Photo by fujirockers.org
Music festivals are tangled affairs of bathroom lines, limp fries, and rancid beer. We battle through the this tough slog in search of one transcendent moment which is supposed to unveil in front of our eyes on cue. To often it doesn’t happen – our fave band disappoints because they’re simply worn out from a year’s worth of touring or a loose cymbal screw makes the sound muddy. A formula for judging the quality of the viewer experience should be something like this High Expectations = Big Disappointment. Only a few bands are able to beat this formula, and that’s why they get the big bucks. Others have to bring a good light show or do something special like jump into the crowd to create sincerity. Travis pulls this trick, and when I saw them do this two years ago I bought in totally, but this time around it was just another stab at winning over an audience that has already seen too much.
But enough babble, here’s my hits.
5) Non Stop Punk
An assemblage of wisened Japanese rock critics and photographers had no idea who this band was some 3 hours before their performance was announced on Thursday night at the Red Marquee. I myself was gonna miss it, I think I had already had my fill of Con Brio magic and was puttering around the access road when I heard the first few chords of “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. Who dare cover this song at Fuji Rock where the ghost of Joe Strummer hangs over everything like a splash of stale lager. Then they brought out someone who I recognized from the Sherberts to do “Brand New Cadillac” which is one of my favorite get down boogie tracks. As I would learn later, the backing band was the Roosters and were holding it down nicely, but I totally lost my shit when Cro-Magnons front man staggered on stage grabbing his crotch and writhing to the Stooges classic “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. And I should have guessed the next song by the tee-shirt he was wearing (probably the coolest tee-shirt all festival) which tipped Johnathan Richman and the Modern Lovers classic “Roadrunner”. For a closer with this punk super group, what would we get? Sex Pistols? More Clash? How could we ever forget the Ramones? Yeah, with “Blitzkrieg Bop”. I talked to Joey Ramone at CBGB’s two decades ago and I can tell you that he probably wouldn’t have given a shit probably more interested in his drink of wild turkey, but hell yeah, 20 years of Fuji Rock and 40 years of punk.
Review: Non Stop Punk
4) Jake Bugg
I was busting my arse to get to this show and was stuck somewhere on the boardwalk when the first few tunes rang out. It brought me back to other shows I caught in the same spot like Lumineers, Mumford and Sons, Libertines, and maybe more significantly, the Kings of Leon. Jake Bugg has a bright future ahead of him. The dude did like two songs I recognized while I was still traipsing across the stream to the Green Stage. “Two Fingers” is a classic if you know what he’s talking about and “Seen it All” and closing number “Lightning Bolt” is a hit. If you don’t like this music, then you better turn off your radio for rest of the year cuz he is gonna be on it.
Report: Jake Bugg
I’ve seen Jeff Tweedy so many times when he was young and skinny and bopping around with his old timey Uncle Tupelo act that his two-decade old incarnation as the rumpled front man of Wilco can seem like a disappointment. It is until you realize that like Billy Joel, Tweedy fights a good number of personal demons, and only seems to get comfortable after about playing for an hour onstage. But today wasn’t the Tweedy show as the band clearly demurred to hot shot guitar player Nils Cline. It was a good move for an 70-minute set which little could be accomplished as a typical Wilco show can stretch on for near 200 minutes.
2) Sigur Ros
First of all, I don’t like talking about Sigur Ros, I don’t like their fans, and I don’t like the fact they play guitar with a bow. That said, the show had me tripping huge giant amazeballs of joy and hallelujah devotion. Years ago I saw them at the White Stage where my bud Sebastian ducked down in a squat and threw a hoodie over his head to experience the aural hallucination the band induces. While you could do that years ago when their stage set was nothing more than a video of an iceberg floating by, the current show is pure frigging over the moon trip-tacular. I mean, I took them a whole hour just to set up the damn stage made of scaffolding, scotch tape and fairy dust. If there was any criticism, it was just too heavy for some people to take, and if you didn’t get it, which I expect was about one-third of the audience, then the sonic heart palpitations and creeping claustrophobia could feel like some fat guy sitting on your chest. For me, I was floating about a meter off the ground with two cups of warm Heineken in each hand and just loving it. When it was over, the lights came on and I found myself shoeless and alone, much like the rest of the crowd who were trying to straighten out the brain synapses which had been momentarily crossed up.
Report: Sigur Ros
1) Posh Tomato
The two fine fellas dispensing sake from huge bottles in a makeshift bar hidden in a bluff overlooking the Palace of Wonder earn my “best of the fest” accolade this year. If you ever had the good fortune of bellying up to this bar you were experiencing a real treat, just a tremendous smile no matter how harried or confusing the scene. Gaz Mayall was a fixture all weekend, and whenever you turned you were struck by his wide brimmed hat. Indeed, any tipsy-turvy whisky-kneed punter could’ve crumbled the entire operation like a bunch of toothpicks. Fortunately, these wonderful barmen kept excellent order, and were thoroughly entertaining and radiating no matter what the circumstances. A G Love sighting led me to pull out a 5,000 yen note to treat everyone to rice spirits, and upstairs seating at the “second level” also made for some cozy company to witness the sunrise. Better yet, all coins accumulated at this spot went to rebuild Nepal, courtesy of perennial Fuji performer, Upendra and Friends who take the coins and notes back with them when the festival is over.