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.
The first line-up announcement for Fuji Rock 2019 is out and brings with it a little something for everyone this year.
Last seen in Naeba back in 2011, The Chemical Brothers make their return to the headline slot, promoting their April release No Geography, No Geography.
Celebrating 40 years of music since thier first album Three Imaginary Boys, The Cure will also be making a return. Whether or not they will repeat thier epic 3-hour, 36-song performance from 2013 remains to be seen.
Enigmatic popstar SIA completes the first of the major headliners. Reaching wider international acclaim with her 2014 album 1000 Forms of Fear, SIA has most recently work a part of LSD, a supergroup with Diplo and Labrinth. The Australian singer-songwriter makes her Fuji Rock debut (along with dancer Maddie) this year.
Other notable additions to the large line-up include Janelle Monae and Thom Yorke’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. Singer, songwriter and actress Janelle Monae released her Dirty Computer album in 2018, with single “Make Me Feel” most clearly nodding to the influence of Prince working on the album with her before his death. Meanwhile, Thom Yorke’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes promises stunning visuals alongside glitchy and atmospheric music from this 2014 release (and perhaps a few more recent additions?).
Here’s the full first line-up.
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, THE CURE, SIA
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, JAMES BLAKE, JASON MRAZ, MARTIN GARRIX
JANELLE MONAE ALVVAYS, AMERICAN FOOTBALL, ANNE-MARIE, BANDA BASSOTTI, CAKE, CALPURNIA, CHON, DANIEL CAESAR, GARY CLARK JR., GEORGE PORTER JR & FRIENDS, INTERACTIVO, , KAYTRANADA, KHRUANGBIN, KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD, THE LUMINEERS, MATADOR! SOUL SOUNDS, MITSKI, NICOLA CRUZ, RED HOT CHILLI PIPERS, SHAME, STELLA DONNELLY, TORO Y MOI, UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA, THE WATERBOYS, YAEJI
Tickets go on sale today. Check out FAQs for how to get yours!
Photo: Julen Esteban-Pretel
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.
Feeling like a scaled down, chilled out and grown-up cousin of Fuji Rock, Asagiri Jam has been going strong since 2001. This perennially sold out, 10,000-person strong yet intimate party gives you plenty of time to sit back, relax, and really enjoy some music and some nature. And this year was no exception, with legends like Yo La Tengo, Clammbon and Boredoms shoulder to shoulder with artists like Gogo Penguin, Snail Mail and John Butler Trio. All this in an idyllic setting with an iconic view of Mt Fuji. What more could you ask for?
- 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:
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.
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.