Mix of local, international ensures club’s longevity


With the global club scene experiencing mixed fortunes, as can be seen in Tokyo with smallish crowds at many clubs and dance festivals rumored to be struggling to attract big-name artists from overseas, one event space continues to draw people several years after first opening its doors. Air, in Daikanyama, celebrates its fifth anniversary on Sept. 23 with some of the most established local DJs and newer faces behind the decks.

Newcomer to the house scene Sugiurumn, well-known tribal house DJ Kaoru Inoue and Mike McKenna — voted No. 1 dance music DJ by Japanese club magazine Loud for the last three years — will be playing, alongside many others.

Air might be smaller than its crosstown rivals Womb (in Shibuya), Yellow (in Nishi-Azabu) and Ageha (in Shin-Kiba), but like those clubs, it manages to attract large crowds on a weekly basis by booking internationally renowned DJs and putting on events organized by those respected on the global dance scene, such as the U.K. club/record label Ministry of Sound. DJ Shadow, Bob Sinclair and Ken Ishii have all played at Air. Unlike some of its larger rivals, Air also allows its space to be rented out by outside promoters. McKenna recently told The Japan Times that this factor “helps give a local edge to the Tokyo dance scene.”

With the “big four” clubs dominating the dance scene, nights out in smaller venues can be somewhat intimate affairs with sparse crowds; and with the bigger clubs generally looking to overseas DJs or to well-established Japanese acts to draw a crowd, up-and-coming, innovative DJs have sometimes been overlooked, resulting in a stagnant scene. This has hardly been helped by the authorities recently clamping down on a long-unenforced law that forbids drink and dancing after midnight. The “Air 5th Anniversary,” however, will hopefully be incident free. Entrance is 3,000 yen. For more info, visit www.air-tokyo.com