Fuji Rock Festival 2012
Naeba, Niigata, Japan
Friday 27 – Sunday 29 July

Our correspondent in Japan fills us in on the highs of Stone Roses, Jack White, The Specials and Refused at Fuji Rock Festival 2012. 

It is just past dawn. The voluminous turquoise sky reaches out into the infinity, nubilous mists flows and floats around the mountain peaks and the forests of prodigious trees, a breeze delivering soft strokes and the pungent tang of earth and resin dreamily plays in the air. The atmosphere is vibrating on a level of thrilled industrialism and slightly delirious excitement.

As a titian sun heats up and fills the horizon, the shuttle buses erupt bodies, rucksacks and 1000 watt smiles, queues form for wristbands, for t-shirt, for noodles and beer, the campsite is a blur of oscillating colours and clanking, clinking metals: The time has come for Fuji Rock 2012 to begin.

Friday – the highlight:

The Stone Roses headline on the White Stage it has been 22 years or 17 depending on your view point since The Stone Roses have played in Japan and they have been accruing fans, no – devotees – ever since.

The crowed at the front have been there for the most part since lunchtime, Beady Eye‘s performance on the same stage an hour earlier had driven a few thousand more people into an already crushed area.

The day has been the hottest of the summer so far, our body parts are painfully bruised and sun crisped tender emitting egg frying waves of heat, our heads thunderously pounding from thirst yet as the opening strain of ‘Stoned Love’ vibrate over the sea of people, and a masculine chant of ‘STONE ROSES, STONE ROSES’ all but drowns out The Supremes, not one of us gives our agonies a second thought.

Ian Brown loves Japan and Japan loves him right back. Heads rally back and forth following his ever step, tightly vacuum-packed in it is testament of sheer exuberance that the front rows are bouncing along and everyone is singing with him, to him – “I wanna be adored”, he winks and smirks – he knows. Everyone knows, adored he certainly is. The passion and intensity of the audience is unabated as we plunge into ‘Mersey Paradise’, ‘Sugar Spun Sister’ and ‘Sally Cinnamon’.

There can be no fault found with Ian, his vocals don’t need judgement it’s a live show an enormous arena where more is required of a performance than unconditional vocal perfection. Visually there are few that can play a stage like him, dancing for the crowd, pausing to receive due appreciation, he grabs the now infamous action figures he puppets them to kung fu fight ”“ taking them off to assist Reni on the drums, plays peek a boo with Mani across the stage, embraces and kisses John receiving an abashed smile from the guitar man and thunderous cheers from the audience, for all of Ian’s on fire cocky sass it’s the amalgamation of the four parts that creates this evangelical gospel.

Reni drumming every moment like this times the last, John’s powerful melodies and Mani adding just enough boom-chicka-wha-wha to speed up our heartbeat’s bass-line. The impossible becomes reality and the audiences vocal crescendo increases as the bitter sweet ‘Ten Story Love Song’ and the audience melodically shares it’s passion of the songs poignant words and harmonious offering.

The enthusiasm and energy in the audience does not wane it plateaus slightly, increasing as songs being and end the crowd painfully aware that our time with the Roses is brief and anticipation has had a prolonged time in building and no one is holding anything back. It’s the known and fitting climax to the night, there are goosebumps despite the incandescence as Reni drums, and as Mani’s bass slides in the audience, which has barley breathing room, is a solid swaying mass, arms are thrust skyward and dried out, dust coated throats ecstatically shout along to ‘I Am The Resurrection’ and in a blink it’s over.

Ian puts back on his TSR inspired jacket flipping up the hood, John holds aloft his guitar as they take time amalgamating at the stage front arms held open, they meet and embrace. They exit the stage to applause, to screams, to chants – they leave if possible even more adored.

Friday – other notes:

The Stone Roses t-shirts are the first to sell out.

Ed Sheeran despite the early in the day performance time and the humongous stage and arena, did a exuberant and entertaining set ~ I’m not sold but was intrigued enough not to fall asleep.

Owl City, were twenty minutes late on stage a unique and rare occurrence at Fuji, they seemed pleasant people, with some cute lyrics but one mediocre song does not justify their existence as a band.

Japan’s Boom Boom Satellites a dynamic and engaging three piece offered up an insane mix of electronic big beats, heavy jazz and thunderous punk rock there was not an inch of ground not pounding to the frenzied palpitations, the audience alike ripping neck muscles to thrash along.

Beady Eye – Liam Gallagher postures on stage, dedicates and sings ‘Rock n Roll Star’ his old bands song to his brother, postures some more and leaves, much of the crowds loves every second of it, forty minutes of my life I’ll not have again.

