Resting place for "Soul of Fuji Rock"
Clash frontman and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Joe Strummer, was an integral part of Fuji Rock in the early years, enmeshing himself in the DNA of Fuji Rock which bloomed into Asia’s biggest arts, music, and alternative culture festival. The spirit of “Strummerville” wafts in from campfires burning in the campgrounds and the Palace of Wonder where Rookie A Go-Go bands are supported by the Joe Strummer Foundation. And of course there is the music, from a Thursday night performance of “White Riot” by old-time Japanese punkers, Anarchy, to a countrified version of “Straight to Hell” played by the house band at Don’s Cafe on Friday night.
Few artists nowadays interact with the audience offstage, busying themselves with travel to the next gig, or purposely walling themselves off from awkward social interactions. But this wasn’t Joe, and this was what he railed against in life and art. An outsider to his core, he was comfortable patrolling the parking lot outside the festival where the Mescalero tour van parked near a river which kept the beer cold. He mixed with world musicians such as Banda Bassotti (making first return after 14 years) to virtually anyone willing to engage or argue with his “no rules”, anti-corporate, “stick up for the little man” world view.
In the years since his death at age 50, many of his friends and fellow musicians have worked to keep his spirit alive. There was a European ski gondola which once perched high up on the hill at Palace of Wonder. It was a place for socializing and carousing, an 8-seat safe space from the party underfoot which often raged late into the night. Inside, handwritten, festival-specific lyrics were plastered to the walls for songs like Clampdown, London Calling, and Revolution Rock resided according to festival worker, Cran.
But the ravages of winter and heavy snowfall were unkind to the gondola, pancaking it into a unworkable object. First the roof was cut off and fashioned into butterfly wings last year, and this year, the gondola was done away with altogether. “We got the grinder out and cut off the top and got everything out. It was a 3-ton box which we sold for scrap which paid for a nice meal of bangers and mash for everyone,” said Cran.
It may be fitting that rescued memorabilia and personal items have been relocated to Joe’s Garage which is the stone foundation of the Swallow Lounge. Many know it as the bar of last resort when everything else at the festival has closed. Come 4-5AM, this tiny enclave will be home to the inebriated, the talkative, and many aspiring artist or musician.
This collection has been added to with other photos and a DIY curation that highlights the irreplaceable contribution made to Fuji Rock. If you love Fuji Rock and the soul of punk, rock, and other genres, then stop by and have a beer and bring a flower or so. THere’s even a sound system nearby, which may be sloppy but it makes this place all the more special.
Funny, but if I remember correctly, this space is about the same dimensions as the gondola, two benches directly facing each other which is perfect for sharing laughs, smiles, and good times.