Overall Review – “A Life Changing Experience at Asagiri Jam” @ Asagiri Jam – It’s A Beautiful Day! (Oct. 6th & 7th, 2012)

Overall Review – “A Life Changing Experience at Asagiri Jam”
Features – Overall Review “A Life Changing Experience at Asagiri Jam” in Asagiri Jam : It’s A Beautiful Day! @ Asagiri Arena 2012.10.06 – 07

Asagiri Jam - It's A Beautiful Day!

To start off a review of Asagiri Jam, I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that it is simply one of the best music festivals in the world, arguably the best. Every time I go to the foot of Mt. Fuji for the two day celebration of the power that music, nature and great people can have on the soul I come to this same conclusion. You may think that this is just one guy’s subjective opinion but countless people I have talked to including friends and artists who have played there only give weight to my belief. This year, having a quick chat to members of Dirty Projectors, Tommy Guerrero’s band, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and Takehiko “Shake” Kogure back stage, it was evident that musicians are completely blown away by the setting and the appreciative and energetic crowd. The guys from Hypnotic Brass Ensemble spent hours back stage with fans and it seemed like the whole crew just couldn’t stop talking about what an awesome time they had on stage and how much they loved the audience’s involvement.

Asagiri JamThis year could well have been the luckiest year ever in terms of weather for Asagiri Jam and Fuji Rock promoter Smash. Both festivals have been going for more than 10 years and this is the first year that I have ever experienced Fuji Rock without any serious rain at all for the entire 4 days. Then Asagiri Jam this year was, for me anyway, absolutely perfect weather. Although it rained heavily in Tokyo on both the Saturday and Sunday, the lush green fields of Asagiri Highland were for the most part spared with only some light rain falling in the middle of the night and early morning while most people were sleeping. Some people did complain that Mt. Fuji was almost completely covered by clouds and mist during the two days but personally, I thought the cooler overcast weather, with just the right amount of occasional sunlight was perfect. “Asagiri” means morning mist in English and once again this year, the mist added an otherworldly atmosphere to the indescribable beauty of not only Mt. Fuji but also the multitude of other mountains that envelop the campgrounds and stages of the festival.

Asagiri JamYes, the natural majesty of the setting of the festival is something that needs to be seen to be believed but this is a music festival after all and it would be criminal to listen anything less than music that is as sublime as this piece of Shizuoka prefecture is. One thing incredible about Asagiri Jam is that the 12,000 tickets for the festival are sold out before the lineup is announced. People who have never been, may be thinking, that buying a ticket for a festival without knowing who is playing is insane but I think that it stands as a testament to just how great the festival is every year and the trust that the regular Asagiri attendees have that Smash will yet again come up with an amazing group of artists.

Osaka MonaurailThis year was no exception, and as always I found myself completely in awe of some artists who I had never heard of until seeing them on stage. In previous years, I became instant fans of Electrelane, Gravenhurst, Dean Wareham and The Heavymanners after seeing them play only a few songs and this year it was and Takehiko “Shake” Kogure who had me completely elated that I discovered such a unique artist who I had never heard before. Asagiri Jam is not in the running only for the best setting in the world for a music festival but also for having the most eclectic and unusual lineup. There was the soulful blues funk of Tommy Guerrero, to the pub rock of Wilko Johnson, the dirty grooves of Osaka Monorail, the mind-warping turntable mixology of Cut Chemist, the explosive mix of hip hop and horns from Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and the closing act was Narasirato, a huge group of half-naked, body-painted musicians from a remote part of the Solomon islands who played an intoxicating and infectiously energetic mix of ska, punk and rock using tribal percussion and bamboo wind instruments from their island home. You can’t get much more eclectic than that. There were too many highlight to write about here but two of my favorite acts were Lee Perry and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

Asagiri JamThis must have been the 5th or 6th time that I had seen the legendary godfather of roots and dub reggae Lee “Scratch” Perry but it was by far the best performance I have seen him do. Perry was his usual eccentric self, delivering his usual stream of consciousness style lyrics but what was really brilliant this year was his choice of songs, his band and whoever was behind the mixing desk adding the psychedelic echoes and delay to make everything sound like Perry had been back in his Black Ark Studio back in the 70’s. He played several songs from one of his great albums from 1990 called “From My Secret Laboratory” as well as a fine selection of Bob Marley songs, finishing his encore with the Marley’s classic heavy number “Exodus.” Hypnotic Brass Ensemble had the crowd in a such a frenzy that they had to douse them with copious amounts of water. I kept thinking to myself that if you could somehow harness the energy of these guys playing just one show, you could generate enough power to supply a small city for a week. Finally one other story from a band that I found very touching was the sincerity of the gratitude that Kyoto post rock band Nabowa expressed for the crowd in between songs. They said that they came to Asagiri Jam 7 years ago as audience members and had always dreamed of playing there and that they could not get over the happiness they felt now that their dream had been realized.

Asagiri JamA relaxed hippie vibe as always pervaded the festival and hanging out friends around one of the many camp fires that are set up around the site is always a fantastic way to enjoy the music. This year at the kids area they had a really cool Japanese Taico drum group who were hosting workshops for people interested in learning this ancient form of rhythmic meditation and seeing kids running around them playing on all the hand-made toys supplied by the festival made for an interesting contrast to the drumming.

Anyone living in Japan or with a chance to get over here in early October next year, I cannot recommend Asagiri Jam highly enough. Perhaps it will change your life as it has mine.

text by Ben Olah
Asagiri Jam - It's A Beautiful Day!

–>Overall Photo Report – Julen Esteban-Pretel’s version

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Photos:
Julen Esteban-Pretel
julen@smashingmag.net
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