The Stone Roses, Beady Eye & more - Fuji Rock Festival
We arrived at Naeba (the event doesn’t actually take place at Fuji) at around noon on July 27th, with various bands having already started playing across the festival’s fourteen stages. A daunting prospect in terms of coverage, I decided to familiarize myself with the layout, having just missed Ed Sheeran on the Green Stage.
Things took a little longer than I had expected, however, as my next port of call, Chatmonchy at the Red Marquee, also proved to be a no-go as I found myself trying to enter the stage from the wrong side. A big disappointment for sure and I was starting to worry that the day would only get worse. But while I may have missed out on some great music, there was no denying how incredible the atmosphere felt. The scenery is simply a marvel, with campsites scattered across the hill ranges as far as the eye can see, while thousands of people of all ages were clearly having fun as they walked to and from stages. The weather was promising also: a tad cloudy early on, it ended up warm and sunny, with a welcoming breeze that made the experience far more bearable than the humid 36 degree heats I was putting up with back in Tokyo.
By the time the evening had starting to roll around, it was all about the big hitters. My first major stop would be at the Green Stage to soak up the electric rock sounds of Boom Boom Satellites. By this point the venue had really started to fill out and the excitement was in full swing. A legion of fans pushed up to the barriers as Michiyuki, Masayuki and Yoko took up their instruments and belted out a string of hits across a one hour set; Michiyuki offering a little showmanship as he run up and down the stage at various intervals proved especially fun, not to mention his appreciation of the audience support, whom he often gazed upon with a smile. It was also nice to see the security being well controlled and understanding of several crowd surfers, patting them on the back before showing them back to their spots…where they’d just repeat their previous actions!
It was soon time to head back to the Red Marquee for The Kooks and as I arrived the place was jam-packed. I took in the performance like most of the other spectators, having been defeated again by my own lack of navigational skills. The band put in a spirited performance though, with lead singer Luke Pritchard jumping all over the place and apologising for his poor Japanese. Not that it mattered in the slightest with a triumphant set list that did more than enough to appease the adoring crowd.
I had to make a quick dash back to the Green Stage as Beady Eye was playing immediately after at 19:20. There was a bit of a wait with the band entering stage maybe ten minutes later than scheduled and Liam’s swagger seemed to suggest that he didn’t have a care in the world. “Fuji rocks and so do we!” he proclaimed. The set up wasn’t to his immediate liking though as he shouted to the front of stage “Turn the fucking spot lights off, this isn’t a light show”; to be fair the amount of strobing was bordering on the ridiculous prior to the set taking off, already threatening to give its audience major headaches. Once they got into the swing of things, Liam and company rattled through their debut album, in addition to playing two Oasis numbers - ‘Rock N Roll Star’ and ‘Morning Glory’ - of which they dedicated to Noel and his “High Flying Smurfs”. A tad disappointing to see Liam continue to harbour some bad blood on stage, which I don't think helped to engage the crowd as much as the later bands would.
As night fell and with people clamouring to see the evening’s big acts, it became trickier to move around. However, it was to be third time lucky with the Red Marquee as I darted across to catch Ocean Colour Scene at 20:30. To be honest I hadn’t expected to see the kind of turnout they got but it ultimately proved to be one of the most satisfying experiences of the day. The group took us through all of their hits, with Simon’s vocals on fine form. They had the audience eating out of their hands; it was simply an incredibly emotional performance and I don’t know if that was down to myself having not heard them like this in over fifteen years or if it was just seeing waves of hands constantly in the air. Certainly an all-round lovely gig and the announcement of a new album made it all the sweeter.
Although the festival would run well into the early hours my final stop would be to see headliners The Stone Roses at 21:30. Much has already been said of previous performances, some saying that Ian Brown’s vocals had been middling early on, with a gradual improvement over the course of their extensive touring. Tonight I don’t think it could have gone any smoother. The anticipation was palpable; a sea of arms met ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. Ask and ye shall receive. They ran through most of their back catalogue with an exceptionally crafted set list which managed to save all the best numbers for the right moments. ‘Waterfall’ and ‘She Bangs The Drums’ were firm favourites, while the final song ‘I Am The Resurrection’ felt suitably apt for a band that has deservedly risen from the ashes to enjoy their moment in the sun once more.
And then it was time to go home. Leaving the site takes some time as you’re moving one step every few seconds but I can’t argue that the event wasn’t well organised. This was a thoroughly pleasant experience, with zero trouble and all smiling faces. My first time at FRF had proven to be a bit of a learning exercise but now I’m ready for the next one.
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