June 30, 2008

Galactic, the Fuji house funk band


Somebody's has got to open for Bootsy, so who better than New Orleans' Galactic (and Boots without the Y). Since Theryl "Houseman" DeClouet has left the band, these serious admirers of The Meters have backed a number of vocalists, and are bringing Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 and Boots Riley of the early '90s political rap group The Coup. To get yourself ready, here's a gut punch of Galactic funk from Paris Library:

Paris DJs present Galactic New Orleans Funk Swamp

Be warned, it gets dirty. And, by the way, don't be surprised if Led Zepplin show up as well (Heya Jinki, how about Immigrant Song? Kashmir?).

-- Donald

* photos by photos by yusuke/Smashingmag.com

New Guy


When the best person ever (aka fellow scribe Shawn Despres) invited me to join the Fuji team I was excited. Not only was it an unexpected trip to Japan - which means I'll get to see old friends - but it was a chance to cover one of the festivals I've always wanted to experience.

Oh, and then there's this: Flower Travellin' Band are playing. That fact is still melting my brain. FTB, if you don't already know, are probably Japan's most critically acclaimed '70s psyche rock band. Their album Satori has been called the penultimate Japanese rock record. Flower Travellin' Band are Japan's Led Zeppelin (in stature...musically, they're more like a more psychedelic and proggy Black Sabbath).

For me, though, there's two added reasons for my excitement. One thing is that I'm Canadian. Canada is the only country outside of Japan where Satori actually landed on the charts - top ten, no less. CHUM-FM in Toronto used to play the album. The band opened for Emerson, Lake & Palmer here. Finally, the FTB record Made In Japan was actually recorded in Canada. So there's this strange rock-historical connection happening for me.

Secondly, I'm the host & producer of a weekly Japanese music show called Octopus Army (Note: Yes, I stole the name from the clothing shop chain in Japan and no, so far, they haven't sued). So I've been listening to FTB for years, playing them on the show and thinking "Wow, too bad I missed this when they were around."

Guess what? They're still around. For anyone lucky enough to hit the Field of Heaven on Saturday...this should be a little glimpse of J-rock history.

Jamie Tennant

The Death Set


A crazy tour involving a bus that runs on vegetable oil and a half-dozen freak out bands was how the Death Set started their summer. Fortunately, Videothing was along for the ride, and just sober enough to film some of the stops on the F Yeah Tour. Skate parks, house parties, and one long assed side of the road stop are all in the mix. If the past is any indicator of the future, then the Death Set will be jumping off drum kits, crowd surfing, and causing good old fashioned, singalong mayhem when they finally hit Fuji Rock.

//sean s.

June 29, 2008

Clever by half

The Orange Court, located way the hell out there at the edge of the festival grounds, tends to feature acts that don't quite fit anywhere else, and Sparks, the veteran L.A. glam-pop act who'll be headlining the stage on Saturday night, has always been sort of defined as not being able to fit in anywhere.

Centered on the Mael brothers, slightly more stylish Russell on vocals and perversely mustachioed Ron on keyboards, Sparks pioneered a theatrical but very commercial-sounding quirk-pop in 1970 that went nowhere in the States despite production encouragement from Todd Rundgren and so they eventually relocated to London where that sort of thing was de rigeuer owing to the popularity of Roxy Music, a band that Sparks was always being compared to, though usually in a negative sense. Nevertheless, they enjoyed a series of hit singles and albums in the UK that probably paved the way for the synth pop boom of the 80s but, of course, punk intervened, making Sparks' tongue-in-cheek bubblegum synth pop sound ridiculous, especially when given the overblown treatment of bombast-loving producer Tony Visconti.

Returning to the States, the brothers entered their dance phase and secured the talents of disco gods Giorgio Moroder and Harold Faltmeyer but still couldn't quite breach the Billboard Top 100. That eventually happened in 1984 when they teamed with ex-Go Go Jane Wiedlin. After that, it was every Mael for himself, but Sparks never really went away, releasing an album every couple of years, always with their patented cleverly punned titles, which seem to have made more of an impression after all these years than the songs themselves: "Kimono My House," "Angst in My Pants," "Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins," that sort of thing.

If this entry sounds a bit sardonic, I myself was subjected to an onslaught of the Brothers Mael's music in college, where a dorm mate from L.A. used to play them nonstop, convinced they were the second coming of Bowie where to my ears they sounded more like the joke that Freddie Mercury got before anyone else. Still, in terms of pure pop extravagance there are few artists working today who can compete, and if the prospect of hearing Underworld, Simple Plan, or Ian Brown doesn't thrill you, Sparks probably will. Their greatest weapon is sounding a lot better than people expect them to sound.


June 28, 2008

Pentaport's English and Japanese sites up

Like Formoz in Taiwan, the Pentaport Rock Festival in South Korea falls on the same weekend as Fuji, allowing for some acts to pull double duty that weekend and entertain fans in two different countries. The festival's web site now includes information on the event in both English and Japanese.

Taking place just outside of Seoul at the Songdo Daewoo Motors Field in Incheon City, more than 30 Korean and foreign artists have been announced for the 3rd edition of the three day event (July 25 - 27) and there are many acts still to be added.

