CSS, Makoto Ozone and Shonen Knife get a round of shows in before New Year’s

by Shaun Mckenna

Staff Writer

With the year winding down and the holiday season approaching, the concert scene in Japan gets pretty quiet. Although there will be a few international acts headed here in the middle of December, your best shot for a live performance might be checking out local acts before they go into hibernation for New Year’s holidays.

Of the acts coming over, there still might be a few tickets left for Brazilian hipsters CSS, the always charming Elvis Costello and slightly mature boy band The Wanted.

CSS will be playing Nagoya’s Club Quattro on Dec. 11 (052-264-8211), Osaka’s Umeda Club Quattro on Dec. 12 (06-6535-5569) and Ex Theater Roppongi in Tokyo on Dec. 14 (03-3444-6751). Tickets for all shows are ¥6,000 in advance, and starting times are 7 p.m. for the Tokyo gig and 7:30 p.m. for the other two. Costello will have three gigs with his band The Imposters at Ex Theater Roppongi from Dec. 11 to Dec. 13 (7:30 p.m. start; ¥8,000; 03-3444-6751) before heading to Namba Zepp in Osaka on Dec. 15 (6 p.m. start; ¥7,500-¥8,5000; 06-6535-5569). Costello is touring in support his new album “Wise Up Ghost,” a collaborative effort with hip-hop outfit The Roots. The Wanted, meanwhile, will be playing Shin Kiba Studio Coast in Tokyo on Dec. 18 (03-3499-6669) and Morinomiya Piloti Hall (06-7732-8888). Both shows will be ¥6,000 and start at 7 p.m.

A few indie shows in Tokyo next month will showcase some of the country’s best up-and-coming acts from 2013. First off, check out Flau Night in Tokyo, happening at Vacant in Harajuku on Dec. 22 (4:30 p.m. start; ¥3,000 in advance; 03-6459-2962). Vacant is a great spot to hold this event, which will feature Ikebana, Cuushe, Sparrows, Twigs & Yarn and Black Elk. Cuushe did well overseas this year after releasing her album “Butterfly Case.” Due to popular demand, Flau will be releasing a vinyl version of it in early 2014. Ikebana did fairly well overseas, too. The female duo rarely speak to the press but still managed to get on the radar of music journalists at Spin magazine in the States.

Also playing shows next month will be indie group Boys Age. The alt-rock act will perform at Ruby Room in Tokyo on Dec. 7 (7:30 p.m. start; ¥1,000) and Lights Out Rec in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Dec. 15 (3 p.m.; ¥1,500). There will also be a show at Force in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Jan. 11 but details haven’t been confirmed yet. The band will release a new album, “Epstein Orkestar,” on Dec. 7 and will also feature on a 51-artist compilation being put out by Sauna Cool on Dec. 25.

Shonen Knife are doing a “Space Christmas Tour” next month, but before that happens the band will play a gig with Sebadoh at Metro in Kyoto on Dec. 1 (6:30 p.m.; ¥4,500 in adv.; 075-752-4765). Keiichi Sokabe and Shinsei Kamattechan will also be on this bill, Sebadoh will be coming straight from an appearance at the Hostess Club Weekender in Tokyo they day before. Then, Shonen Knife sets out on a Christmas tour. The group. who made a splash overseas in the 1990s, will hit Osaka’s Shinsaibashi Conpass on Dec. 15 (06-6535-5569), Tokyo’s Shin Daita Fever on Dec. 21 (03-3444-6751) and Nagoya’s Club Upset on Dec. 22 (052-936-6041). All shows cost ¥3,000 and start at 6 p.m.

If pop and rock isn’t your thing, an interesting event titled Drums and Voices is happening at Bunkamura Orchard Hall in Tokyo on Dec. 18 (7 p.m. start; ¥5,000; 03-3477-9111). To celebrate 40 years of ASEAN-Japan relations, a pan-Asian smorgasbord of musicians from various southeast Asian countries will play alongside drummer Tsubasa Hori and shakuhachi player Dozan Fujiwara. The concert has toured other parts of Asia since October and the music is being curated by Michiru Oshima.

Also playing Bunkamura next month will be jazz artist Makoto Ozone, who will be gigging with Branford Marsalis there on Dec. 12 (7 p.m.; ¥6,500-¥7,500; 03-3477-3244). The pair will also play at Hitachi Civic Center in Ibaraki Prefecture on Dec. 5 (6:30 p.m.; ¥4,000 for adults; 0294-24-7720), Shunan City Cultural Center in Yamaguchi Prefecture on Dec. 6 (7 p.m.; ¥4,000-¥6,000; 0834-22-8787), Blue Note in Nagoya on Dec. 7 and 8 (5 p.m., 8 p.m. starts; ¥8,900; 052-961-6311) and Sankei Hall Breeze in Osaka on Dec. 10 (7 p.m.; ¥7,000-¥8,000; 06-6341-8888). Ozone will end the year in Sendai for a New Year’s Eve show at Denryoku Hall (7 p.m.; ¥6,000; 022-268-2174).

Keeping on the jazz tip, while there should be many options for New Year’s Eve entertainment at clubs in most cities across the country, Mado Lounge at the top of Roppongi Hills’ Mori Tower in Tokyo will feature jazz singers Karen Aoki and Akiko along with some DJs (8 p.m. start; ¥5,000 in adv.; 03-3470-0052). The singers’ lounge style will be a lovely soundtrack for a view over the entire city as the countdown to 2014 commences.

When it comes to countdowns, though, music magazine Rockin’ On’s four-day event will be tough to beat. The festival takes place at Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba from Dec. 28 to Dec. 31. The first three days will start at 1 p.m. and end around 9:30 p.m. Shows on the final day, though, start at 3 p.m. and end at 5 a.m. The lineup doesn’t change much from year to year, headliners include Quruli, Sakanaction, Rip Slyme and Man With a Mission (who will play during the countdown). (Shaun McKenna)