Are you ready for the devil’s music? Well, at this summer’s music festivals you haven’t got a hope in hell of escaping from it. It’s been called garage rock, but a better brand name might be beelzebub bop. It’s the big new thing right now, but its roots go back to the likes of bluesman Robert Johnson — to when he sold his soul to Satan at the side of the road and kick-started rock’n’roll.

It’s raw, retro, rock’n’roll in which our heroes on stage bare their blackened souls by stripping down the music to the basics and jumping around like they’re in a frantic voodoo ritual. It’s a cathartic thing, where — just like Johnson and his ilk — the artists use music to exorcise the evil that’s gnawing at their souls. And later — nursing a few beers — these guys feel all the better for it.

Iggy Pop is the ultimate garage-rock icon. In the ’70s he’d pick fights with the punters and roll around in broken glass until it looked like he was sweating blood. Iggy is unlikely to repeat anything like that headlining the White Stage at Fuji Rock on Saturday night — I mean, he’s pushing 60 — but at a recent festival in the States the dude was scrambling up speaker stacks and jumping off them like an amphetamine-fueled chimp.

If you want more mad antics then check out the blues-punk of Guitar Wolf or the Sham 69/Stooges hybrid that is The Parkinsons earlier in the day on the same stage.

If permanently leather-clad Seiji (aka Guitar Wolf) doesn’t melt in the heat, he’s sure to carry out his usual stunt of diving into the crowd and dragging out a random fan to play his guitar as an encore. “When I say GO you make as much noise on that guitar as possible,” are his simple instructions to the bemused fan. The Parkinsons’ party tricks include doing a striptease and drinking beer out of their dirty boots.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. On Fuji’s opening day the polished garage rock of Thee Michelle Gun Elephant kicks off the action on the Green Stage, and later follow The Libertines, a temperamental bunch of nutters who sound a bit like The Jam and have been known to punch each other out before the end of their set. If you’d prefer a bit of headbanging, check out the bluesy-metal of D4 in the Red Marquee.

Actually, the Marquee is where all of these garage bands should be playing, as the stripped-down music is always going to sound better in a smaller venue rather than being sucked into the sky. It’ll be interesting to see if the bands can pull it off on the bigger stages.

The Strokes, who kicked off the interest in retro rock two years back, have lots of experience at playing big events, but it’ll be one helluvan achievement if they sound any good in the horribly cavernous Chiba Marine Stadium at the Summer Sonic festival. Summer Sonic also boasts the full-throttle Deep Purple-like metal of The Datsuns, the danceable pop grooves of Sweden’s Mando Diao, and the lo-fi blues-punk of The Kills. All excellent.

But, sticking my neck out, I reckon the biggest surprise of the summer could be the relatively unknown Kings Of Leon, who play the Summer Sonic indoor stage. Their brilliant debut album, “Youth and Young Manhood,” sounds like Dylan (if he’d invented punk rock), the Pogues (if they’d come out of Tennessee rather than Dublin) and the Stones (on their wasted-country vibe circa “Beggars Banquet”).

And if all that doesn’t get you drooling then stay off the sedatives.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.