Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sensory Overload

Fuji Rock 2008: Part 8

We’re jammed down the front along with thousands of half-crazed Japanese Underworld fans.

And we can hardly wait for it to go off.

As my conversations with numerous festival goers have confirmed, Underworld are the major draw at Fuji Rock this year. Most of their original fan base have stuck with them, and there are plenty of new converts who, judging by their age, came on board sometime after A Hundred Days Off.

My friend is out of his tree on Red Bull, vodka and absinthe. This doesn’t stop him – a confirmed Mac freak – from itemizing every piece of hardware in Underworld’s rig and reiterating with glee that they are card carrying members of the obsessive-compulsive Apple fraternity. The band frequently collaborate with Apple Quicktime on content for web-based television and the stage is littered with iMacs and Airbooks.

Thankfully I don’t have to listen to any more Apple-babble cos here come England’s techno gods! The much-lamented shortage of mind-expanding substances hasn't diminished the crowd’s enthusiasm, and as Fuji erupts I feel an army of Japanese kids come charging down on me.

Funnily enough, since half of them are gorgeous girls wearing sexy shorts and wellies I don’t mind in the least.

The chords of Crocodile fade in and from there the band cruise into Improv 1 and Parc. It quickly becomes clear that this is gonna be a pretty chilled - for Underworld - show. Karl Hynde looks rather splendid in a gold lame jacket and plays some tasty guitar to boot.

It’s not until the intro of Pearls Girl, followed by King of Snake that they hit anything like top gear. 50,000 party animals let out a collective war cry. This is what they came for – the chance to go bonkers to a soundtrack of squelchy techno genius.

It’s then that some roadies haul out a set of huge inflatable colored tubes which litter the entire stage. As colored lights reflect off them, they make for a bizarre, unforgettable sight. I can't help feeling sorry for the poor guy backstage who has to blow up all them suckers.

And the hits keep on coming. We get Moaner, Two Months Off, Rez/Cowgirl and a few excellent semi-improvised numbers. The set dips into all flavors of electronica, including a mother of a drum and bass track which takes the crowd by surprise and drives them into an absolute frenzy.

Toward the end of a transcendent Born Slippy about 50 huge beach balls are thrown out into the audience and it’s a smorgasbord of sensory overload with the incredible music, superb visuals and a crowd which is almost completely outta control.

So what if it's entirely predictable? You came ta dance, didn't ya?

As a full on populist techno extravaganza, it's hard to see how this could be bettered. Underworld's best recorded music may be behind them, but as long as there are festivals and audiences who wanna rave to state of the art techno, they'll never be short of gainful employment.

Fujirockers: Interview

Name: Iain

From: Devon, UK, living in Kyoto.

Why did you come to Fuji Rock? I came last year to see Muse and The Cure. I'm English. In the UK we like music, especially live music.

Which artists do you especially want to see? Underworld and Asian Dub Foundation. Saiko desu!

What’s the best thing about Fuji Rock? Girls in shorts and wellies!

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