Organized each fall by Fuji Rock promoter Smash, Asagiri Jam is a much more laidback affair than its famed older sister. It features two stages and the music wraps up early each night. And while Fuji Rock has some 200 plus bands, Asagiri Jam only invites two dozen, which means a lot less running around for everyone.

Turtle Island will open the Moonshine Stage and is definitely worth arriving early for. A tribal orchestra of sorts, the group features 17 members playing a rousing mishmash of traditional Japanese rhythms, carnival music and punk.

Formed in 1999 in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, Turtle Island operated on a much smaller scale when it initially began.

“We started as a three piece,” says vocalist Yoshiki Nagayama. “We had two taiko drummers and a vocalist and played a very primitive style of music. As time passed, things naturally expanded into what we are now.”

Having lots of players allows Turtle Island to take songs in many different directions and makes for some wild gigs. But are there any challenges with having so many bodies in the band?

“When things are a mess, it’s a total mess,” Nagayama says with a laugh. “And it’s a pain in the ass to get things scheduled!”

In June, Turtle Island traveled to England to play at Glastonbury. The highest-profile gig of its career, the group opened the festival’s main Pyramid Stage.

“I believe it was Smash’s U.K. office that recommended us for Glastonbury,” Nagayama explains. “We were happy to perform at one of the biggest festivals in the world, but for most of us it wasn’t a goal to be there so we didn’t know what to expect. It definitely gave us a good story to tell our families.”

Since 2011, Turtle Island has been organizing its own annual festival in Toyota called Soul Beat Asia. Run completely by solar power, the grassroots outing draws upwards of 8,000 people. And while the band appreciated being invited to Glastonbury, the event gave them new perspective on which venues are best suited for them.

“It was mind-blowing to see the size of Glastonbury from an organizer’s point of view,” Nagayama says. “And with the Pyramid Stage, since it’s such a huge stage you lose the rawness of the music. It made me once again realize that bigger is not always better.

“But it was exciting to see the festival and there were a fair amount of people who came to see this unknown Japanese punk band and they seemed to enjoy it. I walked around after our show and many people came up and said, ‘Oh you guys were amazing!’ and stuff like that, which made me happy.”

With only 12,000 tickets being sold for Asagiri Jam, the event’s crowd should have little problem feeling the intensity of Turtle Island’s set. Does the band have anything special planned for its Asagiri debut?

“We always play hard no matter what,” Nagayama says. “At Asagiri Jam, we’ll just let it all out.”

Asagiri Jam takes place Oct. 11 and 12 at Asagiri Arena in Shizuoka Pref. Two-day tickets cost ¥15,000. For more information, visit smash-jpn.com/asagiri.

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