Wolves in Men's Clothing

Rap rock group Man With a Mission wasn’t a headliner, but may still go down in Fuji Rock history as having the best debut show at the fes ever.

It started with them teasing the audience with a few chords from their cover of Nirvana’s “Teen Spirit” during sound check, easily the best cover of the song ever made. Unfortunately for us they didn’t play it during the set, but the fact that they hinted at it was a nod to their fans, and it went down well judging by the screams and applause that followed.

As twilight hit the mountains, the wolves came out to play.

The canis lupus group opened with “Evils Fall”, from their March 2014 release “Tales of the Purefly”, to great excitement and applause. The crowd, a sea of MWAN t-shirts and towels with the occasional wolf hat perched atop someone’s head, pressed hard to get closer to the stage and would not let up until the wolves were off into the mountains again. As the first song finished, the band greeted their fans with both arms raised in the air, shouting “Gao, gao!” (meaning “roar”, or any sound made by monsters) and received a deafening response of a matching “Gao, gao!”in return. Moving on to a slower ballad-like hit, the crowd was lulled into a false sense of security until the next song, “Get Off of My Way”. The mosh pit broke lose with everyone jumping, crowd surfing and dancing like crazy. DJ Santa Monica ran across the stage and climbed atop an amplifier only to bang his head on another one (he was fine!) before showing off his dance moves. At the same time, another wolf (it was either Kamikaze Boy (bass) or Tokyo Tanaka (vocals)) snuck his way into the crowd and chaos broke lose.

They moved onto another guitar heavy track, “Take What U Want” before pausing briefly to thank Fuji Rock and everyone who came to see their first ever show and then getting stuck into another ballad-like tune. After this one, Jean-Ken Johnny in his signature staccato-like speech explained that these were songs that not only wolves could related too, but also humans. And with that, he proved his point: “Don’t Lose Yourself” had the audience in a frenzy once more, and the security guards were struggling to keep up with the flow of crowd surfers making their way towards the front of the stage.

Ever the wild animals, the band members couldn’t conceal their excitement either: Kamikaze Boy started gnawing on the neck of his bass guitar, Tokyo Tanaka wiped the sweat off his huge wolf head, and DJ Santa Monica clawed at his turntable. The members lifted their arms up again in the famous “Gao gao” position and as the audience lifted theirs in response, the band threw themselves into one of their biggest hits, “Emotions”. As soon as they hit the chorus though, great balls of flame shot up from the stage floor, the blast of heat further warming an already sweaty crowd. It’s hard to confirm, but we believe that no wolves were harmed in the making of this pyrotechnic masterpiece. If there was any singed fur, it wasn’t apparent.

They didn’t stop there, but trucked on for a final song, “Fly Again”ーone of their most well-known songs. DJ Santa Monica came forward with glowing batons he danced around with and once again, wolves infiltrated the cramped mass of sweaty dancers. The spectacle finished with fireworks and a mass “1… 2… 3… Gaooooo!” before the wolves returned to their den.

In summary: You know those promotional clips of live shows and DJ sets out in the open that look so much fun it can’t be real? It is real, because MWAN is that fun. Even those who aren’t huge fans of the music can enjoy their playful in-character stage performanceーthere’s so much movement you never know where to look. Also, if nothing else, it’s worth it for the surreal experience of being caught between the thoughts “Wow, those guys are so talented” and “Aww, look at those wolves doing human things”. It was a topnotch show that could even pull in a Green Stage crowd, so let’s hope they get a chance to do that soon. Gaoooo~!

Extra note: MWAM’s wolf head costumes may seem gimmicky to the uninitiated, but under those headpieces lies a lot of talent, hard work… and most likely a couple of liters of sweat. Why wolf masks? The band’s back story is that they were created by the “Ultimate Lifeform”, a.k.a Jimi Hendrix, and are thus guitar-playing geniuses (who just happen to be in mostly wolf form). To this day they’ve done a stellar job keeping their true identities a mystery, as they stay in character throughout shows and in their interviews, speaking in staccato tones and never removing their wolf heads.This is also why the big screens at their performances don’t to many close ups and also why Fujirockers has no live photos for this show. The wolf heads they wear on stage, unlike the ones for promotional events and interviews are more open, allowing the members to sing (except for DJ Santa Monica and drummer Spare Rib, who don’t need it)—but at the same time also exposes their faces slightly. Their faces and true identities are top secret, so to maintain the mystery, photographers and film crew are under strict orders not to show anything below the nose or above the chest. It makes for arty angles though, so hipsters take note.


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