Sonic relief

With the second largest music market in the world, Japan has an audience for just about every kind of song imaginable. And over the past few decades, a range of music festivals have sprouted catering to all tastes. From rock to world beat and everything in between, Music Editor Dan Grunebaum previews the summer' music festivals.

Summer music festivals in Japan didn't begin with Fuji Rock or the Newport Jazz Festival. The Japanese have been beating the drum, singing and dancing in the streets ever since the summer Bon Odori festivals emerged in the distant past. Only now, rock, world music, classical, jazz and techno take their place alongside Bon Odori in providing sonic relief from the summer heat. In the words of Virgin Records' Miki Monta, "Summer festivals have become an essential part of culture for Japanese music fans."

Fuji Rock Festival
FRF wasn't the first rock festival in Japan, but since its launch five years ago, it has certainly grown into the mother of all Japanese rock events. With its commitment not only to introducing Western acts to Japanese audiences but to creating a vibrant rock culture in Japan, promoter Smash has crafted a three-day extravaganza that runs the gamut from classic rock to cutting-edge electronica.

But things weren't always so good. After a typhoon swept Mt Fuji, causing the cancellation of the first FRF in1997 and the hospitalization of fans for exposure, things looked iffy. FRF '98 took up residence temporarily at the Tokyo bayside, before Smash settled on the green slopes of Naeba Ski resort for FRF '99, a location that has proved a good fit, with plenty of room for the festival's five stages.

Smash has already announced the lineup for FRF '01, with a noticeably more mainstream emphasis than a year ago. "Last year it was difficult to get headliners because all the acts that were available had already played Fuji Rock in previous years," explains Smash pointman Johnnie Fingers. "We wanted to get Neil Young last year, but he wasn't available. This year's headliners Neil Young, Oasis, and Eminem are the first thing people notice. But Fuji Rock every year has close to 100 acts performing on five stages over three days. We also try and make it an event where people get a chance to see and enjoy artists that they normally would not be exposed to."


Other marquee acts include Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers, singer-songwriters Alanis Morissette and Ani DiFranco, '80s electropop pioneers New Order, alternative rockers Tool and Dropkick Murphys, and veteran rock poet Patti Smith. Electronica heavyweights include Coldcut, Autechre, the Orb and Richie Hawtin, while Japan is represented by indies favorites Brahman, Kemuri, Dry & Heavy, and Eastern Youth, and rappers Rappagariya and Nitro Micro Underground.

Pick: Brian Eno, founder of Roxy Music, modern ambient music pioneer, and producer of classic rock albums from the Talking Heads' Fear of Music to U2's Joshua Tree, will be making a rare visit to Japan, exclusive to Fuji Rock. Eno will be performing with his new unit, Drawn From Life, a collaboration with emerging German DJ Peter Schwalm.

Flash!! Ex-Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan to join New Order at FRF.
NME has reported that Billy Corgan, former frontman for alternative rock superstars the Smashing Pumpkins, will be joining New Order onstage at Fuji Rock. A fan of New Order for years, Corgan also appears on their forthcoming album, Get Ready, due out in August.

When: July 27-29
Where: Naeba Ski Resort, Naeba Prefecture
Tickets: JY14,500 (one day), JY29,000 (two days), JY38,000 (three days)
Info: FRF '01 Info Center: 0180-993-998
Fan site:  

Friday 27
Green Stage: Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, Travis, Asian Dub Foundation, Dropkick Murphys, Kemuri.
White Stage: Tricky, Mos Def, Nitro Micro Underground, Muro, Rappagariya.
Red Marquee (daytime): Husking Bee, Semisonic, Feeder, Mo Solid Gold, Super Butter Dog, Gerling.
Red Marquee (Planet Groove nighttime): Stereo MCs, UNKLE Sounds.
Field of Heaven: Boredoms, Miracle Young, Kururi, Auto Pilot, Labcry.

