Posted on 2013/08/02 18:13
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Best of the Fest: Sean

At it’s best, music teaches us something we didn’t know about ourselves or  gives us another perspective from which to consider our existence on earth.  The best music has the power to transcend genres, time, culture, and our preconceptions, hopefully leaving us better people for having witnessed it’s performance.  With this in mind, here are my top performances at Fuji Rock this year.

1) Garth Hudson: I’ve heard it said that the best pop and rock  music has already been made, originating in the 60′s and 70′s. It would surprise you that a  band playing on the Red Marquee this year told me this in an interview I conducted before their Taipei show. They made this comment because music from this era wasn’t cynical or artificial. Being a recording artist back then was also a big deal, and it took a lot of time to press records and send them to outlets like Sears and Kmart, unlike the instantaneous distribution of today. And when a group like “The Band” rolled into town, well, that was a show you would remember for weeks. Seeing Garth Hudson and his wife Maud Hudson perform on the Field of Heaven has stuck with me that long. He kept the magic behind the keyboards and found inspiration in his wife who more than held  her own against the great vocalists of The Band. And at the end of the night, when it came to leave the stage, Garth lovingly went to his wife and helped her exit the stage in her wheelchair. Now that was a moment, just as touching as some of the classics Garth has been associated with like “The Weight.”

2) Daniel Lanois: This man simply is music. Look up his bio and you will see him associated with the top records of the 80′s like U2′s “Unforgettable Fire” and “Joshua Tree” and Peter Gabriel’s “So”. If not for a mistimed LP which dabbled in atmospheric music, he may have become the biggest artist of this era. Instead, Lanois fell into obscurity, only to be remembered, or revered by music critics, musicians, or those who really know their music. In fact, my attendance at this show was inspired by a talk with a member of the Kensington Hillbillys who reminded me just why I had to be here. He plays the guitar like no one else, and in my mind, holds his own against the most venerated musicians of our day such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan.

3) Gary Clark Jr: There was a lot of hype about Gary Clarke Jr. going into this gig and he did not disappoint. In fact, I thought he was just messing with us, playing against the beat, riffing on the Hendrix tune “Third Stone from the Sun” for 20 minutes, and even muffling his guitar notes on his final song. The dude is sick, and he’s reinventing the blues right before our very eyes.

4) Sparks: Again, messing with my mind. The Mael brothers are redefining music with their witty metaphors and word play, a sort of Cirque du Soleil of the mind. And when you get one of their phrases stuck up their in the gray matter, there’s very little else you can think of. Where did the beat go?

5) Cure: Yeah, I know a lot of people watched The XX and thought they were great but The Cure put on a 3-hour set that encompassed a 40-year career. Robert Smith was firmly in command tonight and ready to take everyone on a ride, and at the end, I was simply overwhelmed.