Overall Review – Part 1 “Stuck A Feather In His Hat And Called It Macaroni” @ Asagiri Jam – It’s A Beautiful Day! (Oct. 8th, 2011)

Overall Review – Part 1 “Stuck A Feather In His Hat And Called It Macaroni”
Features – Overall Review – Part 1 “Stuck A Feather In His Hat And Called It Macaroni” – Asagiri Jam – It’s A Beautiful Day! @ Asagiri Arena 2011.10.08 – 09

Asagiri Jam

So I hop on a bus at 1am in Kyoto City, and wake up to the smell of cheese and cow shit. It’s our last pee break before hitting Asagiri as the gates open at 9am Saturday morning. We are actually the first bus there, which sucks since I am waiting for my ticket from the guys driving from Tokyo getting in around noon. And as any tenured festival-goer knows all too well, the best camping spots are quickly claimed. Luckily, I made friends with the guy I sat next to on the bus, Naoto from Hyogo, who offers me his friend-who-couldn’t-make-it’s ticket free-of-charge! As they say in Japanese, “Mot tai nai,” or basically don’t waste. So we get our wristbands and book it for the campsites.

Asagiri JamIt is my first time to Asagiri, and Naoto’s fifth, so I take his advice on a good spot to pitch. We take a short walk through the trees and come to “J” site – yeah, what a coincidence. It is exactly halfway between the two main stages, Rainbow and Moonshine, and with a pleasant piece of privacy, our own sinks and toilets, like J is our own little co-op community amidst the 10,000+ masses. I quickly make friends, passing out postcards to all our neighbors, and receiving cordial offers of o-kashi (snacks) and bee-ru (beer) in return. I am already feeling the good vibes, and the music hasn’t even begun! (People are all very receptive of my fusing hawk feathers headdress style with a cowboy hat, trying my best to represent the stereotypical fashions of my homeland Texas, USA.)

The music set to start at 2pm with Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro on my radar for the Rainbow stage to start the festival. But first, an ethnic bite to eat at the Fuji Rock favorite, Queen Sheba’s. Delicious Ethiopian cuisine, my plate included a soft and savory chicken curry, a spinach wot, saffron rice and a mango juice to wash it all down. That set my stomach right and gave me stamina for the ensuing jam…

Please see a proper review of DJ Shadow’s Shadowsphere production here, but even that does not quite do it justice… You just have to see it to believe it.

So when we all landed like supernova stardust on the chilly lawn affront Rainbow Stage, still smiling in awe of the epic Shadow event just witnessed and slightly sweating from the heavy dancing, a cold wind hits returning us to reality and the fire starts looking pretty tempting. A hearty portion of the audience head back to sing songs and say what the best part of their day was, some drinking beers, some slurping ramen, one guy attempts to jump over the fire and doesn’t quite make it – FAIL. Wish I had some marshmallows.

Asagiri Jam

All-in-all, day one of Asagiri Jam was evidence that Japan knows how to do festivals. The weather couldn’t have been better, and day two’s forecast is clear and sunny. The lineup is looking mighty fine as I snuggle up in my sleeping bag, check the schedule one last time and call it a night, the murmur and sudden outbursts of laughter from neighboring campers singing me a sweet vibes lullaby as I drift off into Fuji-san dreamland, still with a shadow of a smile on my face.

One plus about Japanese festivals is that they run perfectly on schedule, almost to the second, even end times + encores amazingly enough! So promptly at 2pm, Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro took to the stage and began in rocking/free jazz fashion, with the lead guitarist and sax player battling back and forth in a humorous one-up call-and-response, until frustrated (jokingly) they both played on top of each other creating a chaotic cacophony that somehow returned effortlessly to the songs base jam. That kind of showmanship and energy, coming from six funky fellows clad in neckties, suspenders, suit jackets, vests and bowler caps is exactly what a fine first-class festival like Asagiri needs – something to get your booty in shake mode and music to freak out to. When the sax man Kunimitsu Ohashi, a.k.a. Carlos, slipped into a Kenny G on steroids tangent, or Naokazu Kobayashi, a.k.a. Bob-san, ripped some blues guitar solo to shreds, I may have cringed a little. But, when Bob-san leaped up and did the splits amidst some heavy funk bit, and the fellows gave the all-important bass man a nice long solo, I totally fell in love. They got my monkey funky.

Asagiri JamAfter the show I had a little curiosity about what the “Moon”-shine Stage would be like in the daytime. So I strolled through the woods for a few minutes, peeking in at the arts and crafts of Kids Land, genki youngsters making souvenirs out of pinecones, and got to the stage, engulfed mind you by a massive octopus (Designs in Air), just in time for Buffalo Daughter. They provided pleasant afternoon tunes that can briefly be described as cute trippy progressive indie math rock; strong like buffalo and cute like daughter.

From there I browsed the ever-pricey colorful hemp gear for sale in groves. The blankets, fuzzy socks and parkas may come in handy though, as it gets chilly after the sun has set.

I head back to the Rainbow Stage because I don’t want to miss ROVO, raved about by a fellow writer friend Ben. While I am unfamiliar with the psychedelic troupe with dueling drummers, I can’t help but think Tortoise, with some saucy Japanese perfectionism thrown in, just to tighten and tweak the grooves a little bit more. I was right. They were so tight, and to the crackling of the warm bonfire as the sun had set and we welcomed the first night of Asagiri, ROVO took us to the moon (as it rose, almost full, behind the clouds covering Mount Fuji).

Asagiri JamNext up, I am sticking around for DJ Shadow, but not before some dinnertime grub, and that curry sure smelled good earlier. He goes for the Toro-Toro Tamago (wet scrambled egg with butter) curry on rice, he shoots, he SCORES! It is a warm, fluffy, fantastic pre-Shadow treat that I scarf in probably 2 minutes flat, as the time is nearing and the crowd is gathering to figure out what this huge white orb is sitting on stage for…

ENTER: the SHADOWSPHERE…!**

**Please see a proper review of DJ Shadow’s Shadowsphere production here, but even that does not quite do it justice… You just have to see it to believe it.

So when we all landed like supernova stardust on the chilly lawn affront Rainbow Stage, still smiling in awe of the epic Shadow event just witnessed and slightly sweating from the heavy dancing, a cold wind hits returning us to reality and the fire starts looking pretty tempting. A hearty portion of the audience head back to sing songs and say what the best part of their day was, some drinking beers, some slurping ramen, one guy attempts to jump over the fire and doesn’t quite make it – FAIL. Wish I had some marshmallows.

All-in-all, day one of Asagiri Jam was evidence that Japan knows how to do festivals. The weather couldn’t have been better, and day two’s forecast is clear and sunny. The lineup is looking mighty fine as I snuggle up in my sleeping bag, check the schedule one last time and call it a night, the murmur and sudden outbursts of laughter from neighboring campers singing me a sweet vibes lullaby as I drift off into Fuji-san dreamland, still with a shadow of a smile on my face.

Text by J Muzacz, Photos by Julen & Koji

–>Part2 “Ich-Ni-San-Shi-Go-Rok-Shich-Hach”

Asagiri Jam

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Julen Esteban-Pretel
julen@smashingmag.net
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