Fantastic locals groups such as Gumx, The Moonshiners, Galaxy Express, and a reunited Delispice will share the stage with Fuji Rock performers Feeder, The Gossip, The Go! Team, Princess Superstar, Travis, Underworld, Hard-Fi, Ozomatli, Ellegarden, and Kasabian making Pentaport the premier summer music event in South Korea.

A one day ticket for Pentaport costs 88,000 won (about 9,000 yen). While two and three day passes are going for 132,000 won (about 13,000 yen) and 165,000 won (about 17,000 yen). Camping is available on site for the low price of 10,000 won per person. For those wanting to catch some of Fuji Rock's performers, but also interested in getting out of Japan for a short vacation Pentaport is something you should definitely look into attending.


It'll Be Great Practice


It was recently announced that electro-soul crooner Jamie Lidell will be opening up Elton John's UK tour in November and December.

Jamie will be showcasing funky cuts from his brand new spankin' disc, Jim, Friday afternoon on the White Stage. Playing for Fuji's always fun lovin' masses will be great way to fine tune his live set and get better acquainted with performing for large crowds on massive stages before facing tens of thousands of Sir Elton's fans in the winter.


June 27, 2008

The Legacy Continues

Five years since the death of Joe Strummer, and his memory continues to live on with a recent Billy Bragg interview on KCRW reminding us of this legendary artist and activist. In the interview Bragg says “the Clash taught me that music can change the world” and to honor his passing, Bragg wanted to do more than “just another benefit gig”, putting his energies behind an instruments for inmates charity called Jail Guitar Doors. Incidentally, the name of the charity is taken from the B-side of 1978 release "Clash City Rockers".

While Bragg’s initiative is definitely worthy, the majority of the work done in the name of Joe Strummer is by the organization Strummerville whose aim is to “create new opportunities for aspiring musicians”. Founded by Strummer’s friends and family, the group is known for a weekend long campfire and stage at Glastonbury in Joe’s honor. Incidentally, the stage has featured a good many “walk-up and play” slots as well as guest appearances from bands such as Dirty Pretty Things, and this year, Mystery Jets.

So what does this have to do with Fuji Rock you ask? Well, as many already know, the campfire at the Palace of Wonder is largely in Joe’s honor, and many of his long-time friends and Strummerville contributors can be found roaming about the area such as sculptor Joe Rush and Pockets, the one responsible for much of the foundation’s work. This year, Strummerville is reaching out to young Japanese bands, offering financial assistance to unsigned bands who have been invited to play on the Rookie-A-Go-Go stage. There is still hope that music might change the world yet.

//sean s.

June 26, 2008

Cover Art, cont'd...


Look for The Presidents of the United States of America (from now on they are just "PUSA") to cover at least MC5's "Kick Out The Jams" and The Buggles' classic "VIdeo Killed The Radio Star", but let's hope they don't break out their cover of the original theme song for the 1997 critically acclaimed box office smash George of the Jungle.

Jakob Dylan has contributed cover songs to a couple of compilation albums like The Band's "Whispering Pines" for Endless Highway - The Music of the Band and John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth" for Instant karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur. He has also played Merle Haggard's "Branded Man" live. Don't expect him to cover any Zimmerman, though.

Travis is well known for their wide selection of covers, from The Beatles to Elvis Presley to Carly Simon to Mott the Hoople. Their most famous, though, and played often is Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby One More Time".

Kate Nash sounds like last year's Lily Allen, so you can be forgiven if you think she's covering her. She has revamped many songs new and old, like The Supreme's "Baby Love" (up on her myspace site: www.myspace.com/katenashmusic). She has also been known to try out Beyonce's "Irreplaceable".

With the sheer amount of bands playing, this could be an interesting compilation after the festival is over.


June 25, 2008

Cover Art


Cover songs have a mixed legacy. When done right, they can be incredible. Even mystical. When done wrong, they border on criminal.

What to expect this year?

Fujirock is always fertile ground for bands wishing to dabble in an idol’s material or show the audience where they’re coming from. A few years back indie-roots darlings, My Morning Jacket, started their set with Prince’s “I could Never Take the Place of Your Man.” Local favorites and Fujirock regulars, Yo La Tengo, can cover a dozen songs in one set, from The Beach Boys to the Ramones. And who can forget Gnarls Barkley’s Violent Femmes cover?

And this year? Well there’s Boosty for one. Hell, his entire gig will be one big set of JB covers. Janet Klien, too. An avid collector of old Victrola records and 1920’s sheet music, she has dedicated her life to recreating songs of her crumbling collection. Her intimate performances can be quite similar to this (except in color).

It’s possible the Gossip could bust out some R&B. And Rodrigo Y Gabrbiella will almost certainly crank out flamenco versions of a few rock legends. But my safest bet is on CSS. They’ve recently covered a now classic Breeders’ song, and since the Breeders will be in Naeba as well, I can’t see how they could pass that up.

Any other cover predictions I’ve missed?


