Fuji Rock Festival Round-Up
OK, I get it now. After having been to my third Fuji Rock this year I am now resigned to the fact I will not stay dry for a whole weekend. However, this did not dampen spirits or performances at a festival already blighted by Japan’s wider concerns. As expected, numbers through the gates were lower than usual but whether this was due to radiation fears or a patchy line-up remains to be seen. However, despite the lower numbers, at times the festival felt busier than ever before.
Although I usually eschew the big stages at festivals, there was a host of bands playing the Green Stage that I was keen to see this year. Friday kicked off with an impressive set from The Vaccines. The band showed, in punchy two-minute bursts, exactly why they are the darlings of the NME right now. This was followed up by a stage-presence master class by the Kaiser Chiefs – singer Ricky Wilson not abashed to get himself wet by parading up and down the photographer’s pit in front of the stage to the delight of his fans. Performances from Battles, Fuji Rock veterans Mogwai and The Chemical Brothers were also well worth the sodden shoes. The same sadly couldn’t be said for Yellow Magic Orchestra, with Sakamoto, Takahashi, Hosono and their hits showing their age and failing to move a crowd that were desperate to get into their songs.
Over on the White Stage however, energy was in abundance. CSS electrified the crowd on Friday with Lovefoxxx spearheading possibly the sexiest performance of the weekend. British Sea Power also drew a big crowd and no doubt won new fans with a typically eccentric performance on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry defied his 75 years of age to deliver a set with love and a rumbling bass which I am sure had something to do with breaking up the heavy clouds.
The Red Marquee is always a haven from the rain and this year the line-up under cover was particularly strong. Gruff Rhys gave a captivating performance, although I do wonder if any of the Japanese fans understood his Welsh patter. Bands like The Naked and Famous, Best Coast, The Black Angels and Ra Ra Riot did much to bolster their reputations throughout the weekend. The evening shenanigans proved just as good, Digitalism surprised us, showing how they really have matured into a live band whilst Jamie xx, James Holden and Four Tet delivered just the sort of performances their fans would have been hoping for. Most improved performance of the weekend goes to Washed Out who looked, well, washed out at Freaks Festival earlier this year. The midnight set suited their style far better as they repaired their reputation with a dark and danceable set.
Elsewhere at the festival, Noah and The Whale, Amadou and Mariam and Cornershop all gave good performances on the Field of Heaven Stage and whilst I did not see it myself, the Congotronics Vs. Rockers performance was said to be something pretty special. Local boys Riddim Saunter delighted crowds with Kaji Hideki on the Gypsy Avalon stage, which may prove a fitting end with news emerging shortly after that they are likely to split up.
This year’s festival will live long in the memory and there were probably many more acts worthy of praise that I simply didn’t get chance to hear. I suppose that is always the one major drawback to festivals, which can be summed up in one word – logistics. For every three bands you see at a festival, there is always one you miss and this year it was particularly painful to sacrifice both Warpaint and The Kills for British Sea Power. Oh well, you can’t have it all…But there is always next year.
Words: Mark Birtles
Translation: Asuka Ozutsumi