The granddaddy of domestic rock festivals is the brainchild of one of Japanese rock’s most colorful characters, promoter Masa Hidaka. The head of Smash Corp—immediately recognizable in his cowboy hat—sought to create something like England’s Glastonbury, and some Glastonbury staff are actually involved in Fuji Rock.
This year marks its 15th incarnation, and follows FRF ’10’s celebrity supergroups (Them Crooked Vultures and Atoms For Peace) with multiple repeaters Coldplay and The Chemical Brothers, joined by Faces as headliners.
Faces—the ’60s UK supergroup fronted by Ron Wood and Rod Stewart—are back on the reunion warpath, with Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall replacing Stewart on vocals and the Sex Pistol’s Glen Matlock taking the role of the deceased Ronnie Lane on bass.
Supporting the headliners on the main Green, White and Red Marquee stages will be bands like Arctic Monkeys, Cake, YMO, Battles and another vintage post-punk act on the comeback trail, Big Audio Dynamite.
But Fuji veterans know the best fun is often at the smaller stages that dot the sprawling river valley setting of the festival. At stages like the Orange Court and Palace of Wonder, punters can take in a slew of fascinating acts, like the highly recommended Big Willie’s Burlesque, singer-songwriter auteurs like Todd Rundgren, neo-folk sensation Noah And The Whale, blues legend Buddy Guy, and Leftfield New York guitarist Marc Ribot.
Fuji also stands out with its diverse roster of world music acts. Not to be missed are Africa’s Tinariwen, a group of former Tuareg independence fighters whose Saharan desert tribal blues has inspired a reverent following worldwide. Also from Africa are Amadou & Mariam and Congotronics, while Spanish hothead Manu Chao knows a thing or two about revving up a festival crowd himself.
Beat fetishists can also work themselves into a lather with midnight sessions featuring the likes of onetime Underworld member Darren Emerson and critically acclaimed experimentalists Four Tet.
Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata Prefecture, July 29-31, 39,800 yen (three-day pass)/16,800 yen (one-day pass).© Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp)