This year’s Fuji Rock Festival truly felt different. I came to this realization while being tossed around in a mosh pit.

Hours into Day One, I had mostly been wandering around Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture alone. “It’s the first Fuji Rock coming out of the pandemic era. What’s different? How are people acting? Should I count how many masks I see?” I thought, taking in the festivities from a distance and being entirely in my own head.

I soon met up with a friend to watch British crowd pleasers Idles on the main Green Stage. After some chit-chat, he pulled me toward the front of the stage just in time for the group’s final stretch — and a crowd ready to let loose. People flung themselves into one another, screamed right back at the band and eagerly lifted guitarist Mark Bowen above their heads as he crowd surfed.