NAEBA, Japan – Each summer, more than 100,000 die hard music heads make the pilgrimage to a mist-covered valley nestled in the mountains of central Japan for the Fuji Rock Festival. With three days of camping and more than 200 bands on location to wet the palates of the masses, it’s the largest gathering of its kind in Asia. People have free range to roam between ten stages chock-full of sets that go on well past dawn.
Now in its fourteenth year, Fuji Rock has emerged as one of the world’s premier megafests, with a lineup rivaling that of Europe’s Glastonbury and Roskilde, or American mainstays Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Coachella. Held the last weekend in July, this year’s bill enchanted globetrotters with genre-defying heavyweights and indie buzz bands.
Big kahunas Muse and Massive Attack of the UK saturated the main stage of Fuji with larger than life spectacles. These two bands also crossed the pond to perform at Korea’s very own Jisan Valley Rock Fest over the course of the same weekend. Other headliners included the American supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, and a rare performance from influential British powerhouse Roxy Music.
Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers have amalgamated into a new crew known as Atoms For Peace in an effort to take Yorke’s solo material to the road. The Radiohead frontman electrocuted everyone in the vicinity of Fuji’s main stage with his emotionally-driven vocals. The tremors of Flea’s bass lines thumped chests all the way back to the campgrounds.
Touring in support of their critically acclaimed new release “This is Happening”, LCD Soundystem feels like a funky, three-way love child of the Talking Heads, David Bowie, and Daft Punk. Contagiously spreading an outbreak of dance fever, LCD delivered nothing less than an electronic rock hoedown.
Another noteworthy performance was delivered by the French new wave duo Air. Before embarking to Japan to cover this festival, a friend of mine mentioned that Air was the closest show he had ever seen that could compare to Pink Floyd. I concur. Air’s confidence was mind-blowing. Chill music chimes on their albums, but their live sound resonates with sheer power.
Other hot bands from the festival circuit invaded Fuji including Broken Social Scene, MGMT, Belle & Sebastian, Vampire Weekend, John Butler Trio, The XX, Broken Bells, the Dirty Projectors, Yeasayer, and the homoerotic sensory overload that is the Scissor Sisters. Bands made famous by the jam scene also crept into the lineup, such as moe., Ozomatli, and JJ Grey & Mofro. Keep in mind this list is the abridged version of the total package.
Each stage communicated a drastically different vibe. Sections of the concert grounds were separated along the valley bottom via wooded paths and boardwalks snaking through the low level brush. One venue was even located near the top of the 2000 meter Mt. Naeba, accessible only by a five kilometer cable car ride through breathtaking gorges and alpine slopes. It was easy to lose oneself and imagine being on another planet at times while exploring the terrain.
Fuji Rock Festival is a music Mecca that faithful fans must visit at least once in their lifetime.
To view the full list of performances from the weekend, go here.