sxsw: Japan night at Spider House

Bands from Land of the Rising Sun meet River City

Mi-Gu, a Tokyo-based two-piece band that played at Spider House on March 17, will also appear at Chimera Music night, Saturday, March 19 at The Elysium.
Mi-Gu, a Tokyo-based two-piece band that played at Spider House on March 17, will also appear at Chimera Music night, Saturday, March 19 at The Elysium.

Dubbed the "A Prus (A+) Japan Night," Hard Nips, a Brooklyn-based girl band, put together a great line up on March 17 that featured more than 8 hours of the latest in Japanese music.

It's hard not to think about the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last week. Many people have been glued to their TVs, saddened by the losses and worrying about a possible nuclear disaster. Although SXSW is a huge diversion, it's hard not to think about what is happening on the other side of the world. As much as we may be concerned in Austin, there are several Japanese musicians playing the festival. who are dealing troubling news from home. Rather than fretting, their attitudes seem to be, "The show must go on." They've made the 6,000 mile trip and they're glad to be playing for appreciative audiences.

Yoko Sakai, singer for Hard Nips, is originally from Osaka and said this is not their first trip to SXSW. "Last year, we played at Spider House, too. We put together this show because we are from Japan and wanted to do something for Japan. It's our home." She put together a collection box for donations to assist the earthquake/tsunami survivors. "The show is not only to help people back home, but to show our appreciation to SXSW. We feel just awful about what is happening. Our families are OK, but I have a friends in Sendai and Aomori and it is not good. They really need help and I cannot help." Hard Nips members all met about 10 years ago in Brooklyn after moving from Japan and decided to form a band in 2009. After SXSW, the quartet is going to Los Angeles and the rest of the West Coast.

Tokyo psychedelic garage band the Zoobombs made for the perfect escape from rush hour traffic. The quartet is half way through its North American tour and was playing SXSW in advance of the March 29 re-release of their album, La Vie en Jupon, which features the single, "Highway A Go Go." Singer Don Matsuo said they first played SXSW about 12 years ago. "From here, we are going on to Tucson, El Paso, and the West Coast. Then we are going to do a recording in Oakland. We have done 8 or 9 albums." Don thanked the people of America for welcoming the band. "They have done a lot to help us."

The last band I caught was Mi-Gu. The Tokyo based duo, features Yuko Araki on drums and vocal and Keigo "Cornelius" Oyamada on guitar and back-up vocals. They play a mixture of free form jazz, metal, and experimental rock. Their set was fun and innovative, unlike anything I had ever heard. Keigo's guitar work and command of effects boxes reminded me of Bill Frisell. After their set, Keigo carefully packed away his Fender tube amp, which he jokingly called his "baby." I awkwardly asked him the clichéd question, "Who are your influences?" and he responded, "Oh, you know, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, the Velvet Underground, the Talking Heads." (Writers should be forbidden from asking clichéd questions, but sometimes they just pop out.) After the interview, he said "Arigato." I hope to see their show on Saturday at The Elysium.

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