Fuji Rock Festival has had one of its most heavily attended editions in years, and it was sunny and warm to boot.
The three-day fest held at a ski resort on Mt. Naeba in Niigata prefecture, Japan had seen significant rain every year since 2003 but the 2012 version was bone dry for all but 10-15 minutes of light rain after final headliner Radiohead finished on the Green (main) stage.
Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke takes over the mainstage.
In addition, promoter Smash Corporation said 140,000 people in total attended the 16th Fuji Rock Festival, surpassing usual numbers. The fest, held in Naeba since 1999, usually draws 110-130,000 partygoers. The inaugural event, actually held on Mt. Fuji in 1997, only hosted around 25,000 after the second day was washed out by a typhoon.
Radiohead, making its first appearance at the beloved celebration, were clearly a powerful draw. Billboard estimates 35,000 watched the band's two-hour plus set on Sunday night. Another attraction for somewhat older fans was a reunion show by The Stone Roses, the Friday night headliners.
Thom Yorke on stage.
Critics had contended that this year's incarnation lacked some of the star power of previous versions, but the large attendance figures proved them wrong.
Billboard estimates that the success means Smash pulled in 1.5 billion yen ($19.1 mil.) in ticket revenue, higher than the 1.35 billion yen ($17 mil.) originally projected by the publication. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the reconstruction efforts from last year's devastating earthquake and tsumami in Northeastern Japan.
Hard-working Argentinians Onda Vaga defied their name (which translates to "Lazy Style") to play seven sets throughout the festival.
The sleeper hit of the festival was the Argentinian band Onda Vaga, which played 7 distinct stage shows in addition to 2 promotional appearances at the fest. Ironically their name translates as 'Lazy Style' but that was not the case with this hardworking sextet. Their bouncy energy was so infectious that the mellowest of stages, The Gypsy Avalon, saw crowd surfing for the first time in the history of the proceedings.
The site was pushed to capacity as far facilities were concerned. Movement between the Green stage and the adjacent food court was difficult and some patrons complained of extremely long lines for bathrooms.
Festival surprise Yael Naim delighted the crowd with pop covers and three-part harmonies.
Another unheralded standout of the fest was French-Israeli singer-songwriter Yael Naim, who filled the fourth stage, the Orange Court, with approximately 4,000 listeners. The multi-instrumentalist played piano, guitar and ukulele while showcasing her powerful voice. Tracks alternated between R&B, soft rock and ballads with delicate harmonies being offset by gutsy wails. The charismatic 34 year-old orchestrated a 3-part harmony sing-along from the crowd on her standout track "Come Home." Naim also offered a bluesy, emotive version of Rihanna's "Umbrella", and a soulful cover of Britney Spear's "Toxic," which she released as a single in 2007 and then included on an eponymously titled full-length album Yael Naim.