|The Foo Fighters front
Smash's first stab at a winter rock festival
The Fuji Rock Festival, Japan's largest,
has been so successful it seems, that promoter Smash has been
able to branch out, devoting an increasing amount of its energy
to staging wide-ranging events. With FRF firmly settled into
its home at Naeba ski resort and the festival garnering increasing
crowds and plaudits, Smash decided in 2001 to launch Asagiri
Jam. The two-day event in the falla kind of smaller
scale, looser-structured FRFalso proved successful enough
for Smash to schedule a repeat last year.
Which leads us to Magic Rockout. Slated for the behemoth Makuhari
Messe convention center, a venue seeing an increasing number
of rock concerts, the new event is planned, says Smash, as
a kind of one-day FRF. Because Fuji Rock has created
an audience that enjoys events, said Smash's English-speaking
pointman Johnnie Fingers, we like to try different ideas.
As an all-night rock event, Magic Rockout is also somewhat
experimental in following in the footsteps of recent all-night
electronica events held at Makuhari like December's Electraglide,
which Smash was also involved in on the production end.
For Magic Rockout, Smash has booked a band guaranteed to provide
a strong draw as well as a performance-test live set in the
form of Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters. Grohl made a cameo
appearance at last summer's FRF as drummer with Queens
of the Stone Age, and the Foo Fighters played a little-publicized,
one-off gig in Tokyo last fall. But Magic Rockout will give
most Tokyoites their first chance to get a close up look at
the Foo Fighters since the release of their latest album,
last October's One By One.
The second big draw was supposed to have been Australia's
much hyped The Vines, but with their last-minute cancellation,
the next draw would appear to be alt-country act Wilco, making
their first appearance in Japan. Formed in 1994 out of the
remains of Uncle Tupelo, Wilco revolve around the songwriting
of frontman Jeff Tweedy. After releasing the definitive Being
There in 1996, the band fell into dispute with their record
label Warner after subsequent releases failed to sell as well
as Warner hoped.
Things came to a head in 2001 when Wilco rejected requests
by Warner to make their fourth album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,
more commercially viable and ended up buying the
unmixed studio tapes for a reported $50,000. Nonesuch ended
up picking up the album and releasing it early last year to
widespread acclaim. Meanwhile, an independent documentary
following the drama surrounding the album, I Am Trying to
Break Your Heart, was released last year.
Providing a distinct contrast to the Foo Fighters' gut-wrenching
punk-inflected rock and Wilco's alt-country musings are
the only British representatives on the Magic Rockout bill.
Emerging out of the same creative ferment of the UK's
mid-'90s Heavenly Social parties that also spawned the
Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, Death In Vegas have been
as equally difficult to pin down.
While their first album, 1997's Dead Elvis, was mostly
techno-centric, 1999's highly rated The Contino Sessions
saw the DJ duo of Richard Fearless and Tim Holmes, the core
of the band, take a left turn towards psychedelic rock. Last
year's Scorpio Rising also combined retro-rock with techno
in an approach that is similar to their Heavenly Social peers
but at the same time possesses a dark flavor entirely its
own. The album also featured Liam Gallagher and Paul Weller
among the many other guest stars.
Fronting the bill at Magic Rockout will be dependable local
punk unit Backdrop Bomb, and, in last-minute additions, two
bands from LA: quirky indie-rockers Arlo and dynamic rap-rock
group Crazy Town.
Magic Rockout takes place at Makuhari
Messe on February 8. See listings for details.