Best of the Fest: Tiernan
Surprising Stars Rising Up With Exemplary Skills
As many musicians stated from the heights of various stages, debates raged regarding whether the festival should be held at all, this year. And, often those debates even took place within some bands. However, particularly because there was so much at stake this year, the triumphs and collective spirit rose more to the forefront. So, from that perspective, of overcoming adversity, I present to you my “Best of the Fest”.
At times running around like an anime character putting out fires, and then running elsewhere to quarrel with some unnamed lover, it was clear from the get-go that this fresh face had a lot going on. Far from the plastic madness of someone like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, it was evident that this young woman struggles with some mental health issues. However, the glorious turnaround is that she wields them like Dali. Rapid, multiple changes in genre, tempo and arrangements – a recipe for disaster in the hands of almost anyone – were gracefully and masterfully molded before our very eyes into (as her most recent album title states) a Castle in Madness. She might as well have been a half-Japanese child of Björk. And, at other times she showed us that she could also play guitar with the passion of Kurt Cobain, as well as with the poised calm of James Hetfield. Surely a force to be reckoned with in the coming years, she just released a new music video, and a new release is coming out before year’s end.
Similar to 4s4ki’s, ReN’s self-appointed mission would be a disaster in most people’s hands. Wielding the engagement of a famous power trio all by his lonesome from the middle of the stage, like Ed Sheeran in days of yore, ReN built funky soundscapes using only his guitar and a looping pedal. And, every single time, they grew into such pop songs which could ascend into the charts, if justice may be found. Throughout his shiny sixty-minute set, nary a crack was to be found. Lyrically, also, especially in this age of chaos, his indefatigable positivity served as a welcome balm. On one track he crooned, “You’ll be fine. I’ll be fine,” and, on another, he sang the mantra, “We are the lights” over and over again, as his soundscape increased in beauty.
04. Kan Sano
For me, this was the group that proved to be the most surprising, this year. Walking onstage in garments that made them look like art gallery staff, Kan Sano served funk with advanced degrees from the college of Prince. Odd chord changes – and choices – seemed to flow like a raging river. And yet, all the while, the funk stayed as solid as a grandmother’s fudge. Also, not just content to stretch the limits of what people can dance to, with fifteen minutes left in their set they stretched things out into hard jazz, before shifting back into 4/4, as a disco ball spun overhead. Many of the better acts on the smaller stages at Fuji Rock graduate to the bigger ones in later years. Ideally we’ll see that happen for Kan Sano as well.
Although my aversion to horn sections kept me away from ska in the past, KEMURI were a force to behold at Fuji Rock Festival ’21; partially because of how much their positivity is needed right now. Even before the band walked onstage, one noticed a subtitle on their banner reading, “Positive Mental Attitude”. And, throughout their ferocious set which mixed punk, hardcore, and ska, lyrics consistently offered people messages of hope, as well as reminders to stay positive, especially in trying times. During an emotional speech in the middle of their stage time, lead singer Fumio Ito started crying as he admitted that his band had debated whether they should play this year, but when they all found out that they had passed their PCR tests, they decided it was vital that they bring positivity to the people. And, that, they did exemplarily.
HONORABLE MENTION: SEAPOOL
I didn’t get the chance to cover their performance, but was lucky enough to catch some of their sound check, and immediately gave them my card and an offer to write about them in the media. These two young women on bass and guitar, and a young man behind them commanding the drum stool held their own with the heaviness of giants from the humble setting of Rookie a Go-Go. Comparisons could be drawn to The Breeders or The Cranberries, but that would denigrate their own freshness and originality. If anyone likes heavy music delivered in a vivifying way, taking in a Seapool show is sure to prove a treat!
SPECIAL THANKS TO: The People!
Honestly, maybe it was partially because we were all tired of harsh conditions – like the Canadian winters that seem to make that nation’s people kind – but everyone at Fuji Rock ’21 seemed to glow with empathy. There were no fights to be seen or heard, everyone gave each other space, and everyone in attendance seem to speak to others with kindness. So, here’s a cheers to you, everyone who spent the weekend in Naeba! You were the honorary stars of the show! And, I salute you.
[Photo: 1 All photo]