Inspector Cluzo are two Frenchmen, Phil Jourdain and Malcomt Lacrouts. They are are both loud and funky, so much so that they often tour and record with Fishbone. Their debut album led to 123 consecutive gigs and the label "garage blues" which is something they hate. I think they're are a good bet to play Thursday’s opening party cuz they can rock the house.
Here’s an abbreviated email Q&A I did with them ahead of their Taipei show next week. It covers all kinds of things such as various clichés (a French word), playing at 105db, and how one French journalist described the band "as if the Melvins f@%^* Marvin Gaye!!”
They don't have an album out yet and they aren't legal to drink, but L.A. rock band Billy Boy On Poison do have a "charismatic lead singer" and "principle troublemaker" (and other cliches, according to the bio on their Facebook site penned by Lonn Friend), and a slot on this year's White Stage on Saturday. This one's a head scratcher...
His father was Kenyan, his mother a white American. He attended Harvard. He hails from Illinois. He developed an early interest in politics. And Rolling Stone rated him the 26th greatest guitarist of all time. He's Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and most recently, Street Sweeper Social Club.
For those whose well of nostalgia is pretty shallow--say, back to the pre-Lady GaGa days of 2006--the sudden inclusion of Bright Eyes at the Red Marquee should be a welcome surprise. Though Bright Eyes IS Conor Oberst, on his last two albums he's jettisoned the nom de singer-songwriter that graced his many albums since debuting at the age of 14 for his birth name. Can we expect those great old songs, like his only number 1 hit, "Lua"?
Glastonbury concluded this weekend, and to many, the festival will always be connected with Joe Strummer, the late-great Clash front man and the leader of the Mescaleros. His presence ranges from a memorial stone laid in Glastonbury’s Green Fields to a campfire tended by Strummerville--organization which nurtures young musicians and continues Strummer’s “Yes We Can” attitude to important causes. The same organization makes an annual appearance at the Palace of Wonder bringing many of the same cast and characters. Here is a video from Day 1 of Glastonbury.
One of the late additions to the line-up is Funeral Party from East Los Angeles. Relative unknowns to many – they’ve only released a 3-song EP called “Bootleg”- the band are getting lots of attention and big time management as somebody must have figured out they sound a lot like that other youth dance party sensation, MGMT.
Korean punksters Crying Nut are stars in their homeland, and virtually unknown anywhere else. They are as big domestically as any screaming punk band can expect to be. Their debut album became the best-selling indie release in Korean chart history, and after a blip when they fulfilled their national service obligations, they stormed back with contributions to various punk compilations and a tribute album entitled 'Smells like Nirvana'. It came in a scratch 'n' sniff case that released the odour of Kurt Cobain. No, it didn't.
Other releases include 'The Cow of OK Pasture' and '조선펑크', which translates as 'ROK the Casbah'. No, it doesn't. Or it might do. Who knows.
Diplo (nee Wesley Prentz) is seemingly everywhere now and his two Fuji Rock appearances are just an example of the breakneck, late-night schedule. He's even been getting lots of attention, in of all places, the New Yorker with no fewer 3 write-ups. Read a definitive history of Diplo and his involvement in the baile funk here
Of course, there's method to this madness and it has to do with his newest release, Major Lazer, which came out on June 16th. Nearly every music mag (on-line and print) has covered it, but there’s no use reading these reviews which sound like Diplo pulling a fast one on the reviewers, making them look downright silly. Don’t believe me, just try to make sense of this review in Popmatters. And I’m reading this straight! If I’d been on the scotch or sucking down some smoke, my head would have been producing a major “Whaaaaa?”
Which leads me to my final point, this music is about booty shaking!!!!! And here, Diplo, pulls out his final trick. The dude’s a filmmaker! And his vibe has been traveling the film circuit from SXSW to Seattle. So, without further adieu, here is some of Diplo’s finest.
As Phil previously mentioned in his "Breaking news" post, The Killers have canceled their appearance at this year's Fuji Rock.
The official comments from the band on FRF's site are: ""The Killers have been forced to cancel their appearance at this year's Fuji Rock Festival due to unforeseen circumstances. The band apologizes to their Japanese fans and hope to reschedule their shows in Japan soon."
Guitar gods ain't what they used to be. In fact, Eric Clapton, who WAS God for many years, has become such a personable, avuncular mensch over the past two decades that you feel sort of cheap boosting his chops over his singing, which peaked on "Layla" anyway. Still, it seems only fitting that Robert Randolph, maybe the most acclaimed rock guitarist of the 00s except for Derek Trucks, plays steel guitar and learned it in the service of gospel, effectively putting God back in His musical place as inspiration rather than enabler.
What is it about surfers that makes them turn out dreamy, melodious guitar twinkles? Or is it that people who produce that breezy rock are more likely to enjoy standing on a plank and having the ocean throw you onto the beach? Hayley Sales says on her Myspace page that she performs in the vein of Norah Jones, Ben Harper and Jack Johnson, but the latter one is the most obvious influence. And Donavon Frankenreiter.
Can there be any doubt that the hardest gig to catch at the fest will be Lily Allen in the Crystal Palace? She's gonna be the Gogol Bordello of 2009. The place is going to be heaving, and that's already my tip for show of the festival. Yeah, that's a ridiculous, meaningless, stupid prediction, but it will be.
