Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Fuji Rock Festival 2017 Part 1: The lead-up and Thursday

After the insane line-up of last year’s 20th anniversary special, with the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck and Disclosure, my expectations for Fuji Rock 2017 were low. I figured they needed to cut back and save some serious dollar.

2016 Line-up
So, after the headliners were finally revealed in February, you can only imagine the delirious sense of excitement I felt to see that Aphex Twin, Gorillaz, QOTSA, Avalanches and many more amazing artists were due to play. This was a dream line-up. Convincing my sister to come out for her 30th birthday and join me at the festival was not difficult after I, (A) offered to pay for her ticket myself as a birthday gift, and (B) dropped the big B-word, as though sniffing the words out of Jesus’ holy fart waft himself, that’s right: BJORK was headlining. 

2017 Line-up
Chez arrived in Japan a week and a half before the festival. In the few days leading up to Fuji Rock, we were adamantly checking the weather forecast, trying to prepare as best as we could. The pressure was on as Chez had only ever had bad experiences with weather at music festivals in the past, and was almost ready to give up on them altogether, until I had convinced her to come out to Fuji Rock this year and give it one last try.  
Chez (left) and me (right) In the days leading up to the festival

Unfortunately, 24 hours before our departure to the festival, the weather forecast took a turn for the worst: 4 straight days of thunderstorms and torrential rainfall without a glimmer of sunshine – how bleak. This is what we were now facing. When I got home after work on the Wednesday, the two of us wallowed in our disappointment. there were dream-crushing tears, “why me?” moments, and talks of potentially not going at all. Our family can be quite over-emotional at times to say the least.

We headed to Ikebukuro for some dinner where we met up with Matt, and then to Don Q to stock up on cheap rain gear. We actually got in quite a bit of trouble with the manager and had to flee before we could buy everything we wanted, but that’s another story.

With our wellies, full-body rain suits, fleeces and hats packed, we left Thursday morning and head to the town of Yuzawa, where a shuttle bus took us to the festival site. There our friend Motoko had kindly saved a spot for us to pitch our tents. When we arrived it was overcast but dry. We considered ourselves lucky to be able to set up our tents before the inevitable rainfall. This was the “calm before the storm” as I kept smugly pointing out.

Naeba Ski Resort
Fuji Rock is held at Naeba ski resort which has a mountainous, green landscape. I was again reminded that Niigata truly is a beautiful part of the world. Within a few hours of the campsite being open, people had already begun pitching tents at steep, awkward angles down the sides of mountains. Campers were rapidly pouring in and the flat spaces quickly filled up. 

Camping on the mountains at Fuji Rock

Motoko took us to a nearby onsen for some necessary relaxation, after a morning of the stresses and strains that come with lugging heavy baggage through Tokyo’s rush hour commute. I was glad to see Chez enjoying her first onsen experience. Bathing naked with a load of people you’ve never met is always a weird one for first-timers. 

That Thursday night we continued to feel lucky in the dry outdoors whilst attending the free pre-festival party when the food stalls and Red Marquee were open. We learnt a bon odori dance routine, lost a raffle, and watched some mediocre fireworks followed by even more mediocre acts, before retiring to our tents where Chez and I both had an awful night of sleep having not yet adjusted to camping.

My Fuji Rock 2017 playlist on Spotify:

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