June 22, 2008

Looking East

For the past 4 years, Taiwan’s Formoz Festival has coordinated its artist bookings with Fuji Rock. Both festivals share the same weekend and cooperation has allowed organizers to share artist transportation costs. Artists who have done double duty at both festivals have included: Super Furry Animals, Dirty Pretty Things, Mercury Rev, and Moby.

This year, Formoz organizers were drooling at the prospects of bagging My Bloody Valentine as festival headliners. Negotiations proceeded well, but hit a snag when it came to appearance fees. According to Formoz staff, it was “impossible” for My Bloody Valentine to play for anything less than US$100,000. The fee was too high for Formoz who scrambled to fill the empty slot with Boom Boom Satellites, adding to an already heavy Japanese line-up which includes Mono, LM.C, Plastic Tree, Ovum, and Inoran.

And by the way, Fuji Rock may have been quite lucky to land My Bloody Valentine as this year's reunion tour includes just 18 stops with up to a week off between gigs.

//sean s.

June 21, 2008

After Midnight

If you actually get tired of listening to music, you can always mosey on over to the Palace Arena just outside the main entrance to catch some thrills during the wee hours. This year there's three bone-chilling distractions.

Lords of Lightning: A group of New Zealanders who shoot lightning, or a more modest facsimile, from their limbs and heads. Using two large tesla coils, the members spin batons that send crackling bolts of electricity. Reportedly the coils deliver a heart-stopping 4 million volts at peak, which allows for bolts that can reach up to 5 meters in length. Whatever you do, don't get too close with your iPod still on.

Feuerwasser: More elemental forces, this time from across the trench in Australia. Miles and Zai Van Dorssen play with two supposedly adversarial elements, fire and water, to create "visual tempests of pure energy," whatever the hell that means. We'll assume it looks cool when you're stoned.

Joanna Peacock's Freak Circus: This performance artist is credited with inventing the attraction called "angle grinding," in which she applies industrical grinders to plates of steels strapped to her body to produce showers of sparks. Unsurprisingly, she seems to be the only performer in the world who does this. Imagine a literally fiery orgasm and you get the idea. But there's more, and it's even freakier.

photo: Jorin Sievers


So what the hell has Bootsy been up to anyway?

don king prizefighter.jpg

In a word: video games. That's right, the latest musical venture of Bootzilla, that cosmic brother, the Field Marshall of Funk, his Bootsyness, Caspar the Funky Ghost - hell ya'll, make up your own nickname, just as long as it's funky - was to create the theme song for the video game "Don King Presents: Prizefighter," now out on XBOX 360.

Here's what Bootsy told Billboard.com about the gig:

"Doing the game track was very exciting," Collins tells billboard.com. "It's for Don King, a hero of mine from way back, so I took it very personal when asked to get involved. I felt musically and vocally that this song would place you right in the middle of the game, in a front row seat. I told Mr. King, 'We gonna punch um! Just to make their hair stand straight. Then punch um again, to see the look on their face!'"


June 20, 2008

The local Boys

When you are freshly arrived in Japan or if you are not to use to go out to see some gigs, it can be difficult to pin down witch of the Japanese artists are worthy to see. Of course, if they are scheduled in Fuji Rock, they are probably quite established artists already so any of them can be interesting. But if you are fan of electronic music and you are ready for some local discovery after you finished to swing your feet at Underworld and Primal Scream, here are my personal recommendations with video…

Dex Pistols
Those kids are at the coolest Tokyo underground parties. I have seen them few times and their tight mash-up are fresh and hot at the same time. See for yourself on that video the last time they stopped at the Red Marquee…

Ryukyu Disko
I have seen many time the performances of the two brothers from Okinawa. Their sets are always excellent with cool visuals and funky beats.

Denki Groove
They are from the old school of techno music in Japan. Pushing rhythms since the end of the 80’s with influence from YMO and Kraftwerk, they are solid performers.

by seb

June 19, 2008

My Bloody Valentine: Shoegazers, come hither!

Nobody has seen them for sixteen years. They only ever completed two full albums. They haven't recorded anything in seventeen years. Their "official" web site looks like it was created when dial-up modems were hi-tech. And still the shoegazing masses will flock to the Green Stage on Friday night to see headliners My Bloody Valentine. Good work if you can get it.

The seminal dream pop band, whose last album was 1991's Loveless, will do the only thing they can do that night: pick up where they left off.

With no new album (or even new material), Kevin Shields and company (arguably up there with Steve Jobs at the top of the can-do-no-wrong fanboy list) will dust off classics from their only two records (and a handful of EPs) to appease those that are (still) waiting to see if they ever really lived up to the hype, err, potential.

Their first tour in nearly two decades kicks off with a five-night, sold-out stand at The Roundhouse in London this Friday. Prior to this, My Bloody Valentine played two "rehearsal" gigs at the Institute of Contemporary Arts on June 13th and 14th that NME said, "wowed and delighted fans". It made headlines around the world, and fueled speculation anew regarding a forthcoming release. The answer? Ummm...no. But they will apparently be re-releasing re-mastered versions of their only two records on June 16th (this also from NME).