Saturday 28
Green Stage: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Alanis Morissette, Stereophonics, Patti Smith, Hothouse Flowers, Number Girl.
White Stage: New Order, Alec Empire, Mogwai, Yamakaze, Regurgitator, Eastern Youth.
Red Marquee (daytime): Echo & The Bunnymen, Powderfinger, South, 28 Days, Mo'some Tonebender, Supercar.
Red Marquee (Tribal Circus nighttime): Wagon Christ, Dub Squad, Fumiya Tanaka, Richie Hawtin
Field of Heaven: Kemuri, Shibusa Shirazu Orchestra, Rovo, Soul Flower Mononoke Summit, Double Famous, Pe'z.

Sunday 29
Green Stage: Eminem, Tool, System Of A Down, Xzibit, Dry & Heavy, Brahman.
White Stage: Drawn From Life featuring Brian Eno and Peter Schwalm, Coldcut, Autechre, Squarepusher, Y. Sunahara, Little Tempo.
Red Marquee: Ani DiFranco, Ron Sexmith, Tom McRae, northern bright.
Field of Heaven: Hothouse Flowers, Ruffy Tuffy, Bigfrog, Sion, Kisel.

Shea Seger

Summer Sonic
Although they won't perhaps say so, likening Summer Sonic to England's Leeds festival if Fuji Rock Festival is its Glastonbury, Summer Sonic - launched last year by Creativeman - is clearly the challenger to FRF. But, says Virgin's Monta, there's plenty of room for both. "Fuji Rock had 50,000 plus last year, and there are the other festivals which are successful as well."

Despite the rivalry, Summer Sonic is structured quite differently from Fuji Rock Festival. A two-prong, lightning attack sees the festival take place over two days with two stages in two locations, Kanto and Kansai. Last year's Summer Sonic took place on the slopes of Mt Fuji, but this year, says Creativeman's Kunihiko Koike, "We wanted to bring it closer to Tokyo." This year's Kanto festival is set for the convenient location of Chiba Marine Stadium and the nearby Makuhari Messe convention center, allowing festival-goers to walk to and fro between the two stages.

In contrast to FRF's sprawling array of styles, SS focuses more laser-like on rock, with headliners Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Primal Scream, Beck and Rancid, just to name a few.

Pick: France's excellent electro-pop duo Air have just released the superb new album 10,000 Hz Legend, with vocal contributions from Beck, and will be appearing in Japan for the first time. Although Creativeman's Koike says scheduling will make it difficult for Beck to join Air onstage, anything is possible.

When: August 18-19
Where: Chiba Marine Stadium and Makuhari Messe
Tickets: JY12,000 (one day), JY21,000 (two days)
Info: Summer Sonic 2001 Office: 0180-993-030

Saturday 18
Chiba Marine Stadium: Beck, Primal Scream, Rancid, Cibo Matto, Incubus, The Living End, Rize, MxPx, King Adora.
Makuhari Messe: Air, Matthew Sweet, Bilal, Love Psychedelico, Jet Black Crayon, Russell Simins, Soulwax, Gloss.

Sunday 19
Chiba Marine Stadium: Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Zebrahead, Ocean Colour Scene, The Cult, Shea Seger, Reel Big Fish, Skrape.
Makuhari Messe: Tahiti 80, Mercury Rev, Eels, Elbow, My Vitriol, Cosmic Rough Riders.



Beast Feast
The latest entrant to Japan's festival circuit comes in the form of Beast Feast, launched this year by the folks at Club Citta longtime rock venue in Kawasaki. Slated for Yokohama Arena on August 25-26, the festival, says Club Citta, is intended as Japan's answer to America's wildly successful Ozz Fest, with the emphasis squarely on heavy metal. Leading thrash acts Slayer and Pantera have already signed on as headliners, with some 30 headbanging bands - including Sepultura and Biohazard, as well as Japan's Cocobat - scheduled to perform over two days.

