Baby Metal Bring Fuji Rock to a Standstill
The hardcore Babymetal contingent had been camped out since early morning at the unrelentingly harsh confines of the White Stage. They were a motley crew of heavy metal fans sporting a selection of appropriate gig-wear including Judas Priest, Napalm Death and Ozzfest t-shirts as well as the heavy metal group’s own plethora of merchandise. Old and young, male and female, die-hard to scoffing, Babymetal attract a broad cross-section of the population, and repel as many in equal number. The announcement of their appearance at the festival was met with derision from some who see no place for manufactured idol groups within the hallowed confines of a festival like Fuji Rock. Others, meanwhile could perhaps see it as an example Fuji Rock’s “why not?” attitude.
Regardless of which stance you take on Babymetal, there was no denying the powerful lure of the Fox God as the White Stage was packed right up to the river over an hour before the band even took to the stage – the Robert Glasper Experiment preceding the band must have thought they’d hit the jackpot to look out and see up to 15000 people crammed into a small space to see them go mental on the oboe. The Fox even brought with him a much needed rain storm that lasted for a precisely the duration of the show.
“Gimme Chocolate!!”, one of Babymetal’s most well known tracks, opened the set and the familiarity of the tune was not lost on the massive crowd. Su-metal, Yuimetal and Moametal seemed slightly petulant and disaffected in their delivery, almost as if they had outgrown the cutesy track and were looking for something more, something they later delivered. During “Catch Me If You Can”, the Kami band were allowed a brief introduction in which to showoff, perhaps to answer any suggestions that they might be anything other than a metal band. This fed into a song with a metal intensity that set the crowd off into a circle pit. It felt rather ruined by the girls singing over the top of it, such were the band’s impressive musical chops.
So here’s the problem with Babymetal, should you believe yourself to have one – they deal in major amounts of cognitive dissonance. Babymetal’s existence challenges our preconceptions of where certain kinds of music should be heard, what we do with that music and who exactly delivers it. Should an idol group be playing at Fuji Rock? No other group would likely get the chance, and Babymetal certainly aren’t going to be a “gateway drug” to Perfume or AKB48 performing at the White Stage. Should we be allowing heavy metal to be used to pander to a certain demographics’ dubious peccadilloes? Babymetal’s intro suggests a more global, multi-generational appeal, one that mimics the metal genre’s own ability to transcend generations and people. And how do we do deal with three young women fronting a metal band? Let’s let the Fox God answer that one.
The rest of the set was a walk through Babymetal’s greatest hits such as “Ijime, Dame, Zettai” and “Megitsune”, suitable for a festival crowd of fans running rabid in circle pits down the front and to the lay-folk at the back who had never seen a bunch of people running in a circle before and seemed genuinely blown away by the show. It was later addition “Karate” from the band’s most recent album “Metal Resistance” that suggesed greater things in store. Su-metal impressed with a powerful vocal performance, backed up with an anthemic chorus – which hinted at bands like Lacuna Coil or, dare we say, Evanescence – suggesting bigger and better things to come. Babymetal are not babies anymore, and the show righted any misconceptions about the band for many. What lies ahead in the future of the band only the Fox God may know. For now though, it’s safe to say that Babymetal have begun a transcendence that may land them in a much higher pantheon of metal goddesses.