March: Grimes, Andy Stott head east and west

by Patrick ST. Michel

March means the (eventual) return of nice weather, so you no longer have to bundle up or stay indoors cursing the cold world beyond your apartment. And as the climate warms up, for those in need of more incentive to venture outside, there are several great gigs going down across the country.

The month starts strong with electronic-music producer Andy Stott’s set in Tokyo this Friday (Liquidroom; 8 p.m. start; ¥3,500 advance; 03-5464-0800) and in Osaka Saturday at Club Karma. The Manchester-born Stott had a big 2012: His album “Luxury Problems” received much critical praise and was placed on many publications year-end lists. For all of those with work or plans on Saturday, don’t worry, this is not an all-night affair — the Tokyo show ends at one in the morning.

Another one of last year’s most buzzed-about artists comes to Japan later in March. Canada’s Grimes wowed the crowd at Summer Sonic last August with a frantic mix of Mariah-Carey-inspired pop and tripped-out electronic sounds, and she’ll be headlining a show in Osaka on March 25 (Osaka Club Quattro, 7 p.m. start; ¥5,500 advance; 06-6311-8111) before making stops at Nagoya and Tokyo’s Club Quattros over the next two days, respectively.

If you’d feel more comfortable getting your money’s worth at a festival, March has two solid options. For rock fans, Punkspring 2013 brings to Japan Weezer and NOFX, along with sets from other overseas outfits Pennywise and Simple Plan. Domestic highlights include One Ok Rock and Man With A Mission. The festival starts with a two-day stay in Nagoya (Zepp Nagoya; 5 p.m. start; ¥6,500 for one day, ¥10,500 for two days; 052-320-9000) before jumping over to Osaka on March 30 and ending in Tokyo on the 31st. Those looking for something a touch more dancey can head out to Makuhari Messe in Tokyo for Springroove 2013 on March 30 (Makuhari Messe; 1 p.m. start; ¥10,500; 0570-084-634), or see it in Osaka the next day. American R&B singer Ne-Yo and EDM-wunderkind Avicii top the bill. Ne-Yo will also play an extra show in Nagoya on the March 29.

Great R&B is all over Japan in March. American singer Brandy performs on March 17, 18 and 19 in Tokyo with two sets each day (Billboard Live Tokyo; 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. start on March 17, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. start on March 18 and 19; ¥11,500 advance; 03-3405-1133). She then heads over to the Osaka branch of Billboard Live for shows on March 21 and 22. For something a bit stranger, check out experimental-leaning R&B project How To Dress Well in Tokyo on March 13 (Shibuya O-Nest; 7:30 p.m. start; ¥4,500 advance; 03-3462-4420).

Not in the mood to dance, or prefer your rock music to be more pristine than punk? American group Grizzly Bear, who specialize in gorgeous guitar-centric sounds, swing by Tokyo on March 5 (Liquidroom; 7 p.m. start; ¥6,000 advance; 03-3499-6669) and Osaka’s Akaso March 6. On April 15, Virginia-born dream-pop act Wild Nothing — who have released two lovely albums of hazy, 80′s-evoking songs — plays the capital (Harajuku Astro Hall; 7 p.m. start; ¥4,000 advance; 03-3444-6751).

A few older acts are also planning to spend the first days of spring in Japan. For those who pine for summer, The Beach Boys play Tokyo on March 26 and 27, two shows each day (Billboard Live Tokyo; 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. start on both days; ¥12,500 in advance; 03-3405-1133). Meanwhile, influential post-punk outfit Gang Of Four play two dates in Shimokitazawa, March 23 and 24 (Shimokitazawa Garden; 7 p.m. start; ¥6,800 advance; 03-3410-3431).

Last, ska or reggae fans can turn to one of the most respected Jamaican artists around: Jimmy Cliff. He’s still going strong at age 64, having released a well-received album last year. He’s giving the people of Tokyo plenty of chances to catch him live — two shows a day for four-days straight, from March 4 to 7 (Billboard Live Tokyo; 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. start; ¥9,500 advance; 03-3405-1133). Cliff then ships off to Osaka, although he’s only there for one night, March 8.