Last week we rounded up the 10 most indispensable acts playing at this weekend’s Fuji Rock Festival – but what about the artists you haven’t been listening to solidly for the past few months? Here are 10 lesser-known groups that we think are worth your time, from a quartet of twee-pop uni students to a veteran Ethiopian jazzer. Don’t say we aren’t keeping it variedjumping castles…
You need something pretty damn good to justify getting out of bed for a 10.20am start on a Sunday morning. But whether it’s their Black Sabbath riffage, pro-wrestling sense of spectacle or merely their amazing hair, these London-based rockers should provide a more invigorating wake-up jolt than a quadruple espresso.
Sunday, 10.20am, Red Marquee
Bringing some slinky sophistication to Naeba, vibraphonist Mulatu Astatke was one of the preeminent figures on the Ethio-jazz scene of the 1960s and early 1970s (listen out for him on the soundtrack of Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers). His current band conjures a loungey vibe that should work best in their post-midnight Crystal Palace set.
Sunday, 5pm, Orange Court; 12.30am, Crystal Palace
Very Be Careful
If you enjoyed Onda Vaga’s innumerable sets during last year’s fest, you may appreciate this bunch of Angeleno cumbia enthusiasts. Very Be Careful may not be as handsome as the Vaga boys (not by a long shot), but their loping, accordion-driven vallenato grooves are every bit as infectious.
Friday, 4pm, Café de Paris; 3.15am, Crystal Palace; Saturday, 3.10pm, Orange Court; 11.50pm, Naeba Shokudo
Fragment x Keikoto Band
Just in case you weren’t already feeling bleary-eyed and disorientated enough at 3am on Friday night, this retina-searing collaboration between Tokyo beatmaker duo Fragment and fluorescent light wielders Keikoto Band should tip you over the edge.
Friday, 3am, Red Marquee
Last year’s Rookie A-Go-Go winners are a party crew par excellence, with razor-sharp rhymes and a commendable preference for old-school funk and jazz breaks. If their criminally early start time doesn’t handicap them, Steruss’ Saturday morning set should appeal to anyone who was planning on catching Jurassic 5 later in the day.
Saturday, 10.20am, Red Marquee
Mark Ernestus presents Jeri-Jeri
Studio veteran Mark Ernestus ditches the techno for West African mbalax dance music in his latest project, which lets a crack team of Senegalese griot musicians take the limelight. Brace yourself for some furious polyrhythmic percussion workouts and liquid-limbed dancing.
Saturday, 5pm, Orange Court
Oh, to be as young, sweet and innocent as this bunch of students from Kyoto. Formed out of their university folk club, Homecomings have some of the most twee melodies you’ll hear all weekend, but their three-part vocal harmonies – inspired, according to a recent Japan Times interview, by a love of The Beach Boys and Christmas music – are achingly lovely. Stick around afterwards for fellow Rookie A-Go-Go band Mitsume, who are also rather good.
Saturday, 11pm, Rookie A-Go-Go
If you’re looking to get the festival off to as raucous a start as possible, this sprawling 17-piece combo – part punk band, part taiko-drumming mobile matsuri – are your best bet. There’s nothing particularly clever about what Turtle Island do, but they’re pure party.
Friday, 11.30am, Orange Court
The Hot 8 Brass Band
It’s a rare year when there isn’t at least one New Orleans brass band on the bill at Fuji, and we’re not complaining. This octet will be unleashing their Specials covers, funk and funeral jazz three times during the weekend, but it’s their Sunday night set on the cramped Naeba Shokudo stage that promises to be the most memorable.
Saturday, 11.45pm, Crystal Palace; Sunday, 2.10pm, Field of Heaven; 11.50pm, Naeba Shokudo
Combining swing, rockabilly, klezmer, punk and gypsy music into a wild, mosh-inducing mix, this Tokyo combo blow away the competition at any festival they play at (which this year included England’s Glastonbury). Never mind that they’re playing on one of Fuji’s most far-flung stages: Asakusa Jinta are well worth seeking out.
Saturday, 4pm, Café de Paris
Fuji Rock Festival runs from July 26-28 at Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata. Details here