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Kiyoshiro Imawano at Fuji Rock Festival

by Simon Bartz

Legendary rip-roaring rocker Kiyoshiro Imawano — who bears the soul of Otis Redding and the flamboyance of Marc Bolan — hasn’t had the best of times over the last few years. The keen cyclist first had his bicycle stolen, which seemed a threat to future Fuji Rock performances as he has been known to pedal up from Tokyo to the festival in distant Niigata Prefecture. Then, in 2006, the former R.C. Succession frontman had to cancel his show after discovering he had throat cancer. Happily, he returned to the stage at the end of last year, and his triumphant appearance as a headliner at this year’s Fuji Rock Festival will be sure to fire a charged emotional response.

Also check out: I’ll go for My Bloody Valentine, Kate Nash, The Cribs, Adrian Sherwood, Bettye Lavette, CSS, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Flower Travellin’ Band. You might like Underworld, Bloc Party, Primal Scream, Richie Hawtin and Asian Dub Foundation. But don’t forget the Palace of Wonder — last year my highlight was dancing to Northern Soul and Jamaican ska down there till dawn with Jarvis Cocker.

The setting: Japan’s most famous festival has the most scenic setting — mountains, woodland, and clean rivers to swim in when it gets hot. But pack a raincoat as well.

When/where: Naeba ski resort in Niigata Prefecture; July 25-27, plus free prefestival party on-site July 24. Take the Shinkansen to JR Echigo-Yuzawa Station, then a free bus to the site — or get on your bike! Three-day tickets ¥39,800; one-day tickets ¥16,800. Fuji Rock Festival’s English Web site.