Dragged ourselves out of bed unenthusiastically for what we expected to be an unappetizing breakfast – it was included in the price of our room. Turned out to be delicious! Fried spring rolls, salad, grilled fish, pickles, and of course the breakfast staples of miso soup, rice and dried seaweed. We returned to our room feeling satisfied and then just lounged around for an hour or so. We decided to take it easy – the first band we wanted to see, Goldfrapp, weren’t on till 1 o’clock.
It was still raining a bit, so we thought we’d go to an onsen (hot spring bathhouse). There were a couple nearby (no doubt very popular during the ski season). One had outdoor baths, and we’d gotten discount tickets for it at last night’s restaurant, so in we went. Like most such places, the baths were segregated, so Jo and Lora went to the ladies’ bath and I to the gentlemen’s. It was crowded – I had to wait about 5 minutes for my pre-bath shower. Waiting in line is never fun, but even less so when you’re naked. Anyway, the bath was lovely, half-enclosed by a wooden roof and with nice trees to look at.
The best was saved for last – by the time we left the onsen, the rain had stopped and the sky was blue!
We headed happily to the festival site in the sunshine. This was the most musically packed day for us. We started by seeing Goldfrapp. I liked her lush first album, and nowadays she’s moved with the times and sounds a bit more like Ladytron. We particularly liked the song that seemed to be about making love on a step machine.
After this we went for lunch. We even managed to score a table, which was quite a prize. I was intrigued by the Spam sushi, but decided not to sample it. (Yet.)
We reluctantly left our table and headed back to the Red Marquee in time for The Raveonettes’ opening squalls. I like their songs, but the sound was bad – too much guitar. Still Sune’s frantic fretboard scraping was great to see (if not to hear). Sharin’s detached, studied coolness was a bit much. Her bored “Rock and roll, yeah” was especially amusing. We enjoyed the music, but left during the final feedback frenzy.
We thought we’d go to the main stage at this point, to grab a spot to see the likes of Coldplay (whom Lora was looking forward to) and Bjork (whom I was). (Who says “whom” nowadays? I do.) We found a spot that was, quite frankly, nowhere near the stage, but we could see the video screen and easily hear the music. We spread out our mat (just a boring blue one – unfortunately, Jo left her “Keroppi” cartoon frog mat in Sydney) and blobbed out on the lawn, perilously close to the still-very-muddy mud.
The music was fairly quiet at this stage, as Masayoshi Yamazaki was up on stage with his guitar. I hadn’t heard him before, though I had seen record shops promoting his new album. He was really good – by the time you read this I may already have purchased said album.
Mr Yamazaki left the stage and after a while, Asian Dub Foundation bounced onto it. They were excellent, really energetic; sometimes it seemed more like an aerobics class than a performance. Their set was really long too. All their leaping around was the perfect counterpoint to our lazing around, drinking red wine and eating Pocky.
It started getting darker later as Coldplay hit the stage. I never realized how much of a one-man band they are, with Whatsizname the singer also playing guitar and piano (though, disappointingly, not at the same time). I presume he writes the songs too, as well as getting the famous girlfriends. Anyway, good songs, sung with feeling. They were a hit with us. He even apologised sheepishly for not being able to speak Japanese (apart from the obligatory “arigato”).
After Coldplay, hunger ensued. Jo and I ventured to the biggest of the food areas where we got some pizza (poor), samosas and bhaji (excellent) and ramen (excellent), and I finally succumbed to the charms of the Spam Onigiri. Lora kindly took a photo of me eating the spam, and shortly afterwards decided to go home. I wonder if the two are related. Anyway, the spam was pretty good. I recommend it to anybody who enjoys tinned meat, dried seaweed and rice.
The soundtrack to our dinner was provided by Primal Scream, one of the few acts not to say “arigato”. They played all the hits, fairly loudly, and a whole lot of stuff I didn’t know. (I lost touch with them after Vanishing Point.)
About this time, it started to rain lightly. Damn! Jo and I packed up and wandered over towards the Red Marquee, where there was an Italian man selling coffee. The Music were playing, but it was a bit too crowded in the Marquee to get in – all I could see was the singer’s impressively big hair. We’d already glimpsed them earlier on the main stage anyway, and the coffee was outstanding.
We headed back to the main stage. and waited for Bjork. Eventually her ensemble appeared, with various orchestral instruments and even a harpist – you don’t see enough harps on stage these days. Then Bjork emerged in a swan costume, looking very bjorky. She sang angelically, concentrating on the quieter recent material. I loved Hidden Place and Hyperballad, among many other highlights. She also did very amusing little swan-like dances back and forth along the stage.
During the quiet bits, we could hear Iggy Pop making quite an impressive racket on another stage on the other side of the grounds. At times he threatened to drown out Bjork.
After about the halfway mark, the dramatic bits of the songs were enhanced with bursts of flame on stage and fireworks exploding above the crowd, evoking some lovely oohs and aahs. It had stopped raining at this point, so the mood was excellent as Bjork wound up her set. A lot of the crown left immediately, but Jo and I stayed on until Bjork returned for one encore. (The first song from Debut she’d done all night.) After this we left too. Bjork had other ideas though – we heard her second encore as we were trudging the long way home.
On the way back, we popped into the Palace of Wonder to see Grand Monarch, a Japanese band consisting of about a dozen people wearing boiler suits and playing ska. Eventually they removed the boiler suits to reveal normal people underneath. Though it was raining again, they had fun and so did the crowd.
And so did the giant ant.