Headless Chickens played their first gig in almost a decade last Friday. The setlist was packed with great songs, the crowd was into it, the sound was excellent. They rocked.
Headless Chickens have been one of my favourite bands since the early ’90s, even though they pretty much called it a day in about 2000. I remember listening to their first recordings on BFM in New Zealand 20 years ago, and then the splash they made in Australia a few years later with their Body Blow album. I still listen to their music now, so imagine my surprise when the Fiona McDonald we met when we moved back to Auckland turned out to be Fiona Headless Chicken, whose sweet yet gutsy voice helped make the Chooks such a unique band. And imagine my even more surprised surprise when I found out that the band were going to re-form for a tour of Australia and New Zealand.
So along we went. The venue was the Powerstation in Mount Eden. The last act I saw there was Beats International, one of Norman Cook’s pre-Fatboy Slim guises, about 20 years ago. I was also there the night they ignored fire regulations and crammed 1400 people into the 600-capacity venue for a Deborah Harry show… now that was a hot night. It all seems so long ago now. Because it was. But this is 2008 and so we went in to see the support band Brand New Math giving their all to a few interested spectators. They made a decent noise, but I prefer their recorded output. Anyway, people came in throughout the evening so by the time the Chickens strolled on stage the Powerstation was full. And they started.
Sunday was a beautiful day. Blue skies made it a bit easier to get up this morning, As usual, difficult to get out of bed in time for breakfast, but again it was well worth it, even if the omelette wasn’t as good as yesterday’s spring rolls.
Today there weren’t any must-see bands for us (he said dismissively) so we thought we’d have a bit of an outing. Part of the Festival was above the rest of the venue – a secluded play and performance space called Silent Breeze, and also an outdoor DJ sound system called Day Dreaming. To get there, you had to take the
Dragondola cable car.
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!
Crowd-surfing in the blazing sunshine, vodka-fuelled midnight revelry, and majestic views of Mount Fuji. That’s what any reasonable person would expect from the Fuji Rock Festival. Actually, for us it involved none of these things, but I still had such a good time that I’m already planning for next year’s festival.
The first Fuji Rock Festival was held on the slopes of Mount Fuji about eight years ago, but it’s been relocated a couple of times. These days it’s held in a ski resort called Naeba, about an hour or two out of central Tokyo.
I would like to have gone last year, but arrived in Japan a bit too late to organize it. But this year, thanks largely to Jo’s organizational efforts, I made it. On Friday morning, 25 July 2003, Joanne and I met up with Lora, and the three of us set out in search of music and fun.