Posted on 2013/08/04 17:35
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Best of the Fest: Matt

My first Fuji Rock, an amazing 3 days high up in the mountains. As a first timer, it can be quite daunting. It takes 45 minutes to walk from the entrance gate to the furthest Cafe de Paris stage in good traffic. There’s 5 big stages to choose between and Innumerable smaller, intimate stages dotted around the huge festival area. The atmosphere is phenomenal, the nature an integral part of the festival and what makes it do special. The music only matched the grandness of the setting, from Bjork’s engrossing unearthly set to Brinsley Ford’s reggae in the rain. Without further ado, here’s my top 5 picks.

Honourable Mention: The Weather
Starting off hot everyday but inevitably turning to rain, the weather wasn’t as horrible as it could’ve been or as nice as it could’ve been. But it chose it’s moments well, with mist blanketing the mountains after any rain and providing the perfect accompaniment to the atmosphere of many acts, particularly Of Monsters and Men. But it was Nine Inch Nails’ headlining act that saw it deliver it’s best performance with lightning dueling against the harsh industrial rock.

5. Skinny Lister
At the Thursday night pre-festival part, the band brought their English Folk revival to town. And it went off. I’m not sure why the Japanese were so engrossed in singing along to being able to ship back to London soon but they were. The atmosphere was a dancing one, the tunes delightful and the singalong was hearty. The crowd was even excited enough to get the bass player crowd-surfing, complete with double-bass. It was an excellent start to the festival and by all reports, their later shows easily matched this night’s performance.  Check out the live photos here.

You really shouldn’t want to try and dance to ridiculous time signatures like 7/8 or 13/16, but LITE’s marriage of technicality, groove and emotion forces you too. The instrumental dueling between the two guitars was especially impressive, the two trading intricate melodic hooks as fast a two machine-guns. But the forceful drumming and equally adept bass ensured it was a balanced riot of groovy melody that felt more like a race than a set. The unrelenting pace made the set appear shorter than it was but these guys are definitely one to watch in the instrumental rock world.  Read the review here.

3. Soil & “Pimp” Sessions
Pure, blistering funk delivered with a swagger. With enough style and swag to fit into Brooklyn’s coolest streets, Shacho and his band of very decidedly cool cats blasted out a set of groovy funk. Whether it was the saxophonist about to explode from a 5 minute solo, Shacho conducting the crowd or the drums leading the group into a frenzy of grooviness, it was a non-stop ride of death-jazz. The soloing of every instrument was a highlight, the talent and quality of each member evident in their seemingly spontaneous but perfectly executed bursts.  Read the review here.

2. Oboreta Ebi no Kenshi Houkokusho
This is not a band that’s well known but that may change over the next few years. Performing at the Rookie A Go-Go stage on Saturday night, the band’s shrimp head costumes, role playing of shrimps and art-funk sound drew a huge reception. Percussion heavy with their leader a virtuoso on his half bass/chapman stick instrument, it was a primal sound that skips the brain and goes straight to any part of you that could move to the beat. Not only was the music excellent but the stage performance as well, with the leader commanding the other ‘shrimps’ with squeals and clicks of his instrument, a raid into the audience by 3 members of the group to give a bewildered member a present and the tossing of shrimp flavoured snacks to the audience’s cries of ‘ebi-san! ebi-san!’.  Read the review here.

1. Bassekou Kouyate
People who saw Hendrix live speak reverently of the experience. For me, Bassekou is my Hendrix experience. You just know when you see a master of an instrument live. It’s obvious in their utter control of their playing, the band with them and sheer enjoyment of playing. How a man can get more emotional solos out of a 3 stringed instrument in the Malian ngoni than a 6 stringed guitar I will never quite understand. The Crystal Palace setting late at night made the experience particularly intimate. The sheer skill,  message of peace and enjoyment in performing made Bassekou and his family band the highlight of the festival.  Read the review here.