One of the few pop genres that has been almost totally unrepresented at Fuji Rock over the years is "visual-kei," that brand of pop metal peculiar to Japan that tends to favor androgynous style over anything having to do with music. So the inclusion of the popular 90s band Kinniku Shojotai (literally, "Muscle Girl Belt")--or Show King as they are commonly referred to by their fans--in the White Stage roster on Saturday might be met with puzzled expressions. But one has to take into consideration leader Kenji Otsuki's role in Japanese pop culture, which, despite that odd facial tattoo and the hair, is fairly didactic.
I’ve written earlier how the 60’s era psychedelic band, Gong, was an early precursor to the techno scene. Those hanging around after Gong's Friday show at the Orange Court will see what I mean when Gong guitarist Steve Hillage hooks up with girlfriend Miquette Giraudy for a guitar-techno show called System 7. Click the vid for their show at Glastonbury two years ago.
Her costumes take their cue from a box of crayons, and with a crazy backing band that is part Brazilian samba and London street carnival, Ebony Thomas (nee Ebony Bones) has been getting lots of attention this summer.
Fujirock vets, Brahman have gone through a variety of phases over their 15 years, but one thing you can expect at their Green Stage performance this year will be mobs of groupies. Will their hard-core punk transform into acoustic ballads?
Don’t be afraid! The Japanese Popstars are not a supergroup of egomaniacal AVEX and Johnny’s artists headed by Ayu, Koda Kumi, and the KinKi Kids doing some sort of perverse “We Are The World” benefit for starving nailists.
Two years ago, the English duo of DJ rocked the Red Marquee. This summer the two James are back in Japan for Fuji Rock and you better be prepared to dance non-stop if you come over watch them. The band from London might also bring along few surprises and give the chances to our fellow Fujirockers the chance to ear few of their new tracks.
There should be lots of twenty and thirty something girls hanging around Field of Heaven on Sunday afternoon to see the reformed Sunny Day Service play it’s trademark unpretentious, lost-in-the-70s guitar pop. It’s funny: I have met so many Japanese girls who happen to be into bands like Mogwai and My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth that just can’t get enough of Sunny Day Service. Maybe this is what you need to listen to after a few hours of being morose, like coming up music, instead of coming down.
Who’s touring this summer is a straightforward formula according to the UK’s Guardian who describes it as: Proximity of latest album release + ( Current Popularity x Number of Hits) + Band Willingness. Fuji performers amongst the Guardian’s top 10 list of busy bands this summer include: Franz Ferdinand and Lily Allen (both with 21 gigs), Kaiser Chiefs (18), and the Killers (17).
With this in mind, it comes as a complete shock that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were added to the Fuji Rock line-up. Not only do they not have a new record in the pipeline, they even went so far as to cancel a much publicized recording session back in January of this year.
Let’s face it, if you read this blog. There is good chance you are a gaijin how doesn’t have a clue about half of the local artists performer on the lineup. However, Japan have some very cool artists that are well worth discovering and Fuji Rock provide you a great opportunity to do so… I personally believe that THE Japanese band not to miss this year is Polysics. I’ve seen them live before and they are sick and cool. However I already wrote an article about it so I’m not going to get back on the orange suit kids.
Here are some of other artists I will look forward to see and the reasons you too should come along…
A couple of small town brothers from the American south get rebellious, form a rock band, escape their Pentecostal upbringing, go to England, booze and carouse, go to model swapping parties, and screw and snort their way around the London music scene–-and no, it’s not Kings Of Leon. Plus I made that last bit up (about the models and the screwing and the snorting) but the first part is true.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you will know perfectly well what "Mancunian Lad Rock" is and how this category could be used to describe the Doves. So tied to this genre is the band that they’ve even recorded a version of “Blue Moon” for the Manchester City football club.
Sounding a lot like my favorite Minneapolis bands, Soul Asylum and The Replacements, Japan's Comeback My Daughters are well worth checking out. Another laurel in their cap is their much loved record label, Pizza of Death.
The British DJ known as Fake Blood has done quite well keeping his identity under wraps, even wearing masks behind the decks. But when you're touring the world, mixing on Radio One and keeping up with Twitter and other social media, it's only a matter of time before the jig is up.
Every year the Fuji Rock Festival features some great young bands from across Japan on the Rookie A Go-Go stage. It’s your first chance to get a glimpse of the next big thing. Don’t pass it up. This year’s list after the proverbial jump.
It's a bit late to tell you now, but Friday night in Yokohama there was a mini-fest featuring four Fuji acts: Tokyo Ska Para, Curly Giraffe, UA and this mob... Cool Wise Men. I'd never heard of them, but the rest of the Greenroom Festival line-up was so good I thought I'd check them out.
Musicians can be an incestuous lot, and that goes double for the DJ set. So I shouldn't be surprised to find less than six degrees of separation joining many of this year's late-night performers at the Red Marquee.
Modern rock criticism is a boring ramble of musical categories that few of us could care less about: post-rock, emo, screamcore, darkwave, etc. It’s as if these critics spent too much time in record bins and never have the chance to take one home, toke up a smoke, and let the free-form associations flow.
Thankfully, most bands – aside from Tortoise- this year at Fuji Rock don’t need categorizing. Still, if one wants to engage in this pedantic and useless exercise, I think it’s best if we use obscure, pejorative terms such as my new fave, “Mancunian Lad Rock.”
