As a photographer and journalist, I had a backstage pass to see some of my favorite musicians perform, including one of my new favorites, Lorde. I’m skeptical of commercially successful artists, but Lorde dashed my indie snobbery to pieces with her brilliant performance on day three of the music festival. Though she was backed by a band, the singer-songwriter performed like there was no one there — head-banging and emoting her way through the entirety of her debut album, Pure Heroine. No awkward teenage nerves, just a high-octane, electronic, and impassioned performance from New Zealand’s most famous 17-year-old. Her vocals couldn’t have sounded better or more honest.
The photographer’s pit was packed for the Lorde show and after three songs, we were required to stop taking pictures. Fortunately, we were allowed to stand side stage for the rest of her performance, which was long enough to see OK Go frontman, Damian Kulash, get rejected by security when he tried to access the pit. Rockers.
Several of my favorite bands played on day three, which meant I was running like a headless chicken from stage to stage to photograph them. The day started with OK Go on the Red Marquee stage. These are the guys of the treadmill video fame and actually they’ve done quite a few clever music videos. Alas, there were no treadmills onstage, just four nerdy-cute white guys performing in a Weezer-meets-New Wave style.
I’ve been a SBTRKT fan since attending the Summersonic music festival in 2012 in Tokyo. I love their ‘classic’ techno sound — first discovered in the nineties when I started listening to Aphex Twin and Stereolab.
SBTRKT is frontman Aaron Jerome, knob twiddler extraordinaire, plus the guest R&B vocalists he brings in such as Sampha, pictured below. They played a clubby set heavy on jungle, strobe lights, and drum ‘n bass so thick it shook my bones. SBTRKT delved into 2011’s standout self-titled album and also a few new songs like “Paper Cuts” (opener) and “Temporary View” which appear on the forthcoming LP, Wonder Where We Land. The new album drops October 7th!
Having been a huge Tripping Daisy fan in the nineties, I merely dabbled in the Flaming Lips. That all changed at Fuji Rock. Psychedelia-meets-Teletubbies-meets-classic rock was the name of the game from the moment rainbows, mushrooms, and Wayne Coyne took the stage. Coyne knew full well he’d have the Japanese crowd eating out of his hand as soon as “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” began. It was just the right amount of rock and Cosplay for the massive audience sprawled across the lawn of the largest stage.
I can’t count the number of times my friends and I danced to “Hey Ya.” I do, however, remember the first time I heard it on the radio. I scoured the Internet trying to figure out where this totally new sound was coming from. At the risk of hyperbolizing, it was one of the best singles of the early 2000’s, toeing the line between white and black music and firmly planting itself in the conscientiousness of anyone who heard the chorus or the callouts. It was all at once retro and modern; R&B and rock. It sounded live and funky and made me wonder if James Brown had come back from the dead to play with a garage band. The brilliance of “Hey Ya” made listening to any other Outkast songs disappointing for me. I never latched on to the rest of their catalogue, especially considering the explicit nature of their lyrics.
That being said, Outkast live is an experience that I won’t soon forget. Bounding onto the stage with no shortage of bounce in their steps, Andre 3000 and Big Boi immediately launched into their fastest song, “B.O.B.,” making me wonder if they were lip syncing. Three songs later and, you guessed it, photographers were required to leave the pit.
Being that Outkast was the last big act to play that night, I was more than ready to climb into bed and rest my weary everything.
As my assistant, Melane, and I pushed our way through the thousands of dancing fans, I felt a tap on my shoulder. A member of the band’s crew was asking us to dance onstage with the band. How could that be since we are dressed like homeless jedis? I wondered. It had been raining since the beginning of the set and I was carrying 20 pounds of gear. We deliberated for .1 second then replied that we would indeed enjoy shaking it like a Polaroid picture. A quick swipe of red lipstick and touch-up of frizzy (me) and flat (Melane) hair and we were ready to go… That is, until we were informed that members of the press need not apply. Membership has its privileges but grooving with Andre 3000 wasn’t one of them that night.