Over the past few years, the mental health advocate and counseling center TELL has put on 17 “Band Night” events. As they get ready for their next musical extravaganza, Band Night #18 on May 7, they’ve added a new challenge to pull off for the night. Organizers have chosen four cities for an evening that will feature dozens of bands performing at nearly a dozen different venues.

Many of TELL’s events are meant to bring awareness to a specific topic, and previous ones have focused on women’s rights, anti-bullying, and depression. The upcoming Band Night is meant to raise awareness for the fight against stigmas for those seeking out mental health support. To find out more about their latest project, we asked TELL’s Nathan Gildart (also a band member of The Complaints Department) to elaborate on their upcoming Band Night.

“This one is ‘Shattering Stigma’, emphasizing the need to end stigmatizing individuals seeking someone to talk to about their concerns.” TELL is no stranger to big nights featuring many groups: they’ve been putting on four Band Nights each year, and for the last two spring events, they’ve extended out to multiple venues, but this is the first time they’ve stretched out to multiple cities.

As Gildart explains, “this is the biggest

Kyotophonie Piano

Photo by Ida Tuononen

Kyotophonie: Borderless Art at the Bridge to Heaven

The photography festival Kyotographie has, over the last decade, become one of the most anticipated events of the year in Kyoto. It launched its biannual sibling event, Kyotophonie, in spring of this year. The second edition took place this fall and we were there to enjoy it. Combining music and gastronomy, Kyotophonie took place in the stunning location of Amanohashidate in northern Kyoto Prefecture at the mouth of Miyazu Bay. Ranked as one of Japan’s three most scenic views, Amanohashidate hosted a wonderful gathering for music and food lovers with an eclectic setup of Japanese and international creatives, from singer-songwriters, jazz and folk musicians to Latin-afro, hip-hop and reggae artists. [caption id="attachment_232471" align="aligncenter" width="3000"] Photo by Kohei Take[/caption]

Rhythm and Beats

The festival was spread throughout the narrow Amanohashidate strip. At the entrance, there was a gathering of local food trucks and shops, while the Beach and Forest stages were set up further along the park. Guests were welcomed into the scenic location with an ukidaiko drumming performance, an intangible folk cultural property of Miyazu, a city in Kyoto Prefecture. The Beach Stage opened with the radiant Kavka Shishido directing Japan’s leading drummers and percussionists into an improvised frolic of rhythm. The audience radiated joy and energy listening and reacting with their whole bodies. It was hard to resist the draw of the dynamic beats. Rhythms were also guaranteed thanks to the Brazilian singer-songwriter Chico César. As he performed, the afternoon was filled with smiling faces and bare toes dancing in the sand. The distinctive set of U-zhaan, Tamaki Roy and Chinza Dopeness — a combination of hip hop, rap and the Indian tabla drum — brought another type of rhythm to the day. It was the perfect manifestation of Kyotophonie's borderless concept. [ad number="1"]

The Bridge to Heaven

Moving from one stage to another, festival goers could stroll through the beautiful pine tree-lined trails with the glimmering sea on both sides. In the evening, the trail was guided by dimly lit lanterns. Along the way, guests came across “Piano by the beach,” the open-to-all grand piano which lay right at the water’s edge. There was also an opportunity to step into the intriguing Camera Obscura by Ryosuke Toyama. On top of all that, visitors could reserve a tea ceremony at the Kian Teahouse — a world-traveling bamboo structure without walls or ceilings – celebrating the beauty of imperfection and inviting an experience with nature. [caption id="attachment_232470" align="aligncenter" width="3000"] Photo by Kohei Take[/caption]

From the Beach to the Forest

The musical program alternated between the stages. The artists’ styles fitted the moods of the locations — the sunny, open beach with salt in the air and the moodier, dusky pine-scented forest. On the Forest stage, the Japanese-Canadian singer-songwriter Julia Shortreed gave an ethereal and ambient performance, intertwined with the backdrop of the Asoumi Sea as the afternoon light shifted through the forest leaves. Another highlight was the curious art and music show by Circo de Sastre, in collaboration with filmmaker Mitsusai Sekine. The black and white reel created an otherworldly and immersive setup in the dark, wet forest. The Beach stage, right next to the water, offered an additional dimension to the performances. Ichiko Aoba’s fantastical, crystal-clear singing, piano and guitar tunes mixed beautifully with the sound of the crashing waves, as if it had always been part of her music. Luedji Luna served up perfect Sunday vibes with her smooth, sensual Afro-Brazilian set. It kept moods high even when the rain started. The perfect ending came with the soulful sounds of Inna de Yard, the Jamaican Buena Vista Social Club. These musical legends threw an epic reggae party to send everyone off into the night.

