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NIN and Björk highlight Fuji Rock

Green Stage at Fuji Rock
Green Stage at the Fuji Rock Festival

TOKYO (TR) – With headliners at last year’s Fuji Rock Festival including the reformed Stone Roses and Radiohead, the 2013 incarnation appeared to be a tough act to follow — and that was before the first drop of rain fell on the event’s grounds at the Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture.

Indeed, attendance for 2013 was down: Organizers said 111,000 fans passed through the festival’s gates over last week’s three-day run.

The 17th Fuji Rock, however, likely sent few fans home highly disappointed, having provided an extensive lineup featuring 226 artists on 16 stages that spanned numerous genres and eras.

Japanese band Kemuri brought its brand of ska-punk to the Green Stage in the afternoon, while the Chicago-based quartet The Sea And Cake rolled through a set of jazz-inspired rock.

Just as drone-rockers My Bloody Valentine wrapped a set of material mainly culled from this year’s long-awaited release “mbv” at the Green Stage on Friday, the heavens opened. A few hours later, a lightning and thunder display punctuated the show by Nine Inch Nails, the industrial music stalwarts that debuted the track “Find My Way” from their upcoming album “Hesitation Marks,” which is scheduled to be released on September 3.

On Saturday, punk band Namba69 had kept the muddy mosh pit — and the bouncers — busy at the White Stage. Reminding fans about the spirit of rock n’ roll was Rocket From The Crypt. Guitarist and singer John Reis offered impromptu versions of “Louie Louie” and “Wild Thing” before ending the San Diego band’s show with a tribute to Hideki Yoshimura, the vocalist and guitarist of the Bloodthirsty Butchers who passed away in May.

Dancers boogied in front of the stage at the Cafe’ de Paris for the Latin American inspired music of Rojo Regalo. A pole-dance session (very appropriately) preceded the drumming and erotic dancing of Big Willie’s Burlesque presents Mambo Loco.

Following the indie rock of the Foals and the languid new-age tunes from Underworld front man Karl Hyde, eclectic singer Björk closed out the second night with a number of selections from her 2011 album “Biophilia,” including “Thunderbolt” and “Moon.”

Eddie Roberts
Eddie Roberts staying dry

While veteran rockers The Cure were top-billed for Sunday, the real highlights came in the form of Vampire Weekend, which played tracks from its latest record “Modern Vampires of the City,” the guitar-driven rock of Yo La Tengo and indie favorites The xx.

As with most years, this year’s Fuji Rock will be remembered more for the music and the overall positive vibe of the crowd than the rivers of runoff and fields of muck.

For Eddie Roberts, a guitarist who brought his combination of soul and jazz influences to the Field of Heaven on Saturday night, he found extreme satisfaction in the reception he received from the fans. This year was the third trip to Fuji Rock for Roberts, whose “Eddie Roberts’ West Coast Sounds” album hit store shelves in January.

“They are so receptive, they give so much back,” said Roberts backstage as the guitar of Gary Clark Jr. wailed in the background. “For an artist, that is the best.”