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Psy-trance partygoers get set for The Gathering weekend

by Jeff Ogrisseg

Now in its 11th year, The Gathering, organized by Vision Quest Tokyo, is Japan’s largest open-air festival for psychedelic trance music. It’s got the biggest stage. It’s got the biggest lineup. But does it attract the most people?

This annual end-of-summer showcase benefits more than it suffers from its mid-September spot. But 2008 will be an interesting test — come rain or shine.

This has not been a good summer for trance festivals in Japan. As well as police gatecrashing one party last month in Minakami, Gunma Prefecture, this summer’s events have been hit by rotten weather at nearly every turn. Attendance numbers, predictably, have been dismal. But when August is soggy, September is often not — and that’s certainly the hope for next weekend, when The Gathering 2008 opens Sept. 13 in the Gunma village of Tsumagoi.

The Gathering showcases the best psy-trance exponents from around the world. Although the lineup primarily features artists from Israel, there will also be others from Belgium, Brazil, France and Japan (with the number of Japanese/Japan-based DJs tripling this year from two to six).

The live acts headlining this three-day event include Astrix, Dali, Domestic, Skazi and Void from Israel, Talamasca from France, Digicult and Ephedrex from Belgium and Roger Jordan and Waio from Brazil. DJs include Ami, Sari, Tokage, O-Man and Ta (all from Japan), plus Santana (Brazil), Nemesis (Belgium) and Buttersonic and Yanniv Gold (Israel).

The Gathering effectively takes over the entire village of Tsumagoi, as partygoers fill its 10 onsen (hot-spring) hotels and inns — along with the nearby Palcall ski-resort hotel, which has been fully booked for months.

However, advance tickets (¥13,000) are still available through the Vision Quest Web site. Tickets at the gate are ¥16,000. The parking charge is ¥4,000 per car, and parking passes can be preordered.

Last year’s Gathering, held in sunny daytime and star-filled nighttime conditions, drew the smallest-ever crowd (around 4,000), largely because customers were skittish following mud-soaked events the two previous years. As insurance against another possible mudfest, the dancefloor this time is being moved 100 meters to a paved parking lot.

Palcall resort is easily accessible from Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. Vision Quest will operate a shuttle bus service between Karuizawa Station and the event site. More information is on the Vision Quest Web site at www.visionquest-tokyo.com