Best of the fest: Elizabeth

The five best things that happened in Fuji Rock 2014:

One. The Pogues. What a way to end the festival. This is always the most reliable time slot for me. Primal Scream, Asian Dub Foundation, the Happy Mondays… you’re going to get a British band setting the main field on fire. (Pedants: The Pogues are British. MaCgowan is from Kent. Stacy’s from Sussex). I worry a bit about this band. Just as I felt when I saw Brian Wilson perform, I wondered if it wasn’t a bit unfair to put a man onstage when he doesn’t seem to be quite as sharp as he once was. And just like the time I saw Wilson play, as soon as he started singing, I thought “yeah, who cares, this is bloody amazing.” Half a Shane MacGowan is better than none.

Two. Ozamatli. If you’ve ever seen them live, this was exactly like that. Mashing genres like nobody’s business, and taking the crowd on an after-show procession. Can we have them on a bit later next time?

Three. Syl Johnson and the other guy. Ah, I’ve loved Bobby Rush for years, and he’s a hell of a showman. His performance could have been five times longer and nobody would have been waiting for his exit. But he was defintely the other guy in this show. That Syl Johnson… he’s got something magical. His voice, his songs, his stage presence. This was the only show I immediately wanted to watch again.

Four. Can I call this a highlight? Late on Saturday night I went into the tent marked “Tomi Tomioka and the Melancholy Maggot.” It’s probably absurd to put this above the likes of Outkast, Kelis, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Ska Flames, but I’ll remember this performance far longer than any of those. I won’t tell you what happened. It’s one of those things you have to see without forewarning. But it involved a middle-aged man dressed as, I think, a fly, singing a love song while staring longingly right into my eyes. And it featured the USA For Africa smash hit “We Are The World”, which so rarely gets covered at Fuji Rock.

Five. And last but not least, I’d like to thank God for sending us sunshine for all but an hour of the weekend. Second-best weather in Fuji Rock history.


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