This year marks the 20th anniversary of Japan Nite, an annual showcase bringing artists from all corners of Japan to Austin. It has been a SXSW fixture since 1996, and has featured big-name Japanese acts such as Bonnie Pink, The Pillows and Chatmonchy along with dozens of artists hailing from across many genres.
To celebrate two decades at SXSW, moumoon, The fin., QUORUM, TsuShiMaMiRe, Pirates Canoe, Samurai Dynamites and Mahoshojo-ni-naritai will perform at the Friday, March 20 show. And it will take place at Elysium (705 Red River) – home to every Japan Nite since its inception.
The J-Pop duo of composer Kousuke Masaki and singer Yuka formed moumoon in 2005, and in only a few years the pair’s melodic pop sounds became a staple on Japanese music charts. They’ve performed at Japan’s biggest summer music festival (ROCK IN JAPAN FES.) and have played in several countries outside of their native nation, including in France at the Japan Expo last summer. Their Japan Nite show, though, will be their first American performance, making this 20th anniversary show all the more special.
A couple of acts will be returning to Elysium to celebrate the special occasion. All-girl rock trio TsuShiMaMiRe first played Japan Nite in 2004, and their driving and unpredictable songs won rave reviews. They returned in 2006, and will tick off their third trip to Austin this March, months after releasing their first best-of album, Mamire. Kyoto’s Pirates Canoe, meanwhile, will make their sophomore stop at SXSW after a successful 2013 at the showcase, where their folk songs…dipping into American and Irish roots music…surprised but impressed fans.
Even though 2015 marks an important milestone for Japan Nite, the emphasis remains on introducing new groups to American fans. Kobe quartet The fin. is a rising outfit merging rock with electronic music, the band citing American “chillwave” acts such as Toro Y Moi and Washed Out as influences (and being compared to French electro-pop group M83 by Japan-based media). The musicians making up Tokyo outfit QUORUM boast an average age of 22, but their brand of guitar rock evokes classic rock legends such as Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Canadian heavy metal band Anvil invited QUORUM to open for them on a recent Japan tour, if you are looking for further testimonials to their live prowess.
Mahoshojo-ni-naritai just released their debut mini-album this past January, but their high-energy live show (featuring unique visuals courtesy of the group’s resident VJ) has been drawing attention over the last year and has scored them lots of gigs, including a slot at last year’s ROCK IN JAPAN FES. Rounding out the 20th Anniversary line up is Samurai Dynamites, a punk-rock inspired troupe who have adopted rhythms and melodies unique to Japanese music, which they dub “Asianica Nippon.”
Following the 20th anniversary show, Japan Nite will set out on a tour of the United States, featuring TsuShiMaMiRe, QUORUM and The fin. on every date of eight-city tour, starting in Chicago on March 22. Japanese rock outfits Zarigani$ and BO-PEEP will join for the first four dates, while Samurai Dynamites tag along for the first trio of shows. Wonky Saitama group mothercoat will offer support at the March 27 show in Denver. Check the Japan Nite site for more info.
Make sure to include this milestone edition of the Japan Nite showcase in your SXSW schedule this March. Schedule is subject to change.