Friday is International Clash Day, a celebration of the life, work, music, and politics of “The Only Band That Matters“. Begun seven years ago because of a “listener request”, Seattle’s KEXP enlisted 110 radio stations around the world to host special broadcasts and live events ala “Radio Clash” from London to Uruguay.
So lift your jug like Clash front-man Joe Strummer, who is pictured here outside the Fuji Rock entrance way back in the day. And here’s a fun fact, Joe Strummer’s birthday, August 21, coincides with the start of this year’s festival. Call it synchronicity or happenstance, but you gotta believe their will probably be a few covers and on-stage tributes as well as many t-shirts and Mohawks championing The Clash’s anti-hate, anti-racism message.
- July 31, 2019 ● Experiences
Saturday’s deluge would’ve done in a lesser festival, but Fuji Rock staff quickly worked to ensure the safety of footpaths and major stages. Measures such as opening up a conference room in the Prince Hotel for campers was no doubt greatly appreciated for those whose tents were waterlogged. And when the sun emerged on Sunday, much of the festival was dry, a testament to ground crews and drainage work which goes on throughout the year. Smash has mastered the art of logistics, everything from providing artists outstanding equipment and stages, as well as new toilet areas for festivalgoers. Continual improvements in all areas of the festival has impressed me, and up and coming areas should be making it on your radar such as Pyramid Garden, Don’s Café, and NGO village.
I’ve long championed Fuji Rock’s Joe Strummer Memorial, 3-ton European ski gondola which perched princely above the Palace of Wonder. Unfortunately, brutal snowfall in Naeba each winter tossed the gondola around like a crushed beer can. Two years ago, it was flattened into little more than a pedestal for another artwork. A sort of rescue effort was made a few months ago to cut it open and rescue valuable works inside such as handwritten, festival specific lyrics penned by Joe Strummer himself, artwork attributed to him and others, and whatever other seeds of rock and roll history could be recovered.
On March 29th, 2019, as The Cure stood on the red carpet before their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, their lead singer – the eternally-lipsticked Robert Smith – was accosted by a brash reporter who, in classic American fashion, belted, “Are you as EXCITED as I am?!?!”. Equally true to form, and visibly wincing from her sensory assault, Mr.Smith quietly replied,”…apparently not”.
Despite their relatively upbeat post-punk debut in 1979, The Cure quickly ascended to the ranks of royalty as “kings of gloom”; people who made it not only acceptable to openly live through one’s depressive states; in the right circles, they even made it look “cool”.
As recent studies reveal that depression is on the rise worldwide, The Cure’s receipt of Rock’s highest honour not only seems fittingly timely; it also validates those who were bullied for being their fans in decades past. And, as Robert Smith and Co. prepare thirtieth anniversary concerts of their album Disintegration (arguably their darkest record) we can almost hear their throngs of fans silently chime, “We told you so”.
Even further cementing their importance, beyond becoming an incidental champion for those who struggle with mental health issues, from The Cure’s earliest performances, Robert Smith also pioneered another modern topic; gender and sexuality. Openly displaying more femininity than the average man since The Cure’s first shows, by 1982 Mr. Smith donned lipstick for all concerts and photo shoots. Even throngs of loyal fans assumed he was bisexual. However, ever-defiant of preconceptions, and consistently breaking new ground by default, Robert Smith would clearly state in interviews that he was monogamously married to a woman he loved; his high school sweetheart, Mary Poole. Once again, decades ahead of popular discourse, he indirectly gave millions permission to be themselves in both gender and sex.
As the band prepares to release a brand new album this autumn – reportedly steeped in “doom and gloom” – to celebrate its fortieth anniversary, its performance at Fuji Rock flows into a twenty-three date marathon of concerts, consisting mostly of appearances at legendary festivals like Glastonbury and Austin City Limits. Some may question the relevance of these ageing pioneers, in a country where visual kei and makeup on men is already seen as passé. However, for a land still struggling with gender equality, LGBTQ rights and epidemic depression, The Cure is a prescription we all need.
- June 28, 2019 ● Experiences
Each year at Fujirock, there is an outdoor theater playing a selection of films under the stars.
The screen is placed in the Tokoro Tengoku area, near the bridge that crosses the stream leading to the White Stage.
You can catch films shown here on both Friday and Saturday night. Set up your camp chair and enjoy your favorite film in the cool mountain air. READ MORE
- June 19, 2019 ● Experiences
Connecting the main festival grounds below with two small but not-to-be-missed mountaintop stages is a Japanese feat of engineering.
The Dragondola, which was built in 2001 to connect Naeba and Kagura/Mitsumata Ski Resorts during the winter season, is a 5.5 kilometer long gondola taking about 20-minutes from end-to-end. Touted as the worlds longest gondola lift line, it traverses a number of peaks and deep valleys, offering both panoramic views of the festival grounds with deep blue lakes seen in the distance, the later swooping low across cool mountain streams before continuing onto the summit.
- June 17, 2019 ● Experiences
If you don’t know it already, Fuji Rock is big. We all already know about the Green Stage, where the headliner action takes place. But if it is your first time to the fest here is a handy little guide to some of the other stages. Try your best to visit them all!
- May 5, 2019 ● Experiences
For those familiar with the entire Fuji Rock experience, you don’t need to be told not to miss the pre-festival kickoff that happens on the Thursday night before the festival.
Not only is it free and open to anyone, even without festival passes, Thursday night is your chance to get amped up for the days to come and kick off the festival in true fashion.
Having been both a music journalist and a musician myself since my high school days in the 90’s, my journey through this industry has been epic and winding. My first festival, as a musician, was the Boom ’n’ Blast in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. A now-defunct teen band competition in my hometown’s central park, with a stage and a sound system worthy of household names, it made me feel like I had already reached the big leagues. However, they were still decades away. My first international festivals included Zandari Festa in Seoul, which I attended as an artist, and Music Matters in Singapore which I covered as a music journalist; the former operating on a mission statement similar to that of the original SXSW festivals (with an eye on showcasing the best in independent talent) and the latter hosting headliners like Pentatonix; the hot topics of the moment.
Imagine bypassing railway stations and boarding your very own private vehicle for Fuji Rock. Enjoy the comfort of cup holders, electric outlets, air-con, and bunk beds. Keep your beverages chilled and your rucksack tucked away. Best of all, when it rains, you will be 100% watertight.
As for the amenity that many ask about, “only use it in an emergency” is what the rental lot attendant instructed before we headed off down the highway.
While the early morning mist and clouds prevented those who were ambitious enough to wake up at the crack of dawn from being able to see the sunrise, by the time most folks were rolling out of their sleeping bags, the sky was blue the mercury was rising. Asagiri Jam’s second day would show just how much fun the festival can be when Mother Nature plays along.