Not sure how mountains effect the movement of typhoons, so the storm that was threatening Honshu on Thursday didn’t concern me as far as how it would affect Fuji Rock 15. Driving up to Naeba, the clouds were dramatic but withholding. It wasn’t until we emerged from that last tunnel and entered Yuzawa town, where the festival is held, that we encountered rain. It was a very familiar feeling.
The pre-fest party was in full swing when we arrived, and packed with celebrants. The light drizzle didn’t dampen the spirits of the bon odori revelers, and the fireworks exhibition that officially opens the proceedings could be seen clearly by all, though the humidity seemed to thicken the consistency of the accompanying smoke. On occasion the rain would intensify to a shower, and since the Red Marquee was the only shelter available within the limited space open for the party it was more crowded than it would have been normally–but “normal” is a pretty relative term for Fuji and weather. In any case, in dealing with food issues and meeting up with friends we hadn’t seen for a while, we missed the Districts, one of the groups who deigned to play the pre-fest party (for free, rumor has it), but we did catch the tail end of the second act, a lively blend of female idol-inspired kayokyoku and Moulin Rouge called Charanporantan, whose etymology I will have to study. The lead singer wielded a wine bottle throughout the set in solidarity with the party hearty crowd. The all-girl group’s theatrical flair extended beyond their sartorial extravagance. They were cute by design, as if to point up through contrast how musically fluid they could be. The lead singer, dressed like some Lewis Carroll character, had her stage patter down, saucy and yielding in turn.
The Circus of Horrors was mainly a taste of the vaudeville act that would be playing continually at the Palace of Wonder throughout the weekend, a sideshow presentation set to heavy metal. The whitefaced ringmaster in top hat did karaoke to headbanging back tracks while various unusual persons demonstrated their imperviousness to pain or some peculiar athletic skill, which wasn’t really so peculiar–juggling, moving multiple hula hoops, that sort of thing. The main theme seemed to be an old-fashioned disregard for political correctness: the barely clothed women strutted their stuff, there was a “simpleton” and a dwarf. Anything goes, I suppose.
The closer was the Chilean duo Perrosky, yet another, blues-based drums and guitar outfit and just what the doctor ordered for this party: loud, tough, a little sloppy, and totally heartfelt, delivering on the promise that the festival so desperately makes: you will be rocked, typhoons and drizzle be damned. (text: Philip Brasor; photos: Mark Thompson)