The New Japanese Music Festival
The Empty Bottle
September 5, 2006

By Andrew Lyman

PLAYING : "Guamallapish" - Ruins

We used to fear economic domination by the Japanese. At one point we feared military domination. But quietly (or rather noisily) slipping in under the radar; is musical domination. At this moment Japan has one of the most vital music scenes on the planet. There are literally thousands of bands and an enormous amount of energy coming off that little island right now.

Japan has always had a vibrant culture, and recently we have seen its influence popping up more and more on our western shores. But the music Japan is producing at the moment is unprecedented. Culturally, they are going through something akin to our 60’s and 70’s, but it’s happening at a highly accelerated rate. They don’t just have punk in which to channel their agitation; they have the looming influence of everything that has happened before and after punk. The youth in Japan are restless. They are rebelling, and oh how they are rebelling. Punk and metal is huge in Japan - Crow, Church of Misery, Swarrrm, Boris, Romantic Gorilla. Psych and noise are exploding - Keiji Hano, Boredoms, Acid Mother’s Temple, Ghost, Melt Banana. These bands aren’t even the surface of it. These are just some of the groups that are able to survive the long trip across the ocean, or the smarter, shorter trip across the Internet.

A showcase of sorts for this very vibrancy, The New Japanese Music Festival is a bit misleading. The tour is actually helmed by three veteran behemoths of the Japanese scene: Yoshida Tatsuya (Ruins), Tsuyama Atsushi (Boredoms), and Kawabata Makoto (Acid Mother’s Temple). All three of these guys have been making music with various projects since the early 80’s. These guys get around, and their output is prolific; and they are good! This iteration of the NJMF had the three swapping in and out as seven different projects. The music was all over the board. The most obscure being Akaten (irresponsibleness) that consisted of Tatsuya and Atsushi playing a number of songs on things such as their zippers, scissors, water bottles, and a lament to all the cameras that are manufactured in Japan - a camera, of course. One of the other projects by Zoffy (Atsushi and Makoto) was “covers” of “very very the most famous songs.” Covers is used loosely, as they were more like jokes set to music. The most memorable was their cover of "Smoke on the Water" as if it were done by Bob Dylan. The experience of a Japanese man impersonating Dylan covering a Deep Purple song is one that should not be missed by anyone.

For the most part, the rest of the projects were jazz and rock influenced freak-outs, except Zubie Zuva X, an insane acapella project. Ruins alone was incredible a second time. (I saw him last year in San Francisco, where he jammed with a local bass player, and the Flying Luttenbachers guitarist.) Tatsuya is one of the more awe-inspiring drummers I have had the pleasure of watching. He plays with incredible speed and can start and stop on a dime. The other projects were also very solid and exciting; loud noise jams coupled traditional Japanese folk music, and junk-rock blitzkriegs. The only bone to pick (and it can scarcely be counted based on the context) is that Acid Mother’s Temple was completely lacking in spectacle in this format. AMT generally has about a dozen members on stage all building and swelling and moving and pulsing into a frenzy. While the music was still captivating, the awe the band thrives on was absent.

The most refreshing aspect of the whole evening was the sense of humor that they infuse into nearly all of their projects. If you’re taking rock and roll seriously, you seriously need to lighten up. I love that these three men from Japan understand that. Their music is technically astounding, and at times aurally intense, but it is still just fun, and these guys are clearly aware of that. There was no pretension to be found whatsoever amongst them. They had a great time and so did I. I went home that night and began teaching myself how to speak Japanese in anticipation for the approaching musical invasion.

All opinions expressed by Andrew Lyman are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

© Stay Thirsty Media, Inc. 2006
All Rights Reserved

Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Terms of Sale | Site Map


*A PURCHASE IS REQUIRED TO ENTER THE PLAYWRIGHT AWARD CONTEST. Contest ends 2/1/07. Open to US legal residents of the 50 US and DC, who are 18 years or older at time of entry. Subject to Official Rules. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.


Search Web
Search this site