After living in Hakuba for the last few months and going from my usual three gigs a week to none at all has been hard; so I was especially stoked when Snow Machine came to town.
Spanning over four days and reaching majority of the towns and mountain ranges within Hakuba, Snow Machine was a great celebration of music and lifestyle as well as being a huge booster to the local economy which is very quiet at this time of the year.
Whilst there may have been some criticism from locals about the ‘Baka Gaijin’s’ coming to town and causing havoc, I would like to say I think that for the most part everyone was quite well behaved. Snow Machine did a terrific job of keeping the peace within the festival grounds and I didn’t necessarily notice much of a difference walking home on the streets to any standard Australian tourists that came to Japan for a holiday.
Unfortunately, Crooked Colours, Bag Raiders and Yolanda Be Cool all pulled out for various reasons which annoyed quite a lot of the crowd as there were no replacement acts announced, but I was still very satisfied with what was on offer.
Client Liaison have had their live shows hyped for a very long time now; having finally had the chance to see them I can understand why… they are genuinely a fun act on stage. It really seems as if they are partying with you instead of being an on-stage performance. Their use of instrumentation and groovy basslines provided the perfect headliner for the opening night with their set concluding with the newly released and fan-favourite ‘The Real Thing.’
Truthfully I haven’t heard too much from Art Vs Science in recent years but their set was phenomenal. Mixing in all of their old school tracks like ‘Magic Fountain’ and ‘Flippers’ and newer material the crowd was absolutely loving it. By the time they dropped ‘Parlez Vous Francais’ the vibe honestly could not have been higher with the crowd singalong (of what is most likely the only French words they know) being deafening.
I have never really been into Drum and Bass, with it’s following being much higher in the UK I have always been more aligned to the techno scene but Shockone really won me over. His use of transitions between huge build-ups and incredibly heavy drops got the crowd into complete hysteria with mosh pits raging and people crowd surfing. On top of that, he was one of the only DJ’s who it was evident was genuinely mixing on stage which made his set all the more impressive.
By the time Hermitude stepped on next the crowd was well and truly warmed up but still super ready for night two’s headliner. Playing tracks off all of their albums Hermitude breezed through an incredibly meticulous set with the percussion and sample pad elements being incredibly impressive. Songs such as ‘Through The Roof’ made early appearances with its South American stylings being a super fun track to dance too. ‘The Buzz’ as well as older songs, such as ‘Get In My Life’ and ‘Speak Of The Devil’, which featured an incredible on stage appearance from Haiku Hands’ Claire Nakazawa on vocals and were easily personal favourites with the view from the side of the stage being unforgettable.
Illy delivered an impressive hip-hop set with his on-stage drummer packing such a punch and being really cool to enhance the live sound.
Confidence Man were easily my favourite act of the four days, playing with precision their unique dance moves and bohemian outfits were nothing short of a spectacle to watch in a live setting. Plus, the heavy basslines and keys provided an incredible backing track. The music is so groovy and compiles so much of their sound that I am very interested in where the actual songwriting roles lie, but if they are just on stage musicians the hooded figures in the back were immaculate (except one of them definitely seemed a bit like Lewis from The Belligerents…no proof but I’m onto you Lewis.)
All in all I’m so beyond happy that Snow Machine existed. It was the perfect opportunity to highlight the beauty of Japan and their snowfields to Australian punters as well as showcasing some incredible Australian artists to Japanese crowds. I pray that this was its inaugural year and continues to happen.
Reviewed by Alex Callan
Photos by Pat Stevenson
March 1 – 4 2020