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By Dan Grunebaum

Mazri no Matsuri

A music video maker hosts a festival to “session” with its bands—and promote its business

photos courtesy of Mazri

With radio giving way to TV AS
the dominant pop music tastemaker, music videos are an essential vehicle for record companies to promote their bands. So much so that labels pay the leading music video channels to put their groups into heavy rotation.

In a turnaround of the way business is usually done, one of Japan’s leading music video production houses last year launched a concert featuring some of its many bands.
“The reason is simple,” says Mazri pointman Hirotake “Pete” Sato. “We get inspired by the artists we work with, and we simply want to share that with the audience. We feel that the act of producing videos is similar to jam sessions. We’d like to session with the bands and crowd, like we do in our music videos.”
Mazri no Matsuri, launched last year at the central outdoor venue Hibiya Yagai Ongakudo (Hibiya Outdoor Amphitheater), drew a crowd of several thousand with a bill headlined by jazz-pop group Ego-Wrappin’.


Like last year’s event, this year’s second Mazri no Matsuri puts no limits on the musical category or generational appeal of the bands, making for an interesting cross section of J-pop that you won’t find on most concert bills.
The Rock‘n’Roll Gypsies, for example, are composed of recently reunited former members of Japanese roots-rock legends the Roosters, a band that influenced many of today’s younger rock groups during their decade-long run from 1979 to 1988. For the concert, they will be joined by a rare appearance from original Roosters singer Shinya Ohe.

Born the year before the Roosters formed, the youthful, limpid-voiced Akeboshi brings together Irish folk music influences with contemporary electronica, and is currently the subject of considerable attention in Japan. He absorbed Celtic influences while attending the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts in England, releasing a mini album, Stoned Town, that sold over 100,000 copies in 2002, following it up with last year’s lonesome Faerie Punks.

Jerry Lee Phantom is a rock quartet that blends in a hint of dance music thanks to the wizardry of keyboardist Ayuko and the charisma of frontman Hisashi. On their most recent album, this winter’s Everybody Says It’s Alright, they mellowed their pace a bit with the addition of new bassist Tomonari. Having headlined the key Japan Night at the South By Southwest festival in 2002 (“Hisashi emerged as the consummate rock star frontman,” said the Austin Chronicle), the band launched their own label, Punk*The*Disco, in 2003.

Jerry Lee Phantom

Koologi, finally, are a new rock unit formed by some veterans of Japan’s rock scene. Former guitarist for pop-punkers Snail Ramp, Akio teamed up with guitarist Abefutoshi, formerly of stylish garage rockers Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, and a rhythm section to issue their just-released Kagaribi-Matida Blues, a startling study in contrasts between new- and old-school rock. Akio proves himself an able and energetic vocalist, and the band seem set to become a sort of Velvet Revolver-style all-star rock unit with a sound steeped in the past yet at the same time contemporary.
For listeners with an interest in the Japanese rock scene, but not sure where to begin, Mazri no Matsuri offers the chance to sample a cross section of current sounds in a nicer setting than you’ll find in a typical Tokyo basement live house. Picnic blanket not included.

Hibiya Yagai Ongakudo, May 29. See concert listings for details.

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