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Friday, Sept. 8, 2006
When and where: Saitama is really part of Tokyo, except when you get far enough out and places like Inariyama Park in Sayama feel a bit like Woodstock. That's even more the case on Sept. 9 and 10 (noon to 8:30 p.m.), when more than 20 bands perform at the Hyde Park Music Festival.
Inside track: Impoverished musicians took over the park from the SDF when the U.S. military departed from what was a military base, and turned it into a commune of sorts. That vibe flourishes every year at the festival, with health foods, massage options and hanging out, pure and simple. Making up the crowd are kids who are not embarrassed to dance, hip parents with well-worn ice boxes, alt-band lovers in India cotton and dogs who know how to catch a Frisbee.
Biggest names: Austin, Texas-based Asylum Street Spankers have a huge following in Japan, despite the double-entendres and poetic wildness of their English lyrics. They know how to cause havoc on the dance floor, too, with Texas swing, blues, and retro Americana; John Cowan was always too rock for bluegrass and too country for rock. As a member of the famed New Grass Revival, he started fiddling with genres long ago. In the post-Grateful Dead jam-band scene, he has at last found a knowing audience, both in the U.S. and Japan.
Take a chance on: The local acts are a potpourri of world, trad, acoustic and roots music genres. Check out the blues of Fusanosuke Kondo; Double Famous' eclectic blend of worldwide music with ukulele and vocals is strikingly unique; Humbert Humbert's acoustic-trad vibe seems at odds with their name, but they play very honest country music; and Bonobos' blend of lo-fi cool with dub rhythms fits the outdoor summer scene just right.
Damage: 6,500 yen at the door per day, or 10,000 yen for both days.
Getting there: It's less than 40 minutes from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo to Inariyama Koen Station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line, or about the same time to Sayamashi Station (plus a 20-minute hike) on the Seibu Shinjuku Line from Seibu Shinjuku Station. Get a return ticket at the station when you arrive, unless you like queuing. For further information, visit www.hmf-sayama.jp