This isn't to say that they (meaning Shields) haven't been at least somewhat occupied. Outside of doing his best not to record an album, Shields has worked with Dinosaur Jr frontman J. Mascis on his solo album, contributed four tracks to the film score for Sofia Coppola's immensely popular Lost In Translation, and spent time playing guitar for and touring with Primal Scream (who are almost headlining Saturday night at the Green Stage).

With all that time between albums, one fan had time to write his Masters theses on the band's aesthetic and contribution to the rock music pantheon.

Me? I just want to feel the wall of noise as it reverberates off the lush mountains of Naeba, and you won't find me gazing at my shoes there, either.

I was going to post a YouTube link here to MBV at ICA, but the sound is so horrible IMO that...ahh WTF:


June 16, 2008

Be very careful, Very Be Careful is coming!


Guaranteed, the best vallenato you'll find at FujiRock!

It's uncanny. I was out just last Saturday watching an as of yet yet unnamed Tokyo band, the main feature of which was a piano accordion. I remarked to a friend that this oft scorned instrument is seen far too little in today's popular music.

So imagine my delight when I log on to see the additions to the Fuji Rock lineup, and see that Very Be Careful have been added to the lineup! No strangers to Fuji Rock Fest, they have certainly moved up in stature this year. Playing an unannounced show on the boardwalk last year, they impressed the management of the Palace Of Wonder enough to be invited to perform a riotous closing act on the Sunday night. This year they are slated to make their mark on the Orange Court on Friday, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if their name pops up on a few more entrance doors as the weekend rolls on. They're that kind of act!

Born on the streets of LA, raised in the subways of New York, Very Be Careful have been doing it hard with their take on the vallenato, the traditional folk music of Columbia. Testament to their staying power and the popularity of this unusual genre, they have released five full length albums over the last decade, and have toured the world over with their impressively entertaining act. See an interview with them on YouTube, and get their latest, Salad Buey, or any one of the plethora of albums they've put out since the late 90s. Or better yet, get down to Fuji Rock and see what made them one of the most sought after live performances of last year!

Report by Dom.

More Additions!

More than 160 artists have been announced for the three days and guess what -- there are still more to be added.

Two bands were added to Orange Court earlier this morning, but the biggest news are the line-ups for Day Dreaming and the stunning Crystal Palace Tent. A lot of cool lesser known bands, DJs, and performers will grace both and a few acts from the main stages will make appearances as well. Richie Hawtin will follow up his Saturday night set at Red Marquee with a more intimate set at Day Dreaming on Sunday afternoon. Seasick Steve (Field Of Heaven), Rodrigo y Gabriela (Green Stage/ Field Of Heaven), and Gogol Bordello (White Stage) will all play late night gigs in the Palace Of Wonder at the Crystal Palace Tent. The Gogol Bordello concert has the potential to be legendary.

A review of Rodrigo Y Gabriela's Tokyo concert at the end of March can be read here.

All new additions can be viewed on FRF's official site.


*Photo by Sam and used with permission of Smashing Mag

June 14, 2008


Since it isn't called the Fuji Soul Festival, there's no reason to get all bent out of shape over the relative paucity of brothers and sisters giving it up for the power, though if you look through the lineup carefully, you'll find more than a few artists who know what I'm talkin' about.

On Friday afternoon Spoon and Gossip, two powerhouse indie bands whose debt to soul music is as obvious as their members' white skin, will play back to back at the Red Marquee. Meanwhile, over on the White Stage, Jamie Lidell, whose recently released third album covers the distance between Motown and Memphis pretty thoroughly for a twenty-something Brit, will hold forth. The New Orleans funk band Galactic will be bringing along some great West Coast rappers on the same stage later that day, but just because it's ostensibly hip-hop doesn't mean it ain't got soul. And don't forget Sunday night Green Stage headliner Kiyoshiro Imawano, who could be considered Japan's most genuine soul singer, having served an apprenticeship with Booker T and the MGs back in the 90s when they backed him on one of his tours.

Of course, Bootsy Collins' tribute to James Brown on the White Stage Friday night will bring the funk and the soul, but if you want the genuine undorned thing, run don't walk to the Field of Heaven on Saturday afternoon to catch one of the originals, Bettye Lavette, a founding practitioner of what used to be called Northern soul. She recorded for Atlantic in Detroit before Motown became the biggest indie label in the world, and had a few top 20 hits herself. Her experimental soul sides of the 70s were critical smashes but mostly commercial duds, and she did finally end up on Motown, but that was in 1982, when Detroit was a long lost dream and Micheal Jackson and the Commodores were paying everybody's bills. But despite her recent comeback on the Anti- label as a kind of rediscovered curio, she never went away. She's been working the circuit for the better part of her 62 years, and she still smokes the stage with near-hysterical heat. She's a fool for it, and you'd be a fool to miss this opportunity.


It's the silent ones you need to watch out for!

For me, the White Stage is the place to be late Sunday morning/ early afternoon because the first Japanese band to grace the stage are usually nothing short of awesome.

