Photo by Masahiro Saito
This was my second turn at Fujirock Festival, and I’ve still yet to see a trace of one of its infamous “rainy days”. Fantastic weather all weekend really had everyone’s spirits high, and the festival celebrating its 20th anniversary was just the kicker. These were the highlights of 2016, in my eyes.
One of the reasons Beck remains such an interesting artist is that you never quite know what direction he’s headed. As shown by the vast variety of moods each album in his discography embodies, he never pins himself to one style for long. There’s “Odelay!” Beck on one end, and “Sea Change” Beck, the complete polar opposite. So when he took the stage on Saturday night, I was interested to find out which of these moods he was in. Turns out, all of them. We got the funky, Prince-influenced “Debra” from “Midnite Vultures”, as well as the lonely “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime” on the opposite end of the spectrum; A crowd-pleasing set from an artist who never stays in the same place creatively for long.
4. James Blake
James Blake has the ability to squeeze out huge amounts of emotion using minimal resources. Playing to a sizable afternoon crowd at the Green Stage, he seemed to make each and every person feel as though he was playing solely for them. Maintaining this level of intimacy seems impossible when you reach the widespread acclaim that Blake has, but he still manages to pull it off.
3. Mura Masa
I’m already a bit biased toward anyone pumping out danceable, soaring vocal R&B tracks, but when the bottom drops out of Mura Masa’s layered arrangements and a whole other dimension to each song was revealed, the audience was treated to some of the most profound yet catchy dance music they could hope for.
In what ended up being the most pleasant surprise of the weekend, I went into the Years & Years performance familiar with only a handful of their songs and expecting a fairly good time, and my expectations were greatly exceeded. Undoubtedly skilled at crafting slick electronic pop tunes, it is live on stage that this band hits it stride. This is due large in part to the personality of its crazy frontman, Olly Alexander. If I’m going to base the quality of an artists performance on how much fun I had, it was likely Years & Years that kept me smiling the most.
This being my fourth time to see Disclosure live, I had kind of reached a point where, “While there’s no doubt I’m going to enjoy this, as I did the time before, and the time before that, I know exactly what to expect from this set.” This was a mistake. Backed by some of the most amazing stage production and lighting design I’ve ever seen (honestly!), production that perfectly complimented and elevated each and every song, Disclosure has reinvented their live show. While credit of course goes to the Lawrence brothers, especially for breathing new life into many of the songs and changing things up with added fills, breaks and short improvised jams to keep them fresh, major hats off to the production team and lighting designers for really taking this show beyond what was expected and turning it into a truly unbelievable experience.