Longwave, an upstate-New York band, are having a tough time of it lately. Not fitting into any particular musical genre and getting "lame" record review in Pitchfork, read it here may mean that the best thing that could happen to this band is playing Fuji Rock this summer.
A look at the band's myspace site shows Fuji Rock as the only firm date this summer, a list of other cities are followed by initials “TBD” indicating the band has had its share of difficulty when it comes to fitting into the hip, new music scene.
Steve Nieve is an attraction and an impostor; one of two members of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that are on this year’s bill; and he is likely the only foreigner double-dipping in the chip dip that is Japan’s two major summer festivals: Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic.
For a band with a name that means “beard” in English, you would think all the members of HiGE (pronounced hee- gay, it only looks funny spelled out) might be sporting chin hair of some type, but only one member of this Tokyo quintet actually seems to have a beard. They do have two drummers, though.
Souvent lorsqu’on me demande la programmation de la prochaine édition de Fuji Rock, le seul truc que les gens veulent vraiment entendre c’est les gros noms de groupes d’étranger. C’est évident que les bands tel qu’Oasis et Weezer vont attirer leur part de fans mais sont-ils aussi relevant encore aujourd’hui ? Le Japon n’est pas sans gros nom aussi! Est-ce qu’il y a quelqu’un qui ne connaît pas Towa Tei ou Tei Towa comme disent les Japonais. Ce dernier est l’une des figures mythiques de la musique de club tant au Japon qu’à l’étranger…
Qui a dit que la vie d’une rock star devrait être sans morale? Sexe, drogue et rock & roll, non merci pour Diplo. Lorsqu’il s’est fait critiquer de récupérer les rythmes populaires des favelas soit en les incorporant dans l’un de ses remixes soit en produisant d’artistes tel que M.I.A. ou Santigold, le DJ américain originaire de Philadelphie à répliqué aux critiques en mettant sur pied un organisme à but non lucratif pour aider les jeunes. Une belle façon de redonner
Quelque choses de positifs à ceux qui l’on influencés et contribué à enrichir ses horizons musical.
I've always been a corporate rock apologist, but in the absence of FM radio it's mostly been off my radar lately. Which is probably why I didn't notice Jimmy Eat World's last two records, 2004's Futures and 2007's Chase This Light, even though I had been all over the bandwagon for their greatly respected indie-esque Clarity and for the pretty awesome single The Middle from their corporate rock breakthrough Bleed American.
So this here is my gift to you, dear readers: front row seats to my Chase This Light deflowering.
Ok, so I'll admit it. I didn't even know Booker T was still ALIVE until the Fujirock lineup announcement. But then I find out that his new album is fantastic and NOT a retread (!) and that his backing band is the Drive By Truckers (!!)
Mass Of The Fermenting Dregs. My vision of a rock band with that moniker and the reality are two completely different things. On Planet Japan, though, it’s a typically everyday and strange band name that doesn’t seem to raise any eyebrows.
What they are not: A bunch of mid-20s males, struggling to learn their instruments, trashed on stage and off, burning through bass/guitar/drum players in some sort of alcoholic narcoleptic haze.
What they are: A melodic-sounding indie J-Rock trio fronted by two intelligent and entertaining young women from Kobe.
Let’s face it, rock’n’roll is basically a bunch of garbage. It’s noisy, means nothing, and quickly fades into obscurity. Into this context, I introduce The Virgins, a band who will probably sell a million albums and live/breathe/die the “I don’t give a f&*# attitude ” about everything aside from getting laid or paid.
This self titled debut from the NYC band basically sucks because it has no original riffs or creativity. But, and I am talking about a big BUT here… The Virgins manage the mean trick of creating some of the summer’s best jams...
Speed freaks, hippies, and ravers all love Gong. Well, at least that was case ten years ago in Taipei when Gong was played at just about every outdoor jam or pre-dawn party. One guy wickedly recalled this scene as: “Demerol, wearing a dress, and flying on my motorcycle listening to Gong.”
While Gong’s popularity is not where it once was, many believe these early Gong parties were a precursor to Taipei's fledgling rave scene.....
Fuji Rock Festival is about more than just the headliners. Sure, the big name acts on the Green and White stages probably don’t need much in the way of introductions, but with over 200 artists performing over the course of the weekend there are bound to be a few you’ve never seen or heard. And of course, many of these acts are Japanese and relatively unknown outside of here.
So let me introduce you to one of the biggest and best online resources about popular music in Japan: Smashing Magazine.
Maxïmo Park’s first album, A Certain Trigger, is one of the best rock albums of the naughties, full stop. And I don’t mean ‘one of the best’ as in, say, the grey consolation prize area of the tail-end of the top 50. I mean top 10, just behind category killers like the White Stripes and My Morning Jacket. (The whole album is great, but the above two are probably the best tracks)
Brinsley Schwarz was probably the genre's most inventive band and Ducks Deluxe its most technically proficient, but pub rock's most exciting ensemble was definitely Dr. Feelgood. Greasy, bluesy, alcoholic and totally insane, the group played rock'n roll without any of the pretentious filtering that was de rigeuer on the English pop scene of the early 1970s, and the focal point of the band's intensity was the "machine gun guitar" of Wilko Johnson.
At last year's festival, Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Nozuka played the smallest and most obscure stage at Fuji Rock--the Mokudotei, which is basically a stop-off point on the portion of the boardwalk that connects the White Stage to the Orange Court. He managed to cause quite a traffic jam.
