- This review has been submitted to us from a lover of Japanese trance festivals. It is an indepth look at what goes on from the 1st person perspective. This review is a journey in itself and whilst reading it you may have to pinch yourself to make sure you haven’t being suspended in a trance and teleported there. Not written in the usual review style, but none the less well worth reading.
The countdown had begun only a few weeks earlier, time had arrived. A dance party by Mount Fuji? I was intrigued. I felt somewhat unprepared for it, would I ever be anyway? Friday 20th July - the beginning of the Solstice Music Festival.
Only being my third month in Japan, I was very curious to investigate the trance scene and how different Japanese festivals would be. I had only been to East on Air a few weeks earlier where DJ Tsuyoshi played all night long, so I knew that if he was involved with Solstice Festival, I had already got my moneys worth.
My friend Takeshi met me at Shinjuku station where we had a convoy of 3 cars set for this journey. Meanwhile my other accomplices; an Australian by the name of Nicho, Naomi (Nicho`s girlfriend) and a New Zealander, Nathan, took the bus charted by the festival organisers. It took a little over 4 hours to drive from Shinjuku (in the heart of Tokyo) to the Motosu Highlands - Mount Fuji now coming into view.
The race to find a spot for the tents was on, and although it was quite competitive, the Japanese are very well mannered so the communal vibe was already setting in. Nicho, Naomi, Nathan and another Japanese friend had arrived and we finished pitching our 6 tents to the sounds of Hige-Masa from the distant Lake-Side stage.
By the time our party of 17 odd people was ready to explore the area and find our way around, Ree-K had thrown down some tunes to kick-start the main stage. She had already got those who were finishing off the final touches to their tents to drop everything and dance! It only took 20 minutes before our group of17 had dissipated into 5. Of course us Gaijin (foreigners) had stuck together, that being Nicho, Nathan and I, but also with was the fantastic Kaori and the bizarre Haru. Haru is a character if ever Id met one and he is known not only for his frantic dancing style, but his war-cry as he joins the fray of the dance floor. As we entered the dance floor (and of course a shriek or two from Haru) we were greeted by the introduction of Nick Taylor. This is a DJ I’m familiar with from my holidays to Byron Bay on the east coast of Australia, thus I immediately lost it and from then on my mind was one with the Solstice Festival - Nice one Nick! ;)
PgIchiban Track-u! a Japanese fan cried from the midst of the dance floor and suddenly out of my subliminal state I snapped out of my trance to find Etnica running the dance floor. With the DJ’s fingers snapping and heads on the dance floor rocking back and forth, I knew that this was the group many party goers told me to look out for. My ears were chewed off from words about the South African Millennium gig and the connection was only now just being realised. During this period of time I had been wearing an Ultraman mask and I had failed to realise that I was lacking enough oxygen - thus I fell on my arse, completely bewildered with my head in the stars.
It was shortly afterwards that I decided that a change of scenery was required, though there was no way of dragging Nicho with me and the others were not to be found amongst the 8 or 9 thousand people floating to-and forth from both stages. So I made my way wearily to the Lake Side stage where Dado played meaningful ambient tracks. From the lake-side stage you could make out the mountains amongst the mist and directly above the stars shone almost in synergy with Dado`s tracks. However now star gazing was out of the question as I had to find the others (and I had lost a contact lens on the dance floor). So I went back to the tents, which was also an unofficial rendezvous point. Naomi, Haru, Kaori and Nathan were there and after a glow stick spectacular, we hit the main stage to catch the last of Max`s set. Max was pumping the crowd in the drizzling rain, then Logic Bomb showed potential though several technical problems last the crowd half way on the journey Logic Bomb had intended taking them on.
I crashed out soon after, but my rest was brief as I was awoken in my tent by the sound of rustling leaves and deep heavy bass coming from the main stage - Tristan cleaning up the night and morning crowd. I leapt out of my tent to be clotheslined by a branch teasingly stretched across the front of my tent - yes; my mind was quite messy. Most of our group was huddled around the kettle, our cup noodles to be our breakfast. Nicho, meanwhile, had been the instigator of swimming in the lake - charging in at 6am completely starkers! Now though some faces looked drawn, however during my kip, free bus tickets were handed out to the nearby on-sen (hotsprings/showers, saunas, spas and an eucalyptus oil jacuzzi)! Obviously I was a little annoyed that I missed the opportunity, though Takeshi attempted to get me on the bus in vain. Despite this misfortune, I danced around by the main stage to Tristans tunes, before getting some more sleep. This time I could hear A.B. Digeridoo Oblivion play from the Lakeside stage which was quite soothing for my head. Maybe it was just the mushrooms I was on, but somehow his music made me feel like we were in Ewok Village on Endor and it was beddy-bye time called by the tribal elders.
When I woke up a few hours later, I was almost astonished that there was no music coming from either stage. I know I should’ve been expecting considering I’d over and read myself the schedule several hundred times. Percussionists were playing @ the bongo’s (or any instrument of choice) from every corner of the festival site. Others played soccer, Frisbee and just generally mucked around which was good to see that there was still plenty of life left in people after such a big night. As I walked down towards the main stage area, I realised that it wasn’t my imagination or a hallucination last night, people had set up their tents directly in the line of the main path. This was not too surprising considering it was even hard for us to find room for our tents - and we had arrived relatively early!