When: August 25-26
Where: Yokohama Arena
Tickets: JY9500 (one day), JY18,000 (two days).
Info: Beast Feast 2001 Office: 0180-99-3544

Rock in Japan
J-pop's answer to the Fuji Rock Festival and Summer Sonic is Rock in Japan, the festival produced by Rockin' On Inc., publisher of Japan's leading rock e-zine Rockin' On.

Launched successfully last year, this year's festival will span three days and two stages at a seaside location in Ibaraki Prefecture. The lineup boasts some of Japan's leading contemporary artists, from established stars like chart-topping hip hop collective Dragon Ash and soul songstress Aco to alternative rock faces-of-the-moment Rize and the stalwart, ganja-fueled electro-dub stars Audio Active.

When: August 3-5
Where: Ibaraki Prefecture, Hitachi City, Kokuei Hitachi Kaigan Koen
Tickets: JY9500 (one day), JY18,000 (two days), JY24,000 (three days)
Info: Rock In Japan Festival: 0180-993-611

World music: vocalists
Tokyo Summer Festival
Entering its 17th year, the Tokyo Summer Festival is the city's high culture music festival, focusing on classical, world and new music. With the theme of "Voices," this year's festival will see a range of unusual singers from around the world and Japan converge on the metropolis to perform in a diversity of traditional styles at a range of venues during the month of July. Just a few of the intriguing acts slated to perform are: Ahn Suk-Son/Voices of the Heart, who will perform a program of traditional Korean music on July 12 at Katsushika Symphony Hills; Kass Mady Diabat from Mali, who will recite and sing the griot (epic) of the Mali Empire on July 15 at Sogetsu Hall; Uighur, Kyrgiz and Kazakh Masters of Xinjiang, who will present the program "Voices and Instruments of the Silk Road" at Tokyo Opera City on July 26; and "Voices of Japan 2," in which blind priests from Kyushu will chant Buddhist sutras while playing the biwa at Sogetsu Hall on July 22.

When: July 9-28
Where: Venues around Tokyo
Tickets: Prices vary according to each event
Info: Tokyo Summer Festival Ticket Center 3400-5999, 

Arturo Sandoval

Newport Jazz Festival in Madarao
While Japan has a dedicated and dynamic jazz scene, its jazz festivals have faced difficulty in establishing themselves. With the Ocean Blue festival bowing out this year, Japan's version of the storied Newport Jazz festival - launched in 1954 - is the only game in town. The lack of competition means that Newport can expect to equal or better the 20,000 fans who converged on the green slopes of Madarao ski resort in Nagano last year. This year's festival, says promoter Miwako Sato, will feature jam bands to bring in a younger crowd and mix things up. Meanwhile, the headliner comes in the form of saxophonist Wayne Shorter, a veteran of Miles Davis' group and Weather Report, who will be performing with his quartet. Also on the bill are the Latin sounds of the Arturo Sandoval Sextet, the Kurt Elling Quartet, the jam band funk of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Japan's Tropical Jazz Big Band, and New Face/Toku. The festival is divided into two events: the afternoon "Jazz Picnics" for the headlining performances and the "Night Sessions," in which members get together for more unstructured, free-form jam sessions.

When: August 3-5
Where: Madarao Kogen, Iiyama City, Nagano Prefecture
Tickets: Jazz Picnic (11am-4pm): JY6000 (adv), JY7000 (door). Night Session (7:30-9:30pm): JY4000 (adv), JY5000 (door). Jazz Picnic & Night Session: JY8000 (adv). Call Kyodo Tokyo: 03-3498-9999.
Info: Madarao Kogen Jazz Festival Committee: 0269-64-3081

Launched in 1999 by leading Japanese electro idol Takyu Ishino as a showcase for his Denki Groove unit and his techno superstar friends from Europe and the US, Wire has quickly grown into Japan's largest indoor rave. This year's Wire01 will feature, in addition to Ishino and Denki Groove, UK star C.J. Boland, Finland's Ural 13 Diktators, Chicago techno innovator Jeff Mills, Germany's Westbam and DJ Hell, and Japan's own dependable Fumiya Tanaka and DJ Tasaka. A pre-night party will also take place at Liquid Room on Friday before the event kicks off.

