A Weekend of the Mercurial and the Sublime
I always look forward to line-up announcements in the months running up to Fuji Rock, not only so I can see if my predictions were correct, but also so I can have a chance to check out some of the lesser known names on the line-up – a downside to being a heavy metal connoisseur is that I often never used to pay attention to other stuff going on.
This year’s selection of bands to cover included a penchant for Icelanders (Asgeir and Bjork) and also for mercurial frontmen (Father John Misty, Queens of the Stone Age). However, I do have a taste for the weird, and I think my top performances this year show that to full effect.
I saw Arca on the line-up, saw his video with the bleeding matador and immediately decided this was my kind of DJ. Anything unsettling and a little avant-garde floats my boat, so standing in the sweaty horrible cattle shed that is the Red Marquee being bombarded by noise and rotting pig corpses was exactly the kind of midnight set up I like.
4) Death Grips
Pissing off record labels, not showing up for shows, sampling Bjork for half an album – it all sounds like an asshole move. Then you see Death Grips in action with their (literally) stripped down live show, hammering out blast beats over hip-hop and the sheer fucking attitude that goes with it and you think, “Yeah, I get it now…I think.” What a show.
The first artist I added when I joined Spotify a few years ago, I think I’ve listened to this guy hundreds of time, but never delved much into the early years. The live show was a great afternoon bop, but I can’t wait for the shows next year in February when we may see more of the back catalog.
It felt like a witnessing, like you had to be for this woman who has been the soundtrack to so much of your own pain, to take on some of it in return. It felt like the right thing to do. Luckily, she’s just announced a new album, so rest assured that this period of mourning is finished. A beautiful close to the Vulnicura era we were lucky to see.
1) Aphex Twin
I used to work in a fantastic little bookshop in York and the owners occasionally would make me mix tapes for long car journeys, or just as part of my musical education. Then one day they gave me a 90-minute tape full of Aphex Twin, AFX and every other permutation of Richard D James’ creative mind. I loved it immediately, played it until cassette players were no longer a thing. Seeing Aphex Twin live was never something I thought I would see, and it was everything I didn’t expect it to be and all the more brilliant for it. 20 000 people drenched in torrential rain, slogging through a crescendo of green lasers, white flashing lights and all manner of music wizardry to get to the end to be met with 10 solid minutes of noise? Sublime.
Special shout outs to Chai and Otobokebeaver, who rocked the Rookie Stage, to whoever put more women on the line-up (last year there were no women on the main line-up!), and to my gig companions who plied me with booze while I was writing and made the lonely writer’s life a little less solitary – you know who you are.
See you all again next year!