Students are counting down the days till school lets out, while urban commuters are starting to sweat the impending heat. Summer is coming, and a sure sign of that is that music festivals are starting to kick up around the country.
The month starts off with Taicoclub at Kodomo no Mori in Nagano Prefecture on June 1 and 2 (12 p.m. start; ¥12,000 in advance). The event features a lot of hotly tipped electronic acts such as Tycho and XXYYXX, but most of the fans will likely be pulled in by the addition of Denki Groove to the lineup. In either case, listening to music under the stars is surely a way to kick off summer right.
Another early festival is the triannual Hostess Club Weekender on June 8 and 9 (2 p.m./1 p.m. starts; ¥7,900 for a one day pass, ¥13,900 for a two-day pass). After a brief diversion into Tokyo’s Daiba district in February, Weekender has come back to its original Ebisu locale of Garden Hall. That means arriving early to make it to the front of the stage is a must, but be prepared to camp there if you want to see the headliners, Icelandic band Múm on June 8 or British rock group Travis on June 9. Also on the bill this round are Team Me, These New Puritans, The Editors and Wavves.
When it comes to Japanese music festivals, one of this month’s highlights comes on June 30 in the form of the Tonofon Festival at Kouku Kinnen Park in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture (12 p.m. start; ¥4,500). The big draw here will be Shugo Tokumaru, but twee favorites Tenniscoats will also make an appearance. In case you missed it at Taicoclub, Cero will also play Tonofon.
Another Japanese music festival happening at the start of the month on June 2 will be ATF’S Tokyo Camp being held at Liquidroom (12:30 p.m. start). The name may say camp, but this one is held inside the Ebisu-area nightclub so the only stars you see will be on the stage. Among the many bands on the lineup are indie-rock acts Kaisoku Tokyo, Czecho no Republic and SuiseiNoboAz, but one of the most interesting additions is the rap group Simi Lab. For the amount of acts on the bill, the ticket price of ¥1,980 seems almost too good to be true.
Speaking of great indie-music festivals, the Kiwa Kiwa Festival happening at Tokyo’s Club Asia in the Shibuya district on June 29 and 30 (11 a.m. doors open; ¥3,300 for a one-day pass, ¥5,800 for a two-day pass) offers a lot of great up-and-comers. A lot of indie-scene staples will be at Kiwa Kiwa, including Pills Empire, Uhnellys and Thatta. Like Tokyo Camp, the lineup includes a surprise hip-hop addition, this time in the form of Tamaki Roy. Also worth checking out are Give Me Wallets, and Day and Buffalo. Both are quickly becoming favorites among Western music writers in Japan.
While festivals seem to be the best bet in seeing Western acts these days, some artists are still able to fly over and stand on their own. Among those artists this month will be James Blake, who’ll be playing Studio Coast in Tokyo on June 4 and 5, Diamond Hall in Nagoya on June 6, and Namba Hatch in Osaka on June 7 (7 p.m. start; ¥6,000) in support of his new album, “Overgrown.”
Another solo act that’s worth checking out is Laura Mvula, who will play the Billboard venues in Osaka on June 18 (6:30 p.m./9:30 p.m. starts; ¥6,900-¥8,400) and Tokyo on June 20 and 21 (7 p.m./8:45 p.m. starts; ¥6,500-¥8,500). Mvula took fourth place in the BBC’s Sound of 2013 and has been lauded by critics for her album, “Sing to the Moon.” She cites Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill as influences, and getting her to Tokyo so soon is a real achievement for Billboard.
One of the more interesting projects coming up is a set of six performances that Tokyo-resident Jim O’Rourke will perform at Super Deluxe in Roppongi from June 17-22 (7:30 p.m. start; ¥3,000 in advance, ¥15,000 for a six-day pass). Each day will feature special guests and different themes that include titles such as “The Cassette Years,” “The Early 90s,” and “Toward the Future.”
When it comes to jazz, some of the better shows coming up include Erimaj at Cotton Club on June 3 and 4 (6:30 p.m./9 p.m. starts; ¥5,000-¥7,000). This is the first time the experimental, Grammy Award-nominated band will be in Japan. Expect elements of jazz, R&B, soul and some Radiohead influences.
Ai Kuwabara Trio Project will perform at Motion Blue in Yokohama on June 7 (7 p.m./9 p.m. starts; ¥3,600), a release party gig for the band’s “The Sixth Sense” CD.
Finally, Indigo Jam Unit will play a slew of dates including Billboard Osaka on June 7 (6:30 p.m./9:30 p.m. starts; ¥5,400-¥6,900), Billboard Tokyo on June 11 (7 p.m./9:30 p.m. starts; ¥4,900-¥6,900), Blue Note in Nagoya on June 13 (6:30 p.m./9:15 p.m. starts; ¥5,900-¥7,900), Higashi Hiroshima’s Kamokishuzo Enza (7 p.m. start; ¥3,800 in advance) and Rooms in Fukuoka on June 23 (5 p.m./8:30 p.m. starts; ¥3,500). (Shaun McKenna)