The best music festival in the Far East, and possibly the known world, is upon us yet again my friends. So while I couldn’t possibly list all the reasons to get excited about Fuji Rock this year, let’s examine a few. READ MORE
- August 10, 2017 ● Experiences
This year’s festival was memorable in many ways such an outstanding Field of Heaven line-up and rainfall which was “intermittent” instead of constant. But how does this year stack up against of yore? For this we need to look back at the records.
Many Fuji Rock veterans believe the festival really hit it’s stride in 2005. That was when the fest expanded to 200 plus bands, many performing on stages that were little more than boardwalks, noodle stalls, or any clearing big enough for a pair of speaker stands. Doubling the number of performers also led to international visitors Many were drawn to Fuji Rock in 2005 as two Billboard No. 1 artists, Foo Fighters and Coldplay, played on the same night (Friday) and on the same stage (Green).
And holy shit something so cool couldn’t go off with a little incident as Dave Grohl would trade barbs with Chris Martin which would carry over into their sets. Saturday was a similar double scoop of stars with Fatboy Slim and Beck on the Green Stage and Sunday it was God bless UK legends New Order and Primal Scream. Imagine that, 6 bonafide festival headliners in three days. It was like the festival gods aligned in Japan that weekend. The excellent programming didn’t end there as the Pogues played and so did My Morning Jacket, and Sigur Ros.
But basically the reason the festival hit it’s stride was because it went bananas in creating multiple stages in areas where you thought it wasn’t possible to put a stage. Getting to the festival site a few weeks before the event must have stirred some creativity and with a little bit of lumber and extra equipment, we got more performance spaces so artists could do multiple sets at the festival. I am sure the record companies loved it, and so did the audience. Take a look at this Mokudo Tei (boardwalk stage) and here we see a photo of Los Lobos playing on the damn footpath without even a tent! That’s just plain nuts.
Fuji Rock’s resident DJ Jim West tipped me off to the fact that 2005 could have been the best year ever. He noted than Australian photographer living in Taiwan, Jimmie Wing, took pictures for UK’s Total Production magazine (TPi) which is the music industry’s most authoritative monthly dedicated to the design and technology of live events, from concert, gigs and festival productions. Appearing in this magazine for the first time leading keyed in the international audience to just how huge and significant of a festival Fuji Rock has become.
More importantly, Wing’s photos really captured the spirit of the festival and the fans, even impressing concert organizers when later published. “He saw a totally different side of Fuji Rock that we never did. We spend all our time looking down at turntables and equipment and never get a chance to walk around.”
We did a little bit of digging around and got in touch with Jimmie Wing and he’s agreed to let us use these three photos from 2005, photos that as of yet, have never seen the light of day. Enjoy.
All images credited to JIMMIE WING
As the festival is now less than a week away you should start getting your packing organized sooner rather than later. This year, like many of you, I will be braving the elements, pitching my tent and camping in the mountains of Naeba. So partially for myself, as well as the readers of this blog I decided to put together a short list of essential or commonly forgotten camping items. I’m going to exclude obvious things like your actual tent or sleeping bag, as those go without saying. The list is purposely short as I want to get the conversation started. Are these 5 items essentials for you too? What else is on your Fuji camping checklist? Read my list below then tell me what I missed. READ MORE
- July 20, 2017 ● Experiences
First things first. After enjoying a beery bus ride or an express taxi, get your wristband right away. The line will be shorter. You don’t want to be like a few pals of mine who put it off for another day only to get stuck in hour plus lines the next day. And don’t pull your wristband too tight as three days of drinking and lead to some swelling in your extremities, especially your beer drinking hand. For campers, the site opens at noon, so pick a spot with some shade rather than settling for steep slope. After you’ve dropped your load, grab your wallet and a rain coat and head to the festival gates which officially open at 6pm. That’s when the vendors start selling inside the festival as well so no need to get there too early.
The Bon Odori dance is well documented and is probably the first public event that takes place on Thursday night, just as the sun is beginning to dip below the kebab tents. The music is a mix of blaring Nakashi music and taiko drums performed by Naeba native, Fujio Moroto. There’s a little dancing to this easy beat and it’s slow enough so that foreigners can easily join in. Mr. Moroto has been keeping the beat steady for the past 15 years and he’s a good example of how the festival has ingratiated itself into the community. If you didn’t know it, this Thursday pre-party is free to the general public and is when the good village folk of Naeba and a few local politicians walk the grounds.
Don’t know where to start to plan your day at the behemoth that is Fuji Rock? Let us do the work for you with our curate your day series. This (hopefully) series of articles from your friendly Fuji Rockers team will take the work out of planning your day at Japan’s biggest music festival.
