Overall Review – Part 2 “Ich-Ni-San-Shi-Go-Rok-Shich-Hach” @ Asagiri Jam – It’s A Beautiful Day!(Oct. 9th, 2011)

Overall Review – Part2 “Ich-Ni-San-Shi-Go-Rok-Shich-Hach”
Features – Overall Review – Part2 “Ich-Ni-San-Shi-Go-Rok-Shich-Hach” – Asagiri Jam – It’s A Beautiful Day! @ Asagiri Arena 2011.10.08 – 09

Asagiri Jam

Damn it! Overslept! I had hoped to wake up for the sunrise over Mount Fuji with the rest of the sober overachievers, but brother sun is already peeking in my tent through the trees. Thankfully I did not sleep too late though, and I make it to the Rainbow stage in time for Mr. Akishika’s Sunday morning speech and elementary school style exercise routine. (Mr. Akishika is founder of Asagiri Jam.)

“Ich-Ni-San-Shi-Go-Rok-Shich-Hach,” 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, we all chant as he leads us in back bends, arm circles, jumping jacks (gets a collective laugh out of us all, probably because more than half are still drunk and the booze has just rushed back to their pounding heads), and ends with an uplifting message, respectfully recognizing the tragedies that happened in March and the hard year it has been for Japan, yet celebratory for the fact that we are all here and healthy and enjoying Mount Fuji’s beauty, strength and the music; so have a wonderful rest of the festival! I noticed Mr. Akishika later standing out by the food stalls observing another happy crowd he had brought to Asagiri, and took the opportunity to take a picture together and give him and his wife both postcards. He gave me his business card. I was honored. If Asagiri Jam is in fact one big family, he is like the wise old grandfather, keeping all his zany Asagiri grandchildren healthy, happy, having fun and wearing ridiculous rainbow sweaters (yeah, the hemp).

Asagiri JamNext up, a temple Taiko drum troupe including kids that restart our hearts with fierce rhythms for a 10am slot. But I can’t help think that just 12 hours ago, DJ Shadow was in a huge white sphere with crop circles and lightning projected on it, right where that big taiko drum, probably more than a hundred years old is standing, and a guy with short shorts and two big sticks is jumping, shouting and banging rhythms rooted in ancient traditions.

(I would later similarly reminisce as Seun Kuti is strutting like Marvin Gaye, tooting his horn and preaching about North Korea, nuclear bombs, weed and having sex…What a day on the Rainbow Stage!)

The upper atmosphere clouds drifted and Mount Fuji’s peak exposed its buzz cut, cutting sharply through a beautiful blue sky.

For the rest of the morning and early afternoon I meandered over to the Moonshine Stage and caught Gina & Chris AKA Quirkish Delights telling everyone to turn to their neighbor and give a hug halfway through the set of gypsy tunes, a full sound surprisingly coming from just a fiddle and guitar. They also embraced their receptive audience, hopping off the stage and starting a conga line with the more outgoing crowd members. Thereafter, the sun was beaming, and the warmth plus electronic outfit L.E.D set me in an ambient trance and I think I woke up halfway through the LITE set. Better go check out Carnival Star to get the blood flowing again…

Asagiri JamMaking the long walk through campsites, M, N, O, P to get to Carnival Star (where the Asagiri Jam website, when translated to English says, “You may find a friendly and cheerful Pirates!”) I have serious De Ja Vous of my trip to Burning Man festival a few years ago in the Black Rock desert of Nevada, USA. The lounging is much more pronounced, there is no huge stage with big name stars and official lineups, just a small tent with a vintage sound system blaring Stevie Ray Vaughn remixes while guys and gals bob, doodle, drink, and generally enjoy the day away. There is also the faint bark of dogs (this is an equal-opportunity, animal-friendly event), and a cool breeze that has brought the clouds temporarily back over Mount Fuji’s crop top. But the people on the big pillows and those sitting in a pink painted “We’re Nuts” truck bed don’t seem to mind.

On the way back to see The Heavy Manners dub show, I meet a dubious duo of drunks at one of my favorite camp set-ups, a lean to on a tree branch with a fire going and some neon glasses frames without any lenses. And don’t forget the Tibetan prayer flags. We have a nice chat about the hawk feathers on my hat, and they would thus later find me easily at the Rainbow Stage, and surprisingly remember my name! (Oh yeah, it’s written on my hat.)

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 opened with father Fela Kuti’s classic track “Zombie,” and had the place jumping as the moon rose behind a now exposed Fuji mountain. Seun had very entertaining, often tourettic moves like Marvin Gaye, and an entourage of fine “Original” African musicians that kept the grooves going. Between 10+ minute songs, Seun continued with political renouncement of Kim Jong Il for having nuclear weapons and governments for favoring big business and violence over peace and the people. Unfortunately, I don’t know that many of the audience members understood what he was saying, as even I, a native English speaker sometimes had trouble deciphering his heavy African English accent. About the weed, he said “I don’t mean legalize it, no…Just say with me – plants, make, we, grow!” The energy Seun and Egypt 80 brought would be hard to top…

Soul Flower UnionSoul Flower Union had the honor of closing out the festival. Everybody, even those who just watched DJ Scratchy on Moonshine, straggled in for the tail end of a set that I thoroughly enjoyed dancing to the whole way through. A mix of Irish jigs, Ska beat, traditional Japanese music (including a cameo by the Shamisen, an out of tune three-stringed guitar looking thing that lends a recognizable eastern air), and cute back up singing, sprinkled with catchy melodies and hooks, easily recognizable even on the first listen, and good old fashioned rock n’ roll. The entire crowd was jumping, clapping, fist pumping and singing along as the very well written music dictated. It seemed to me, having not been familiar with their music previous, that every song had the air of a classic hit, and that a good proportion of the audience knew most of the songs.

If Soul Flower Union’s band name is any indicator, and the weekend’s gorgeous weather dictated a bit of nature’s healing in us all, I do believe that at this year’s Asagiri Jam, it was in fact a beautiful day, and all our flowering souls came together under Mount Fuji’s watchful eyes in a milky, musical union.

I woke up Monday morning for the sunrise, waiting and shivering until at 6:30am, on a crystal clear day, the entirety of Mount Fuji’s silhouette was visible, and the sun pulsated the last Jam rays down onto the clean-up crews and everyone heading home, faces happy, feet tired and hearts filled, but still a little sad to have to go.

Next year, I definitely want to come home. Thanks for the memories Asagiri Jam 2011.

Text by J Muzacz, Photos by Julen & Koji

–>Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro

Asagiri Jam

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Julen Esteban-Pretel
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