August 12, 2007

Summer Sonic 2007 Tokyo Music Festival: Day 1

(日本語版 )

Summer Sonic is a two-day summer music festival held in Chiba's Makuhari Messe and nearby Marine Stadium.  It is a huge event, with probably around 80 bands playing over two days, and unofficial concerts on the side as well.  This was my first time every going:  I really wanted to go last year since We Are Scientists were playing, but I had a conference to attend and was back in America at the time.  This year, I didn't have as much of a connection to the bands, but there were some great acts, and it is a real value for your money compared to the standard Japanese live show fare, which is about $45 for a ticket to see one band (maybe two if you are lucky.)  The two-day Summer Sonic Pass was about $275, and you can see about sixteen shows if you are tough enough...

I had to wake up at about 7am to get to Makuhari.  It takes about an hour if you hit the right trains, or an hour and a half if you get the local ones, taking Oiimachi line to Oiimachi, transferring to the Rinkai line to Shin-Kiba, then taking Keiyou line to Maihama Makuhari.  At the station there were crazy numbers of people, and they were making announcements about how it is crowded, buy your return ticket in advance, etc.  Exiting the station there were lots of people with hand-made signs asking to buy tickets and so on.  Also, there were lots of older guys (almost positively Yakuza) doing ticket scalping trying to sell tickets.  They were also buying extra tickets.  I have no idea what the markup on this kind of thing is, but those guys were around for the whole festival.  I don't think they could have made that much money because I never saw anyone buy from them, but who knows.

It was a pretty long walk from the station to Makuhari Messe (the convention center), where I exchanged my ticket for a two-day wristband pass.  I wandered around for a bit and then headed over to the Marine Stadium since the bands I wanted to check out in the morning started on that stage.  It was crazy hot, probably about 36 degrees celsius very humid, not a cloud in the sky with a fierce sun beating down.  I had put on lots of sunblock since I'm whiter than a scared ghost, but I was still worried about getting sunburned.  Over at the stadium I walked around for a while, bought a Pokari Sweat and kept wandering around.  Completely by coincidence I ran into Lisa and Kana, who I knew were coming, but didn't expect to easily be able to find in the massive crowds.  We had more than an hour before the first act, so we headed over to the Beach Stage (literally on the beach!) where Lisa said I should be able to get a small towel from the Tower Records stand (to help with protection from the sun!)

"Onsoku Line (Speed of Sound Line)"

While at the beach stage we saw the opening act Onsoku Line, a three man group of rap-style music.  They were pretty good, and certainly were fitting for the beach stage.  It was lots of fun even though I hadn't heard of them before.

We headed over to the Marine Stage and got a spot very close to the stage - maybe like 6 rows of people back.  It was crazy hot.  I had my towel wrapped around my head and under my hat so my neck wouldn't get burned.  Almost everyone else did too.  Did I mention that it was hot?  Before the shows really started to get going, some dude came out to warm us up.  I didn't know who he was, but he was maybe half or something because his English was quite good, although the whole thing was mostly in Japanese.  After he did his thing (MC in charge) Nishioka Sumiko (you can see some of the other characters she has played, as well as a bit as her current SM Mistress character in this youtube video) came out and did a kind of routine.  It was kind of funny, but like most Japanese comedians the comedy comes from just shouting at people something vaguely inappropriate (you guys are all pig bastards!) She has a kind of leather-wearing Mistress like domination schtick.

"The Pipettes"

Next up was The Pipettes, a female singer trio from England.  They had a backing band who wore cute monogrammed sweaters, but the act is just the three women, who are singers.  They are like a blast from the 1950s, wore cute polka-dot outfits, and had completely choreographed dances with intricate hand movements for each of their songs.  The really funny thing is that their song lyrics were mostly completely at odds with their poppy happy sound.  They reminded me of Lily Allen in a way because of that.  I really thought they put on a great live show, although I'm not really interested in buying their album because musically I just wasn't grooving that 50s sound too much.  It isn't bad, it is just at the price of albums out here, I've got a lot of other things to spend my money on before I head after these girls.  I really did enjoy the show though.  Lots of fun.

