There will be 223 acts performing at this year’s Fuji Rock Festival. Planning out your schedule in advance is recommended, traveling to and from the stages can eat up precious time. Here’s the route that I’m considering.
Three of the last four Fuji Rocks have taken place under unsullied blue skies, so the law of averages suggests that this year’s will be a soggy one. If so, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate pair of headliners than Sigur Ros and James Blake, who’ll be casting their introspective, melancholy spell over the Green Stage on Friday evening.
Earlier in the day, psychedelic shamans Boredoms — who played at the festival’s inaugural edition in 1997 — kick off the 20th-anniversary bash on the same stage, in what should be a truly ecstatic spectacle.
Anyone looking to get the pulse of Japanese millennials should check breakout hip-hop star Kohh followed by the infinitely less abrasive acid-jazz sextet Suchmos on the White Stage during the afternoon (oh, and stick around for the beguiling neo-soul of Los Angeles band The Internet, who have a strong local following).
Each year, the after-hours Palace of Wonder pavilion hosts a few bands that threaten to shake the rickety structure to the ground. This time around, the smart money is on funk act Con Brio, whose lithesome frontman, Ziek McCarter, channels enough sex-machine energy to power the entire greater Tokyo area.
If you wanted to have a lie-in, today’s the day: The first genuinely unmissable act doesn’t go on until after noon. Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force has an unlikely origin story — a group of Senegalese musicians directed by a German minimal techno producer — but the band’s insistent polyrhythms will have even the most stubborn listeners flailing on the dancefloor.
There are slim pickings during the rest of the afternoon, making this a good opportunity to explore the farther reaches of the festival site. Catch an intimate set by 72-year-old folk singer Tokiko Kato, the festival’s unofficial mascot, at the Cafe de Paris, followed by a David Bowie tribute at the adjacent Orange Cafe Busker Stop.
As evening falls, it’s worth heading over to the Green Stage for the affable alt-rock of Wilco, a band for whom the description “dependable” isn’t a backhanded compliment. They’re followed by two Class of ’97 alumni: Green Stage headliner Beck, whose recent live sets have ditched the earnest heartache of 2015 Grammy winner “Morning Phase” in favor of wall-to-wall hits; and, over on the White Stage, brain-frazzling electronica fiend Squarepusher.
Those in search of a musical nightcap can get it at the remote Pyramid Garden, where The Orb’s Alex Paterson is playing an ambient set from 1 a.m.
At the first-ever Fuji Rock, a typhoon destroyed the main stage on the opening day, though sadly not the band that was playing on it. Twenty years on, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are still peddling their resistible rap-rock, and will be getting the full red-carpet treatment when they headline the Green Stage tonight.
If you’re determined to miss them (in which case, congratulations), stick with the muscular spiritual jazz of Kamasi Washington at the Field of Heaven, then wander over to the White Stage for technologically enhanced math-rockers Battles.
The White Stage has the strongest lineup on Sunday, including an opening set by lunatic heavy rockers Bo Ningen, crowd-pleasing jazz from Soil & “Pimp” Sessions and Robert Glasper Experiment, and an appearance by headbanging idol unit Babymetal, whose booking prompted howls of protest from the crustier corners of the Fuji Rock fan base.
While many festival-goers turn in at a sensible hour on Sunday night, mindful of early starts the following morning, people determined to keep partying should hit the Red Marquee for late-night sets by Soichi Terada, the comeback kid of Japan’s 1990s house scene, and hypnotic disco specialist DJ Harvey.
If you need more info, here’s a handy playlist of all the artists (well, most of them) playing at this year’s Fuji Rock.
Fuji Rock Festival takes place at Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture on July 22, 23 and 24. For more information, visit www.fujirockfestival.com.
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