MOREFUNAREA REPORT7/29 – (AFTER)
Best of the Fest: Park
2019's most memorable
Each year I am completely overwhelmed with what to see and do at Fuji Rock, each passing moment a chance to catch a favorite artist, take a gamble on a vaguely familiar name and win, or stumble upon a new hidden gem. This year was no exception and here are a few of the sets that left the biggest lasting impression on me, in no particular order.
1. PHONY PPL
This amazing band out of Brooklyn read like an east-coast version of “The Internet” on paper, but its not fair to limit them to that. With a funky sound all-their-own, each member let their personality shine forth. Exuding energy and having way more fun than anyone under the packed Red Marquee tent, all the members (frontman Elbee Thrie in particular) seemed like they were having the times of their lives performing on stage. Their chemistry as a band and ability to connect with the crowd so effortlessly pushed their appeal higher than I could have expected.
2. JAMES BLAKE
My second time to see James Blake at Fuji Rock (previously appeared on the Green Stage in 2016) and my fourth time to see him play live overall, I knew what to expect going in. Working in some newer material from his most recent album (Andre3000-guested brooding hip-hop track “Where’s the Catch” was a high point), he mostly stuck with tried and true songs from previous albums. This is not to say the set was short on chills. James Blake always knows how to inject maximum atmosphere with the bare minimum ingredients and while no big surprises were busted out, the James Blake formula proved to be just what we all needed.
Brooklyn based Yaeji didn’t need more than a bank of samplers and her quiet but confident voice to command a crowd. Incorporating pulsing beats and talk-rapping in a mixture of English and Korean, her sound is at once simple and complex. Though the Red Marquee was entirely too packed to get an up-close view of the stage, even those stranded outside in the rain at the back of the tent could feel the energy loud and clear. Here’s to hoping she will visit Tokyo again soon, and next time perhaps in a more intimate venue.
Transforming into a different animal minute-by-minute but still managing to hold on to their own distinct identity as a band, Gezan completely rocked the White Stage on Saturday morning. Digeridoos and drum machines, quick-fire surprise guests including a rapper and a trombone soloist, and Gezan’s versatility to be both intimidating and endearing made this performance completely unpredictable and insanely fun.
5. TORO Y MOI
Perhaps the act I was most anticipating this year, Toro y Moi deftly delivered a groovy set of electronic funk with the smoothest of swagger. This was the set early on that really got the Fuji Rock 2019 party going.