Fuji Rocks

The Fuji Rock Festival 2005 enjoyed its biggest crowds ever July 29-31 at the Naeba ski resort in Niigata prefecture, Japan.

Last year, festival organizer Smash Corp. sold only three-day tickets since the main idea of the event is to have people camp and enjoy the festival as a kind of lifestyle experience. Parents are encouraged to bring their children, and older music lovers are enticed with nostalgia acts (The Beach Boys this year), a lot of world music and even pure jazz.

Tickets for FRF ’04 sold well but not well enough to turn a profit so Smash returned to its policy of also selling one-day tickets.

Not only did all the three-day tickets sell out this year, but all of the Saturday one-day tickets were snapped up. In addition, about 15,000 tickets were sold at the entrance on Friday.

Saturday was the most attended day of the festival’s history with more than 40,000 people showing up to see headliners Fatboy Slim, Beck, and Dinosaur Jr.

The cumulative attendance for the weekend was about 125,000, according to Smash, which means it is slowly edging its way to the kind of attendance earned by England’s Glastonbury Festival (150,000 this year), which is Fuji’s inspiration.

In addition, 15,000 people showed up for the free pre-festival party the night of July 28th.

The numbers come despite the fact that this year’s FRF was probably the wettest festival since the inaugural two-day blowout in 1997, the only one actually held at Mt. Fuji. That festival was visited by a typhoon that forced the cancellation of its second day.

This year, a typhoon glanced off Japan just a day before the festival and it rained quite heavily at times throughout the weekend. Of course, Fujirockers, as they’re called, are urged to be prepared for such weather since intermittent summer squalls are common in the mountains on the Japan Sea side.

Still, the eight stages are stretched out over several kilometers and separated by woods, which made navigating through the mud the main chore all weekend.

As far as no-shows went, the only last-minute cancellation was Coheed and Cambria. Los Lobos‘ opening gig at the main Green Stage on Saturday had to be canceled because the band’s flight was delayed. (Eddi Reader, who performed four times during the weekend on four different stages, filled in.) However, Los Lobos made it in time to fulfill its obligation as the closing act at the Orange Court Sunday night.

In related news, Smash announced the dates for what many call the true Fuji Rock Festival – the Asagiri Jam – which will be held at the foot of Mt. Fuji October 1-2. However, continuing with the policy started last year, no acts have been announced and probably won’t be right up until the festival.

The non-announcement policy, which adheres to Smash’s desire to stress the event over the content, seems to be no problem since last year’s festival sold out. Asagiri Jammers must camp since, unlike FRF, there are no hotels in Asagiri.

— Phil Brasor