Prairie might be one of the best indie bands in Taiwan, in the last couple years fielding invitations to Primavera Sound in Barcelona and the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia. So in a way, playing a rookie band competition at Fuji Rock was a bit of a step down for them. But at the same time, they haven’t found great success at home in a small Taiwanese music market that doesn’t really know what to do with them, so they are very much still a young indie band that’s still forming its identity.
Their music is also not perfect for the short 30 minute sets at Rookie A-Go-Go stage, where they performed at 3am Saturday night. Their songs are long drawn out affairs that evolve from eerie chants. Vocalist Wu Wei-xiang and Apple Chang sing through heavy effects, creating the heavy atmospherics of a film soundtrack, and then the rest of the band builds layered tribal rhythms behind them, which build and build, with guitars and bass also coming into the mix. There are two percussionists, one also modulating electronic beats from a Macbook. The total effect is of indie rock neo-psychedelia, which mixes computer-programmed beats with hand drumming, tribal face paint, group harmonies, folk guitar picking, field recordings and a sort of space rock experimentation that every once in awhile coalesces into a marvelously tight, magical and catchy tune.
In the end, Prairie only fit three songs into their Rookie A-Go-Go stage slot, which perhaps wasn’t quite long enough for them. What they chose to play was very spacey and not really peaking in a big enough way to catch the attention of a drunk, easily distracted late night audience. It was very good, but a bit too subtle for the moment given to them.
Also interesting to note, Prairie’s set was attended by Taiwanese metalhead and politician Freddy Lim. Lim has performed at Fuji Rock several times before as frontman of the black metal band Chthonic and was within the last year elected to Taiwan’s national legislature. After the gig, Lim went over to the Rookie-A-Go-Go voting booth and had his picture taken casting a ballot for Prairie.