- July 23, 2018 ● Bands
Traveling around the Naeba Valley during Fuji Rock, you will see plenty of popular Japanese bands with hugely enthusiastic followings. Here’s my personal Top-5 for rocking Japanese bands playing major stages at this year’s festival, all great, energetic acts that will be fun to watch and sure to create an impression. Please note this list doesn’t include bands on smaller stages, like Naeba Shokudo, Boardwalk, Gypsey Avalon, Cafe de Paris and others, and there are plenty of great finds there. We’ve also already published a Rookie-A-Go-Go preview a couple weeks ago, so be sure to check that out. Lastlky, this list leans towards rock, punk, metal and ska and not much towards J-Rock or J-Pop, which is perhaps a whole other animal. OK, here’s the list:
Starting last year, with the addition of Craft Beer Market at Fuji Rock, bringing along 4 booths of the country’s top brewers and importers, (concurrently offering a total of around 20 different craft beers at one time) the standard for quality beer at the festival was substantially raised. This was great news for beer fans all throughout Naeba. READ MORE
“Big Willie” McNeil is a long-time friend of Fuji Rock, playing just about as along as the Palace of Wonder has existed, also inhabiting new stages like Cafe de Paris. You could say these places were built for him and his love of burlesque, one of the first forms of musical theater. We had the good fortune to catch up with Willie as he was packing up feather boas for the flight over.
1. Tell me the truth Willie, do the burlesque girls look as good in the morning without the makeup?
It’s amazing what make up, push up bra’s, dancers fishnet tights and heels can do. False advertising actually! But they do call it make up… One time I did a big show in Chicago with around 20 dancers and the next morning on the flight home when everyone was in their sweats and tennis shoes, I didn’t even recognize some of the dancers who I didn’t know well!
2. What can we expect from you at Fuji this year?
A special international show! I have two Cuban musicians, an Italian guitarist, my Argentinian dancer Carolina plus for the special ‘G&G Orchestra’ show Elvis and two background singers. We’ll play Cuban and American music.
3. Any acts you looking forward to?
- July 17, 2018 ● Interviews
Vinyl mania has long been part of the Fuji Rock culture, including musicians, DJs, fans and the festival production team. Now that passion manifests as the Blue Galaxy Stage, an expansive circus tent powered by two turntables and a roster of DJs with truly immense collections of rare ska, reggae, world music, Japanese garage, and all manner of vinyl rarities. The man powering the Blue Galaxy is Jim West, a British vinyl nut who’s been coming to Fuji Rock for 20 years. He will DJ four and a half hours each evening of the festival (though only three hours on Sunday). Now a full-fledged festival area, the vinyl stage is in reality Jim’s baby. In 2011, he launched the Fuji Rock’s first vinyl-only DJ stage, Jim’s Vinyl Nasium as an experiment in the World Food Court. Over the following years, the Vinyl Nasium got better and better. After the 2016 Fuji Rock, the organizers couldn’t help but make it into a proper area, so in 2017, they expanded it to become the Blue Galaxy Tent. This year, guest DJs will include Sim Cas, the Cumbia Kid (aka Jason Mayall), Caribbean Dandy, Astro Black (US), DZ (Basque Countries), Koichi Hanafusa (Fujirockers.org), King Nabe and the Club Ska All-Stars and several others. Yet for the meat of each evening, it will be powered by Jim West and his fellow vinyl maniac Salam Unagami. To learn more of the backstory for this unique DJ stage, we caught up with Jim for a quick Q&A interview.
Sometimes a solo musician’s artistic evolution can progress in surprising ways. Tanizawa Tomofumi debuted as a pop singer-songwriter with good, quirky production and unique songwriting. After making a splash and a paycheck off of penning the opening theme for popular anime Kimi Ni Todoke, he spent a year traveling the world. The whole world. All the way to Antarctica and back. He returned significantly more psychedelically cosmic and with a lot of new world-music influences to add into what was already a super-strong pop sensibility. The result is some of the most sonically and artistically unique music to come out of any ‘singer-songwriter’ you could hope to find.
Esne Beltza is a large ensemble from the Basque Countries, the mountainous region that rests in the north of Spain and the south of France. Basque is one of the most ancient languages in Europe, predating the arrival of Latin and the Romans and having no relation to other contemporary European languages. People have spoken Basque – or Euskal, as the Basque people call their own country and language – in Spain’s mountains for literally thousands of years. So tradition runs deep, and Esne Betlza proudly accepts it, mixing traditional melodies and lyrics of modern Basque poetry with Latin rhythms, punk rock energy and various modern styles: hip hop, reggae, soul, rock, folk and Cumbia. In their own words, their music represents “the journey from the small Basque Country to the large world.”
This year, Esne Beltza will play several times at Fuji Rock, including sets on the White Stage and Crystal Palace Tent, a DJ set by band member DZ at the Blue Galaxy Tent, and also a pre-Fuji Rock warmup party at the Radical Music Network on July 25 at Club Asia in Tokyo.
- July 11, 2018 ● From Fujirockers.org
Before you start packing your wheelie bag or Igloo cooler, first ask yourself “what type of Fujirocker do I wanna be”. Thinking long and hard about this will eliminate some of the ballast from your belongings and maximize your chance of hanging with like minded people. Here are some of the regular looks we see each year.
The Rookie Stage is always a mixed bag of acts veering between wishy-washy bedroom pop, punk guitar-throwing, schedule-be-damned antics or energetic kawaii-pop. For those who play, the Rookie stage has sometimes opened up doors to wider success, and it’s this potential promise that keeps bands applying year on year for the chance to appear at the following year’s festival on a main stage.
Here’s a brief selection of bands worth checking out, if only because they break the mold of floppy-haired boys playing guitar to their shoes.
- July 9, 2018 ● Bands
In a more hip-hop-heavy lineup at Fujirock than ever, big names like Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone and N.E.R.D are sure to draw more fans of the genre to Naeba than in years past. Not to let overseas rap acts hog all the spotlight, a few Japanese hip-hop acts also have their sights set on expanding the presence of the genre at the festival. One of those acts, Jabba Da Football Club will take to Naeba Shokudo late Saturday to do just that.