There are much more profound ideas in this interview with Chuck D in Monday's Metro, particularly if you're interested in music's place in this current muddle of pirating and pissed-off record companies, but my favourite insight into the fella is this:
What did you give Flavor Flav for his 50th birthday?
A gift certificate for one of his favourite restaurants.
A DJ once told me that he plays under his real name so that his mum can be proud when she sees it on the posters. Would the world have been the same if the boys from one of the headliners this year went by their birthnames: Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, William Drayton, Jr. and Norman Rogers...
The first time I saw Shibusa Shirazu (translates as something like "knows no cool") was in Gaienmae, Tokyo, in a basement with an audience of about 12. I think there were three or four members of the troupe present, and the music consisted of them blowing through their brass mouthpieces, minus the instruments that usually sit at the end and produce the nice sounds, plus a teacup and saucer with spoon sitting tight against the speaker and rattling from the vibes.
This song totally blows me away and has been virally circulating through the internet. The dancers in the background, or what Letterman calls, "trick or treaters," are less than inspiring and don't do the song justice. Shoot, i would simply like to see Paul Shaffer's bald head bobbing to this tune.
I’ve already said this before, but I will mention it again… I am psyched to see artists at Fuji Rock because back home in the US their shows are sold out! The latest commodity coming across the pond is Gang Gang Dance. My last try going to see this band was the opening party for the Nada Art Fair ( a young cousin of the bigger Art Basel Miami Beach event). I, along with 20 well dressed, pin stripe suited, big shots of the art world found ourselves locked out of this party. Nobody was getting in or out, and i had little choice but to console myselve with the indignity of sitting at a bar next door coiffing US$25 whisky drinks.
The last time Basement Jaxx played Fuji Rock (2004) I was lucky enough to interview them. I’d tell you what they said, but I forgot to press the Hold button on my IC recorder and managed to wipe the interview by the end of the festival. Not my greatest move ever. I’d already sold the interview to two publications, and neither of them were going to let me write a gonzo story about a writer’s hazy recollections.
Ces dernières années, le Festival de Fuji Rock nous a plutôt gâté côté musique électronique. Plusieurs nuits mémorables ont accueilli les meilleurs Djs que ce soit au Red Marquee, à la scène Ganban ou au Day Dreaming sur le toit de la montagne. Aussi plusieurs des artistes qui ont su faire bouger les Nippons étaient souvent venu de l’hexagone français. Justice, Teenage Bad Girl, Surkin, DJ Medhi pour n’en nommer que quelques un ont tous livrés de performance mémorable. Depuis l’avènement du phénomène Daft Punk, la « French Touch » est partout et fais vibrer les dance floors du monde entier. Par contre cette année, ce sont les Italiens qui font une entrée en force sur les planches de Naeba. Est-ce un signe que nos amis Français perdent leur touche magique?
What a life Booker T. Jones has had. He was the leader of one of the original race barrier-breaking '60s soul combos (the MGs); under his leadership the MGs were de facto house band for Stax, backing such greats as Otis Redding and Sam & Dave; he created classics such as Soul Limbo (aka the BBC cricket theme) and Green Onions; he went on to back Neil Young on 2002's "Are You Passionate?"; and most impressively of all, he provided hammond chops for Bruce Willis' timeless "The Return of Bruno".
Rock fashion is all over the map, from grunged-out hippies (See Palace of Wonder), punk-spirit indie kids (mostly Red Marquee and White Stage) to the tight-suited British invasion (big on the Green Stage). Fuji Rock might be the last place you'd want to break out your Saville Row tweeds and linens, but bands from Maximo Park (2005) to The Hives and The Strokes (2006), have been known to don cocktail party outfits to rock the the big stage with thin ties and pointy shoes.
Hipster mags such as The Fader have been championing Buraka Som Sistema and a handful of other African tinged music for the past couple of months. The music is punchy, high energy, booty shaking stuff, and unlike anything you've ever heard before.
I knew Animal Collective was playing Fuji Rock about 2 months before the official announcement and had a pretty hard time holding my tongue and not blogging about this info. Tell you the truth, I couldn't be more excited cuz this band is tearing it up on their North American tour, and it is darn hard getting a ticket to their show. As an example, their LA gig at the Fonda Theater was sold out weeks in advance with tix on Craig’s List going for US$150 apiece. Well, I considered paying the price, but unexpectedly ran into them somewhere else...
To celebrate their 25th anniversary this year, The Melvins are performing their 1993 seminal sludge metal album Houdini in its entirety at a few select gigs in the U.S. of A. We don’t know if this will be the case for their appearance at this year’s Fuji Rock Festival, but for those who like it on the dark and heavy side, Buzz Osborne and company’s set should be a top priority.
Friction is one of those bands that seem to have had more of an effect on other bands than they had on the public. Formed in the late 70s in Tokyo, the group was led by bassist/vocalist Reck, a devotee of what passed for garage rock in those days, namely bluesy punk that didn't eschew guitar flash but didn't really need it either.
Back in the early 90s a Japanese TV travel show followed the Japanese band Orquesta de la Luz to New York, where they were participating in a salsa festival at Madison Square Garden. At first, it looked like another of those documentaries showing the indestructibility of the Japanese spirit in the face of a hopeless challenge, like those amateur baseball players who always go over to the US and try out for the Mets or the Cardinals, with video cameras recording all their humiliations. But it wasn't like that at all.
