Japan Nite US Tour 2007

jnheaderSXSW presents their 11th annual look at music from the land of the rising sun, but you don't necessarily have to make it to Austin to join in the fun.



It's not often that Japanese bands manage a tour of this side of the Pacific, which makes the annual Japan Nite showcase at SXSW such a rare treat. With seven bands spanning across every conceivable genre, the eleventh edition of Japan Nite promises to be one of the most unique nights of rockin' you might ever witness, and with the accompanying tour, you don't necessarily have to make it to Austin to join in the fun. Here's a look at the bands; check out the poster at the bottom for specific dates and lineups.


HY – Formed by a group of five high school friends in the semi-remote island region of Okinawa, HY have managed to succeed wildly in spite of their distance from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. The band's 2003 album Street Story held the #1 spot on the Japanese charts for 4 weeks (a record for an independent artist) and their 2006 tour rocked some 88,000 concertgoers at 47 sold out shows. Melodic, mid-tempo near-ballads make up the majority of their latest album Trunks, and while there are a couple ill-advised forays into rap-rock (they've performed with Linkin Park, after all), the perfect melding of the voices of singers Hideyuki Shinazato and Izumi Nakasone make HY's latest a delight overall.


The Emeralds – Described alternately as "3-piece kamikaze rock" and "Japanese SAMURAI Rock n' Roll," the Emeralds are perhaps the best known band on the bill stateside, with 3 consecutive SXSW appearances already under their belt and a series of successful tours, including a stint opening for Peelander-Z in 2005. The Emeralds have the sound of a tried-and-true power trio, with Osuke's rumbling bass and Akio's crackling drums building a solid foundation for Kazuya's clanging guitar and tongue-twister vocals on songs like their hot new single "Surfing Baby." Though they have a bit more of a classic rock flavor to their sound than the Pillows, fans of that power popping J-rock band will find much to like in the Emeralds.


The 50 Kaitenz – Slide in 1-2-3-4!!, the latest EP from madcap punk rockers the 50 Kaitenz ("Go Jyu Kaitenzu" in Japanese, which translates as "The 50 R.P.M.s" in English), and it becomes clear these guys are big fans of the Ramones even before you get to the closing song "Thank You For RAMONES." The Osaka-based three-piece plays that band's famous brand of bubblegum punk with a rougher, garage rock edge and a little oi-punk thrown in for good measure, and the matching suits, Beatle haircuts, and frequent English lyrics make the 50 Kaitenz easily the most Americanized of this year's Japan Nite clan. If you're not addicted by the end of the snarling "Mr. 1-2-3-4 Man," you better check your pulse.


GO!GO!7188 – With an indie rock sound tailor made for US college radio, the female-fronted trio GO!GO!7188 is sure to appeal to a wide swath of SXSW attendees. The band, formed by singer/guitarist Yumi "Yuu" Nakashima in 2000, has already released 6 studio albums, 2 live albums, and a best-of in their short career. The Arabic-flavored "Ukifune" and the fuzzed out guitar pop of "Kinkyorirennai" prove that GO!GO!7188 is capable of bringing enough variety to the table to please even the most discerning fan.


Oreskaband – An all-girl ska band composed of 6 high school seniors from Sakai City, South Osaka, Oreskaband sounds exactly like Reel Big Fish might if all the band members were teenaged Japanese girls. The band's current single "Pinocchio," which has been used as the closing theme for the anime megahit Naruto, is a super-infectious blend of cute pop vocals, jabbing ska guitars, and a blaring three-part horn section.


Pistol Valve – Are the 6 girls in Oreskaband not quite enough for you? Pistol Valve should more than satisfy: the all-female band features 10 members (average age: 19) who met at music school. With an 8-piece horn section, the band's sound is full and lush, but with a DJ in their ranks and lots of deep bass to give the band a funky, almost hip-hop sound. Their debut EP Pistol-Whip hit Japanese store shelves in July of 2006, and with songs like the Urge-ian ska-funk of "Sit at Cow Char Nail" and the silly, kinetic dance number "Fo-Fo," the band seems poised to return home with a whole new batch of fans.


Asakusa Jinta – The upright bass and surf guitars scream rockabilly, the blaring horns and accordion sound vaguely klezmer, and the lightning speed tempo will have you thinking you're listening to Flogging Molly's long-lost cousins. "Tokyo Eastend Rockers"  rocks with a jazzy insanity that echoes the theme from Ren & Stimpy, while "Ride & Bent" careens through its 3 minute runtime like a polka band on methamphetamines. The Japan Nite folks describe Asakusa Jinta as a "psychobilly punk marching band," and it'd be hard to even attempt a better explanation than that. | Jason Green

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