Here’s a list of the headliners from each of the three days of the 2021 Fuji Rock Festival, with a video from each band.
Fuji Rock 2021 had a mix of musicians from the Japanese scene, with no international artists due to Covid. There was a bit of an emphasis on “legacy” artists and honoring legends of the Japanese music scene. Nostalgia and homage included a massive tribute to Japanese rock legend Imawano Kiyoshiro with a star-studded super-band, including members of luminary bands including the Blue Hearts and Unicorn, playing a selection of Imawano’s hits. Stalwarts of the Japanese music scene, including Denki Groove, Sunny Day Service, and veteran Char took up prominent spots in the evenings. This was mixed with newer crowd favorites including 4s4ki, Chai, and Kan Sano.
Fuji Rock 2021 Headliners Playlist
Information about Fuji Rock 2021 Japanese Band Headliners
Fuji Rock Online Schedule Day 1
Vaundy is a singer songwriter. He also a visual artist who collaborates with creators to produce artwork and video.
He quickly came to the attention of the Japanese listening public in 2019 with his song “Tokyo Flash” reaching 2 million views in as many months.
In 2020, he was included in Spotify’s 10 next breakthrough artists to watch.
His music ranges between rap and electro-infused indie sounds.
Radwimps have been around since 2001 and known for their heartfelt, epicly orchestrated sound. They are probably best known in the west for their music that was prominently used in major animation movies Your Name and Weathering With You.
Metafive is a “supergroup” with members of YMO, Denki Groove, Deee-Lite and Cornelius. In the tradition of bands, such as “The Band” in the USA, they began their existence as the backing group for artist Yukihiro Takashi on his 2014 tour.
Their sound reflects the members inclinations with a strong electronic element mixed with live rock instruments and front vocals delivered in flawless English. They released an album that reached number 13 in Japan’s Oricon charts. They had another slated for release in 2021, but the release got caught up in the controversy around member Oyamada Keigo’s bullying comments.
Tempalay have a laid back, psych, dream rock sound with a groovy swaying feel to it. With it’s low-fi inflections mixing synths, samples and rock elements, they are somewhat reminiscent of artists such as Australia’s Tame Impala. Their sound also mixes in sounds from asian traditional instruments and elements considered to be more part of the “world music” scene.
The band formed out of a meeting of musicians at Fuji Rock Festival’s “Rookie a Go-Go” stage in 2015. To date they have released 3 albums.
Fuji Rock Online Schedule Day 2
King Gnu is based around singer songwriter Daiki Tsuneta and they make highly produced, smooth, rock pop. Their sound is somewhat reminiscent of AOR sounds of the 70s and 80s, but with a modern production aesthetic and more heartfelt strain to it.
The band started out as “Mrs.Vinci” in 2013 and changed their name to King Gnu in 2017, the same year they played at Fuji Rock. They would again perform at the prestigious rock festival in 2018.
In 2019 they scored their first No.1 on the the Billboard Japan Download Chart with their song “Kasa.
The Alexx played at Fuji Rock in 2019 before they had officially released any music. They have a sound that is psych-rock influenced, with copious effected guitar swirls coupled with exotic, asian inflected vocalisations.
They released their debut single “Beatwave” in September 2019 and their first album “Vantablack” in November. “Beatwave (Takkyu Ishino Remix)” was released in 2020 followed by two new songs. The epic “Something Great”, which clocks in at 9 minutes and 46 seconds, and their first Japanese lyrics song “Outsider”.
They appeared in “KEEP ON FUJI ROCKIN’II” held on New Year’s Eve 2020.
Number girl started in 1995 in Fukuoka, but got their start in playing gigs around Tokyo’s hip Shimokitazawa area and releasing a major label debut in 1998. Their sound is very much influenced by the 90s grunge and punk rock of the time making music that is akin to the likes of Dinosaur Jnr, Pavement or Sonic Youth.
In 1999 their single “Destruction Baby” was produced by Flaming Lips producer Dave Friddman, who went on to produce an album with the band. The band broke up in 2002 and singer Shutoku Mukai went on to form the successful Zazen Boys.
Number Girl reformed in 2019.