When: September 8
Where: Yokohama Arena
Tickets: JY10,500
Info: Odyssey: 03-3796-9999



Solstice Music Festival
Drawing over 5000 ravers to the slopes of Mt Fuji last year, the Solstice Music Festival has quickly taken its place alongside Equinox, Vision Quest, Anoyo and Arcadia as one of Japan's leading psychedelic trance parties. This summer's Solstice Music Festival 2001 will see a formidable array of talents from the trance world descend on Motosu Highland, a different location from last year - but also near Mt Fuji - for two days of alternating madness and chilling out in the mountains. From abroad, leading acts include Shpongle, the new unit launched by Simon Potsford of Hallucinogen, KoxBox, Synthetic and many more. From Japan, the always-dependable DJ Tsuyoshi will of course be on hand as master of ceremonies. For a preview of the festivities, check out Shpongle's CD, Tales Of The Inexpressible, due out July 1 on Solstice Music.

When: July 20-21
Where: Motosu Highland, Yamanashi Prefecture
Tickets: JY10,000
Info: Solstice Music: 03-5775-3388

Ahn Suk-Son/Voices of the Heart

World music: percussionists
Earth Celebration
Since its inception 14 years ago, the Earth Celebration at the end-of-the-earth location of Sado Island has been one of Japan's best-kept secrets, and one of those ultimate destinations for world travelers in the know. Launched by the Sado-based Kodo traditional wadaiko drum ensemble, the festival sees percussion specialists the world over make the trek to the island for performances, workshops and all-night jam sessions. This year's EC2001 features India's acclaimed Taal Ensemble, presented by tabla master Zakir Hussain, who will be joining with Kodo for a cross-cultural percussion extravaganza. Another hallmark of the festival is the opportunity to take part in a variety of workshops in wadaiko, Haka Hawaiian percussion and other percussion and dance traditions.

When: August 17-18
Where: Ogi Town, Sado Island
Tickets: Prices vary according to each event
Info: KODO: 0259-86-3630.

Reggae: The End?
Throughout the '80s and '90s, massive reggae festivals became an indispensable feature of summer in Japan. Reggae Sunsplash Japan and Reggae Japansplash drew hordes of young Japanese dreadlocks to groove to the sounds of big Jamaican names such as Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown and Inner Circle. But with the end of Reggae Sunsplash Japan a few years ago, and promoter Tomorrow World throwing in the towel on Reggae Japansplash this year, this summer will be the first in memory without any major reggae festival. As none of the promoters contacted by TC are planning any in the future, the so-called "reggae boom" in Japan may have finally run its course. Fans will have to content themselves with occasional smaller concerts at venues such as Liquid Room, and Tokyo's still numerous collection of reggae bars.



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394: Sister act
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393: Reel time
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392: Lap it up
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391: Everything old is new
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390: Cooking the books
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389: Up from the underground
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388: First wave
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387: Water world
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386: Open house
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385: A moveable feast
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384: Hair
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383: Summer in the city
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382: Tokyo Tomorrow
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381: From zero to hero
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380: Island escapade
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379: Open-air fare
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378: Reel story
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377: Sonic relief
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376: All at sea
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375: Your cup of tea
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374: No time to waste
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373: Freetown
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372: Broken record
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371: Bottoms up
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370: Admit one
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369: After a fashion
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368: Bandwidth wagon
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367: Just for sports
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366: Life's a hitch
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365: Altered state
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364: The Fringe Club
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363: Take two Tomatos
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362: Stage left
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361: The lowdown on TC
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360: A reversal of fortune
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359: Funny Valentine
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358: Two-faced
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357: Read all about it comes to Japan
356: Daikanyama
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355: Wash out
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354: Means to an end
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352/3: Last Laugh
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351: It's a wrap
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350: Cable ready
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