Three years ago, Afrirampo's stellar set was easily one of the fest's best. Two years ago, Envy 's mix of hardcore and post-rock helped provided a much needed blast of energy to plow through Fuji's last day. In 2007, Toe delighted all with their intricate jazzy post-rock. This year Mono will be wowing spectators with their epic sonic masterpieces.

The Tokyo-based instrumental act have rightfully considered one of Asia's best post-rock acts. After touring extensively behind 2006's brilliant You Are There , they announced last last year that they would be taking a break from touring in 2008 to focus on writing their fifth full-length. This month they are in Chicago recording the new disc with long-time producer Steve Albini. They'll follow that up with a handful of summer gigs, that thankfully includes a stop at Fuji Rock. Do yourself a huge favour and check it out. You won't be disappointed!

Mono story from The Japan Times
Mono on YouTube


* Photo by Saya38 and used with permission from Smashing Mag

June 13, 2008

Jakob Dylan: Seeing and things...

Jakob Dylan has never had any particular problem in the songwriting department. With The Wallflowers he managed to write some great, contemporary (if MOR) pop-rock albums like Red Letter Days, Rebel Sweetheart, (Breach), and the star making Bringing Down The Horse in 1996. BDTH yielded singles aplenty: "One Headlight", "6th Ave. Heartache", "The Difference" and "Three Marlenas". It also yielded him two Grammy Awards, and it sold over 4 million albums in the U.S - twice as many as his father's Blood On The Tracks sold in 20 years.

Now, if you were to say, "Jakob Dylan went acoustic," there certainly wouldn't be the same hue and cry as the one that erupted from American folkies in 1965 when his father did the opposite. But with a new album out his month, Seeing Things, the younger Dylan eschews his regular rock band, The Wallflowers, in favor of recording ten straight up folk songs. No band to speak of, just him, a couple of guitars and some introspective melodies revolving around conflict and home with Rick Rubin at the helm. Kind of like a Dylan alternate universe.

What JD supporters at Fuji Rock will be wanting to know this year is: exactly which Jakob Dylan are we going to be seeing?

The Wallflowers are still together, and are touring this summer throughout North America.

Jakob is touring solo in support of Seeing Things, as well, sometimes booked as "Jakob Dylan and the Gold Mountain Rebels" (as he is for Bonnaroo, Rothbury, and The Austin City Limits Festival).

For Fuji Rock Festival, though, he is booked as "Jakob Dylan from The Wallflowers"

A shizoprenic schedule, to say the least, but as long as he shows up, fans can probably expect a little of bit of everything - a few new mellow acoustic numbers, some revamped older hits. For fans of the younger Dylan, not a bad way to enjoy the Sunday evening twilight on the Green Stage.


June 12, 2008

Capitol F


When the Gossip approach the Red Marquee next month, it won’t be hard to locate vocalist Beth Ditto...

Portland, Oregon’s soul-punk diva and Gossip frontwoman is quite a conspicuous character. First off, the woman has some serious pipes. (Watch this clip and tell me differently. I dare you).

Secondly, there’s a lot of Ditto to love, and she’s not afraid to put it out there. This in itself generates publicity in all sorts of places.

And the critics have spoken: the Gossip rock. In fact, I'm willing to venture as far as to say they may be one of the most talked about acts of the fest.


June 11, 2008

Meet me at Red Marquee

All my fellow Fujirockers know that when the Fuji Rock Festival come, you can be sure I will spend a great deal of my time under the tent of the Red Marquee. This year again, a big part of the performances I’m looking forward to see are going to be held under the cherry roof. It’s sure that for bands like CSS, Midnight Juggernauts, Richie Hawtin and Gossip, the place will be jam packed, specially if rain is at the rendez-vous.

Late performers such as DJ Mehdi and Princess Superstar should reveal themselves as interesting people to see as well. The former is from the popular label Ed Bangers that brought us Justice last year. His last album ‘lucky boy’ is real dope and the guy keep pushing excellent mixes in various hipsters electro blogs. The second one is a well known party thrower from New-York , having rocking the floor by the side of Scissor Sisters, Fischerspooner and Peaches. If you where present at the Sisters gig’s last year, you know that those people party seriously. Also, in the last few months, the Princess as produced some of the finest remixes that have been listening to. Alala from CSS come to my mind... The party will be up-there guaranty. I you are not yet convinced, try this mix.

But above all the band listed on the Red Marquee’s schedule, the one that I’m the most curious to see is the French electro band datA. They are still quite obscure to most of people I’ve been talking to, but make sure to see them if you are planning to join us in the mountains of Naeba. So far they only released two EP albums on Ekler’o’shock/Naive labels, Aerius Light and Trop Laser. However those tracks are simply amazing, the kind of effective French house that perhaps only Daft Punk had delivered so far. Also if we are lucky, we will be able to ear some tracks from their upcoming album ‘Rapture’ due in November 2008. Few days ago, the blog Kidz by Colette released a sample (leak?) from the awaited album with lyrics from Sebastien Grainger formerly from cult group Death From Above 1979. In no time every body left comments that it’s going to be one of the hit of this summer. However, the mysterious track was quickly pulled-off without explanation. Now the datA official myspace is swarm by the fans requesting to listen Rapture. If you want to listen this one, Google is your friend.


