Fuji Rock Festival, the leading single-venue international rock fest in Japan, returned powerfully after a somewhat down year in 2014. Held July 24-26 at Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata, the 19th version of the event featured headliners Foo Fighters, Muse, Noel Gallagher‘s High Flying Birds, Motorhead, and FKA Twigs, among others.
Foo Fighters headlined the opening night, continuing their world tour that was interrupted when Dave Grohl broke his leg on June 12 falling from the stage in Gothenburg, Sweden. The band restarted the tour on July 4 at RFK Stadium in Washington DC and the schedule sees two Asian dates, this one and an appearance at the Valley Rock Festival in Korea. The band was in fine form as they ripped through hits “Everlong,” “Monkey Wrench,” “Learn to Fly” and “The Pretender,” among others. About halfway through the set Grohl hobbled off his motorized throne and sat down on the runway, singing “My Hero” and “Times Like These” softly, accompanied only by two acoustic guitars.
Muse took on the all-important Saturday night headlining spot and didn’t disappoint, cranking out excellent renditions of their much-loved songs like “Psycho,” “Supermassive Black Hole,” “Dead Inside,” and “Uprising.” The ‘Hysteria’ rose mid-set as the moshing intensified. But even those up the hill at the Green (main) stage seemed to rock in unison.
The final night saw Noel Gallagher play a more downbeat, mellow set that showcased his work with the High Flying Birds as well as some old Oasis numbers (most notably a fine rendition of “Champagne Supernova”). He joked with fans and responded to hearing the phrase “Dave says Hi,” which audience members were instructed by Dave Grohl to say. This extended a feud that began some years ago. Noel responded asking “who is Dave Grohl?” and talking directly to fans in the front row.
At the same time FKA Twigs entranced the crowd with her three-drummer, beat-and-bass-synth heavy electronic set that entailed waves of sound washing over the audience. Her angelic voice as well as sleek, angular and mesmerizing contemporary dance, performed constantly throughout the set, made the presentation thoroughly compelling.
The strong lineup was reflected in attendance. The promoter Smash reported that the crowd jumped from 102,000 in 2014 to 115,000 this year. That’s just slightly down from the 118,000 in 2013, though 2012 was the all-time high water mark with 140,000 flocking to the proceedings. The leading 3-day fest in Japan has attracted over 100,000 attendees every year since 2005.
Billboard estimates the ticket sales resulted in revenue of 1.371 billion yen ($11.1 million) over the three days (the opening evening of the fest the night before it starts is free). It’s one of the largest-earning single-venue music gatherings in Japan.
The fest is set in the scenic mountains of Niigata prefecture (nowhere near the actual Mt Fuji) and this year offered over than 175 acts on five main stages and at least six minor ones.
Fuji Rock is the oldest continuous rock festival in Japan and largely credited with reviving the summer music festival industry in Japan, which is now packed with numerous events.