Let us lead you on a themed journey throughout the day. Last year I planned a day called Jimi’s Jazzy Sunday. This year I bring you Freedom Friday at Fuji! READ MORE
As with any holiday, are you pestered to bring back souvenirs from Fuji Rock? Do you have family waiting at home or colleagues covering you while you party the Friday and weekend away at the festival? Well, the official Fuji Rock store has you covered with a variety of goods that range from the practical to the downright weird. We’ve taken a quick dive into the store and picked our highlights below.
My kids (Finn, aged 7) and Meara (aged, 2) perfectly bookend the kid spectrum at Fuji Rock. Any older and he may be too cool for Gorillaz and any younger they may not be able to keep down the curry at Queen Sheeba’s. Finn went to his first EDM show years before many of you even heard of the genre, checking out (Diplo, the better half of Major Lazer) when he was just 7 months in his mama’s belly. Here’s a few tips for you to have kid-stravagant experience.
Wondering where to go for great craft beer and tasty grub this year? While I usually recommend a full stroll around the grounds to check things out for yourself, allow me to save you some time and steer you towards Aichi’s Hyappa brewing. They will have a booth at this year’s Fuji Rock for the 3rd consecutive year. I’ve personally enjoyed Hyappa’s great drinks and chow the past two years at Fuji Rock. I can say from experience, for those of us with discerning taste, the Hyappa booth is not to be missed. I’m sure you might have a few questions, like where can I find the booth, what are they serving up this year and what exactly is Hyappa brews all about? Well, fret not, I got a chance to chat with Hyappa head honcho Craig Morrey (pictured center with 2 thumbs up) to answer these questions and more. READ MORE
With the basic stage line-up for Fuji Rock 2017 laid out, punters can begin plotting out their days at Naeba. For the most part, the gathering is laid out in a line — one that curves and can reach out to the further edges of the ski resort, but a line nonetheless. Hitting up every stage is relatively easy and doesn’t require major detours.
Well, except for one.
The Day Dreaming and Silent Breeze stage rests far away from any other part of Fuji Rock, requiring a 20-minute gondola ride to get to the hill where it is located. Fest newbies might not be able to locate it on a map…and even veterans of the event might be hard-pressed to remember heading up there. With so much to take in, making time in your schedule to head off into the wilderness for the fest’s most far-flung spot might seem unnecessary.
Yet it is totally worth it. Here are the main reasons we believe making the trek out is completely worth it.
Looking back on the years of Fuji Rock, it’s always interesting to look at trends or changes that have helped shape the festival’s vibe. For example, this year’s outing is anchored by the usual big-name headliners, but seems to be underlined by a stronger showing than ever before of young up-and-coming Japanese acts.
Fuji Rock has always been known as a celebration of musical acts from all over the world, but the inclusion of more and more Japanese acts in recent years could be echoing the current rise in strength and influence of Japanese music around the world.
Perhaps due to their presence on the world stage and travel from other countries to the festival, it’s still mainly the overseas artists invited to Fuji Rock that often end up getting top billing and taking the spotlight from equally famous Japanese artists appearing here. Taking into account the overall lineups recently however, this could be something that might push more Japanese acts into headliner status and transform the Fuji Rock experience in years to come.
While that’s a gradual change that many festival goers are sure to be picking up on, this time I’d like to reflect back on previous years and perhaps start a discussion on some trends of past headlining acts.
There will always be the veterans; Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, Foo Fighters, Noel Gallagher, as well as this year’s returnee Bjork are all very familiar faces to the Fuji Rock main-stage lineup over the years.
Big names like these are sure to be a main draw for fans to return to the festival, but I think more credit goes to the variety that the main headlining acts showcase that ends up setting the core vibe of the festival each year.
Of course, the appeal of the Fuji Rock experience lies with much more than the three to five big-name acts that appear on the main stage, but we do rely on headlining acts to close out each day and wow us with consistently over-the-top performances. What kind of role, though, do these top artists really play in drawing crowds to the festival? If we take a look at top-billed acts from previous years, are there perhaps any patterns that come to the surface?
2016 Sigur Ros, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck
2015 Foo Fighters, Muse, Noel Gallagher, Deadmaus
2014 Franz Ferdinand, Arcade Fire, Jack Johnson
2013 Nine Inch Nails, Bjork, The Cure
2012 The Stone Roses, Noel Gallagher, Radiohead
2011 Coldplay, The Faces, The Music, The Chemical Brothers
2010 Muse, Roxy Music, Massive Attack
The possibility of an interesting pattern or trend in headlining acts is just something to ponder, but do you notice any interesting artist combinations that had a major draw for you, or notice a particularly weak/strong/unusual or memorable year because of the main acts that appeared?
Any trends or big changes to the festival (The end of the Orange Court?) or lineup (big-name artist cancellations?) over the years that had a big impact on you? We’d like to hear them too! Let us know in the comments.
Photo by 粂井健太
Text by Park Baker