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Joe Strummer headlined Fuji Rock Festival this year. On all three days. He was everywhere. Since his tragic death at age 50 in December, the former Clash frontman has been deified by his army of Japanese fans: A shrine was built at the festival where you could place flowers or a can of beer. Before the music started on the Green Stage Friday, Joe’s two daughters thanked his fans, rock photographer Bob Gruen eulogized Joe and a letter from Joe’s wife was read out.

Watching from rock ‘n’ roll heaven, Joe was probably chuffed, but a little embarrassed about all this sentimental fuss. No doubt what he appreciated most were the little tributes that occurred spontaneously over the weekend. Clash songs blasted nonstop from sound systems, bands included Clash covers in their sets and fans wore homemade Clash-type clothes.

It was Joe’s love of Fuji Rock over the years and his readiness to muck it out with the fans that made him a hero. He deejayed at the first Fuji in ’97, played the Green Stage a few years later, and last year, at the Palace of Wonder, he got drunk with fans and kept the bonfire burning.

Many words were spoken about Joe, but maybe his own sum up the guy best:

“I was crawling up Mount Fuji [to my tent] and the typhoon’s like vertical rain in your face,” Joe said of the ’97 Fuji Rock while backstage at the Asagiri Jam festival last September. “I saw this tent and a little ventilation grill and I was tired halfway up the mountain so I looked in and there was this guy sitting with his feet in a hot-water tub and listening to The Beatles and drinking sake. And it was all warm and golden in there. I was sitting out there thinking, ‘That’s the way to do it.’ I felt like knocking on the tent door and asking if I could come in. I want to be his friend,”

Though Joe might not be a god, he can certainly now be declared the official patron saint of the Fuji Rock Festival.

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.

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