June 9, 2008

Midnight Juggernaut Envy

At dinner last night, a friend of mine was sour grapes about the meteoric rise of Midnight Juggernauts, a band he frequently shared a bill with in his native Melbourne. There was a palpable sense of envy in his voice as he talked about how the band became “internationally famous” in just one year.

Who wouldn't be jealous about the the attention this band is getting: they’ve just toured the US in support of Justice, they made Rolling Stone’s “Hot List”, and even Kayne West is dropping tracks from their debut album "Dystopia" on his recent European tour.

Truth be told, fame wasn’t always this easy for the band. It would take years before their native Melbourne, a place known for its rock and roll attitude, would catch onto the band's cool “electro” vibe. For the band, fame couldn’t have come at a better time, and it looks like everyone is tagging along for the ride. Click here for a hot video from their official site.

//sean s.

June 8, 2008

Oh My God it's a Rabbity Smurf!!!!


Taiwan's answer to Fujirock, the Formoz Fest, just released a special edition doll for this year's event, which will be held the same weekend as FRF08. The "record" and "play" buttons on the tummy actually work, according to Formoz, though bootleg quality and the ability to offload data are still not clear. But the big question is, the Japanese totally invented generic cuteness - so why doesn't Fujirock have one?


June 6, 2008

Boys with problems

Whoever programmed the Green Stage on July 27 either has a sick sense of humor or really digs white American guys with typical white American guy hangups.

Opening the day is Melee, one of the few popular bands from Orange County, California, that doesn't play punk, though the group's piano-based pop could pass for emo--or at least their lyrics do. The exuberance implied in the group's name is mostly put to use delivering broken-hearted love songs with more than a touch of bitterness.

Then comes singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, whose lovelorn lyrics are more self-deprecating and purposely wry. They're also more voluminous, so be prepared for lots of aimless stage patter reinforcing the low self-esteem shtick. On his new album, he tackles more adult themes like considerate sex and divorce (his parents', not his--he's still pretty young) and he's gotten better musically, but watch out for that ego.

Jakob Dylan's hangup is right there in his name, and if you don't know what that means then when exactly did you arrive here from Mars? Dylan could always escape his dad's shadow in his very popular group the Wallflowers, but he's on his own now, at least temporarily, and one has to wonder why he's being billed as "Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers" rather than just plain old Jakob Dylan. We'll assume it means Wallflowers's fans have nothing to worry about.

The afternoon's mini-theme is completed by the guy who basically invented white boy American emo-pop, Ben Folds, a better musician than his detractors will admit and a more savvy entertainer than almost anyone at this year's festival. Whether Folds' brand of "suburban punk rock," as he once called it, still has something to say to the college set who once embraced him depends on how far that set has moved beyond the usual traumas of middle class adolescence, but none of those things really matter in a festival setting. My question is: can anybody sit through these four acts in a row without some sort of antidote afterwards? Bring on CSS!


photo(c)Kim Tonelli

Futureheads go back


With a new album, ''This is Not the World,'' Futureheads are looking to break out of the pack.

When Futureheads played Fuji in 2005, they seemed like just another in the bunch of Brit-revival Red Marquee/Green Stage bands that come every year, marketing a new album in prep for a fall tour. Such bands (ie Kaiser Chiefs, The Rifles among others) get by on buzz to usually bring in crowds who have never seen them but often already know all the words. Savvy. They owed much to The Jam, they had a fine pedigree -- saved from the street by a ''Detached Youth Program'' -- but for all that they were hard to like for the music. The attitude was there, sure, but ...

With their second album ''News and Tributes'' and their latest, ''This is Not the World,'' the music has caught up. ''Broke up the Time'' in particular does a fine job of throwing in some Clash with that Jam. Need some anger, need some energy, need some rock? Try the big platform of the White Stage on Sunday. There ain't no roof out there.

-- Donald

Scream don't know Diddley

White Stripes who? Black Keys who? The Fumes who?

Man if any band at Fuji gets close to doing to what Bo Diddley is doing here in 1966, they got my vote in 2008. My bet is on Bootsy. While he's taking care of James Brown, he ain't gonna forget Bo.

-- Donald

June 5, 2008


Bo Diddley has been described as the most copied guitarist in the world, with many ripping of his “hambone” beat or what Diddley described as a "shave and a haircut, two bits".

The most obvious example is Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, but for many, including myself, the first introduction to this distinctive beat came from the Jesus and Mary Chain who covered Diddley’s "Who Do You Love" on their 12-inch “April Skies" in 1987, following up with the tribute "Bo Diddley is Jesus" the same year.

Another fan of this former bluesman is Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream. He's covered Diddley’s “Movin’ on Up” and his newest album “Riot City Blues” has an unmistakable Bo Diddley beat throughout. Gillespie even talks about Diddley’s influence upon the band in this NME interview

//sean s.

