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Fuji Rock Festival 2012 | Review

Fuji Rock Festival 2012
Naeba, Niigata, Japan
Friday 27, Saturday 28, Sunday 29 July


As soon as I stepped out of the Shinkansen at Echigo Yuzawa Station, the “Welcome” banners of Fuji Rock Festival warmly greeted me, which only added on to my anticipation since the train ride from Ueno Station. The banners guided me towards the free shuttle bus pick-up point that will take me to the festival site.



When I boarded the bus, I realized people were just as thrilled as I am. Already it felt like a mini pre festival show in the bus with someone blasting Radiohead’s “Creep” on his speakers and the rest of us singing along at the top of our lungs. We were all just strangers and we barely knew each other’s name but we all knew we were going to experience one of the best outdoor music festival. The best bus ride I ever had, hands down.



Finally I reached the festival site after 25-30min of non-stop sing-alongs in the bus. The mountain peaks, lush green forest of pine trees and occasional cool mountain breeze delivering soft strokes on my skin left me astounded. I was finally here, all set and ready to experience my first Fuji Rock Festival!



The wristband queue was one of the MANY long queues I experienced throughout the three days festival. But I did not mind all of that at the point of time because everyone was carrying 1000-watt smiles even under the strong heat and mindless waiting and standing around.

Headed straight to the campsite after and immediately greeted by a huge spread of colourful tents all over the green hills and the sound of metals clanking from pitching tents made me realized that my first true Fuji Rock Festival experience awaits me from here onwards.





Friday 27 July 2012:

I came prepared with my own schedule of bands to watch and “The Stone Roses”, which was definitely one of the bands in my schedule, was the headliner for the night. The other bands that were on my ‘must-watch-list’ for the first day were “The Kooks” and Liam Gallagher’s “Beady Eye”. I planned to explore the festival ground on the first day as most of my to-see bands were in the later part of the evening.



Caught a little bit of “Hey-Smith”, a japanese punk band, opening the White Stage on the first day and I have to admit they did a wonderful job of setting the atmosphere right for a rock festival. Other bands that I saw during the day while exploring were “Django Django” and “Owl City”.



I spent most of my time on the first day by the river behind the artsy boardwalk just before the entrance to the White Stage. I have to say I enjoyed every moment of dipping my feet into the icy cold mountain water, splashing it all over my limbs and sometimes even dipping my head just to soothe and cool down my body temperature from the solid heat resonating from the sun.



Dusk fell and I headed towards the Red Marquee Stage half an hour earlier to get an intimate spot with “The Kooks” for their set. Eventually, the intimate spot that I saved for myself was being pushed and shoved for and I was slowly moving a little to the back together with the crowd which was as packed as a can of sardines. Nevertheless, that was the first time during the first day that I had so much fun, totally expending the energy I conserved during the long leisure by the river earlier in the day.



Afterwhich, I scurried over to the Green Stage for “Beady Eye” which had already started their first song. I was stunned by the staggering crowd, which covered every inch of the Green Stage field. I was okay with “Beady Eye”s adequate performance but I wasn’t very keen on Liam for his shameless ego, mocking his brother who will be playing on the second day and even nitpicking at the crowd. Oh well maybe that’s just him being himself.



Lastly, “The Stone Roses” ended my first Fuji Rock night with top Madchester class! They opened with the infectious “I Wanna Be Adored” and ended their set with “I Am The Resurrection”. Ian Brown loves Japan and the Japanese loves him more.





Saturday 28 July 2012:

First thing i did when I entered the festival ground for the second day was to pay a visit to the “Day Dreaming And Silent Breeze” location. In order to get there, I had to take a Dragondola for ¥1,200 near the entrance of Red Marquee stage. As the “Day Dreaming And Silent Breeze” area was further away from the main festival ground and on the higher peaks of Mount Naeba, it was only accesible by cable car. The duration of the cable car trip was around twenty minutes but it was worth every second of my time and every single yen that I paid for it.



