Only a couple weeks until the start of Fuji Rock, and if you’re like me, you’ve started trying to pencil in all your “must-see’s” in the overwhelming stage schedule. For me, the 2017 Fuji Rock outing has a particularly high number of “must-see’s”, none more than opening day. Previously, James laid out a very tempting and relaxing plan for us on the first day of the festival, but I’m going to put my money on using all my energy at the start at the risk of spending Saturday and Sunday with tired legs.If you’re up for running back and forth between each of the far corners of the festival grounds from morning to night, Friday is the day to do it. Both due to the initial energy you’ll have at the start of the festival, as well as the wide variety of acts you can catch on opening day, here’s one way to power through the first day of this year’s festival.
The award-winning latin ska singer Mimi Maura returns to Fuji Rock this year for the first time since 2012, and will perform in the Crystal Palace Tent and at Cafe de Paris. A native of Puerto Rico, her career has carried her through both North and South America, where she’s a legitimate star, playing on some of the biggest festival stages in Latin America. When not touring, she’s in Argentina, where she raises a family and makes music with her husband Sergio Rotman, guitarist and saxophonist in the Argentinian superstar band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs (who will also be at Fuji Rock as part of her backing band, and also playing a DJ set). Mimi’s unique brand of ska vocals — sexy, upbeat, and highly danceable — will be perfect for Fuji Rock’s cabaret-style stages, so mark it on your schedule! She looks forward very much to coming, and took time to answer a few of our questions by email.
- July 19, 2017 ● Bands
With about a week to go until Fuji Rock 2017 officially gets underway, soon-to-be punters are probably staring at the three-day schedule trying to figure out how they are going to approach this whole affair. While you debate the merits of seeing Aphex Twin vs. Quruli, you should also save some space to see some of the domestic gems playing smaller stages…like, off-the-beaten-path stages (with Rookie-A-Go-Go ignored, you should make time to swing by there anyway)…while you are out in Naeba. We are here to help, and here are five acts to pencil in to your itinerary this year.
Yeah yeah, exciting new bands and genre-bending electronic acts, plenty of that at Naeba…sometimes, you <em>want</em> a throwback to a different time, and Fuji Rock Festival 2017 has a wide variety of performers who have been honing their craft over the last few decades. This year’s line-up, in particular, offers up a convenient timeline of Japanese music, featuring influential acts from the 1960s and breakthrough producers from the Aughts on the bill. It’s not quite a comprehensive history of Japanese music, but here are five acts from five different decades worth checking out in a few weeks.
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.
Of Fuji Rock’s main stages, the Red Marquee is the most diverse, by day functioning as an indie showcase for newish indie acts with one or two big hits or who are currently killing it on tour, and by night turning into a big room dance club for an international mix of DJs and electronic acts. This year they appear to be doing away with Sunday Sessions, an after midnight showcase to discover weird, new and high energy local Japanese electronic bands and hybrid acts. Or possibly they are merging Sunday Sessions with the Planet Groove showcase, which traditionally was only on Friday night, but has now taken over Sunday as well.
So what precisely is the Red Marquee? READ MORE
In my last article I described one of the reasons to attend Fuji Rock this year was its great diversity of bands and acts at the Festival. One example of such diversity is Jake Shimabukuro. For those who don’t know, Jake is a 5th generation Japanese-American, Hawaiian born and bred, master of the ukulele. Before the internet was being broken by silly things like pictures of the Kardashians, our man Jake was shaking things up on Youtube with his super-human ukulele skills. If you still haven’t seen his rendition of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, join the 15 million others who have.
Jake was signed to Sony records Japan in 2001 and has been releasing records and playing shows here ever since. I caught his set at Tokyo’s Bunkamura a couple years back and was plenty impressed. This will be Jake’s fourth time to play Fuji Rock and he’ll be coming this time with his Nashville Sessions trio band, consisting of Nolan Verner on bass and Evan Hutchings on drums. If you somehow manage to miss Jake at this year’s Fuji Rock, he’ll be back in late September of this year playing a Japan tour. READ MORE
Well the big news today is that the line-up for all of the stages has been announced. For me, it’s always a heartbreaking moment as I begin to make dreaded schedule decisions, writing off some bands that I would love to see but would be logistically impossible.
For example, it’s gonna impossible to catch both Gorillaz (Green) and Queens of the Stone Age (White) on Friday night without running your ass around and being content with half-sets from each band. But then again,having an abundance of choice aint such a bad thing.
Further complicating matters comes from the myriad of other stage announcements which came out today like Palace of Wonder, Naeba Shokudo, Mokudo Tei, Gypsy Avalon, Pyramid Stage, etc. All of these acts are worthy of your time and attention. But if you see have to see one act these stages, I think it’s gotta be Big Willy’s Burlesque This fella sure puts on a helluva show and really gets the place steaming.
Let’s hear it from you…. who are you gonna see.. or to put it another way who are you gonna miss?
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
- May 30, 2017 ● Bands
When the line-ups for each day of this year’s Fuji Rock Festival arrived, fans of Shibuya-kei got a surprise – Keigo Oyamada, better known by the name Cornelius, and Kenji Ozawa would be playing on the same day, Saturday. They were the core of the band Flipper’s Guitar, an outfit founded in the late 1980s that set the pace for one of Japan’s most exciting homegrown genres of the ’90s by taking ideas from obscure styles of music (Parisian pop, tropicalia records, all sorts of forgotten British bands) and introducing them to a new generation of listeners. The pair laid the way for artists such as Pizzicato Five, Fantastic Plastic Machine and Kahimi Karie to gain attention for a sound out of time – one so popular in the hip Shibuya district that it was called “Shibuya-kei.”