Red Hot Chili Peppers, Babymetal & Beck Bring the Party as Fuji Rock Turns 20

Credit Rob Schwartz
Anthony Keidis performs at 2016 Fuji Rock

Fuji Rock Festival held its 20th edition from July 22-24 in the green mountains and rolling streams of Naeba, Japan (not actually near Mt Fuji). The anniversary celebrations paired with headliners the Red Hot Chili Peppers and pop metal sensation Babymetal led to over 125,000 attending, making it the most successful edition since 2012. 

Beck, Wilco, Sigur Ros, Ben Harper, and Disclosure also performed and Billboard estimates that ticket sales returned approximately 1.8 billion yen ($17.3 million) in revenue. 

The event is Japan’s premier international rock fest. It led the country’s revival of summer music festivals when in 1997 it brought the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Beck, and Foo Fighters to perform but the latter two were canceled when the second day was washed out. So this year the promoter Smash Corporation decided to honor the fest’s roots by having the Chilis (their fourth time at the event) and Beck (his fourth time booked and third performance) headline.

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Flea acknowledged the anniversary on stage but it was Beck, headlining on the Green (main) Stage Saturday night (July 23), who waxed poetic about how he was booked for the first Fuji Rock as well as the second (actually performing in 1998). He noted that “twenty years passes in the blink of an eye.”

Fine weather (rain has plagued the event since its inception) and a strong lineup contributed to this being one of the most memorable fests in recent years. San Francisco-based funk band Con Brio tore it up during three different sets on stages around the site. Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force, an African poly-rhythmic drumming outfit produced by minimal techno impresario Ernestus, also charged up the crowd with multiple sets.

Australian electro-pop artist Troye Sivan packed the Red Marquee Sunday afternoon (July 24). The reputation of the YouTube star (with over 240 million total views) preceded him to Japan and he enthralled the mainly teen audience as his rep, super agent Emma Banks (also the agent for the Chilis), took in the show side stage. 

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The anniversary of the leading international fest in Japan did not go unnoticed by the major labels. Universal Music Japan released a compilation CD featuring the music of Foo Fighters, Beck, The Chemical Brothers and Jack Johnson among others, all bands that have played Fuji Rock multiple times.


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