It was only until now that I had a good chance to look around the many stalls which had been set up, though last night I was greatly intrigued (not that I was in any state to look at anything in any great detail). Surrounding the main stage were mainly clothing stalls and mixed amongst them were numerous accessory/gadget/toy shops. Behind the main stage were predominantly food outlets also sprinkled with some clothes and accessory shops. Surprisingly the cost of food here at the Solstice Music Festival was very reasonable -especially in comparison with Tokyo! There was something for everyone, yet so delicious you could eat it no matter what state you were in! Following my curry and glass of red wine, I made my way up the track to the Lake Side stage where people were splashing around in the Motosu lake without a care in the world. The view from the lakeside stage looking at the hills was magnificent. The mist had lifted from the top of the mountains and it was very relaxing indeed. The smell of a freshly lit spliff drifted across me and when passed my way I toked and behold my surroundings with awe. Once again I fell asleep, this time on the bank of the lake.
I awoke and just in time to see the sun dip gently behind the rugged outline outline of the mountains. I headed back to the tent bypassing fire twirlers and decorators creating new pieces and repairing existing ones. When I eventually made my way back, Nathan was waiting, so too was the Bizarre Haru. We tried to catch the last bus to the On-sen, but we were too late. So we cleaned ourselves at the communal basin by the Main Stage.
We ran into the fantastic Kaori and she and I went to check out Really? Who was starting up the Lake Side Stage? The tracks ranged from rock to ambient to funk, though it was a good way to get the crowd back in the swing of things. It must’ve seemed like the music would never start, as many flocked to he Lake-Side stage to be near the music. I, on the other hand, was in a daze though Kaori was bopping away to the beats. As we passed through the dirt track back to the main stage, I noticed people had littered themselves amongst the support of thick tree branches, hung kaola like - some with cigarettes half-dangling out of their mouths smoked to the butt.
Final preparations were being made back at the tent site, Nicho and Nathan meticulously going through their plan of assault for the night whilst Takeshi & co. got some final kip. My plan was as such; practice my Japanese with Takeshi and the others, then we’d all go down to the main stage together and.... well I knew that’s as far as any plan would go at this party! Nicho and Nathan rapped on the tent flap, keen as beans to get down to the Main Stage.
So my plan was already foiled - Takeshi and the others deciding on getting some more rest, leaving our group at the same size as last night - The Bizarre Haru, Kaori, Nathan, Nicho and I. Masa was finishing the Main Stage`s introduction when we got down there. We ran into a few other friends down there and coincidentally Shpongle started up with a smooth flute number which was smoothing for the anxious nerves amongst the crowd. During Shpongle`s highly colourful live performance, the Lake-Side stage was closed so that Shpongle`s debut would get the crowd it deserved. The performance was warmly received (I’m sure not many were expecting that Latin number they brought out!) and it was perfect as an introduction for Tsuyoshi. Here I show great bias as I personally am a big fan of Tsuyoshi`s. My mind exploded along with the thousands I was partying with and as I looked to my right, Nicho was there brushing his teeth on the dance floor! "You crazy nut!" I cried, though almost instantly I had toothpaste on the end of my finger almost even faster I was pleading for some water to rinse and spit! It was fantastic. The live fire show on stage was sublime and the crowd was more into it than ever before! So in conclusion his set, um, uh, well it rocked. Following Tsuyoshi`s two and a half-hour set, Synthetic took to the stage and carried on the good form. By any indication of the kind of form I mean, a naked man swanned amongst the crowd, oblivious to the fact that he had no clothes on. He then shrieked, held his head in his hands, then leapt salmon like back into the fray of the dance floor.
After this incident, Serge started up - the crowd still flying. However, off to the Lake-Side Stage I went to hear Gus Till`s set, which at this stage of the night spun my mind out of control. I dropped by the magic mushroom stall (if you didn’t know magic mushrooms and peyote are sold in stores in Japan legally) and stocked up, though now I was on the trip down. Once again at the Lake Side Stage I had dropped a contact lens, so my stay was short lived. Back at the tent I threw out my other contact lens and flew into the madness of the Main Stage, where Kox Box where playing exactly what I wanted to hear. Not only was the music spectacular, but The Light Warriors Tokyo were suited up and duelling the music and my mind - I still get flashbacks when I think of this performance. During this set Mt Fuji arose from being the Main Stage with the break of daylight - what a sight to behold.
It was around now when I passed out near the embankment of the Main Stage - though somehow I managed to get back to the tent and awake to the sound of Raja Ram finishing off the part by the Lake Side Stage.
On the journey back to Tokyo we stopped by the On-sen and boy was it needed. A note for back home; get an On-sen set up nearby!
Well it was over and there are plenty of good things to be said about this whole affair. I can see why many people I spoke to during the festival had travelled from other parts of the globe to be here. Its not just the fantastic music, decorations, entertainment and location (though all of the above make the formula) but the people and atmosphere was second to none and did it for me. See you next year.