5 things we loved about Fuji Rock Festival 2013

JADE LLOYD reports on Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival, which brought the likes of Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, Vampire Weekend and Bjork to a ski resort in Niigata over the weekend. Photos by Sabasimo/Flickr.

While Splendour punters were angrily tweeting about no-shows, long queues and overpriced drinks, punters at Fuji Rock, Japan’s biggest music festival were happily enjoying BYO Asahi, clean toilets and eyeing off the kind of outfits that make Bjork’s sartorial choices seem tame. Fuji Rock is the festival for those convinced they’re over them. But be warned, Japan still hasn’t worked out a way to control the weather. So bring gumboots.

You can get there from Tokyo in 90 minutes via bullet train

Held at the foot of a mountain, the Fuji site is spectacular; the kind of lush green we never see in drought-stricken Australia. It’s country living, perfect for a camping festival but conveniently only 90 minutes on a bullet train from Tokyo. You could in theory commute from the city every day.

You can buy $2 beers from a vending machine

The Japanese have calculated down to the very last Portaloo the exact number of food stalls, shuttle buses and bathrooms needed for 100,000 people. Yes, that includes bar lines. It’s BYO for the campsite, every stall sells alcohol (not just bars) and if that fails to eradicate a queue, there’s vending machines near the site selling Asahi for $2. It’s impossible to miss a band at Fuji because you’re stuck in a line.

No dickheads!

Even after 12 hours of cheap beer flowing freely, the Japanese crowd never loses its collective mind. Unfailingly polite and friendly even when they topple off of a camping chair, it’s the kind of drunk composure that doesn’t need intimidating security and sniffer dogs to tame.

It’s cheaper than you think

A ticket with camping was $460. Return flights were $1000. ALL alcohol is only $5 on-site or $1.50 for a beer at the grocery store. Food is around $5. Fuji Rock t-shirt is $35. Now add up what you just spent on Splendour – and you’re in Japan!

The bands weren’t half-bad either

It’s all there, with retro headliners (The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, My Bloody Valentine and Bjork), indie brand names touring a new album (The xx, Vampire Weekend), current hype machines (Haim, Daughter) and if your tastes are eclectic, or you dig heavy metal or Japanese ska punk, Fuji is definitely the place. Here were some highlights:

Haim played the set of the festival – even without an album out. There were drums, tambourines, guitars, harmonies, hair tossing, leather pants, short shorts and the best bassface by the oldest Haim, Este. (Someone dedicate a Tumblr immediately!) Believe the hype.

Tame Impala We had an inkling they were big after meeting a few Japanese who’d travelled to Fuji just to see them. The Perth boys are kind of a BIG deal in this country. A patriotic tear or two welled with ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ delivering a sing-a-long as big as any back home.

Foals: The weather was at its worst during their set, and while they lacked a little energy, they’re professional rockstars these days, delivering a set surprisingly loaded with hits from 2008 debut Antidotes. I’d argue with anyone that ‘Two Steps Twice’ is still one of the best encore songs ever written.

Portugal The Man: Playing early on the final day, their energy and genuine enthusiasm (taking photos of the crowd … awww) lifted the spirits of an audience struggling to stay awake after three nights of partying.

Daughter: Live their sound is much, much bigger than on this year’s debut, If You Leave. In fact if Mogwai had a vocalist they’d probably sound a little like Daughter.

Bjork: She’s a quirky lady wholeheartedly embraced by a quirky country. Only in Japan could a Bjork-led spectacle seem almost normal. Backed by a choir and eye-popping visuals while wearing sequin boots you didn’t need a big screen to see, she drew a huge crowd utterly in thrall. For a tiny lady she knows how to command and silence a crowd.

Vampire Weekend: Their new jams lend themselves just as well to that special brand of daggy dad dancing as their old hits. Their light hearted tunes have always suited a festival and it seems three albums in the band are having just as much fun as the crowd.