Japan Festivals: Fuji, Summer Sonic

Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival, which takes place in the mountains of Niigata Prefecture July 24-26, announced stage lineups last week and fans of the festival were discouraged to find that one stage had been eliminated.

The Orange Court, located at the far eastern edge of the festival grounds, is no longer on the menu. As if to anticipate the reaction, the Fujirockers website featured an interview with Masa Hidaka, CEO of Fuji organizer Smash, who said the stage was removed because of mud and sound issues. When it rains, Hidaka said, the space in front of the stage becomes one big sticky morass, and trucks that deliver equipment and supplies to the venue often have trouble getting around. Also, managers of artists playing at the neighboring Field of Heaven have complained to Smash that sound from the Orange Court bleeds over and bothers their artists.

The Orange Court is supposed to feature jazz and world music artists, so these acts will be incorporated into the Field of Heaven roster, which usually features jam bands and the like. Another disappointment is that the Orange Court hosts All-Night Fuji, the popular rave that takes place the first night of the festival. It will be discontinued. The interviewer preempted another notion by asking about the high dollar against the yen, which makes it more expensive to bring foreign acts to Japan.

Hidaka acknowledged that it’s a problem but added that the situation has provided him with an opportunity to feature more Japanese acts at this year’s festival. There also seems to be more Japanese acts on balance at this year’s edition of Summer Sonic, organized by Smash’s main rival Creativeman Productions.

Last week SS also announced its stage lineups, but the main excitement surrounds the Hostess All-nighter, a special mini-festival during the wee hours between the first and second days of the Tokyo leg of Summer Sonic Aug. 15-16 at the Makuhari Messe Convention Center east of Tokyo.

Hostess is Japan’s most proactive record label dealing with foreign artists, and has assembled a choice selection of acts from its stable of artists for the All-Nighter: Thom Yorke, FFS (Franz Ferdinand and Sparks), Matthew HerbertSpiritualizedJon Hopkins and Bo Ningen.