Big bag of cheese ‘n’ mushroom sandwiches: yummy. Bottle of tequila: check. Crate of Yebisu beer: yup. Jump in the Devilmobile and find the city seems to never end, but after three hours on petrol and beer our ears are popping as we spiral up the backside of a mountain near Naeba in Niigata Prefecture on oxygen and tequila and reach out for heaven via the Fuji Rock Festival.
The Devilmobile is a van that talks to you. It objects when you try to go beyond 80 kph by going “bleepy bleepy blop blip” like R2D2 with a migraine sampled by Aphex Twin. It gets our feet a tapping … nervously.
We’re worried about parking ‘cos the Prince Hotel (my room a mere 100,000 yen for four nights) tells me I have to call organizers Smash for a parking space and Smash tells me it’s too late: I should have applied for a space when I applied for the press pass. When we get to the gate I show my hotel pass and we’re given a three-day parking ticket with no questions asked. That’s nice. The next morning we open the fridge and find our beer is not cold.
Hiroko calls the front desk. She tells us: “They said it’s not a fridge, it’s a cool box. If you put cold drinks in there it’s gonna keep them cold.”
Me: “But how do we get them cold in the first place?”
Warren takes the phone: “I was just told that the fridge in the room is a nonfridge … oh, it is a fridge …”
Me: “I have a fridge that keeps beer at room temperature.”
Warren (phone): “… right, I must put ice in the fridge for it to work, and I can have 22 ice cubes for 100 yen.”
Ma-chan: “It says refrigerator on the refrigerator door.”
We turn on the radio and hear:
Girl: “There’s a little sort of grassy area…There’s a path [from the Green] to the White stage. It’s a little wooded area. There’s constant dragonflies. It is a great place and the weather is beautiful.”
Guy: “So what’s the crowd like this year?”
Girl: “… It looks pretty packed … I’m quite impressed with the turnout …”
Guy: “Well that’s great. What’s the fashion there today?”
Girl: “It seems the thing to wear is a towel … haha … around your … haha … head.”
Girl: “Without a hat you’re gonna be fried. Already I noticed that at Woodstock it was $4 a bottle of water while here it is only 200 yen!”
Guy: “What a deal! … That’s great!”
First stop is the New Stage, which is behind the dance tent and at the end of a wide corridor of dusty gravel flanked on either side by an array of fast-food joints. There’s chicken curry everywhere. It goes really well with the frothy festival beer and the portable toilets.
Missile Girl Scoot’s tattooed banshee Junn whips the mosh pit into a frenzy with her vicious raps, her growls, her howls and constant threat to bare her breasts. While Junn spits venom, U-Ry slips in vocal harmonies, which gives a cool twist to this hardcore rap-metal.
We move through the biggest field housing the huge Green Stage to hang out at the smaller White Stage for the rest of the day.
Regular Fries is spaced-out Primal Scream and much better on record, while Death in Vegas serves up a bunch of full-on hyper-hypnotic guitar grooves; like a harder, faster Mogwai.
Audio Active is ace although the heavy dub gets a little lost in the big open space, while the Propellerheads “live” experience is a wash-out — a guy sticking a tape on and cluelessly jumping around stage. But guests the Jungle Brothers rescue a few tracks with lively rapping. Finally, Underworld and everyone bop their hearts out to an effortlessly seamless techno groove.
Behind the White Stage are the Fields of Heaven where Phish play 10-hour sets. Phish are the new Grateful Dead. They’re playing in the Fields of Heaven every day to a loyal hardcore following of 1,000 Phish-heads. We wouldn’t be seen dead there.
Each day there seems to be between 25,000 and 30,000 people on the site and most seem to be having lots of fun in a relatively mellow, orderly fashion, but I bet all of them will all have their own rock ‘n’ roll story to tell by the end of the three days. The only casualties I see are in my hotel room each morning.
The next day the fridge decides to work. Armed with beer we hang at the Green Stage in the center of the site.
The Boredoms boast three drummers and make aggressive and impressive primal noise. Skunk Anansie is absolute crap. Limp Bizkit makes me droop, but at least the mosh pit gets a good workout, unlike with the stop-start-repeat-50-times antics of fast-becoming-boring loop fast-becoming-boring Chemical Brothers. And then Blur.
Tonight Blur are gods. Damon (unshaven, greasy hair, peaked army cap, baggy jeans — the car-mechanic-on-smack look) brings us to tears with “The Universal,” culminating with the singer jumping down into the mosh pit escape lane to slap palms with the lucky fans at the front. The crowd-pleasing set is topped off by a thunderous encore of “Boys and Girls,” “Parklife” and “Song 2.” Magnificent.
A huge black guy from Tribal Security comes up to us and begins drowning us in praise and flattery, saying how he likes our style and about how we “do it cool.” He’s not referring to anything specific. We don’t know him. He doesn’t know us. He’s simply trying to convince this girl he’s with that we are a famous band who he knows so he can impress the girl and get shagged. We play along because he’s massaging our egos and we want to help him get laid.
Later the same girl accosts us in a field, thinking Warren is a member of Rage Against the Machine, and asks to have her photo taken with him.
On our last day I wake up to find my room is strewn with bodies of all shapes and sizes and various other dodgy debris that suggests a major party of some kind was held the night before.
We stagger down to the Green Stage and fight our way to the front of the mosh pit.
Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros come on, and, as ex-pected, the ex-Clash singer plays a bunch of his former band’s songs and I surf the crowd to superduper stabs at “Rock the Casbah” and “Brand New Cadillac.” The Happy Mondays are surprisingly tight and ZZ Top poses admirably.
It was a tough weekend of arduous partying, but we all had a fantastic time. This was the third, and by far the best, Fuji Rock Festival and when it ended we all wished it could have continued forever.
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