June 4, 2008

The Kiddies Are Alright

Lately, more and more of my friends and family are settling down and having children. I guess, you know, becoming adults. And nowadays when the topic of Fuji Rock Festival comes up in late spring, their demeanor becomes wistful. A thousand yard stare comes over them. A silence, a letting go. They look over at the sleeping or cat terrorizing toddler, and say, "I'd love to go, but...well..."

Well I say: Have no fear! Bring the ankle biters...err...little angels. Fuji Rock Festival is officially Kid Tested and Mother Approved!

Over the past couple of years, a few of us have been writing on the children that attend Fuji Rock Festival (and the parents they drag along with them) over at the live from the festival blog Fuji Rock Express.

The festival is an experience for people of all ages.

Children under twelve years are admitted free of charge, accompanied by their caregivers. Here's "The Official Blurb":

"Primary school age children or under 12 years of age are free to enter the site as long as they are accompanied by their caregivers. Kids Land (children's play area) will be available for guests with children.
If you need a nappy/diaper changing and/or nursing place, you can use Kids Land and/or the rescue tent although we don't supply nappies. However, please refrain from using the rescue tent for the children's rest and you must not leave the children there unaccompanied."

That's well and fine to read, but is the play area just a mud puddle? Or something more extravagant?

Jinki posted an excellent overview last year as he reported live, on the scene, from the FRF Kids Land here while he got to know his inner (or, umm, outer) child.

And some more from Fuji Rock Express '06, proving that every where you go, the kids wanna rock!
Kids Rock and Kids Rock: Fuji Rock Families


June 3, 2008

The contrary indicator strikes


Not to be not all fuzzy but ...

... time for some contrary commentary:

Sorry Dom, I say leave the wellies at home Fuji Rockers, get them feet wet. Strong flops do the job just as well, and we get out to Naeba once a year to shake off the city's constrictions, be they dry or warm.


I could of course be wrong.

Shawn, got to add about Rookie-A-Go-Go, the other great thing about it can be watching a real car wreck happen before your eyes. Maybe a year ago seven guys on stage had a full meltdown that ended with the lead singer to give his partners in noise the most publicly wicked evil-eye I may have ever seen. As everything collapsed around him, he turned around in disgust and left the band to its own quickly fading shambles. A true Fuji Rock classic in a weekend of mostly goodness.

-- Donald

Go Go Go Team


In 2005, traveling behind ''Thunder, Lightning, Strike,'' Ian Parton brought his Go! Team to Fuji's White Stage.

Assembling the group to fill out songs on this second album after his solo debut ''Get It Together'' had brought Parton fans such as John Peel, the Team was a relatively unknown live quantity. While the sample-heavy album may have depended too much on kitschy '70s nostalgic -- schoolyard chants crossed with harmonica-inflected cowboy movie-soundtrack wannabees -- it also rumbled with an infectious party atmosphere.

So there on Sunday, in one of those unexpected White Stage early afternoon get-down sessions, The Go! Team moved a capacity crowd to work it hard. Decked out in peddle-pushers and pure attitude, front lady Ninja rocked something new into existence.

Now they are back with a pure groove album, ''Proof of Youth,'' and you should expect them to bring the retread funk again. They're on the Red Marquee this time which is pity -- even if the White Stage can be dusty in the sun and gritty in the rain, it ends up hosting some of Fuji's best dance parties (Watch what Ryukyu Disco does to it on Friday afternoon). Still, if you aren't curious to finally see what The Breeders look like in person (older but still kick-ass), and you still got some moves left in you, the Team will be the ticket.

-- Donald

* Photo by izumikuma/Smashing Mag.com

One Stop Shopping

Web sites for all the recently announced Rookie A Go-Go acts can be found in a post below. Here are links for those of you who want to do a bit of research about the rest of FRF's latest additions.

Grandmaster Flash
Bloc Party
The Presidents Of The United States Of America
The Vines
DJ Fresh presents Soundweapon
The New Mastersounds
Litte Tempo
Bryan Burton-Lewis
The Cro-Magnons
Asian Dub Foundation
The Courteeners
Simple Plan
Undercover Express
Jakob Dylan
Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks
J.A.M (piano trio from SOIL&"PIMP"SESSIONS)

There is still a lot more music to be added to the fest. Full-lineups for smaller stages Day Dreaming, Crystal Palace Tent, Naeba Shokudo, and Gypsy Avalon have yet to be revealed and there are still some slots to be filled on the bigger stages as well. Expect another wave of musical gems to be revealed in two weeks or so.


*Photo by Emi and used with permission of Smashing Mag

Bring Yer Boots!

Leave your big buck boots at home, and bring the wellies!

As you are no doubt aware, the Fuji Rock Festival takes place in mid summer. Mid summer in Japan means rain. Just like early summer. And late summer, for that matter. A bit like spring. Maybe autumn too... Come to think of it, it always rains in this country!

And Fuji Rock is not immune to precipitation. In fact, one could say it gets more than it's fair share. I remember Dave Grohl commenting that it had rained EVERY year the Foo Fighters had played there, and that is many indeed! Shawn even found a snowman one year, though the jury is still out on how it got there...

