- Fountains of Wayne - Really good show. Yes, they were playing all these hit songs you've heard on the radio, but they changed things around a bit, worked with the crowd throughout, and I wasn't bored at any point.
- レ・ロマネスク / Le Romanesque - Oh so don't ask. We made the trek out to the farthest venue at Fuji Rock called Cafe de Paris, which was supposedly a cabernet/burlesque sort of venue. Unfortunately, after the second continuous day of rain, the path to get there was an neverending slog through the deepening mud and the act that was performing was a Japanese guy in drag with a fake French accent. They did a couple funny bits in between the acts, but it didn't make the 40 minute trek to the back end of Fuji Rock feel worthwhile.
It's sort of a shame because the Cafe de Paris venue has a couple good ideas (you can join in a drum circle), but the access situation made it pretty brutal.
- Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra - Just awesome. Super high-energy full (12 or 14 people) Japanese ska band. As it turns out, language doesn't matter at all for ska... no one sat down during this show!
- Digitalism - We only caught a little bit of this show because we were headed to the next one, but while electronica isn't my particular favorite, they were doing the music/video integration thing pretty well!
- Faces - If you haven't heard of them, it's worth reading the Wikipedia article about this influential band. My friend Ken was very excited that I would get to see this show. Ken, I'm sorry to tell you that the reformed band has it's strong points (bass, guitar, and keys were all rocking) but it definitely has its weak points (vocals... after this show you can put me down as a Mick Hucknall non-fan, and frankly the bass player was so good that when the drummer didn't play it was better). They were all having fun playing loud roots rock, though. Probably it suffered because the next thing we saw was...
- Incubus - OK, so I had heard enough Incubus songs that I wanted to go to this show, but it's not like I was a huge fan. That all changed pretty much in the first song. Incubus, it turns out, is a live band -- the stuff on the radio isn't the point. First of all, they were incredibly tight (although at Fuji Rock, that was hardly rare). Next, they had the best sound mix of any band we heard... you might think that was a coincidence, but they also had the best video performance on the big screen -- it looks like they brought their own video guy with them. I didn't realize that Incubus has (always) included a DJ -- but seeing them live we realized how important it was to the show. They didn't just play the songs from the record, they made every song a little different and interesting. Brandon Boyd is really interesting to watch on stage, and did a good job of both letting everybody in the band have some time and of interacting with the audience. Even on "Drive", which is probably the song they were least interested in, they simply gave it to the crowd, having the audience sing most of the choruses. This is a band that understands what a modern concert needs to be, works all aspects of that experience, and delivered a great show. The best performance I saw at Fuji Rock.
- No Age - We saw this two-person outfit more or less by chance. They're pretty noisy-punky but high-energy and lots of fun. Impressive to see two people make that much noise!
- Cornershop - I was really looking forward to seeing this English band which mixes a lot of Indian themes and sounds to their pop (you may know their song Brimful of Asha). They turn out to be a 10-piece band with the guest Japanese DJ they had on board and did lots of extended jam songs, completely obviating my worry that they would just play their hit songs. Unfortunately, their frontman Tjinder Singh, while he writes cool songs and sings well, is just not very dynamic on stage. He ended every song by running back to get some water and generally stood perfectly still exactly behind the microphone. Again, no slight to him for the musicianship but...
I had to be at work first thing Monday morning so that was Fuji Rock for me this year! I did learn a few important things for attending Fuji Rock:
- You must must must must must come to Fuji Rock prepared for rain. Next time it's the full-on Japanese rubber work boots for sure, not to mention a better tent.
- Don't bother to come up Thursday unless you're the person grabbing the campsite. Take a half-day off Monday instead (stupid, stupid, stupid me, I had to miss the Cake and Chemical Brothers shows).
- The bigger the group of friends, the better!
Th-th-th-th-that's all for Fuji Rock 2011!