Après une tournée les ayant emmenée au Brésil, en Italie, Coré, Allemagne, Suisse, Belge et en Angleterre. L’an dernier le duo français de DJ électronique The Shoes était de passage au Japon lor du Festival Summer Sonic. Mais cette année, c’est à Fuji Rock que les comparses du vinyle feront danser les petits nippons.
Punk kids en complet orange avec lunettes soleil rectangulaires, Polysics est groupe japonais influencé par Devo groupe mythique de la New wave Américaine. Formés en 1997, les jeunes Tokyoïtes ont déjà une base de fans assez considérable. Lors de leur spectacle de l’an dernier sur la scène principale de Summer Sonic, ils ont complètement volé le spectacle à la troupe de Devo, qu’il faut bien avouer qui se fait veillissant!
The funky METERS... not keen on the name. First, it's that avante-garde capitalisation that I thought only existed in Japan. Then there's the redundancy. The Meters already were funky - they were founding fathers of funk. It's like saying the Bluesy Howlin' Wolf or the Jazzy Miles Davis or the Boring-as-Batshit Coldplay.
"It's the best festival in the world. There's a lot of excitement and craziness, but the people are just so cool. At most festivals you're stuck in a tent somewhere. At Fuji I can walk around and talk to all the people. That really makes me happy."
Ida Maria Sivertsen moved out of her small hometown in Norway at the age of 16 to try and make it as a rock singer-songwriter in Bergen, but apparently even the country's second biggest city wasn't stimulating enough and she relocated to Stockholm, where the energy level suited her temperament.
Shibuya, apparently. The Fujirocker papparazzi crew have spotted the Sparks duo and Michael Franti cruising the teen playpen of Shibuya today, apparently not in any great hurry to leave Japan after their sets last weekend.
For all you gossip hounds ... members of Bloc Party (who, as you know, are playing The Green Stage on Friday) and Sex Pistols (who are headlining the Mountain Stage) at Summersonic got into a bit of a row Saturday night at the Summercase festival in Barcelona.
The Thursday evening pre-fest party, open to everyone for free and traditionally thrown as a kind of thank-you to the people of Naeba, has basically become an integrated part of the festival. Every year, more and more people show up so you might as well refer to Fuji as a three-and-a-half-day rock festival. Focused on a big old bon-odori blowout and climaxing with fireworks, the pre-fest party is the most Japanese thing at the festival, but the organizers always ask artists who happen to be there whether or not they'd like to play at it. In fact, some of the best performances we've ever seen at Fuji were at the pre-fest party: Dropkick Murphys in 2001, Electric Six and Danko Jones in 2003. We won't know until the 24th which 5 or 6 acts will deign to perform at the Red Marquee, but it wouldn't hurt to predict.
I saw Mono play a couple of years ago, and when I was given the task of writing about 3 bands playing at this year's Formoz Festival in Taipei, I naturally chose them. I gotta tell you I was skeptical because post-rock bands aren't the most articulate, and sometimes there is a language barrier involved.
To my surprise, the band was totally on the ball, and a little upset by one totally stupid question I asked. Oops!
Our favorite timekeeper in the world is Janet Weiss, formerly of Sleater-Kinney and Quasi and currently manning the kit as a Jick for ex-Pavement honcho Stephen Malkmus, who'll be gracing the White Stage this year with his snarky post-irony classic rock. Drummers don't normally get a lot of media attention, but there's a wonderful interview with Weiss that just showed up on the Village Voice website.
I almost spit out my coffee when a cover of the Replacements' “Bastards of Young” popped up on The Cribs’ myspace site. I was nervous. Would they do the song justice? Giving proper respect to this slacker-punk anthem....
I've heard it said more than once that US audiences prefer their funk slow and thumping, to nod their heads to, while UK audiences demand thunderous dance breaks to keep them jiggling their limbs. Perhaps that's why Minneapolis did so well with its squelching basslines, spacey synths and low-key drumming - while Brits were waiting for Keb Darge to bring them the gritty, raw and much more danceable deep funk.
Since my last post spotlighted acts who’ve tasted Fujirock’s sweet fruit and came back for seconds (or thirds, or fifths), I thought it appropriate to turn the focus on this year’s first-timers, many of whom are relative newbies on the live scene.
Look through lineups of Fujirocks past and you’re bound to see a few names pop up time and again. It’s no secret that Fujirock frequently has many returnees, and this year is no exception. What you may not know that usually it is the bands themselves that ask to come back year after year. That's right: Fujirock is that awesome.
Here’s a rundown (with links aplenty) of a few of this year’s repeat visitors and seasoned veterans.
It aint easy making the cover of NME. And when your mug appears weeks before the start of the outdoor rock season, you're gonna be in for a wild ride! Next is the inevitable Glasto gig, at night no less. You better rock it hard cuz all eyes are watching.
So what's your favorite Fuji moment ever? Forget about who played the best sets, and forget about that time in the woods with that chick/chap you met in Gypsy Avalon... I'm talking about the unique little memories that this festival throws at you.
Mine is from liver-impaired legend Shane McGowan and The Pogues:
Is it "To Be Determined" (TBD), or "To Be Considered" (TBC)? In either case, a large chunk of time has recently appeared reserved on Green Stage Sunday evening, indicating the schedule might not yet be complete. But who else is coming?
