The nominees for the Mercury Music Prize have been announced. The award is very prestigious in the U.K., and has often helped to catapult lesser-known artists into the spotlight.

Often, even just a nomination can help to boost the profile of an act. This year’s contenders are Richard Ashcroft, Badly Drawn Boy, Coldplay, Death In Vegas, The Delgados, The Doves, Helicopter Girl, Leftfield, Kathryn Williams, MJ Cole, Nicholas Maw, and Nitin Sawnhey.

The major agencies have a good showing of artists in these nominations, but out of the 12 chosen albums, two of them were recorded by artists on the Concert Clinic roster – The Great Eastern by The Delgados, represented by Adam Saunders, and Little Black Numbers by Kathryn Williams, represented by Nigel Morton.

Although the Concert Clinic has only been operational since last year, the agency was formed out of FAB and Millennium artists agencies and the combined rosters of the two boutique agencies have scored quite a few Mercury nominees over the past few years, namely Asian Dub Foundation, Norma Waterson, Eliza Carthy, and Denys Baptiste, while Portishead won the Mercury Award in 1995.

Steps and Five are set to kick off their winter tours at a Butlins holiday resort.

The bands will appear at a specially constructed 6,000-capacity Big Top Arena at Butlins in Minehead, Somerset, in November. The shows are part of a repositioning for the traditional holiday camp.

Other shows coming up include Atomic Kitten, Scooch. and Bjorn Again. Tickets were scheduled to go on sale August 1 for both the Steps concert on November 17 and Five’s show on November 25.


Korea’s much-anticipated Triport Rock Festival takes place this weekend (August 12-13) at Misari in Hanam, South Korea. International headliners are Weezer ,Ben Folds Five, and Green Day on day one, Queen Adreena and Biohazard on day two.

On the local front, Korean bands Crying Nut, Deli Spice, Crash, and Sinawe, among others, are on the schedule, as well as Japan’s Oblivion Dust. The rock music festival was first held last year and is intended as a Korean version of Britain’s renowned Glastonbury Festival.


British “Asian punk junglists” Asian Dub Foundation (ADF) lead an impressive lineup for this year’s WOMAD Singapore. The event is set to take place at Fort Canning Park September 1-3. This will be ADF’s first Asian concert performance outside of Japan.

Also on the bill for the three-day world music fest are reggae icon Pato Banton, renowned Indian flautist Hari Prasad Chaurasia, and Australian music legend Jimmy Little, among others. Some 17 artists from around the globe are scheduled to appear. Last year’s event attracted more than 12,000 people.


In the first week of July, surf rock veterans The Ventures started their annual summer tour of Japan, which continues until September 17 and visits every major city in the country, as well as quite a few out-of-the-way ones.

The quartet, which formed in Seattle in 1959, has come to Japan every summer since 1964, three years after its biggest single, “Walk Don’t Run,” reached No. 2 on the U.S. pop charts.

Credited by Japanese pop historians with launching the ereki boom (electric guitar fad), The Ventures arguably had a greater influence on Japanese pop in the sixties than any other Western combo. The Beatles may have had more to do with sparking the “group sounds” movement that swept the archipelago in the latter part of the decade, but The Ventures had a more profound effect on the overall sound of Japanese pop. A number of singers, in fact, had hitsby putting Japanese lyrics to Ventures melodies.

Nostalgia is a surefire commercial property in Japan, as evidenced by the almost weekly TV music specials that trot out one-hit wonders from decades ago to sing those hits one more time. In this regard,

The Ventures have made a career out of their huge middle-aged Japanese fan base, which returns year after year to see its heroes in concert, often with children and grandchildren in tow. In fact, half of the 90 million records the group has sold worldwide have been sold in Japan. In the year The Beatles debuted in Japan, The Ventures outsold them two-to-one.

The dedication is obviously mutual. When original drummer Mel Lewis succumbed to a heart attack in the middle of the 1996 tour, his son Leon took over on the kit so that the tour could continue.

Japan has been in the grip of Buena Vista Social Club fever ever since the award-winning Wim Wenders documentary about the legendary Cuban music collective opened in the spring. Over the next few months, fans will have a number of opportunities to see their idols perform live, provided they get their tickets early.

Guitarist Eliades Ochoa is appearing this week at the Tokyo Blue Note for a six-day stand. Then on August 29, Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzales and Omara Portuondo will start a six-city, nine-concert tour that sold out as soon as tickets went on sale in April.

Tickets are also expected to sell out quickly for Juan De Marcos Gonzales’s Afro-Cuban Allstars, which are scheduled to tour Japan at the end of October.