While the lineup doesn’t differ much from year to year, there is no denying that Countdown Japan is the ultimate yearend bash. Held in both Chiba and Osaka, the festival invites some of the biggest names in Japanese music to see in the New Year, with four stages over four days at Chiba’s Makuhari Messe and two stages over three days at Osaka’s Intex.
As 2008 was undoubtedly pop trio Perfume’s year, it’s no surprise to see them on the bill, albeit early on the first day of each event. But be warned: Their appearance at Summer Sonic this year caused a capacity crush, and the girls also seemed to be miming. Other festival mainstays include pop chameleon Kaela Kimura, spacey spaz-rockers Polysics, party-starters Your Song is Good and wonky-rock purveyors HiGE.
Those seeking a noisier exit from 2008 will be pleased to see Okinawan hardcore trio Bleach and jazz-punk monsters Midori on the Chiba lineup, as well as whirlwind punks The 50 Kaitenz and screamo darlings 9mm Parabellum Bullet at both venues. As for the hip-hop set, smooth-groovers Rip Slyme and their one-time protegees HalCali play alongside wacky rap duo Kuchiroro at the Chiba event.
In fact, Rip Slyme are among the acts playing the countdown spot in Chiba, as well as fresh ska cheer-girls Oreskaband, nonthreatening indie boys Frontier Backyard and hoary punk band Dohatsuten. In Osaka, the New Year will be counted in by rockers Elephant Kashimashi and the (rather dull) rapper Kreva.
All of that plus Pizza of Death label-boss Ken Yokoyama, Osaka heroines Shonen Knife, off-kilter indie band Tsushimamire, ska-punks-cum- new-wavers Shakalabbits, retro soulstress Superfly, rising neo-wave outfit Vola & the Oriental Machine and many, many more. Why not ring in the New Year with a ringing in your ears?
Countdown Japan 0809 is on Dec. 28-31 at Makuhari Messe, Chiba (12 p.m.; Dec. 28, 29 and 31 are sold out; Dec. 30 is ¥10,000) and Dec. 29-31 at Intex, Osaka (10:20 a.m. on Dec. 29-30, 12 p.m. on Dec. 31; ¥8,500 per day, ¥9,000 on Dec. 31; multiple-day tickets also available). The lineup is different at each venue; see www.rock-net.jp for details.