Music festivals rock in summer

Music festivals rock in summer
PHOTO: Reuters

Summer is the season for music festivals. Popular artists join events that are held every weekend during the summer at various places across the country. Let's have a look at who is not to be missed this year at Fuji Rock Festival and Summer Sonic, two major festivals featuring both Western and Japanese music.

Summer Sonic
Aug. 15-16, QVC Marine Field & Makuhari Messe in Chiba

This festival started in 2000. Only an hour's journey from central Tokyo, the festival offers fans an opportunity to enjoy listening to gigs by a fabulous lineup of musicians. The performances take place at QVC Marine Field, a baseball stadium, and several halls at Makuhari Messe, which is an indoor facility and is ideal for enjoying music when it is scorching hot outside. A special stage is set up on a nearby beach as well for a bit of change, along with a variety of other outdoor stages.

The final act of this year's event is British band The Chemical Brothers on the first day and Pharrell Williams of "Happy" fame on the second day. Expectations are running high for D'Angelo and The Vanguard, who will also appear on the second day. Last year, the talented R&B singer D'Angelo released his first album in about 15 years, which won critical acclaim in Britain and the United States.

"I wanted to arrange the programme in a way visitors can catch three to five of their favourite acts each day," said Naoki Shimizu, the chief executive officer of Creativeman Productions Co., which organises the event. "The lineup includes artists from a wide variety of genres, from pop and indies rock to EDM [electronic dance music], so I hope as many fans of Western music as possible will come."

The lineup of Japanese artists is impressive as well, with some unusual names in a rock fest, such as pop star Hiromi Go and THE King ALL STARS, featuring veteran actor-singer Yuzo Kayama. Musicians from China and Singapore also will grace the stage.

More or less the same artists will all appear at Summer Sonic Osaka, which will take place at Maishima Summer Sonic Osaka Site in Osaka also on Aug. 15 and 16.

On the eve of Summer Sonic, a related event called Sonicmania will be held at Makuhari Messe. The event features dance music by British band The Prodigy, Japanese duo Denki Groove and other acts.

The first night of Summer Sonic will see a new, all-night event, "Hostess Club All-Nighter," which will be joined by artists who belong to the independent label Hostess. The event is notable as it has been confirmed that Thom Yorke, the vocalist of British band Radiohead, will take part. Other participants include F.F.S, a joint project of Franz Ferdinand of Britain and veteran US band Sparks.

On a stage set up on a nearby beach, US band ZAPP and other acts who perform at Billboard Live restaurants in the United States will make their appearances. The performances are a fruit of collaboration between the festival and Billboard Japan.

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Fuji Rock Festival
July 24-26, Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata Prefecture

Fuji Rock Festival has been a pioneering force among music festivals in Japan. A host of big artists from overseas have taken part in the festival, which started at the foot of Mt. Fuji in 1997. Since 1999, the event has been held annually at Naeba Ski Resort in Yuzawa, Niigata Prefecture.

Aiming at "Symbiosis of Music and Nature," the festival takes place on green mountains that take about 40 minutes to reach by a shuttle bus from JR Echigo-Yuzawa Station.

On the vast grounds are various concert venues, both big and small. The largest is the Green Stage, which accommodates about 40,000 people.

As in the past, the festival will be held over a three-day period. The last acts to feature on the Green Stage are US rock band Foo Fighters on the first day, British rock band Muse on the second day, and British rock band Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds on the final day - great finales as the bands have large followings.

"We thought we'd go for out-and-out rock this year," said Masahiro Hidaka, the head of Smash Corp., which organises the event.

Veteran British band Motorhead, famed for their aggressive playing, will perform on the first day. Also featured during the festival are popular electronic bands, such as deadmau5 of Canada and FKA twigs of Britain. Artists representing Japan include Sheena Ringo, Gen Hoshino and Sheena & the Rokkets, whose vocalist Sheena died in February.

The festival is known for attracting avid music fans, as it never resorts to inviting popular idol stars with cute looks. "If we did that, it would be a denial of what we've been doing," Hidaka said.

Fuji Rock is also reputed to be "the cleanest fest in the world." It cleans up afterward by collecting garbage and sorting recyclables. The festival uses solar power generation and is working on manufacturing and use of paper made from trees removed to thin forests in collaboration with local governments and other bodies.

"There are so many different things going on, and that's Fuji Rock," Hidaka said.

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