It has only been three years since Fuji Rock Festival posted its highest-ever attendance figures, with a little help from Radiohead and The Stone Roses, but you wouldn’t have known it from the steady drumbeat of glumness that heralded this year’s edition. Following a lackluster showing in 2014, when Kanye West canceled, Jack Johnson fizzled and only 102,000 people bothered to show up (down from 140,000 in 2012), the festival badly needed a hit. Yet the signs weren’t promising.
As details of the 2015 lineup trickled out during the spring, longtime fans of the festival snorted, sighed and rolled their eyes. Though it boasted some solidly crowd-pleasing headliners in the form of Muse, Foo Fighters and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, the Fuji Rock bill otherwise seemed haphazard and a little desperate, whether embracing the kinds of mainstream Japanese rock bands that the event had once pointedly ignored ([Alexandros], One OK Rock), or attempting to lure younger listeners with commercial dance music (Deadmau5, Galantis).