We went to Fuji Rock and it was…

Posted on 13.08.2017

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Wonderful is the wrong word.

It was everything. It was perfect.
It has ruined every other future festival concert for me.

We’ve been to other concerts here. Mark and I have both been to plenty of festival concerts in plenty of countries. I went to my first festival concert when I was 15. I saw Garbage from the front row. I got an autographed t-shirt from Shirley Manson. What could possibly top that?

I’m not sure much could ever top that first wonderful weekend concert with my friends in Baltimore at what would eventually become Ravens stadium. But Fuji Rock came along and nothing will ever be good enough after this.

We all pitched in to rent a car and paid for gas. We got up obscenely early to drive the 3 hours to get the Naeba ski resort, in Gunma. We parked and got on a bus and got dropped off at the festival gates.

And it was all just so GD organized. So GD civilized. So GD RELAXED.

Fuji Rock is now held at the Naeba Ski Resort, up in the mountains of Gunma prefecture. There is SO MUCH SPACE. There were 13 stages. There were forest walks! There was a giant forest playground for KIDS! Who brings kids to a festival concert?! Japanese people do, that’s who.

And there was no ‘festival gear for me and my crew’. Nope, none of it. Instead, it was more like if German people went on a camping trip. There were running and hiking leggings. Ponchos. Rain boots. Fishing hats. TARPS and folding chairs. People set up their tarps and folding chairs and walked away because THIS IS JAPAN AND YOU CAN DO THAT HERE. If this was at a festival in the US or the UK, that shit would be gone or damaged 10 minutes later.

There was a river. We jumped in it in our rain boots. There were food stands that actually offered vegetarian food options (not like Summer Sonic, that had us only eating french fries or Indian curry all day). There was so much space. We could sit down anywhere and not be in the way. There were so many fun places to check out. There was a nature boardwalk. There was more than one.

And there were SO MANY TOILETS. I know that’s a strange thing to be excited about, but anyone who’s ever had to wait in line for a port-a-pot at a festival knows the pain. And all of them had enough toilet paper, even on the final day, just before the final act. How did they manage that?! I packed wet napkins and tissues since I’ve got experience with this type of shit at festival concerts, and they remained unopened. They went home sealed. What in the actual fuck, you guys.

Bonobo!

And there was space to stand and enjoy the music. It’s something that might just be here in Japan, but people in the crowds are generally… polite? Not trying to push forward to get closer? I have personal space standing in a crowd of people?

We experienced this when Underworld played at Summer Sonic last year, although the crowd for Radiohead was terrible. We had space to dance near the stage while Underworld played, but who gets excited to rock out to 2+2=5? Apparently, Japanese people do. I never found the song so exciting, but whatever. I nearly got crushed to that song. To be fair, in 1995 I was standing in a sea of teenage girls that rushed the stage when Gavin Rossdale came on, so…

Even with Bjork, we had space. The crowd rushed once when she came on, and then that was it.

She was beautiful and amazing and OMG THAT VOICE. She could sing the ingredients list on a package of toothpaste and I’d want to buy it. There were some reviews written by people who have obviously never bothered to listen to a song by Bjork, who were confused by the videos she used in the concert. Half of them were self-made to suit the new album, and the other half were nature shots from Planet Earth and the BBC. If you’ve ever listened to a song by Bjork or, I don’t know, read the lyrics, the videos would make perfect sense. Do the fucking research, guys.

Anyway.

I used to be confused by some of my students who proudly stated that they religiously attend Fuji Rock every year. I know people who go to concerts all the time, but to drop so much money on this, regardless of who is playing, felt a bit odd to me. But now I think I get it, after having only spent a day there.

Especially when you consider how many days of vacation the average worker in Tokyo actually takes off (not even a fraction of the 20 they are given), then it becomes a lot more clear. Going to a concert like this, so far away from Tokyo, whether you are with friends or alone, it’s like visiting another planet.

It’s worth the hassle. It’s worth the money. It’s worth setting up your tent and camping, surrounded by other people. This is absolutely escapism and especially here, it’s sorely needed.

We’ve already decided we’ll be back, even if it’s just for one day and not the entire weekend. The feeling is too much to miss.

The break from Tokyo is too much to miss.

Here’s a link to an article that accurately describes the Fuji Rock experience, and the top performances. While I’m sad I couldn’t see Slowdive or the Avalanches, seeing Bjork was good enough for me!

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