Posted on 2013/08/03 17:19
  • More Fun

Best of the Fest: Dave


FRF 2013, the hugover year

Fuji Rock is an epic institution, but this was no epic year for Fuji Rock, especially musically. After hanging out for a weekend with music writers and journalists, there was little consensus on what was good. The magical, unanimously declared moments of recent years — last year Buddy Guy or Ray Davies wining appearances as the dandy grandfather of punk, or, in 2011, John Fogerty’s triumphant return and Manu Chao’s “secret” afterhours set in the Crystal Palace Tent  — did not come together in the same way. Bjork was boring. The Cure played for 2 houras 45 minutes — way too long. There was no “next big thing”. People kept trying to convince me about Gary Clarke Jr, but what is revolutionary about a black guitarist playing Jimi Hendrix in 2013? And Haim, the band of twenty-ish sisters from Los Angeles, were merely young and energetic, excitement fueled in part by an overactive hype machine. (During the set, a colleague was moaning about the huge deal they’ve signed with Universal and how they will be groomed and marketed into musical oblivion. I also couldn’t help thinking this group might have been inspired, in some Hollywood music executive’s mind, by a the Queens of Dogtown, a fictional band that appeared in the Showtime series Californication in 2011.)

Also, it rained. Every day.

But this was after all Fuji Rock, and less than mind-blowing in no way equates with drudgery. Here are a few of my Bests:

Best Half of the Festival: The Back Half

Orange Court and Field of Heaven had very good energy this year, serving as a more casual counterpart for musical exploration compared to the “main event” stages (Red, Green, White) at the front of the fest. My favorite minor stage has got to be Cafe de Paris, with its mojitos, brass bands and burlesque dancers in the daytime. The nearby areas were also super chill, and the slackline dudes were amazing.

Best Day: Friday

The festival peaked Friday, with Nine Inch Nails and Skrillex as the best headline sets of the festival, both at the same time, with light rain and a natural light show of lightening bursts in the distant mountains, which fit both of them perfectly. High-energy sets were in abundance: Brahman, Kemuri, Death Grips, Turtle Island, Soil and Pimp Sessions all got great reviews, and the energy carried all the way to the end, with the Crystal Palace Tent rocking to the Radical Mestiza Network from 4am to 5am.

Biggest Mistake: Red Bull

It has a hangover you know, especially when mixed with all the alcohol you think you can drink because you are high on Red Bull. The hangover does not go well with two days of rain. And more Red Bull does not make it better.

Best Set: Skrillex

It was not just the levitating mothership and all the lasers and fire (lots of fire!). Skrillex has the tunes and rocked the party for 10,000 people for the full 90 minutes. No other set this weekend was as intense or as sustained. If there was a “generational moment” at FRF2013, this was it. Love him or hate him, it was also impossible to walk away without believing that Skrillex is truly his own genre. By comparison, Boys Noize DJing from a giant evil skull one night later seemed merely average. (Review)

Best DJ Set: Modeselektor

The boys from Berlin came out and had fun with it in the beginning, playing their quirkier tunes and spraying champagne on the crowd. But once they got into their harder techno, it was on. They got extra points for playing all original music, which is why they beat out Runner-Up: DJ Shadow (review), who was all about next level eclecticism (translation: whatever went up on Soundcloud yesterday). (Modeselektor review)

Best Photo: Bo Ningen

Too hard too early

So early. So hard. By Julen Esteban-Preter

Props to the Fujirockers.org photographers, who work had photographing every act on every stage at Fuji Rock. This one was by Julen Esteban-Preter. As for Bo Ningent, they not only looked good, but the reviews all said they were killing it. Albiet at 10:40am. Am I sorry I overslept? Well, yes and no. (photo report / review)

Best Photo: Runner Up

Big Willie's Big Surprise. Photo: 岡村直昭

Big Willie’s big surprise. Photo: 岡村直昭

Note: There are at least four separate photo reports on Big Willie’s Burlesque, more than for any other act at this year’s festival. Go figure.

Best Surprise: Gentlemans Pistols

Nobody knew who they were, and they fully realized that, playing Friday, mid-afternoon at the Field of Heaven. But this was amazing hard, stoner rock from a group of British throwback longhairs who have been doing this for over a decade, and had more than enough heavy grooves to pack out a masterful, wild set. They were the only act I heard who inspired me to actually buy their music.  (Review 1, Review 2)

Top photo: 鈴木悠太郎