The journey was genuinely breathtaking as the cable car climbed up the peaks at a really crazy steep height and plunged straight down into valleys, up over the trees again, revealing stunning rivers and picturesque mountains in the background like those you would only see in paintings. Once I reached my destination, it was totally another different atmosphere and feeling. I felt like the scene that was in front of me came from the finest and happiest dreams that I had before. I was welcomed by a couple of Japanese guys dressed up in panda costumes performing acoustic happy tunes to a small, cheerful crowd. Ended up staying up here for almost three hours and went back down to the main festival site just in time to catch “Mono”.



“Mono” played with The Holy Ground Orchestra at the White Stage. The weather was a nice shady feel and the mountain cool breeze went back to work after disappearing completely on the first day. The beautiful music by “Mono and The Holy Ground Orchestra” complimented the weather.



Moving on to the Red Marquee stage, “Spiritualized®”, fronted by Jason Pierce, was captivating the crowd’s attention with their sprawling space rock tunes and trippy visuals. Halfway through “Spiritualized®” set, people were already leaving for the Green Stage for the much anticipated “Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds”.



Noel put up a better act than his brother’s Beady Eye, to me at least, playing old tunes from the problematic Oasis such as “Don’t Look Back In Anger”.



I ended the night with french duo, Justice, channeling energy-fueled electronic disco beats accompanied by mind-blowing visual effects generated creatively with a staggering amount of lights.





Sunday 29 July 2012:

The day that I have been looking forward to the most was finally here. Two bands that I never thought I would ever see live, performed right in front of my eyes. Both hailing from Texas, USA and sharing the White Stage, they are “Explosions In The Sky” and “At The Drive-In”.



“Explosions In The Sky” played their lovely set through Japan’s dusking sky. I could not have asked for a better timing to enjoy their beautiful sounds. I vividly remembered looking up to sky and witnessing the sun set and dark sky glooming over the mountains while the strong instrumental sounds of “Explosions In The Sky” entertained my sense of hearing. Never ending goosebumps, teary eyes and overwhelming strong emotions of awe and elation choked up my air passage. I was trying to hold back the feeling of pure bliss that I was experiencing so as not to let tears roll down my cheeks and eventually making me look like a vulnerable little girl. The timing and the setting was something you would call epic for an “Explosions In The Sky” set. Best act in Fuji Rock Festival 2012 to me.


As for “At The Drive-In”, I have never imagined seeing these guys live at a show. Eversince they broke up in 2001 when their popularity was peaking, everybody were crazy for this “double-afro-fronted” band with their cracked antics on stage and hoping to see them get back together.



Finally after 11 years of “indefinite hiatus”, they announced their reunion on January 9, 2012 and played their first reunion show at this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. As soon as I heard that they were going to play at Fuji Rock Festival 2012 and confirmed them in the line up, I wasted no time in booking the tickets to see my afro idols going crazy on stage after an extremely long wait.



Their set would be the most fun I ever had out of the whole festival line up. From the beginning of “Arcarsenal”s maracas jingle that made the crowd go frantically wild to the catchy “One Armed Scissor” closure that even a shy-looking, kawaii Japanese girl beside me was singing her heart out to every single words in the song, “At The Drive-In” did not let us down as the closing band at the White Stage for this year’s Fuji Rock Festival, that’s for sure!

I also managed to catch “toe” earlier in the day and “The Shins”, who played their set in between “Explosions In The Sky” and “At The Drive-In”, at the Red Marquee Stage.



As I walked back to the campsite with sore calves and dry throat from all the jumping and screaming during “At The Drive-In”, I saw a new and huge sign up at the festival exit gates that read, “SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!!”. That made me ponder on Fuji Rock Festival 2013 line up. But all that pondering did not last long as soon as I reached the campsite and lied down in my tent, promptly giving in to the chills of Naeba’s cold night air, which blew my fatigue away. I was immediately in a deep sleep, waiting for dawn to break to pack up and leave this place with nothing but impressive memories and a heavy rucksack.



Oh and this year’s Fuji Rock Festival was DRY throughout. Would you call this a “first-timer’s-luck” for me then? Whatever it is, I know I will definitely come back next year regardless of the line up as the experience and people I met is something that I will look forward to every year.

Hopefully, Fuji Rock Festival will be a yearly must-go event for me starting from this year.



Trisno Dimas



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