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Thursday, June 22, 2006
Anime, J-indie equals 'Woodstock for geeks'
By DAVID HICKEY
'Agrand collision of two Japanese subcultures -- anime and Japanese indie music," was one blogger's take on FanimeCon 2006, the biggest anime convention in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The indie bands were there because this year, among the 24-hour anime screenings, gaming and cosplay events and a panel offering advice on how to talk to girls, convention organizers were looking for a cheaper alternative to the visual-kei bands and J-pop acts usually found on anime film soundtracks and invited to perform at such events.
The push from inside Fanime for something different was welcome news to JapanFiles.com, a fast-growing Web site featuring downloads from alternative Japanese bands.
"It allowed us to take our bands there when a lot of the time they would be pushed aside for Avex Trax or Sony Music bands, the guys with the big names and the money," says JapanFiles' co-owner Steve Laity.
Fanime asked Laity to bring two JapanFiles-featured acts to the convention, and he quickly convinced the organizers to expand this remit to six bands.
Despite the odd detractor questioning his choices on online bulletin boards, Laity says those that made the trip were well received -- most of the bands sold out of the CDs they took with them.
"It was like an otaku Woodstock -- a celebration of Japanese culture in America," says Laity.
But he also acknowledges that it will take repeated trips to California for live gigs to capitalize on this initial buzz.
The absence of visual-kei and J-pop acts at Fanime indicates anime and video-game soundtracks are no longer the sole preserve of major label bands.
Swinging Popsicle, who sold more than 200 songs in one month on JapanFiles, will appear on a Korean anime soundtrack, while Guitar Vader, the most downloaded act on JapanFiles.com to date, will be on the soundtrack of the forthcoming "Beck" anime series.
It shouldn't be long before American anime fans put on their cosplay uniforms once again to dance to Japan's indie-rock.