This week was Canada’s arguably premiere J-music event, Next Music from Tokyo. Since I don’t Canada, reading up on it was pretty new to me and it only happened because in its latest tour, NMFT invited a couple underground idol groups, and some folks went to see them from my circle of internet people.
For people who don’t know, Next Music From Tokyo is a tour where a rich doctor in Toronto single handedly produces a tour. He hand picks 4-5 indie JP bands, throw them into a 3-stop Canadian tour, all out of his own wallet. You can read about it in this article from a few years ago. This week was the 9th iteration of NMFT.
It’s notable because this is the first time the guy (Steve) invited some idol groups. He explains why here. I quote:
The main reason I’m holding the tour twice this year is because I really liked Maison book girl’s music and I had a hunch they would blow up in popularity fairly soon. So if I waited until next May it would probably already be too late and sure enough 2 weeks ago Maison book girl went from underground idol group to signing with a major label. Their major label debut concert is in November, a month after NMFT9. It’s a one-man show (no opening acts) that sold out within hours of tickets being released. A couple years ago I was close to adding Suiyoubi no Campanella (Wednesday Campanella) to the NMFT7 line-up and had talked with Komuai back when the group was still relatively unknown. But I chose Atlantis Airport instead and figured I could just bring WedCamp on the next tour. But after a few months WedCamp exploded in popularity and later signed with Warner Music. Similar thing happened the year before with Oomori Seiko. So even though holding the next tour six months early has been a huge pain in the ass to organize, Maison book girl has vindicated my decision and I feel like a genius. LOL.
Mind you, I don’t go to Japan six times a year trying to discover the next big thing. I don’t give a shit about who’s going to be hot or popular because in general I can’t stand popular mainstream music. I try to find artists and bands whose music I love or at least thoroughly enjoy watching perform live. Most of the bands I like are way too eccentric and not physically attractive enough (LOL) so they have a snowball’s chance in hell of signing a major label deal. But a few underground bands I really like have potential to crossover to the mainstream and I try to get them to Canada before they do because after they sign with a major label they become way too expensive to invite… AND… their music frequently changes for the worse (watered down) to appeal to a greater number of people (eg Kinoko Teikoku, Akai Koen, Ame no Parade). (note: I still like KT, AK and AnP’s music but greatly prefer their earlier works)
If the Steven Tanaka from three years ago built a time machine and traveled to the present I’m sure he would gladly risk the temporal paradox to kick my ass because three years ago I totally despised all aspects of Japanese idol culture. I hated the fact idol groups like AKB48, Momoiro Clover Z, C-ute, Morning Musume etc were dominating the music scene with their senseless and shallow, cookie-cutter, bubblegum dance pop. The fact they’d release CDs with 12 different album covers to try and rake in as much cash from the fans who were stupid enough to buy all 12 versions of the same album. Idol culture was totally commercial, symbolized style over substance and pandered to middle-aged men’s fantasies of illicit teenage romance.
Even underground live houses that specialized in punk/HC/noise had to surrender and start booking amateur idol acts in order to survive financially. But as time went on the cross-pollination of amateur idol groups with the underground music scene led to the development of increasingly more creative and interesting idol acts.
So with that long-ass-winded intro finally over, here are three underground idol acts I secretly like. LOL
Point is, this hardcore indie guy is now importing some underground idols on his own dime, putting money where his mouth is. As an aside, this Steve guy is awesome. He deserves a medal or some such. You can read about his NMFT exploits on the site’s blog.
PS. This is how I feel about F2P gaming in a nutshell. The parallel is there–there is no reason why just because some companies like Zynga screwed it up for the rest of us and the (gaming) public have this very negative image of this model, doesn’t mean good things can’t come from it.