Bang! Take that Ishikari!
For the second year in a row I attended the mighty Rising Sun Rock Festival in EZO (ezo is of course the old name for Hokkaido but you knew that, right?) and for the second year in a row it was awesome. Rising Sun is only Japanese artists, as opposed to the big festivals on the main island which feature really huge international artists that force the Japanese bands to play second fiddle. There are advantages and disadvantages, but since I like a lot of Japanese music, it's great for me.
Last year's festival was fun but trying. We put up with torrential rain followed by scorching heat but it was made worth it by the interstellar line-up (if you like Japanese music that is) and generally great atmosphere. This year the weather was just peachy, not too hot and not too cold for the most part, and although the line-up wasn't all that amazing there was still plenty of awesome acts to slake my musical thirst. In fact, I kind of enjoyed not having someone to see every hour. It meant I could spend time just chilling out and even taking naps instead of running around like a crazy person trying to fit everyone in.
My hypothesis was that last year was the 10th anniversary so they just burnt the trust fund and stacked the bill as much as they could. This year therefore, spending was more frugal with the superstars mostly veterans (and often tucked away from the main stage oddly enough) and probably less choice overall. Certainly the electronic and hip-hop bills were a shade of last year's (if there was any hip-hop at all that is) so I felt sorry for Olivia who ate that up last time.
The atmosphere was great again, and the organisation (getting there and getting in) seemed to be way better. We were better prepared too, and since I booked a camping space right at the start we were pretty centrally located. And again - the toilets. I'll reiterate that when you think about it squat portaloos are a lot better than sitting portaloos, and the toilets at Rising Sun never ran out of paper. Incredible.
Another head scratcher this year was that all the food I had was really good. Y'know, for festival food. I don't know what was up with that, but I'm pretty happy about it. Smokers were well provided for with a glittering smoking oasis and cigarette girls in silver hot pants; the merch line was a trek in itself; people were getting very silly trying to collect all the 1" pin badges; and I didn't try out the karaoke stage, but I saw a couple of awesome performances there. Oh and this year I got a free towel from docomo so that I could wear a towel around my neck like 90% of the people there do: to block the sun, or to mop up sweat, or to fashion a tourniquet for any serious wounds.
I had a good festival, and here's what I saw:
Polysics were just as incredible as I hoped they would be. They weren't in the orange jumpsuits, it was even better than that. They were dressed in airline uniforms as pilots and cabin crew, and they put on a fantastic performance, especially their emotionless keyboard player and the guitarist who must have gone beyond the point of exhaustion he was running around so much.
I saw a little bit of HiGE and felt like I'd been sucked back in time to a Pop Will Eat Itself Concert or something. There was a drum machine, one guy with dreadlocks, one guy shouting through a megaphone and some catchy hard rock guitar. That was just the intro though and after that it settled a little into pretty catchy early nineties rock. I'll have to check them out a bit more, because the only thing I have of theirs is a one track experimental album that hardly sounds representative now.
Guitar Wolf were incredible. I mean, they're Guitar Wolf for crying out loud, I'd heard so much about how good they were live that I kind of expected to be let down a little. But ohhhh no, they were amazing. I think most of my ear damage for the weekend was done here, and there was an awesome extended "Kick Out The Jams" (I think, I couldn't be sure) where Guitar Wolf dragged a guy out of the crowd, onto the stage, gave him his guitar and pick in fake slo-mo and had that guy just pound the shit out of his guitar and go crazy. At the end of the set Guitar Wolf was on the barricades hanging into the crowd and drooling spit and snot all over people. Incredible.
I loved Capsule too. Yasutaka Nakata is kind of a music genius. His electronic music is so damn dense and satisfying and the singer looked so stylish and completely out of place at some dirty rock festival. Her dress was hypnotic too - it was very billowy and flouncy and seemed to move completely independently of her body. However by 1am on Friday night I was sorely flagging and Capsule were relentless - they would not stop their electro-pop onslaught! It was kind of like being force fed ice-cream for just a little too long. Only a little too long mind you.
On Saturday we kicked off with Beat Crusaders who have grown on me more and more since I devoted a couple of posts to them a while back. I like a lot of their songs now so I really enjoyed their set, and I loved the fact that their lead guitarist was dressed exactly like Eddie Van Halen. He introduced himself as Eddie Van Halen to a bemused reaction from the crowd and was immediately taunted by the lead singer.
The singer from Dragon Ash looks so manly, but the two dancers that they had were... somewhat less so. I only watched a couple of songs of theirs and to be honest, that was probably a couple too many.
Mi-Gu probably drew the smallest crowd I saw, but they (she? I'm not sure if it's the name of the band or her stage name) were (was?) awesome. Really fun, interesting electronic / space / indie / something.
I sacficed Sakanaction, who I really like, to see Midori who were just jazz/punk/noise madness. The keyboard player could not sit still, to the extent where sometimes he was just getting up and walking in a circle around his keyboard, and the singer climbed up the metal lighting frame at the side of the stage and jumped backwards into the audience. This is where the rest of my hearing damage came from.
Shibusashirazu Orchestra were my find of the festival. They're apparently a free-jazz group, but it sounded more like rock-opera to me and I was slowly drawn towards the stage as soon as they started warming up. Let's see they had live painting, three separate sets of dancers, three different vocalists and three or four guitarists along with a central orchestra of horns and strings and live painting and weird video art and fire breathing and someone using a circular saw to grind sparks into the air and the coolest goddamn conductor in the world. And it sounded good.
Eastern Youth were one of the first Japanese rock bands I heard, so I thought I should see them even though I'm never sure if I really like them or not. I had a nap that was so deep it would be better described as a one hour coma, and coming out of this stupor exactly when they started I lurched zombie like towards the tent they were playing and was really impressed. They played one of the few songs of theirs that I've listened to over and over again and a bunch of stuff I didn't know but which sounded great. I'm going to listen to more of their stuff now I reckon.
Finally I saw Mass of the Fermenting Dregs, who I looooove play the last slot on the Green Oasis stage. They're a really fantastic rock band who just seem to be enjoying the hell out of every moment and they're awesome and I want them to be really famous. I wish they'd been closing out the festival rather than The Pillows who played the final performance and who suck. Oh boy do they suck. I've always been ambivalent towards the Pillows, but after seeing them play properly now - they really suck.
But the festival didn't suck. It's the best festival I've been to IN THE WORLD (counting Glastonbury, which I attended the year a hundred thousand people jumped the fences, and which I'm sure is much better now, but at that time I described as "the worst place I'd ever been to") and god knows what'll be happening next year but I hope I can go again.
EZO or DIE!