So, the upshot of this is, bring your gumboots! They are the single most useful article of clothing you will have there. Don't bother with an umbrella. Bring a rain jacket if you must. But don't forget your wellies!

For the ladies, this doesn't mean leaving fashion behind. In fact, as several of the FRF staff have been made well aware, I have come to believe that gumboots are in fact one of the most appealing pieces of pedestrian protection you could pull on... These colourful numbers above were spotted on the streets of Shibuya this weekend past at the not too bad (though not to great) price of ¥3990. A little hunting around will net you something as flash for a lot less cash. Or you could go more upscale and blow ¥10k plus if you had to. Whatever your budget there is a boot waiting out there for you!

Just don't leave them behind when you leave, they'll serve you well again next year!

Report by Dom.

June 2, 2008

Shot At The Big Leagues


This will be my fourth consecutive Fuji Rock and it seems that every year I find a new favourite place to hang at the fest. As a virgin I was lured in by the seductive shimmering mirror balls and candles at Field Of Heaven. In my sophomore year I loved the peaceful, chilled out vibes at Gypsy Avalon. Last year, I was all about the newbies fighting to be noticed at Rookie A Go-Go. The line-up for 2008's Rookie A Go-Go has been announced and there are definitely some gems to see.

Scheduled to appear are

Charlie Brown&Baseball Team
mudy on the sakuban

There is a song from each act posted on Fuji Rock's official site.

In 2007, The Bawdies, The Spyzz, and Mass Of The Fermenting Dregs all made very strong cases that they were worthy of playing bigger stages at the fest in years to come. Who's going to make a run at the big time at the '08 edition?


*Picture of The Bawdies at Rookie A Go-Go in 2007 by Hoya

More bands announced - Old skool to the new


With today's announcement we add to the FRF 2008 lineup a few indie darlings a long-standing FRF fave and one unlikely hall-of-famer...

Today's announcement brought in a few surprises. First we get Bloc Party and Steven Malkmus and the Jicks (you may remember Malkmus's other band, Pavement).

Then there is Asian Dub Foundation, who have put on some of Fujirock's most memorable (and muddiest) shows.

And then of course, GRANDMASTER FLASH. Pardon me if i sound a bit excited, but this guy is a legend. And, let's not forget he's the first turntablist to enter the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (last year, with REM and Van Halen).

Other new acts:

Jakob Dylan
Simple Plan
The Vines
The Presidents of the United States of America
The Cromagnons
Little Tempo

and more

stay tuned.....

Band of Gypsies


Lock your doors. Hide your women.... Aw hell, bring out the bottle. Gogol Bordello's in town.

I'd have to agree with Jeff's earlier prediction and surmise that one of the staff faves this year will be Gogol Bordello.

Mixing balkan folk with punk attitude, this international hodge podge has earned some of the loudest buzz of the year. Interview here. More info and live show here.

Rock guru Robert Christgau said in an interview last year "See this band before they keel over". They are meant to be heard (and seen) live. A few example here, here and here.

Eugene Hutz, the Ukrainian singer and ersatz leader, has a knack for performing. In fact, you may have seen him on the silver screen as well (without the moustache, tho)


June 1, 2008

Drum Circles and their various forms

Festival goers wanting participatory music will by psyched by the new Stone Circle located deep at the end of the Orange Court. In case you are new to drum circles, Wikipedia categorizes this ancient form of music group into essentially three categories: 1) culturally specific drum circles like samba or African drums, 2) facilitated drum circles led by dudes like Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead or the Boredomes 77 Boa Drum, and finally, 3) anarchic circles where anything can happen.

The web is full of some pretty terrific drum circles. My favorite is the old hippy variety this one at Woodstock, New York, or one that has been going at Hippie Hill San Francisco's Golden Gate Park ever since Summer of Love in '67

Then there was one at Bonaroo when a couple hundred people began banging on an empty shipping container.

Heck, throw a few rocks into an empty beer or blow into an empty soda bottle and you can also get a pretty nice jam going. You don't need Youtube for that!

//sean s.

Ozomatli: Rockin' it all the right ways

Ozomatli absolutely tore it up the first time I saw them 6 years ago. There weren’t many around because it was 3AM on Sunday morning at the Red Marquee. I still remember it vividly: the band entered via a long congo line, and at the end of the night, they led the crowd outside into the Oasis Area where they climbed a tower and played as the hazy sun rose over the mountains on Monday morning.

From this first show, I was immediately hooked. I later learned that members of the band came together through their affiliation with the Peace and Justice Center of Los Angeles, and many of their first shows were benefits or charity concerts held at community centers in the LA area.

It was only a matter of time before the band blew-up, and their infectious Latin, hip hop, and samba sound would attract a larger audience. In fact, they made it on all the late-night shows like Conan O’Brien and recent appearance on Saturday Night Live

The band is also making another visit to Fuji Rock this year. And they probably won’t be playing so late at night. What is awesome to know is throughout their career, they continue to be committed to social causes. Next week, play the opening gala of the Stand Up for Freedom, 2008 ACLU Membership Conference

It just shows the band can rock the body and move the mind!

//sean s.

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