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.”
- May 15, 2017 ● Bands
Although there remains just over two months before the 2017 edition of Fuji Rock kicks off, the poster for this year’s gathering has come together quite nicely. A few stories become clear within its somewhat trippy illustrations — Shibuya-kei cornerstones Cornelius and Kenji Ozawa appear on the same day; a healthy amount of groups have reunited and are making triumphant returns to Naeba (LCD Soundsystem, The Avalanches); electronic acts lean towards the darker side. READ MORE
- May 12, 2017 ● Bands
In today’s latest line-up annoucement Fujirock has confirmed Radwimps onto the bill. If you’re unfamiliar with the band, they’ve been a fixture of the mainstream Japanese music scene for the past decade, but it was their work on the recent smash movie “Your Name” which has catapulted them to huge success and popularity. READ MORE
- April 6, 2017 ● Bands
Outside the main festival gates at Fuji Rock you may find yourself wandering back to your tent, hotel or hostel one summery evening when the sound of a band calls out to you on your left. Dazed and sweaty from a headline show at the Green Stage, you’re still aching for something else to keep the buzz going, so you follow that sound and step through the mouth of a giant, fiery skull to find yourself at the Rookie A Go-Go stage, a magical musical space which has been showcasing unsigned bands at Fuji Rock since the beginning of this millennium.