When I was a kid heading off to festivals, my parents would drop me off at the train station, tell me to be careful and drive off home relieved to have a weekend free from my own personal teenage tornado. The thought of them accompanying me to a festival never crossed my mind, and certainly never would have even flickered across theirs – festival toilets are something they have never had the misfortune to experience and I feel it should ever remain that way. So when I was introduced to Jonny Woodward by a mutual friend, I was pretty impressed to find that he manages to survive Fuji Rock with his dad, and has done on several occasions.
I chatted to Jonny and his Pops, Roger, over email and had the good fortune to meet up with them at Fuji Rock 2015. They are both as lovely in person as they are via email and helped contribute to my One OK Rock report from the Green Stage.
Can you tell us about what made you want to go to Fuji Rock together? Japan seems like a long way to go for a music festival…
Jonny: I have been a long time festival-goer and after moving back to Japan I started attending Fuji Rock every year. Two and a half years ago, Pops surprised me by suggesting that he would like to fly to Japan and go to Fuji Rock with me!
Roger: Music and festivals are not things that were a part of my life when I was working. After I retired, I realised that all my children were great music fans and that two of my sons were rock musicians and I wanted to spend more time with them and get to know what it was that they loved so much. I thought it would be an amazing experience to travel to Japan and go to Fuji Rock with Jonny and get to spend some really quality time with him.
How does FujiRock compare to any of your previous festival experiences?
Jonny: My first festival was Glastonbury 1994 and it completely blew my mind. Since then I have been to Glastonbury many times along with lots of other great UK festivals like Phoenix and Reading. I came to Japan for 2 years as a research scientist in 1998 and was looking to find an alternative. I went to Fuji Rock for the first time that year, which was only the second year of the festival, and that year it was held close to Tokyo. I started going to Fuji Rock again in 2009 and have been every year since. Fuji Rock has all the elements that made Glastonbury so special in the 90s, including a chance to get back to nature, a huge variety of different types of music and most importantly the ability to completely remove oneself from one’s normal life and get some real perspective … oh and great bands too! It also has loads of things that make it even better – hot spring baths, the Dragondola, people’s behaviour and a concern for protecting the environment that always delights.
Roger: Enjoyed Farmer Phil’s and Shrewsbury festivals where I realised I should go Fuji Rock with Jonny. Wow! What an amazing first time experience.
What has been a highlight of the past years you’ve been to FujiRock?
Jonny: There have been so many fantastic moments. I really love listening to bands while lying in the sun in the afternoon. In 2012, Ray Davies played the Kinks, “Sunny Afternoon” on the Green Stage – it was just perfect! I think the best moment, though was watching The Flaming Lips with Pops last year.
Roger: Me too, it was a very special experience. I think I really started to understand why music is so important to people.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve witnessed at FujiRock?
Jonny: The first time I went to Fuji Rock in Naeba, I travelled on the Dragondola first thing on the Saturday morning. The view was breathtaking and I arrived at the top to be welcomed by a group of costumed characters (Heidi, Pikachu and others) who dragged me off for radio calisthenics (ラジオ体操, rajio taisou)! It was an extremely surreal experience. Next we learned how to play traditional Japanese kids games like “Daruma-san ga koronda” and I managed to fall over and get seriously covered in mud. It was great fun!
Are there are stages, food stalls, events etc. that you would recommend people check out?
Jonny: As a vegetarian, eating at Fuji Rock, like eating anywhere in Japan, is extremely challenging. My life saver every year is the wonderful pizza and pasta stall in the main food court. They have a proper wood burning stove and make fantastic pizzas and extremely tasty (and good value) penne arrabbiata.
Roger: My first evening at Fuji Rock I wanted something spicy and tried some Korean fried chicken. There was some red sauce on the counter, so I liberally dosed my chicken with it, while a surprised expression appeared on the faces of the staff at the food stall. They explained to Jonny in Japanese that the sauce was extremely hot. I thought I would be ok, but it completely blew my brains out. It took me the whole evening to get back to normal. Highly recommended!
Who are you looking forward to seeing at this year’s fest?
Jonny: As always, there are so many bands that I want to see, but I am a huge Muse fan, so I have to admit that my greatest excitement is reserved for that. They were incredible in 2010.
Roger: One of my other sons has seen Foo Fighters many times and we have been watching some of their previous performances together. I cannot wait to see them live.
Do you have any advice for people considering bringing their parents with them to a festival?
Roger: It’s probably not for everyone! Jonny and I basically are joined at the hip for four days solid during the festival, sharing a tent and doing everything together. There are few other situations in modern life where you can enjoy such uninterrupted interactions. From a practical perspective, things are really straightforward. It’s amazing being able to send the tent and food by post! This allows you to be well prepared and being well prepared is the key to festivals everywhere.
What is one thing you wish you had brought with you last year that you didn’t? Or is there one thing you wish you hadn’t brought?
Roger: The first year we went, we got caught in an amazing storm with all our waterproofs back at the tent. Fortunately, we had a tarpaulin with us, which we cut two holes in and made a double poncho. We wore it all afternoon and became minor celebrities with many people posing for pictures with us! Last year, we took proper ponchos with us and stayed much drier. It wasn’t half as much fun though!
Any final comments?
Jonny: Going to a festival with Pops is a unique and hard to beat experience. I recommend it to all parents and their children regardless of age or gender. I cannot thing of anywhere else I know where it would be quite as great as at Fuji Rock.