Bistro by the Beach

Kyotophonie claimed to be a festival of music and gastronomy. It was a promise that was ultimately realized. The Beach Bistro presented by Rimpei Yoshikawa from Shibuya’s Pignon and Fumihiko Oumi from Delta Kyoto was staged with long queues on both days. And for good reason. The charcoal grill was used to prepare dishes using seasonal ingredients, which were exemplary. Feel-good food accompanied by some lovely, natural wine. The Beach Bistro area was airy and light yet also featured beautifully designed wooden structures and furniture. It was the loveliest setting to enjoy the food while listening to the DJ — with real, proper tableware and cutlery — a rarity for a festival setting. [caption id="attachment_232425" align="aligncenter" width="3000"] Photo by Ida Tuononen[/caption]

Dinner by the Sea

A special gastronomic highlight of the event was to be found at the Beach restaurant run by Masayo Funakoshi of Kyoto’s Farmoon and visiting Michelin-starred French chef Armand Arnal. Their second collaboration, the pair created a dream dining scenario by the beach. A covered half-moon counter table overlooking the sea with unparalleled views of Amanohashidate set the perfect stage for a feast of ingredients sourced from the waters of Miyazu Bay and the farms and forests nearby. Romantic and with a backdrop of a darkening night and dim lights, plus the sound of crickets and waves, it was the ideal locale for the multi-course banquet of brilliant, delicious dishes which highlighted the taste of the surrounding landscape. [ad number="2"]

Bridging Art and People

Young and old, families, groups of friends and individuals, the festival was a lovely mix of people. Filled with beautiful encounters, the event managed to bridge not only different forms of art, but also people. The atmosphere culminated in the last gig on Sunday night, with festival goers, artists and chefs all dancing together. Kyotophonie sought to connect nature, music, art and culinary experiences in a distinctive setting. It was accomplished beautifully. Impressive cuisine, inspiring performances with joyful, fresh music and intimate, cool vibes throughout the weekend.
The Kyotophonie Spring edition will be held alongside the annual Kyotographie festival in Kyoto from April 13 to May 12, 2024. 
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I’ve planned”; however, TELL has found plenty of support from local and international artists and volunteers to assist in the fund raising event.”People want to help, and many of them have their own separate events in support of people in need or a specific NPO. It’s an incredible community that shows the inherent kindness people possess.” Dozens of bands, some of which have played on previous Band Nights, will be participating in the performances in Tokyo, Kobe, and Osaka.

TELL got its start in Tokyo, where they see patients daily and get phone calls via their hotline. Branching out to other prefectures has been a long-time goal for them; this Band Night will mark the first one outside of Tokyo, making it an important milestone for them, and a great opportunity for those in need of support. “When a Kansai office was being planned we thought it would be good to expand the event to Kansai [too]. Jennifer Wint greatly assisted us in making it possible.”


Sawa Kato, of Sawa’s Phool, who will be playing at Akasaka’s Crawfish (photo courtesy of Electra Vasileiadou

On May 7, 11 venues in four cities (Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, ad Kyoto), will be participating in Band Night. How has TELL partnered up with venues around the country? Gildart has an answer for that one, too: “For the past few years we’ve had What The Dickens, Hobgoblin, Ruby Room, Gamuso, The Black Sheep, and The King George Pub (Omiya) support many Band Nights. The Kansai venues are now participating and in Tokyo we’ve happily added The Pink Cow and Crawfish.” Most of these partnerships came about thanks to “an army of TELL volunteers” and the bands joined in through references and word of mouth. “Networking has been crucial in making all of this happen.”

This the full list of cities and venues arranging their own Band Night alongside TELL, along with their respective line-ups:

  • What The Dickens – Last of the Mojitos, The Speshulls, Tokyo Cover and the Bootleg Affair, Strawberry Jam, Woad Wocket
  • Hobgoblin (Shibuya) – Ian Gronow, nature airliner, Mickey Acorn, Mana Hardcore, Grant Rolls, *MC: Ian Gronow
  • Ruby Room – Los Yoyosiguiris, Curry Ramen, Rob de Band, San Danesins, Negative Zero
  • The Pink Cow – Misoshiru Family, The INAGEYA, The Complaints Department, Goood Things, The Oyajis, *MC: Nate Gildart
  • Crawfish – Haru, The Flint Hearts, Sawas Phool, The Dave Juteau Band, Arthur Pentameter, *MC: John McGowan


  • Bar IZNT – L.W. George, Tender Armstrong, Alcohol Apology, Okan



  • Slinky Tips
  • Adam Bretherick

(You can read up on the bands that will be playing here: https://sites.google.com/site/bandnightfortell/artist-band-bios)

There is no cover charge or entry fee for any of the venues or performances, but TELL encourages and accepts all donations to fund future projects, services, and their ability to branch out to other cities. Gildart hints at prospective plans: “In the future we want to live stream performances at all of the venues and create a simultaneous online presence as well. That would be very cool, and make the event truly nationwide in an online sense.”
But with the event a little over a week away, he is staying happily in the near future: “ultimately, I look forward to people coming together to enjoy a night of music, learning about TELL, and hopefully sharing our information with the people who might need it.”

For more information about TELL’s Band Night, check out our event calendar listing.

For more information about TELL, visit http://telljp.com/