LIVE REPORTWHITE STAGE7/28 SUN
Even before they started playing, this band appeared immediately engaging. A woman in a yellow one-piece dress and a blue turban-ish hat yelled out “Nihon Saiko!” (“Japan is the best!”) from center stage, eliciting cheers from the audience. And, just like that, they were launching into a son montuno number, with bongos and a full instrumentation of horns and backing vocals. A minute later they wrapped it up, and walked off stage, making it clear that this was just a sound check. The crowd cheered nonetheless.
They then emerged two minutes before their call time and dove straight into a latin-flavored jazz song that was difficult to describe; stretching the limits of explorational jazz and catchiness; all layered on top of an elaborate bed of Afro-Cuban percussion. Trumpets blared passionate melody lines over trombones and funky keyboard parts; the latter dropping hints of Deodato. An expansive and eclectic crowd of audience members bobbed at the knees, while swaying from side to side and nodding their heads to the funky beats. A few minutes in, the trumpet player took a fantastic solo which started to meld in counterpoint with the chords of keyboardist and band leader Roberto Carcasses. Then, the whole band swung back into the head of the song in unison, before a breakdown in which Mr. Carcasses showed off his chordal skills. Soon thereafter, the bassist soloed along with the keyboardist. Some audience members hooted and hollered their approval. Interactivo’s band leader called out for all musicians to come back together and, as they did, the audience roared with a wave of pleasure. This was a particularly beautiful sight to see under semi-sunny skies; which offered whimsical lighting as well as idyllic temperatures. Just as the song seemed about to wrap itself up, the drummer took a solo of syncopated rhythm hits against the main flow of the time signature; to stunning effect. Almost ten minutes after they launched into their first track, the band wrapped up their latest composition with horn hits, and the audience exploded into cheers.
As the band leader warmly called out “Arigatou! Gracias,” repeatedly, the bassist launched into a stunningly funky groove that threw the whole audience into fits of latin-fevered dancing. A solid-looking woman in a blue, pink and purple one-piece dress with a fantastic mane of black hair sang with a passion and delivery akin to being Amy Winehouse’s great-grandmother having traveled through time to teach this audience a thing or two. The overhead screen captured every moment in all its glory. The band leader then joined into the vocal fray, interacting beautifully with the former vocalist and, afterwards, they collectively drew the song to a close.
The third track started off with something of a gypsy violin part, and melancholy piano riffing, before both musicians broke into bumble-bee like 16th notes. And then, the horns led the band into a heavy groove. The aforementioned woman in the purple, pink and violet dress wielded a violin masterfully, in between her vocal cues. A female guitarist then tore into a fierce soloing section that would give Carlos Santana a run for his money. As they closed this song with a thunderous vamp, they were met in kind with matching applause.
A woman in a green tank top and short blond dreadlocks who hitherto seemed to act as a backing vocalist, told the audience that the next song was a new number called “Anana Oye”. It started off with her vocals and an incredibly deep bass line, while the audience accompanied the musicians flawlessly by clapping a clave beat in unison. Towards the end of the song, the entire band started jamming hard like an undertow, and the audience clapped on the ones and threes. An impressive piano solo was then featured, followed by a bass solo. Most musicians fell back during these solos. Post-solos, the whole band roared back to life with the “Anana Oye” chorus, with horns blaring and cymbals crashing. The band then died down slightly again, and the vocalist in the green tank top asked the audience if they’d like to sing with her. When they agreed whole-heartedly, she played a call-and-response game with them, before the whole band burst back into a raucous rendition of the chorus. The audience collectively shook their hands above their heads like leaves in the wind. Their applause at the end of this track might have been the most enthusiastic at Fuji Rock 2019 so far.
As the keyboardist assumed the vocals for the next number – a hard grooving uptempo track – the entire audience was swept away in mimicking the dance moves of the backing vocalists displayed on the screen above the stage. It was a call and response number, with the male vocalist passionately calling out vocal lines to which the female vocalists replied in rhythmic counterpoint. The male vocalist at center stage laid on the ground shaking, as if carried away by the passion of the music, and the audience laughed heartily. As the song ended, he said, “Arigatou” to audience cheers.
The female vocalist in the pink, blue and purple dress then told the captive audience that she was so happy that her band could return to Fuji Rock for the second time this year, before the band launched into a tune reminiscent of the Buena Vista Social Club. The seemingly endlessly-growing crowd continued to dance enthusiastically, while putting the odd hand in the air in emotional support for these stunning musicians. Towards the end of this latest song, the tempo sped up and then the track seemed to end, but – just as quickly as they had stopped – the whole band launched back into the same chorus while slowing it down gradually to a crawl; where they drew it to a close. As they did, the audience erupted in cheers, and the lady in the blue hat yelled out “Arigatou! Nihon Saiko,” (“Thank you! Japan is the best!”) to which the audience cheered wildly again.
The before-last song started with a deep and funky slow riff from the fire-haired bassist (who also assumed lead vocal duties for this song) and the audience accompanied her by clapping a clave beat. The rest of the band then joined them. This song featured a fantastic trumpet solo by a black male musician in a white golf hat and matching shirt, and his skills transcended all genres; while marrying the groove without fail. As all the other vocalists lent their skills for harmonies and a chorus effect, it became dream of a track. Towards the end of this song, the trumpet player lead a call and response section with the audience, also to lovely effect. Most audience members never stopped dancing, but some of them seemed a bit overwhelmed by so much goodness; like when you’ve already had three desserts, and are offered a fourth. The band then drew this song to a halt after a rollicking vamp and, without missing a beat, they were already performing their last song.
For the last track of Interactivo’s set today, the overhead lighting rigs burnt bright yellow like dozens of marigolds and, although your humble author could not understand the lyrics, the song undeniably had the feel of “feeling good and enjoying life”. As if on a magical cue, the clouds parted overhead, and hot sun rays came pouring through. The lady in the blue hat dove into some rhythmic vocal phrases that bore a resemblance to dance hall vocals, but with more melody. The band then vamped triumphantly behind her, and drove back into the joyous chorus; seemingly giving the audience the energy to dance even harder. Even a white guy in his twenties – dressed all in black, like a priest with a fisherman’s hat and shades – could be seen trying to be funky on the far right-hand side of the crowd. As the song broke down repeatedly to bongo riffing, all the singers took turns assuming lead vocal duties. Then, suddenly, the track drew to a jubilant close, and one of the female vocalist called out, “Arigatou Nihon! Saiko!”. The musicians then all formed a line at the front of the stage, wrapped their arms around the shoulders of the musicians next to them, and collectively took a bow before leaving the stage to warm and thunderous cheers.