The Sunday openers are usually a very different breed of musician than those who start up Friday or even Saturday. Those people are supposed to jump start the audience, but the Sunday acts tend to be more soothing, since more likely than not anyone who manages to drag themselves out of their tents before noon is feeling the previous night’s excesses. So it was only proper that Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith, who seems to play Fuji every two years or so, took the Green Stage with his gentle songs of love and pain. Self-deprecating to the point of ridiculousness (“Here’s one you may know…or maybe not”), he was dressed in a spiffy checked sport coat and a straw fedora, his characteristically boyish features filled out considerably in middle age. He speaking voice is indistinguishable from the one he uses to sing: lilting and a little shy. When he occasionally breaks out in a solo on his acoustic guitar, you surprised he has that much fight in him.
Sexsmith dedicated the set to a woman who worked for Smash but apparently doesn’t any more. We’d hate to think she might have died, but it was difficult to tell in Sexsmith’s dedication, which didn’t seem particularly sad. He has lots of fans in Japan, despite the language barrier, and when we went close to the stage we saw a lot of them swaying to his lovely little melodies and mouthing the works. Most were couples. It’s the kind to music that seems to appeal to people who are happy in love, rather than those who aren’t, and when he left the stage after a strong 50 minutes, he received a heartfelt ovation that belied the tiny crowd. He’ll be back.
The White Stage had a relatively laid back opener as well. Real Estate, the New Jersey band who plays a satisfyingly redundant, slightly hazy take on guitar pop was the perfect band to ease the crowd into a Sunday that threatened to be as wet as Saturday, but toward the end of the set the drizzle let up and there was even a few patches of blue. Martin Courtney has one of those high, very white voices that wouldn’t hurt a fly even if he were reciting Danzig lyrics, and combined with the group’s infectious sense of melody, the audience, which almost filled the White Stage area, fell right into their mid-tempo rhythms. It was better than aspirin, and easier to take.