LIVE REPORT7/30 –（AFTER）
Sean’s Best of the Fest
Shelter from the storm
A festival is many things – music, food, art, friends, the elements. The best times are some magical combination of these factors. Sure we all have different musical tastes, but we also share a helluva lot of common ground. Here’s my round up of best experiences last weekend.
Best Band Performance– Vampire Weekend
To be honest, this was totally unexpected. But when a band is away for 5 years, they are definitely gonna practice extra hard to return to the Fuji Stage. And that’s just what Ezra Koenig and crew did, expanding from a 4-piece to a 7-piece, and bringing special guest Danielle Haim. The new band was as tight as a woodpecker’s arse, flitting and banging out re-worked versions of classic hits. It aint easy following Dylan, but these youngsters did the rock pantheon proud, code switching their set with Thin Lizzy’s “Boys are Back in Town” and Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”. Koenig must’ve known this show was going straight to Youtube immortality. Even wilder was the only visuals for the last three tracks was a Go Pro mounted on the mic stand, meaning the set-list was mostly probably improvised with not backing tracks at all.
Runner Up Best Band – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats Field of Heaven James Young, owner of Melbourne’s famous Cherry Bar, said “that was something special.” And he would know.
Best Band I didn’t see – Kacey Musgraves Her voice stopped me cold on the boardwalk, causing me to search my schedule to see who I was missing. She’s a mix of First Aid Kit and their heroes, Graham Parsons and Emmylou Harris. My friend couldn’t believe I missed this set.
Best Feature – Boardwalk
It’s not easy constructing kilometers of boardwalk which twist and climb through the forest. To do it year after year after winter snow drifts pound and splinter the wood is a lesson in perseverance. And to make it with nary a loose plank is a testament to craftsmanship. When the path elevates to cross a stream lined with Tibetan prayer flags, the effect is nearly magical. This year’s boardwalk provided excellent relief for the dust clouds kicked up on footpaths running in front of other stages. Moreover, the chance to stroll above nature, while not impacting the ecology below. in a bug free zone, was almost magical. The path even expanded this year, providing a much needed outlet to circumvent the White Stage still allowing one to eavesdrop on the music onstage. Did we mention the boardwalk has it’s own stage which hosted many outstanding acts.
Best Hang-Out – Posh Tomato
This little nook perched atop the Palace of Wonder is a jewel box of delight and good cheer. It triumphantly returns to my “Best of Fest” for the third year in a row, which is an unprecedented achievement. While no major upgrades were undertaken aside from slightly better sake, a souvenir t-shirt, and a sunrise Bloody Mary, the bar mostly stuck to its formula of efficiently pouring alcohol and treating everyone fairly. Celebrities such as Fishbone front man Angelo Moore and Nathaniel “Gimme a Drink” Rateliff mixed easily with regulars who included many of the artists to built and decorated the festival.
The success of this venue is largely the work of a tight Aussie and NZ crew. This includes the ever pleasant proprietor, Richard, who’s usually in a metallic suit, and bartender, “The Hun”, who pours drinks with heart and compassion. A pack of tissues on the bar have even been offered to those dealing with difficult moments. Other staff members include a DJ who also doubles as a bouncer, employing a blank stare to make unruly patrons uncomfortable, and craftsman, Adam, who sawed and hammered just enough obtuse angles to optimize the limited space.
Best New Addition– UFG- Unfair Ground
Few were expecting London’s Unfair Ground to be anything than just another tent occupying the space vacated by the Orange Court. To the contrary, it was a perfectly appointed Mad Maxian dystopia, complete with gigantic baby heads, terrifying murals, and drum and bass and hard style pumped for hours in an Arab style tent. Nearby food and drink were spot on with their service, and just enough places to sit and mingle in both bright sunshine and rain.
In short, it was yet another place to lose yourself for hours, and hours, and hours. And just when you get bored of the music, two scantily clothed women would cartwheel and tap furiously on a smallish stage. While All Night Fuji was too much of a commitment, this was just what yo needed in the afternoon, late evening, or any other hour of the day.
Best Stall – Atomic Café
Anchoring the NGO village is this quaint stall which offered authentic, organic fare such as sweet delicious peaches for 500 yen, peach sochu drinks 600 yen, and locally sourced venison. Apart from the excellent food and service, the stall commemorates the film “Atomic Café” which countered government pro-nuclear propaganda, imploring citizens examine the truth behind nuclear power. The cafe is an homage to an influential concert held in 1984 in Hibiya Park featuring the Roosters, Blue Hearts, and Billy Bragg. The concert helped inspire more musicians to take a political stand, and this spirit continues today as the founder of the concert and long running Fuji Rock NGO Village chief, Okubo, continues to spread his message of opposing Abe and fighting for a nuclear-free homeland. Chernobyl, and the 311 Fukushima Tsunami are powerful reminders of the danger of nuclear power. At the moment, Japan is operating just 7 of its 54 nuclear reactors, dramatically reducing the the menace of this dangerous power supply.