well. Indie festivals usually take place in the heart of the city and are generally what are referred to as “circuit events,” where a number of indoor venues have bands playing throughout the day and you can move freely between them. One of the biggest of these, and my personal favorite, is Minami Wheel.

Minami Wheel is held in the Shinsaibashi area in Osaka every year over for three days over the three-day-weekend of Sports Day in October, just the weekend before last. It’s known as “Minaho” for short. This year featured 150 bands and 20 venues, mostly fitting a few hundred people and topping out at Big Cat which fits 800. The bands are mostly indie bands and new or less famous major label groups. Most of the venues are clustered in the middle area around Big Cat and Sankaku Koen (“Triangle Park,” a tiny, triangular concrete park), with additional spots spread out to the east and west. The selection of bands is great year to year and the event seems to run very smoothly. Even though tickets sell out every year, the organizers have refrained from overselling; each time slot may have several full venues, but you generally can get in as long as you get to the venue ~10 minutes before the band starts playing. This lets you see bands in all the time slots instead of wasting time queuing up beforehand.

Besides Minami Wheel being a great way to experience your favorite bands and try out some new acts, my favorite element is the sense of a thriving music community. The park is full of festival goers hanging out and taking breaks between sets. The sidewalk in front of the massive shopping complex that houses Big Cat is a like a gauntlet, lined on both sides by band members (some who may not even be playing at Minaho!) handing out flyers and demo CDs, each one clamoring for the attention of the festival attendees to convince them to come to their show, check out their music, or even just follow them on twitter. There’s also great creativity that goes into these efforts: the more you stand out, the better. You’ll find strange costumes, cut-outs for taking pictures, giant banners, and more.

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PANIC in the BOX hand out fliers while dressed as…boxes? Photo from PitB’s twitter.cut2rtgvuaamygl

Kaori, frontwoman of the band Milkyway, advertises her show taking place the third day of Minaho. She’s dressed as a miko here and was a nurse the first day. For no particular reason as far as I can tell. I remember she dressed as Alice from Alice in Wonderland in 2015. Photo from Kaori’s twitter.

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Band aomidoro shows off posters for their show to an official photographer.

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Festivals-goers as shot by a Minami Wheel official photographer.

 

New tricot and Zekkei Kujira on 4/27

I was watching a live stream broadcast of tricot’s concert in Wakayama tonight. It was the last stop on their Yattokosa tour of Japan, where they performed at all 17 of 47 prefectures of Japan in which they had never done a show. tricot has always been a band that really shows they care about there fans and this tour is a great example of that attitude. They purposefully went to play shows that probably didn’t sell very well compared to their other options so that fans who live far away could get a chance to see them.

During the encore of the show, they announced a new five-track CD entitled “KABUKU EP” to be released April 27th. None of the tracks have been released, although it’s possible that Pork Ginger will be one of them. It will also be interesting to see what they do about drummers — will there be multiple guest musicians like the last album or will regular support drummer Miyo be doing them all? They also released a new art picture, shown below.

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It was also announced last week that another favorite of mine, Zekkei Kujira, will be releasing an album on the same date. It’s also five tracks and is called “Tatori” (他撮り). The lead track is papapa. This was previously included on their third demo, but they’re re-recorded the song. The song hasn’t changed much but the different instrument parts are a little clearer. The tracks have been announced as follows:

  1. My Little Parallel Dreamers (マイリトルパラレルドリーマーズ)
  2. papapa
  3. The burger of Idaho
  4. Mercy Haku (メルシー伯)
  5. Tatori (他撮り)

The first track is also on the third demo, but I imagine it will be a re-recording as well. They’ve released a new music video of papapa with the new recording.

Mass of the Fermenting Dregs Return from Hiatus

In a refreshing change of pace from all of the band breakups I just finished posting about, one of the best indie bands from the 2000s just announced a concert next week and that they will be resuming activities as a band. Mass of the Fermenting Dregs last performed in 2012, though the drummer of the three-piece band left the year previous and the guitarist left the year before that. Their melodic shoegaze style with a driving pace was influential for a lot of indie bands that came after them. Also, they have an amazing nonsensical name. Their returning lineup:

Miyamoto Natsuko: Bass, Vocals

Ogura Naoya: Guitar, Backing Vocals (from Qomolangma Tomato)

Yoshino Tsutomu: Drums, Backing Vocals

Only the guitarist is new to the band. I’m excited to see what will come from them next year.

 

2015 Band Breakup Blues Part 3

Final part in this series. Part 2 can be found here.

Itsue (イツエ)

This is a band that I knew about for a long time, but I didn’t take an interest in until it was too late. I started listening to their 2015 release and really enjoyed it, but their last show was sold out more than three months in advance. I think they sound quite similar to Zaien Lily mentioned in the last break up post — alternate rock, a bit of a shoegaze influence, and very particular, polished vocals. They are officially on hiatus, but I believe the singer has left for a solo project.

MAMADRIVE

Another band with a singer whose voice will just knock you right over. Sharp guitar, aggressive bass, and slick tempo changes set MAMADRIVE apart from other alternative rock bands. Unfortunately, their latest album Urahara is a bit lackluster compared to their previous releases. One of the only bands from Kobe that stayed based in Kobe their whole band life, they’ve announced they are breaking up in March of next year. However, guitarist Sasakawa is reportedly ill and they’ve canceled all final tour shows except their oneman gigs in Tokyo and Kobe in January and March respectively. Even if she isn’t better, they’ll hold them with a support guitarist.

Koyubi (こゆび)

One of my favorite indie bands. They’re alternative rock with wailing emo vocals and screaming lead guitar. Although Koyubi have great recordings, their live performances you can really feel the emotional impact. Their singer Yuuki actually broke her foot last year jumping over the railing at a show last year. Although they have three shows left until they break up in April of next year, their drummer Yuka played her last show this past week.