Sunday morning at Fuji tends to look (and sometimes even smell) like a mile-long hangover, with weekend partyers starting to reach the end of their tolerance for lack of sleep and other manifestations of common sense. You usually need an act who's incredibly dumb and fun (like The Knack a few years ago), or one that's loud and obnoxious (any 20-something pop punk band will do). So the first instance of cognitive dissonance I experienced during this year's pre-fest run-up was when I noticed that Mono was opening the White Stage on Sunday. WTF!?
Richie Hawtin is a veteran on the night live scene. Like any hardcore partygoer, he has probably had his fair share of sleepless nights Djing until the morning at different parties all over the world. But when I saw that he has been scheduled to perform at Tribal Circus (Red Marquee) on Saturday night from 3 :15 AM to 5 :00 AND at Day Dreaming from 10 :00 to 11 :30AM on Sunday morning, you have to wonder when this guy will find the time to sleep. Personally, I think that his early set on Sunday is a good occasion to try out the Dragondola without missing too much of the main action.
Portabiity has its rewards, and at Fuji one of them is the possibility of being invited to perform on multiple stages--not at the same time, mind you; though, considering the quirk factor of these two acts, I wouldn't be surprised if they hadn't tried to think of a way to make that happen.
Back in 2006 the drummer from New Mastersounds was roaming the audience at Unit looking for something that he felt might help him drum a little more enthusiastically. Either he found it or he never needed it, because the leaders of the New Funk scene whipped the audience up that night into the kind of crowd you'd expect at a heavy metal show.
Expect nothing less from their almost-headline slot in the Field of Heaven. This four-piece are legends of modern funk and the heirs to the Meters' crown. They had the wisdom to ask Keb Darge, the single-handed carver of the deep funk genre, to produce their breakthrough singles One Note Brown and Nervous.
File this under Completely Useless Bits of Trivia
One of the surprises for me in this year's Fuji Rock lineup (then again, maybe not - this being an election year and all) is the inclusion of Seattle's The Presidents of the United States of America.
So the schedule's up and we can start crossing names off our to-see lists. Wanted to see Galactic and Kasabian on Friday? Now you're gonna have to choose. Interested in Mark Stewart and The Maffia, but want to see if Mani really does join Ian Brown at other end of the festival in the Red marquee? No chance.
But somehow this year seems a little more.... thought out? Bootsy fans that want some more funk have 50 minutes to stroll to the nearby Field of Heaven for modern day funkateers the New Mastersounds. The kind of people who never budge from the Orange Court all weekend will probably want to catch the trio from SOIL&"PIMP"SESSIONS - who are playinga few yards away, just as the OC goes quiet.
I'm still wondering: Lee Scratch Perry or The Go Team? But for the most part, what a great piece of scheduling.
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:
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.
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.
"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!'"
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are many indie, esoteric, blog darling bands coming to Fuji Rock festival this year, of course, and this is always a good thing. Remember Broken Social Scene’s first appearance? Or the reverence the revellers had for Big Willie’s Burlesque (they’re back this year, by the way...). Or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The list could go on. And we know that the English writing team is going to have to draw straws for who gets to cover Gogol Bordello.
But if you want to see something "out there" and wild this year, then I suggest you get on over and catch Seasick Steve on Sunday July 27.
If what you like about rock is classic melodies and full multi-instrumental sound as well as musicianship and songwriting that don't need to namedrop 'punk' to excuse their simplicity, then Falkner (slated to play FRF 08 on Friday) belongs on your permanent playlist. Start with my favorite song of his, Afraid Himself To Be.
If you're not completely stoked at the prospect of seeing Gogol Bordello at the Fuji Rock Festival this year, well...can you tell me what time your Tuesday night knitting circle meets, because my grandmother has been looking for one to join.
Hutz seems to epitomize the best possible mash-up between a bona-fide Eastern European gypsy and NYC indie rocker. Listen to his thrashing of Americans' idea of a wedding 'celebration' (9:00 pm, they look at their watch, "well, gotta be gettin' up early tomorrow...") Judging by the Japanese crowd's spirited and immediate response to Celtic punk band Flogging Molly at 11:00 am at last years' FRF, Gogol promises to be an event to partake of this year.
Jazzbos will rightly grouse that there isn't enough of their favorite type of music at Fuji, which, after all, is a friggin' rock festival. However, music lovers of all stripes will find something to love in pianist Hiromi Uehara.
Hige (beard in Japanese) gave away free paste on mousaches with their latest album. If that's not enough to get you out to the White Stage 11:30 a.m. on Saturday (poor boys), then maybe their two drummers and throw back grunge will call you down.
Late at night, the Red Marquee is one of the best places to catch rising underground Japanese stars. A hip crowd is looking to dance and the local talent usually comes through with crowd shaking tunes. In 2003, a year after Dj Shadow blew the roof off with a breakbeat video fest, DJ Kentaro showed the homegrown talent was good enough to do the same without the visuals. Kentaro returns this year, 2 a.m. Saturday morning when you should have plenty of boogie on the first full day of Fuji. Don't miss it, and watch his feet.
When each day's performance schedule is finished and the last power chords have stopped buzzing through thoroughly abused monitors, the trudge starts: back to tents, to the last food court stalls left open, to the remaining beers in the chilly bins.
One of the sets I'm most looking forward to on Sunday is V∞REDOMS (or Boredoms as they are known overseas) on the White Stage. Following what will likely be a killer set by Battles, the Osaka quartet will definitely bring their A-game to FRF.
