For day two of Fuji Rock in Japan, Jonny O’Hara reports on Bjork, Foals and The Bawdies for Noise11.
Saturday began on the main stage – The Green Stage – with the Japanese pop-rock outfit, The Bawdies. At the respectably early time of 11am, the front section of the stage was packed out with Japanese fans wearing Bawdies t-shirts, ready to shake off cobwebs from the previous night. The Japanese four piece walked on to the stage to great applause and much cheer. They were dressed in matching uniforms, a style found somewhere between The Beatles and The Hives. Their fashion sense wasn’t the only aspect that this English-singing Japanese band had in common with either of these artists either. Their tracks – a blend of pop and rock – were full of catchy riffs, choruses that were easy to singalong to, and a very energetic stage performance. As a first-timer, it was very easy get swept up in.
Midway through The Bawdies’, I set off on a 10-minute walk – through the magical forest pathway lined with inflatable installations – to The White Stage to catch a band called The Cherry Coke$. Honestly, I wanted to see the band purely based on their name. From their title, I imagined them to be a 60s pop-rock revival band with a sweet undertone, maybe similar to our very own Little Red in their early days. The Cherry Coke$ are not and will never be that. The Cherry Coke$ are a pirate buccaneer prog-rock band. As the seven members of the band filtered on to the stage, it was on. The lead guitarist was wearing two guitars at the same time (why, I can’t be sure); an accordion chimed into action; a flute rang out and then the metal/prog song structures and chords washed over the eager audience. Soon an Irish flag went up in the middle of the crowd (again, I’m not sure why) and people were sprinting, with the biggest of grins, into one very messy yet enjoyable mosh pit. Completely baffled and finding it hard to peel my eyes away, it was a strange thing to have witnessed but one I will not forget for some time.
On the way back to The Red Marquee stage, the third largest stage, the heavens opened up and it was pouring down. As this is the only stage with cover, Tom Odell’s live performance was a sudden must-see for everyone, and thus it became impossible to see as people tried to stay dry. I would have liked to have seen what I could hear, as his voice and piano skills sounded impressive live, but if I was going to get drenched, I thought it might as well have been for one of the bands on the lineup I was most excited to see.
Foals, the Oxford based five-piece were due to play on The Green Stage. With the weather being so terrible at that point, the crowd turnout was perhaps a little underwhelming. However, having seen these guys four times previous to Fuji Rock ’13, I knew they could turn it around. Following on from their their intro track to their latest album, Holy Fire, the band broke into the title track from their second album, ‘Total Life Forever’, which was met with welcome arms of the dedicated mass, swimming around in the D-barrier. The second single to come from Holy Fire, ‘My Number’ was met with enormous cheer, as the band played through one of the best indie-rock/alternative anthems of 2013 so far. After ‘My Number’, Foals continued to work through all their best songs from their three albums to date. Key tracks were ‘Red Sock Pugie’, ‘Spanish Sahara’, ‘Balloons’, and ‘Olympic Airways’ before ending on about as moshy a mosh pit as Foals could ask for with ‘Providence’ and ‘Two Steps Twice’ to close our their set. An incredible performance by the UK group; one that lightened the moods of many having to deal with the miserable weather conditions.
Following Foals on The Green Stage was Karl Hyde, famously known as one half of the UK electronic group, Underworld. Hyde began his set to a lazy Saturday afternoon audience, and by the end of his allotted time, the rain had cleared, the sun was out and ponchos were taken off, and the Japanese audience were embracing the moment, sounding their appreciation.
Another UK band on this year’s line up for Fuji Rock Festival ’13 was the synth-pop duo, Hurts. Their first two albums, Happiness and Exile, have managed to sell over 3 million copies worldwide, and it was evident that the pair are a Japanese favourite as the Red Marquee was packed out. Decked out with a full band, an impressive lighting show and a unique class of stage presence, Hurts sent hearts racing and fists flailing as they worked their way through tracks from both albums in a very professional fashion. Key tracks included ‘Wonderful Life’, ‘Better Than Love’ and ‘Somebody To Die For’.
A quick dash to The Green Stage and a shimmy through some orphaned camping chairs and picnic rugs (which was, to be honest, the greatest annoyance of the festival) left us finding a spot for Bjork. Soon the lights dimmed and her band of a small choir, drummer and organist filled the stage. The slight Icelandic icon then fluttered to the front of the stage wearing an incredibly colourful outfit, in the artistic vein as her album Biophilia and remix album, bastards. Lightning forked overhead, while (for once!) no rain fell as Bjork captured the attention of many during her Biophilia song, ‘Thunderbolt’. Two large screens hung directly behind Bjork and her band, as well as to either side of the stage, and featured incredible visuals; each different to which song was currently being performed. As these screens were consumed by mesmerising digital art, the audience never actually got to see a camera close up of Bjork, which I found made it difficult to connect with the legendary artist. Her set heavily based around tracks from Biophilia, but still kept fans enthralled with a blend of song from her illustrious career.
Once Bjork had yelled her final ‘Arigato!’, it was off to The White Stage to see what Jurassic 5 could muster. To begin their set, two caucasian men walked out to two sets of DJ decks, and began to sample, scratch, and get the crowd in the mood. One by one, each member of Jurassic 5 strutted on to the stage as they reeled off their individual lyrics, all coming together for the key words in their rhymes. The method of Jurassic 5’s live performance ensured a great vibe; the way they complimented each other lyrically and musically, how they prowled around the stage, engaging and encouraging the crowd to get involved. This was just the right amount of energy to remind the audience that Fuji Rock is not just about the soundscape and visual wonderment that was Bjork, it is a great party festival, too.