By Dan Grunebaum
Mazri no Matsuri
A music video maker hosts a festival to session
with its bandsand 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
Japans 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. Wed 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 years event, this years 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 wont find on most concert bills.
The RocknRoll Gypsies, for example, are composed
of recently reunited former members of Japanese roots-rock
legends the Roosters, a band that influenced many of todays
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 years
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 winters Everybody Says Its 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 Japans 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 youll 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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