While rock festivals in the States symbolize rebellion, in Japan they are about camping and family and nature. It’s amazing how small the Japanese can go with their tents. Hundreds of the brightly-colored tents lining the slopes of this dormant ski resort were no larger than a pup tent. What amazed me more were the dozens of parents with babies in tote at the festival. Mounted like koalas on their parents’ chests, by this late hour these kids were thoroughly tuckered out.
Our hotel was a starring character itself in this comedy of errors. The Prince Naeba Hotel’s heydey was in its distant, distant past, assuming there ever was one. So dated and unmodern with zero amenities, it drove even the headlining acts to a common lounge in search of WIFI. Those unaccustomed to being unplugged fingered furiously on their devices.
Melane and I played ‘Spot the Artist’ for hours as we prayed and willed our devices to stay connected to the feeble hotspot. If we weren’t sitting at a table next to the Lumineers, we were non-chalantly asking Arcade Fire if they were having any success connecting. We even saw Outkast and Yoko Ono checking in, though the latter was quick to flee the lobby. There was a dorm-like atmosphere with a struggle to connect to the overtaxed WIFI a common bond which eliminated all castes and barriers between famous people and their fans. Despite that, it was rare to see any Japanese concertgoer even approach a band for an autograph or a photograph. We were in a sort of Bermuda Triangle of rock royalty. Where is Damon Albarn already?
The artists, of course, were non-plussed to be minus amenities, but I imagined some enjoyed the nostalgic feeling of being a struggling band. Or maybe not. A plethora of middle aged Brits lined the lobby floor, some complaining to managers or girlfriends on their iPhones.
Travis performed a solid set of crowd favorites complementing the Japanese crowd on being lovely human beings who make all artists who tour Japan eager to return. All of this in a Scottish accent sent the crowd into fervored applause.
St. Vincent roboted her way on stage and was in full performance mode. The crowd was delighted by her staccato shuffle and she took full advantage of the excitement by rolling around on the stage midway through the show. Annie Clark proved that women can shred. She wailed on a variety of electric guitars, roaring through her catalogue.
Damon Albarn played Blur classics with a puzzling red Star of David onscreen behind him. He worked his way through a new catalogue, opening with “Lonely Press Play,” from his latest solo album, Everyday Robots. The downtempo songs didn’t stop Albarn from his trademark move — splashing the audience with water. The show was less energetic than the Blur performance I saw in Hong Kong last year.