In a recent interview on allmusic.com, Yo La Tengo's James McNew was asked what it's like to play Japan. Here is a brief outtake of a cool interview YLT fans may want to check out to psych themselves up for the band's coming set at FRF07:l
MR: So then you go to Salt Lake City after that and then you go to Japan. What was it like when you first went there? JM: It was amazing. I feel like I'd spent my whole life waiting to go there. We played there in 1998, and it was the most magical, over-stimulating, amazing place I'd ever been. We're playing in July at the Fujirock Festival, which is a very big, popular festival there. This'll be our third time playing at it, and I'm really excited about it. As soon as we get home we're always thinking, "How do we get back? What do we have to do to get back there?" It's really one of my favorite places in the world. MR: What are the crowds like? JM: They're great. They're sort of shockingly respectful. MR: Well, I'm sure it's not shocking. You guys are a well-known band. Why wouldn't people respect you? JM: It's pretty shocking. In America, maybe above any other country in the world, people will just talk during a show. When I go out to see bands play, people will just talk through the whole thing. And text. Actually, texting isn't so bad just because it doesn't make any noise. It still boggles my mind that people will pay $20 each to get into a show and talk the whole way through it. When I'm elected mayor, I will make that...well, certainly a ticketable offense. Maybe more. I haven't decided exactly what the punishment would be for that.
Because their self-released debut was such an out-of-left-field surprise in 2005, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah seemed to own a distinctive style that couldn't be responsibly traced, despite leader Alec Ounsworth's vocal similarities to David Byrne.
One of the those artists who pops up every five years with an album that is so different from previous work that everyone calls it a resurrection, Vini Reilly, who, for all intents and purposes, is the Durutti Column, has mostly been the victim of record company fickleness.
Having begun the millennium in a quartet that combined electronics with "traditional songwriting," college pals James Ford and Jas Shaw eventually came to the conclusion that this hybrid fad made popular by the Beta Band was a crock and left with the electronics portion.
The last live appearance by Boom Boom Satellites was massive, nearly 180,000 people according the organizers of the Ho Hai Yan Rock Festival in Gongliao, Taiwan. It helped that the festival was free and held on a sandy beach, but still, the heavy turnout surprised many, turning a 30 minute stroll to the main stage into a 3-hour traffic jam of bikini-clad girls and other sunburned concert goers.
San Diego artist Jimmy LaValle, performing under the alias, The Album Leaf, has become well known in electronic music circles, playing contemporary electronic music that is not found in discos and nightclubs, but slower beats and rhythms that are more suited to cafes and underground rock clubs.
The august Brooklyn funk collective's third proper album, "Myth Takes," expands on its self-styled "electro-acoustic no-wave post-disco" sound by throwing more hip-hop and metal into the already crowded mix.
As a DJ, Don Coglione is as surprised as anyone else to find himself playing at Fuji Rock Festival this year. In fact, when he received an email inviting him to play at the festival after a gig at Super Deluxe a few months ago, he was sure it was "a bit of a wind-up. I mean, there's better funk DJ's in Tokyo than me..."
But perhaps none so pure.
When today's musicians take to the mic, it's often hard to figure out exactly what they're saying. When people around us misquote our favorite band, we can engage in some fairly intense discussion about the politics of verse and the thematic undercurrent of said tunes (because we know they're saying, "mega-mega white thing, mega-mega white thing..."). It's even harder if your native tongue is English, and you're (trying to) singing along with some Japanese rockers.
If you're into Asian Kung Fu Generation, and their latest album, Sol-fa, mumble no more! Tofu Records, the band's American distributor, is here to help with "official" English translations.
With so many stages and acts to choose from, it can be quite trying to decide which bands to watch at a large festival such as Fuji Rock. To try and help make your decisions a little simpler, Smashing Mag has a section where you can view all of the photo reports, live reports, CD reviews, and interviews it has featured with this year's FRF performers.
Looking back the history of rock music in Japan, perhaps the most important band was and still is "Happy End". Formed in the late 60's and making a debut in 1970 with "Happy End", in the following year, they released a classic, "Kazemachi Roman" before recording the last album, "HAPPY END", in the States with some members of Little Feat and Van Dyke Parks, as the producer.
The importance was to establish a style of rock in Japanese language with a heavy influence of Moby Grape, Buffalo Springfield as such and each one of the 4 guys of the band was to lead the scene in Japan straight after the happy end.There should be lots to be talked about for those 4 guys, but the most unique one was Haruomi Harry Hosono, whose grandfather was one of those survived from Titanic, who are to sail into an ocean of various music of the world. With some influence of James Taylor and some west coast music, he recorded "Hosono House" at his home in Hyde Park, Sayama city where US military forces were about to leave.
We know that Fuji Rock Fest will have its share of extended jams. Sure to bring a few surprise guests onstage (we hope) will no doubt be popular jam-band The String Cheese Incident. The Colorado-based sextet will play the Green Stage on Friday morning (11 to 11:45am), and they and all their phreaky phriends will be at play in the Field Of Heaven on Saturday night from 7:30 to 11pm.
With "jam" meaning something a little more important to the hungry all over the world, including SCI's present-day U.S. of A., their 2006 Summer Tour is aimed at helping out.
Tommy Guerrero is many things: a pioneer of street-style of skateboarding in the early 80's; a successful businessman who founded Real Skateboards and Deluxe distribution; and a guitarist jamming bluesy, free jazz rhythms.
