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Tents & Bugs & Rock N Roll: 10 Years Of FRF On DVD

At the very beginning of Jon Helmer’s DVD Tents & Bugs and Rock N Roll, we see a dreadlocked Aussie or Kiwi or Brit (damned accents) standing outside the Naeba hotels getting totally blitzed about the fact that, somewhere within the walls of that hotel is Limp fucking Bizkit (profanity added by the present writer to better portray said excitement). This first section having been filmed in 1999, I concluded that either a) this was exactly the sort of time-warp nostalgia experience you look for in a DVD like this, because clearly the memo from on hipster high that the Bizkit suck hadn’t yet been circulated, or quite possibly b) this gentleman just thinks for himself. (For the record, I still think “Break Stuff” is one of the top 5 greatest raging angry songs ever.)


If it’s the latter, then the DVD is performing another valuable function, which it does fantastically throughout, of showing just what makes the Fuji Rock Festival special. In this case, it’s the fact that Japanese people, and consequently their premier outdoor festival, are just plain not cooler than thou. They just love music and love to party, and they love to do it in a safe, clean and inclusive manner.

(Member of Minneapolis hip-hop group Atmosphere: “Sometimes people try to lock us in [to a genre], but they can’t, and here they don’t give a fuck, they just want to shake their ass”.)

This point is demonstrated on this DVD a few minutes later when we see the head of security, a massive North American guy, mention that they have 80 staff on security detail, but that they’d have to have twice as many if this fest were anywhere else. Reason number 2.

Elsewhere in the bin we see the lost and found guy explaining their honor system for picking up your lost items from the cardboard boxes (pan over to festival goers freely digging through the boxes) carefully sorted into t-shirts, sunglasses, hats, etc. “We believe people”, he says “A little bit different from other countries, but we do.” (Sometimes a little nationalistic exceptionalism is alright in my book.) There’s even a clip at the beginning of Joe Strummer grousing about the idiot slob British who can’t seem to handle throwing a can in the bin instead of on the ground at their festivals, while the Japanese have such things completely sorted (my pun). Reason number 4.


Since the man behind the camera is a Brit, this ends up being a gaijin’s-eye view of the festival, as even the Japanese folks usually bust out with their best English for their observations (or, more often, drunken screaming). It’s a unique thing, this perspective, being that even though half the acts are Western and the headliners almost always are, attendance at the fest is surely well over 90% Japanese (and other far Easterners). So you end up as a Westerner stepping into a Japanese world that’s trying to step a little into the West, and that is composed of the outsiders and artists and the folks who know how to cut loose. Very different from the every day world that exists in Tokyo. This is one of the things that gets Westerners everywhere raving about the Fest, is that it’s really the best of both worlds, consistently from year to year, and it shows no signs of changing.

And this DVD captures that energy excellently. None of the billed musical acts are featured of course, but instead it is a series of clips of the festival goers and behind the scenes workers and the sideshows and the roving conceptual art and the spontaneous music and dance outbreaks (and one helicopter ride, in ‘06, to boot), alternating between people talking to the camera and musical and conceptual montages.

There is a roughly equal amount of footage for every year between 1999, when Helmer first had the camera shoved in his hands and was told to “point it at something”, and 2008. The DVD is easy to navigate too; just click the year you want to watch.

At 245 minutes, I didn’t think I’d be watching the whole thing in one afternoon, but I almost did, as the succession of clips just kept pulling me along, stoking my excitement for ‘09 happening a mere two weeks hence. (The disc sleeve recommends watching 30 seconds every morning before you go to work; seems reasonable.) I can’t think of a better way to promote the essence of Fuji Rock to the Western world than this DVD, so long as the tossers continue to stay home. (That is, the garbage tossers, i.e., the ones who toss their garbage on the ground. Of course that’s what I meant.) I hope it sells and plays in little corners the world over for years to come.


You can buy a copy for 1500 yen at the fest, or email info@vibeylibrary.com (or check the website of one of the producers, www.vibeylibrary.com; no info on the video posted there yet, though).


(Screenshots courtesy of Jon Helmer)


Got some info. about the sales of the DVD in Japan. It will be on sale at Ganban shop of the festival site only at this stage.

You made some Good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree.

Very nice site!

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