It is not by any means true that thirteen is always an unlucky number: it is the age that children become teenagers, it is the number of original United States colonies, and it is a baker’s dozen. In 2009 it also becomes the number of years that BENTEN Tokyo and SXSW Asia Rep have successfully run both their Japan Nite event at SXSW and the subsequent seven-stop tour.

Since 1996, Japan Nite and its tour have served as a means for bringing  Japanese music to curious listeners of the world. While it is perhaps not as widely known as other projects, it has become an event that is both well-loved and well-received. In total, they have managed to showcase upwards of 60 bands and are continuing to bring more into the picture. Previous years have included artists such as ELLEGARDEN, THE EMERALDS, ORESKA BAND, Lolita No.18 and GO!GO! 7188, just to name a few.

This year, a total of thirteen bands—yes, thirteen—make up the list of main acts for the two days of Japan night and the seven multi-city dates. Why not take a look at what this year has to offer?

Fronted by left-handed guitarist and vocalist Nabana, the trio is a garage rock band formed in 2001. Since their start they have put out nine releases, including a compilation album and a live album. They have also served as an opening band for many others, including Tamio Okuda, Teenage Fanclub and Reef.

SA (Samurai Attack)
You might be surprised to learn now that this band is nothing close to being new to the music world. In fact, SA was originally formed in 1984. It is perhaps remarkable that despite having only been active for three years, their music continued to succeed in picking up fans and selling over the years. While it took over ten years for it happen, the band reformed in 1999 and has since been actively pumping out releases.

Sparta Locals
Formed in Fukuoka in 1998, Sparta Locals steadily worked their way into the music scene and have since released seven full-length albums.

This four-member female band had a somewhat unusual beginning, having formed FLiP at a McDonald’s in Naha, Okinawa. While they are decidedly quite young, they have just released their first mini-album and are already reaching out to an international audience with their participation in the Japan Nite US tour.

What Omodaka offers is not quite what a band offers with music. Instead, it is a project that mixes music and images in a manner that is vastly different than your traditional music video. In 2007, their kokiriko bushi video received over 700,000 views and is said to be capable of vastly changing how viewers see music videos.

When a fresh, new band leaves major labels scrambling for their attention, it is difficult not to acknowledge that there must be something remarkable there to discover. After signing with Pony Canyon in 1997—which is also contains LM.C, w-inds and KREVA—and after the successful releases of their first two E.P.’s , their first album Lifetime hit 3rd on national charts. Ever since, their releases have consistently remained cemented in the top ten. From here on, they are sure to prove themselves even more successful with the help of their reach into the international scene.

Asakusa Jinta
Calling themselves Asianica Hard March Band, Asakusa Jinta is a marching brass band out of oldtown Tokyo with an intensely unique style that mixes such styles as Japanese Enka, punk and country. They are not quite what you might consider a typical band but it is a strong suit of theirs. It still stands that they have found a technique that suits them well and are flourishing with it.

Having acquired both a nickname—Japanese Samurai R&R Trio—and a growing fanbase, THE EMERALDS are making themselves known as an engaging and energetic band. Thus far, they have been invited to participate in SXSW every years since 2004, this being a clear acknowledgement of their impact on attendees and the popularity they have acquired even internationally.

Dirty Old Men
Not quite what their name suggests, Dirty Old Men are a young foursome that have proved themselves to be a formidable opponent. While they began as a highschool band—one that had no plans for continuation after graduation—they have plowed on to create a name for themselves with the highly successful release of their second album, immature, which sold extraordinarily well for an indies band. In addition, the album was ranked 2nd on Japan’s most popular mobile site, further proving that Dirty Old Men is on the road of success.

Formed in 2002, this all-girl pop-rock band stuck primarily to the Kansai area in the beginning stages of their performances together. It was in 2005, accompanying the self-produced release of Starting Over, HONEY SAC set their sights outside of what they knew so well and began to expand their lives to places outside of Kansai. Since then, they have continued to build on their fanbase and like others this year, they are aiming to touch base with international audiences through their performances with Japan Nite.

As another young band, mostly around the age of eighteen, Stereopony has already managed to attach themselves to means of earning more fans—namely, through their major debut single Hitohira no Hanabira, which can be found as the ending theme for the Bleach anime. Their age allows them to have an in-depth understanding of the younger audiences and with that in their grasp, Stereopony has it in them to connect with a vast number of fans on various levels.

With an eighteen year old girl holding the position as vocalist, it might be assumed that SpecialThanks is somewhere along the lines of cute and entirely pop-central. Such an assumption would be wrong as instead the band maintains a more punkish sound that proves that the age and gender of their vocalist is hardly the most important factor.

Perhaps the best explanation of quaff is that they are a band that seeks to convey the idea of true art through means of their music. They have what they refer to as a twin-vocal style in which they utilize both ‘melody’ and ‘rap’ while sticking firmly to the idea of displaying the beauty of their native language.

With an understanding of what the tour is all about and a little knowledge of the bands involved, the next step is attending the shows yourself!

Japan Nite US Tour Schedule:

3/20 Japan Nite 1 @ Elysium SXSW Austin TX
with : FLiP/ Dirty Old Men /HONEY SAC/SPARTA LOCALS/GRAPEVINE/detroit7

3/21 Japan Nite 2 @Elysium SXSW Austin TX
with: Stereopony/SpecialThanks/The Emeralds/SA/Asakusa Jinta /quaff

3/22 sun. NY @ Bowery ballroom
with: detroit7/SA/SPARTA LOCALS/FLiP/Omodaka/

3/23 mon Cambridge /MA @ T.T. The Bears
with: detroit7/SA/SPARTA LOCALS/FLiP/Omodaka/ THE EMERALDS

3/24 tue Chicago @ Empty Bottle
with: detroit7/SA/SPARTA LOCALS/FLiP/Omodaka/

3/26 thu Denver @The Bluebird Theatre
with: detroit7/SA/SPARTA LOCALS/FLiP/Omodaka/

3/27 fri Seattle @ High Dive
with: detroit7/SA/SPARTA LOCALS/FLiP/Omodaka/

3/28 sat SF @ Independent
with: detroit7/SA/SPARTA LOCALS/FLiP/Omodaka/

3/29 sun LA @ Knitting Factory
with: detroit7/SA/SPARTA LOCALS/FLiP/Omodaka/

Japan Nite 2009:
SXSW JapanNite2009
Japan Nite MySpace

Artist Pages:
detroit7 : [MySpace] [Website]
SA : [MySpace] [Website]
Sparta Locals : [MySpace] [Website]
FLiP : [MySpace] [Website]
Omodaka : [YouTube] [Website]
GRAPEVINE : [Website]
Asakusa Jinta : [MySpace] [Website]
THE EMERALDS : [MySpace] [Website]
Dirty Old Men : [MySpace] [Website]
HONEY SAC : [MySpace] [Website]
Stereopony : [Website]
SpecialThanks : [MySpace] [Website]
quaff : [MySpace] [Website]

Japan Preview Show!

Thursday, March 19th at Creekside Lounge. Admission is free and the lineup will be:

HONEY SAC, Natccu, Maki Rinka, Peelander Z, Bo-Peep, SpecialThanks, FLiP, detroit7, Anchorsong.

Website: Creekside Lounge