On March 18th, I ventured into the unknown and attended Japan Nite 2014. I knew little about any of the acts that would be performing that night, but I came away from the experience with a ton of great new music to enjoy and an amazing live experience from four bands I wasn’t very familiar with before the show.

Japan Nite has been a nation-wide tour project for 18 years, bringing relatively unknown music acts from Japan to showcase their music at venues spanning the US. This year, the US tour consisted of Zarigani$, HAPPY, Jungles! and Vampillia, four acts that had very different styles of music, but all completely blew me away in their own way. Here’s a recap of the experience.

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The night started when Zarigani$ (pronounced Zarigani-Dollar, for those wondering) took the stage after a very short sound check. The check was probably short because the group only has two members who handle all the music, and yet somehow manage to create a huge, booming sound even without a heavy backing track playing behind them.

Eri handles the bass guitar and main vocals, and uses a huge array of effects on her bass to make completely different sounds for each part of their songs. Mizuki handles drums and backup vocals, and together these two girls have a huge punk-esque sound with a heavy sense of melody and dance-y funk/jazz rhythms that are seldom heard mixed with a punk sound.

Eri came into the crowd to dance and sing with everyone for a while during the song “Shall We Dance?” making for a fun sense of participation to the show. For a better idea of their sound, you can check out their official YouTube channel, where they have lots of performances uploaded from around the world. Here’s some more pictures from their set:

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After Zarigani$’s performance, groovy alt-rockers HAPPY took the stage. HAPPY is an eclectic mixture of sounds from all across the spectrum of rock music from around the world all rolled up into one, ending up sounding something like a cross between 1960s American pop-rock, The Strokes, country music, psychedelic rock, and a handful of other sounds. Their music goes between atmospheric, bouncy, twangy, grungy, trippy, and fun with never a dull moment.

They carried the music with heavy synths, multi-part harmony vocals, and loud guitars, with all 5 members doing vocals and playing more than one instrument. With the average age of the members being 20 years old, these young guys have a big future ahead of them and I’d suggest checking them out when they come to a town near you.

Here’s some choice shots from HAPPY’s set:

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Here’s HAPPY’s newest music video to give you a small sampling of their sound:

After HAPPY packed up, Jungles! took the stage with full force. Jungles! is a band formed from members of Japan Nite regular band Red Bacteria Vacuum. These girls are pure, in-your-face hyper punk rock from start to finish, bringing a huge energy to the stage for the whole set and causing a pretty rowdy mosh pit for almost the entire running time.

Jungles! plays with huge, meaty punk chords and drum patterns with lots of group vocals and attitude to spare. Their show was a ton of fun and got the crowd moving from wall to wall. Here’s some pictures from their set:

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And here’s a video of Jungles! performing:

And for the last act of the night, Vampillia stealthily appeared, unexpectedly starting playing their set without even announcing who they were and without even having a vocalist on stage. Their dark mixture of piano, classical strings, noise, metal, punk, and opera swarmed over the audience for almost 10 minutes before the main vocalist Mongoloid stumbled through the crowd and climbed on stage from the front.

Mongo first appeared in a military ghillie suit with his face completely shrouded, making for a mysterious grand entrance to start the first vocal part of the performance. The music had almost no stops for the whole set, with each song flowing quickly into the next. The heaviness of their music washes over the listener with a wave of sound and gives a vast array of sounds to interpret, going from beautiful and somber to loud, dark, and foreboding in a short span of time.

Vampillia left a huge impression on the audience as most people in attendance remained completely silent for the entire set, with their theatrical presentation on stage leaving everyone in awe and contemplation. They are truly one of the most unique and cohesive acts I’ve ever seen from any country and I’ll be sure to see them again as soon as possible.  Check out their SoundCloud site for a preview of their sound.

Here’s some pictures from Vampillia’s show:

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At the end of the night, I had the chance to meet and talk with most of the bands and get some music CDs to take home, and everyone was accommodating and friendly, making for a great end to the night. There’s still a few stops on the tour scheduled for this weekend and I’d suggest anyone who can make it out to the show to do so or miss a truly great live experience.

You can follow some of the links below for more info on the bands and see my initial Japan Nite Tour article for info on the dates near you.

Related links:

Japan Nite Official Site

Zarigani$ Official Facebook

Zarigani$ Official Twitter

HAPPY Official Facebook

HAPPY Official Twitter

Jungles! Official Facebook

Vampillia Official Facebook

Vampillia Official Twitter