Fuji Rock Festival 2003

OK, the Fuji Rock Festival 2003 was absolutely amazing. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a weekend music festival, and this was as good as I remember. I actually went to the Fuji Rock Festival when it started in 1997 and whilst the music was excellent, the organisation was poor. I’ve been a few times since, and it just seems to get bigger and better – building facilities and stages, without sacrificing the overall feel – the all night DJ sessions and lights, artists, sculptures…and rain made it a great event.

The camping area was pretty good, and I have to say that though the toilet queues were long, no one can say that they didn’t try. There was lots of food to be had too – from Fish and Chips to Ramen to Curry (lots of curry actually).

As I mentioned Asian Dub Foundation were great, delivering great music and a rant about the occupation of Iraq. Primal Scream were awesome as ever, lots of energy, and Saturday night rounded off with Bjork and a cool light show and fireworks. I have to say that I thought Primal’ would have been a better closer, but Bjork seems a bit more famous here – if only for her film role last year rather than as ex-Sugarcubes/solo singer.

The rain was falling well from about 7, but most people had given up on staying dry anyway, so it didn’t seem to spoil it for anyone. Of the bands we saw, it was a great place to hear new stuff. On Sunday we started off with a young Japanese band called Sugardonuts, who, despite the drummer’s kick drum breaking, put in an amazing show in front of the handful of people awake at 11am! We took the opportunity to walk around the huge site, try some food and see the smaller acts on the side stage, and a lot of them were really good – no one can say this festival was just a couple of big names – the support was great too.

We were impressed by a new band Evanescence to the point that we bought their CD on the way out. We ducked out of the Coldplay gig to go and see Anthrax on the second stage, and I’m glad to say I did – they rocked like never before, ripping through a greatest hits set including ‘Bring the Noise’. As we made our way back afterwards to the crowds at the main stage in front of Coldplay we knew we made the right choice – I like Coldplay, but at this kind of festival, you need a few bands to kick up some noise. Finally, we listened to a bit of Steve Winwood to chill out before putting the tent away and making our way back to the last Shinkansen. Tired, wet and a little sun burned.

Despite it’s name, the festival is held yearly in Naeba, in the mountains north of Tokyo – it’s 75 min. shinkansen ride, followed by a 40 min. bus ride, so not too bad. The scenery is beautiful, and makes a welcome change from Tokyo – if you’re in Tokyo in the summer and want to get out – get to the Fuji Rock Festival.