Local audiences will be exposed to the musical side of Tommy Guerrero as he performs his latest EP Year of the Monkey on the White Stage, Friday, July 28th. It won't be his first trip to Japan, and as it turns out, it won't be his first time atop a major musical stage.
In an email interview with this website, Guerrero writes " i've been to Japan several times and have played for a handful of thousands so the nerves r calm and steady". In his native San Francisco, Guerrero plays with backing band Jet Black Crayon, regularly opening shows for highly acclaimed musical acts such as Tortoise.
We think rumors are for losers, but we can't help being intrigued by the buzz surrounding the upcoming appearance of Gnarls Barkley on the White Stage on Friday. It's entirely likely that had the scheduling been carried out now rather than two months ago, Gnarls would have been headlining the day since his single, "Crazy," is already the most downloaded song in British music history and the album from whence it came, St. Elsewhere, has been hovering around number one for most of the last nine weeks. It's currently at number 8 on the Blillboard chart, so even the US isn't immune to his charms.
Every year there's at least one artist who seems to be all over the place, playing on various stages, busking to all hours of the morning in the world food court, hanging with the hoi polloi outside the Palace of Wonder. Michael Franti and Eddi Reader come to mind from past festivals. This year the designated butterfly seems to be the quirky French singer-songwriter Anais, who will perform officially at the Naeba Shokudo at 10:40 pm on Saturday, and on Sunday at the Orange Court at 1:50 pm and at Gypsy Avalon at 4:30 pm.
I first stumbled upon Sun Paulo years ago at a free outdoor rave in Yoyogi Park, of all places. Didn't make sense at first: "What's this Rock n' Roll guy doing HERE?" But once he began clanging out riffs over electro everyone around him went nuts. One of the best acts to play Avalon the entire weekend, and definitely worth a look on Sunday night.
The photo is featured with a kind permission of Smashing Mag
String Cheese Incident, one of a dozen internationally known jam bands, will occupy the Gypsy Avalon stage once graced by fellow jammers; moe and Phil Lesh's Rat Dog. With sets upwards of four hours, the band is bound to break a few strings, and this year, in conjunction with Relix Magazine, broken guitar strings will be woven into wearable Relix Band bracelets, with proceeds going to charity. They don't come cheap at a price of US$99. Still, it's a small price for serious fans to "wear their music" and own guitar strings played by String Cheese Incident members, Bill Nershi, Keith Moseley, or Micheal Kang.
The photo is featured with a kind permission of Smashing Mag
Jack White's musical career is evolving. This time he's coming to Fuji Rock with The Racounters. The sound is basically the same; acapella vocals, acoustic guitar strumming and slapdash drumming. The backing band, composed of White's hometown Detroit friends, is heightened by the presence of outstanding of guitarist/vocalist, Brendan Benson. Many say the group's debut album Broken Boy Soldiers is effin brilliant, and there's no need to tell a Fuji Rock audience about the magnetism of White's live performance: his performance was festival highlight in 2004. If you're wondering what's in a name; a "raconteur" is someone delights in telling anecdotes, generally accepted as being a compliment, ie "he's such a witty raconteur".
Sunday morning's Green Stage opener is KODO, one of the Japan's most famous purveyors of indigenous Taiko drumming styles. They're also the most creative and ambitious, with their yearly world tours, team-ups with musicians around the globe, genre-expanding work and their own festival. The Earth Celebration Festival is held on Sado island, far from any major city. They invite one band from overseas to play the fest (think African drums, Romanian brass, etc), with the grand finale being a session with all musicans involved. Quite amazing. This year's act is Tamango's Urban Tap, which from what i understand is a mix of live musicans, world-beat, Jazz and tap dancing (Fred Estaire in a drum circle, perhaps?).
But Taiko at its most vibrant will be right there at FRF this year: Green Stage, Sunday @ 11.
Lots of folks go to FRF for the headliner, as is their right. But a vital part of a festival like Fujirock is stumbling onto some amazing act you've never heard of. I may ruin the surprise, but here's a couple bands I hope the more adventurous types wander into and love:
Most FRF veterans recognize Jason Mayall and his older brother Gaz as Fuji's top mischief-makers, but what you may not know is that they are both KICK-ASS dj's, with one of the best vinyl collections I've ever seen. And Gaz's club in London is one of the country's longest-running. Gaz has made countless collections of Ska, Blues, R&B and Rock n' Roll - many cassette only, but many others on labels like Trojan. The latest is nice sampler of what you'll probably hear on Saturday night at the club tent.
I received a mail from an old friend of mine called Saltz saying that he is coming to FRF with Happy Mondays. He was of the 4 vocalists of the Jazz Defektors who made sensation back in the mid 80's and the major force of Dance Jazz movement at the time. The music was great but their presentation on stage of the vocalists' unique dance was amazing and Their style was called Northern Style, mixing break dance with some factors of ballet, in comparison with the Southern Style of I.D.J. (I Dance Jazz) based in London whose dance was a mix of break dance and tap dance.
The impact of them with the whole lots of the new jazz, then to be called acid jazz, gave massive influence to Japan and it really gave a birth of a club land here. One of the major forces of the movement at the time was Kyoto Jazz Massive with Mondo Grosso and the main man behind was Shuya Okino, a wicked DJ, spinning discs on Friday at the Palace of Wonder before Katteni Shiyagare getting on stage.