The Spellbound are a duo formed in 2020. They create driving, emotional synth-inflected rock with soaring vocals and complex drum machine patterns.
The band was formed when Boom Boom Satellites’ Masayuki Nakano put out the word on social media in 2019 that he was looking for a vocalist after the death of his former band member Michiyuki Kawashima four years earlier. Yusuke Kobayashi of The Novembers was the first to throw his hat in the ring, and they formed their new duo in December 2020. From the start of 2021, they released 5 songs in as many months, replete with high end production and video clips.
Char is one Japan’s most pre-eminent guitar heroes in the vein of Clapton, Beck, Stevie-Ray Vaughan. Starting out as a session muso in the 1970s, Char began releasing solo albums in the late 70s and collaborating with other major rock n roll figures including Imawano Kiyoshiro.
His music ranges from the heavily blues influenced sounds that also influenced his western guitar-god heroes, through to prog-rock and jazz. He often tops Japanese “Best Japanese guitarist” lists and at this stage is very much the “venerable old man” of Japanese guitar rock. And, yes, he undeniably shreds.
Rovo are perhaps the ultimate space-psych-rock band out there. Far out there. Their soaring electric violin lines over a driving rock, double drunkit, grooves them sets them apart from many other jam bands out there. Rhythmically they often set totally different time signatures and patterns against each other to create a live DJ-style crossfade that phases.
Rovo has clear similarities with legendary underground alt-rock, experimental ground breakers The Boredoms, a band that founding member Seiichi Yamamoto is an ex-member of. Founded in 1996 in Tokyo, the band also features Bondage Fruit electric violinist Yuji Katsui, and synthesizer/effects technician Tatsuki Masuko, and drummers Yasuhiro Yoshigaki and Youichi Okabe. The sound is underpinned by the driving bass lines of Jin Harada.
Perhaps another equivalent band to draw a comparison to here would be Australia’s violin lead improv group Dirty Three.
Fuji Rock Online Schedule Day 3
Denki Groove are perhaps Japan’s preeminent electro-pop band in the style of, say, a New Order or Spandau Ballet mixed with the 90s club sounds of a Chemical Brothers.
Founded in 1989, under the shadow of Mount Fuji, in Shizuoka by Takkyu Ishino and Pierre Taki.
They made their major label debut in 1991 with Flash Papa, which was released in 1991. They released a series of commercially well received albums in the 90’s before taking a hiatus in the early 2000s.
In 2019, Pierre Taki was arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession. Sony subsequently took Denki Groove’s recordings off the shelves and stopped streaming the group’s music. Streaming was restarted in 2020.
Chai is one of those bands that is perhaps better known outside of their own country as inside and follows in the tradition of Japanese bands embraced by the international rock underground, such as Shonen Knife. They have released music on the legendary Sub Pop label and performed at the 2019 Pitchfork Festival in Chicago.
Originally starting in Nagoya in 2012, the band got perhaps their first big opportunity in 2016 when they won a Sony music competition to perform at a Japanese music stage at the venerable SXSW festival in the U.S.
Their sound is an upbeat indie rock, with bright summery vibes. They switch frequently in live performances from synth to guitar and back. They wear their “girl-band” tag with pride, and their tendency to subvert contemporary ideas of “kawaii” and “cuteness” in Japanese has been frequently commented on. The band themselves refer to concepts such as “neo-kawaii” that doesn’t bow to conventional concepts of physical beauty.
Susumu Hirasawa + Ejin
Born in Saitama in 1998, named Asaki, 4s4ki is a solo singer-songwriter 4s4ki creates music that blends auto-tune, rap and sung vocals.
Asaki has also done arranging and track creation for the “SoundOrion” unit, GADORO, Shuri Uchida, media mix works including “Kemono Friends” and “SHOW BY ROCK !!”.
Her live performances feature elaborate set design, with Asaki switching from unadorned keyboard and vocals songs to heavily affected vocal and beat tracks.
OAU (Overground Acoustic Underground)
OAU is a Japanese acoustic band formed in 2005. The band features vocals in English by Marty from “Johnsons Motorcar” and 4 members of Japanese band Brahman.
They play music heavily influenced by the traditional music traditions of Ireland, UK and regional American country music traditions.