2015 Band Breakup Blues Part 2

Part 1 can be found here.

Gotou Mariko (後藤まりこ)

The eccentric singer-songwriter Gotou Mariko started a solo music career after the break-up of her jazz-punk-noise band Midori in 2010. Her music and image were both a mix of cute and crazy. Her songs mixed jazz and pop with sickly-sweet, out-of-tune melodies punctuated by screaming, and she often wore a school girl outfit (at at least 10 years after her true school days) while crowd-surfing half of the length of her shows. She publicly quit her label in 2014 on twitter after an incident where she assaulted a cameraman with a mic stand and threw his camera into the crowd during a show. He was an official photographer, but she claimed that her management never informed her about him, so she thought he was a fan trying to get on stage and photograph her. She later was picked up by different management until January of this year when they announced all of her upcoming shows were canceled due to sickness. Some time passed before Mariko live-streamed an announcement where she quit music performance. After an absence from social media, she returned to public life in the summer as a song composer for idol and pop groups, stating she wouldn’t be performing herself again.

Oz (オズ)

A pop hard rock band hailing from Okinawa, they held a yearly concert on Halloween and finished off the tradition this year with one last holiday show on October 31 before breaking up. Bassist Shin recently announced his newest project: visual-kei band ANOMIY.

ALiCE IN UNDERGROUND

This briefly-lived pop metal unit was a collaboration between frontwoman Aimi of alt rock band Stereopony and guitarist/songwriter Arai of serial TV drama, both bands that broke up several years earlier. Their new band was zombie themed, including the lyrics for all four of their released songs such as Party of the Dead. AiU played a number of shows from late 2014 to early 2015 before ceasing all activities without any announcement. Their official status is still unknown, but it seems unlikely they’ll return from this hiatus.

 

tricot to Tour Europe in March

Indie hit sensation tricot have been making waves internationally the past two years with shows in Europe, Asia, and most recently a tour of North America. Now they’ve announced a 19-stop tour of Europe for March of 2016. With music characterized by twangy guitar riffs, math-rock rhythms, and triple vocals, they put on an amazing must-see live performance.

  • 3/3 Studenterhus – Odense, Denmark
  • 3/4 Hoxton Square B&K – London, England
  • 3/5 Clwb ifor bach – Cardiff, Wales
  • 3/10 Hangar – Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  • 3/11 Broadcast – Glasgow, Scotland
  • 3/12 Belgrave Music Hall – Leeds, England
  • 3/13 Firebug – Leicester, England
  • 3/15 Batofar – Paris, France
  • 3/17 Gala Hala – Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • 3/18 stadtwerkstatt – Linz, Austria
  • 3/19 TBA – Bratislava, Slokavia
  • 3/20 A38 – Budapest, Hungary
  • 3/22 Landmine Alert – Prague, Czech Republic
  • 3/23 Urban Spree – Berlin, Germany
  • 3/24 Hafenklang – Hamburg, Germany
  • 3/25 Loppen – Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 3/26 Atlas – Aarhus, Denmark
  • 3/27 Lava – Stockholm, Sweden
  • 3/28 Shakespeare Theatre – Gdańsk, Poland

2015 Band Breakup Blues Part 1

Bands breaking up is one of those inevitable facts of life that comes with liking music. Only so many groups are going to go the distance. There’s just too many things that can go wrong. Band members end up fighting. They get sick of doing all the hard work that goes into a band. Then there’s the disillusionment that comes with realizing that they’re not going to make it big. Whatever the reason, something is going cause most groups to eventually throw in the towel. That being said, it still hits you like a ton of bricks when a band that you love announces their breakup. Or just as bad — that they’re going on “hiatus.” For me, 2015 has had a surprising number of tragedies, to put it as over-dramatically as I can. Maybe it’s just that now there are so many bands that have caught my eye. In any case, here’s a little tribute to this year’s fallen.

Merpeoples

This New Wave-inspired pop group broke up in April. They were a four-piece band with smooth vocals and nice interplay between sharp Rickenbacker tones and synth/organ keyboards. Merpeoples’ sound was rounded out with a punchy bass and snare-focused drumming. Shiori, the second permanent drummer, left the band in spring of 2014 to focus on other projects including support drumming for Mayu. Merpeoples continued on for one more year before their final show at Shimokitazawa Reg. Singer and guitarist Charlotte has started a solo project  and has released one mini album, featuring a more mainstream pop sound.

Zaien Lily

A four-piece band (vocals and occasional keys, guitar, bass, drums) with a fairly standard Japanese indie rock sound. Measured, slightly theatrical singing set them apart from the crowd. Zaien Lily went on hiatus in November. However, the guitarist Suzuki has publicly announced his departure from the band. Drummer Nakamura followed suit. With only half the songs written by Suzuki and the rest written by singer Naomi, a relatively similar Zaien Lily could arise from the ashes eventually.

Genshou (現象)

Almost as soon as I had discovered Genshou, they announced that they were breaking up. The sudden notice came this month in December. Genshou was a incredibly energetic band that combined Red Hot Chili Peppers-style rock and traditional Japanese music.

Lily Rose

The powerful voice of half-British singer Ayumi Melody flies high over the mix of keyboard, guitar, bass, and drums in this dramatic four-piece Brit rock-inspired  all-female band. Formed only two years ago, the band entered an unannounced hiatus in September. This came as quite a surprise as Lily Rose had already gained a large following and had just received great reception to their first music video (directed by drummer Haru). Last month, they official confirmed their hiatus, stating that the future of the band would be announced at a later date.