Saturday – the highlight:

Growing up to and in the same city as The Specials they were commentators of the society I knew and the social issues I grew up experiencing, it’s not difficult to understand that their mix of smouldering melodies and blazing ska and punk to be popular but it does throw up a momentary double take that here in Japan tens of thousands of people are dancing and singing along word perfect with such dedicated and relish to thirty year old records about racial and economic issues of ’80’s British life.

‘Little Bitch’ garners a surprisingly ecstatic response and the I am fortunate to be looking down into a skanking ocean, the crowd are joyful and on stage the band bound about energetically, offering up bountiful effervescence and it is washing through the audience like an electrical charge, Terry Hall for the most part keeps his mask of crumpled defeat in place but every once in a while a tender smile flashes across his face as he eyes the audience. ‘A Message to You Rudy’ is beautifully serenaded and ‘Rat Race’ a real high point of a blazing set.

As our global economy continues in free-fall, fear, anger and dissent is not a localised phenomenon and disaffection is becoming an orbicular misery, memories of past violence and the rise of fascism at times look frightfully repeatable, making The Specials lyrical discourse on ’80’s social issues incomprehensibly relevant now, “Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself – it’s later than you think”.

Saturday – other notes

My Best Fiend are louder, faster and stronger live then anticipated their heavenly hazy guitars and dreamy fuzz are transformed to powerful energetic melodic punk, getting up after All Night Fuji pays off and defiantly worth seeing again.

Playing on the three huge screens of the White Stage extracts from the London Olympic Opening Ceremony are relayed with approximately 55,000 FujiRock’ers singing, cheering and applauding. 6,000 miles away from home with a couple of fields full of people singing along – I completely forgot to be cynical about the whole enterprise.

Spending time in the NGO Village is an thought provoking yet friendly and peaceful environment to learn and talk about social issues both local and global. According to chatter on the walk back to camp Noel Gallagher‘s High Flying Birds were better than the Beady Eye.

Justice did a mind shattering set encompassing punk vibes with romantic electronic disco beats an audio overload.

Sunday – the highlight

I would have loved Jack White to be in the Red Marquee despite its size it has a unique darkness and atmosphere of intimate iniquitousness that would work on numerous levels, however he does completely fill the cavernous open air Green Stage with a harem of blue glad musicians (the all female band The Peacocks), and in complementary black shirt blue suit Jack White explodes on stage like a rock god incarnation of Raoul Duke spliced with Edgar Allan Poe.

Track after track we’re enraptured the dense rich figurative language , woven into poetic fairytale like lyrics, a unique boogie woogie rhythm and blues are laced with dashes of northern soul, lascivious cords and a skin pounding that would put a taiko school to shame. Looking at, ‘Blunderbuss’ the album in fact all Jack’s solo output as a roman á clef the personal narrative of the songs are painfully evident.

Even when he uses an author surrogate it is clear there are deeply raw emotions being aired, but it’s powerful and not distressing, the non sequacious nature of Jack’s songs is intensified live but it’s neither jarring nor distracting in fact it’s enrapturing and Jack White simply polarising.

The set concludes disappointingly fast, the sensational, stimulating and sumptuous delights culminate with a blistering 6 minute ‘Seven Nation Army’ – Jack and his band bow and leave as the audience continues to applaud, nosily continuing the beat and melody of The White Stripes anthem for sometime.

Sunday – other notes

Festival fashion favourites this year sun-hats, skin shading cotton shawls and ice cold cucumbers (yes, to eat). Galactic with Corey Glover and Corey Henry offered up a classy funkadelic party, gregarious and entertaining fun.

An electrical storm illuminating the evening sky with diamond white flashes creates the most sensational pre-show and back drop for Refused, the vivacity of Dennis Lyxén stage performance is matched by the explosive cacophony of the band.

Revolutionary left politics and anti capitalism feature heavily lyrically, yet the show does not feel polemic but empowering, inclusive and honest. “Always remember to stay fucking curious! Always remember to stay fucking wild!” says Dennis as they depart a truly excellent statement after a truly excellent performance.

A very wise man once sang “It says nothing to me about my life” and today this applies to Radiohead, I never got it and it is pretty clear I never will. The audience have amassed and are palpably excited but it is a feeling that soon ebbs away, the conscientious in the numbers around me was of regretful disappointment.

Annie Mac –  no, this will not be assigned any space in either my conscious or unconscious memory.

”¦.And it’s over for another year Fuji Rock 2012 will go down as the blue skied, blisteringly hot super dry Fuji Rock (the 2 minute sprinkle on Sunday does not count) with the highs of the weekend keeping weary legs moving we pack up the tents, drop off at the recycle unit one last time and head for the shuttle bus queue and as we depart Naeba, heads start to bow and eyes to close and you know everyone is dreaming “mmmmn, Fuji Rock 2013, I wonder who …”

All words and images by Katie Clare. You can read more from Katie on LTW here.

1 COMMENT

  1. Fantastic reveiw it is hard to imagine Not being there with such eleoquant launguage keep this up love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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