"OK Go"

Next up was OK Go.  I knew of them because of their Youtube Video for Here it Goes Again, which is really great.  I didn't know much else about these guys, but they put on a good show, had some pretty heavy rock sound, and weren't bad at all.  I like their style.

"The Editors"

I first found out about The Editors when they toured through Japan with We Are Scientists.  I really liked them then, they reminded me a bit of Joy Division.  Actually, when I was chatting with Keith from the Scientists he introduced me to the guitarist and the bassist of the band.  They seemed like nice guys.  This time the guitarist was wearing a kind of Power-Rangers type shirt that really went over well in Japan I think.  The Editors put on a really great show, and the lead singer was crazy nuts with his strange arm movements and stuff.  He was twisting his arms around behind his back, moving around strangely, all that stuff.  It was pretty cool.  They really rocked it hard, and if you don't have their album "The Back Room" I recommend you pick it up.

After the Editors, I was exhausted from hours of standing in the hot sun, so we all headed back to the indoors Makuhari Messe area for a break and lunch.  I really wanted to check out Puffy AmiYumi, but instead I had lunch and took a bit of a break.  If I had really killed myself and ran around like crazy I probably could have seen a few more bands, but that makes things seem more like work.  It was more fun to relax and see the bans that I really wanted to see and not worry too much about scheduling, just try to have a good time.  Lunch also involved waiting in lines and just took too long.  I did have a nice lunch though: Fried Yaizu don, which was a fried maguro fish on rice.  It was really good too.  While the convention center was air conditioned, it was so hot and there were so many people that it wasn't really all that cool.  Still, after about an hour, I had finally cooled down a bit and quite sweating. That wouldn't last for long though, since next up was

"Interpol"

Interpol was playing on the Sonic stage, a medium sized indoor stage.  I've always like Interpol since their first album "Turn on the bright lights" (still their best, IMHO) and since they are also a New York band I have a special place in my heart for them.  Their show was really good.  I was up front so had a really nice view, and they played lots of songs that I knew so it was really great. I really think that Editors and Interpol make a pretty nice pairing.

"Dinosaur Jr."

After Interpol I stayed at the Sonic stage for Dinosaur Jr.  I used to listen to these guys way back in high school, I would remember Eric and I in the car driving back from track practice after school with these guys on the radio.  They broke up a while ago, but recently the band has been re-formed with new members apparently.  I should have known this, since it is their style, but the distortion and feedback was just crazy.  The volume wasn't any louder than any of the other bands, but with all of the feedback the high pitched sounds were just unbearable.  I really needed some earplugs for this one.  I closed my ears and listened to the first two songs - including a surprising cover of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" - and then went next door to relax and sit down for a while.

"Modest Mouse"

Probably the band that I was most looking forward to was (or second most, hard to tell) was Modest Mouse.  I really love their new album "We were dead before the boat even sank".  I was really amazed that Johnny Marr, the famous guitarist from The Smiths, was playing with them, and right up there on stage in front of me.  I never thought that I would have the chance to see Johnny Marr live, but there you are.  They played a lot of songs that I knew and just put on a great show.  One funny (or sad?) thing that happened is that the lead singer Isaac Brock went down into the crowd once, and when he came back up to the stage someone had taken his hat.  In between every song break he was talking about his hat.  First it was "Hey man, give me back my hat" and then it progressively got more aggressive like "Man, do you know how hard it is to find a hat that you like?" and "You can't just go taking people's hats for nothing!", "This isn't the Isaac gives away his hat 2007 tour!" and "Man, I don't care if you say you can just comp these things, it doesn't matter if it costs $20 or $1, you can't just go taking people's stuff" and finally "Fuck you in the face, motherfucker!".  I'm with him on that sentiment: that's just shitty to take some guy's stuff just because you want it.  It really sucks that fans act like assholes sometimes.  The show itself was really great though.  They put on a hard-rocking show, and sang a lot of good stuff, and oh my god, Johnny Marr!  It was great.  They were my favorite act of the day, and probably of the two day festival.

"Travis"

I finished things out with Travis I don't really know Travis well; I've heard them on the radio and various podcasts that I listen to, but I don't have any of their albums.  They really sounded great with a nice sound and very good harmony.  I am interested in picking up one of their albums, but I don't know where to start really.

After Travis, I headed home on the super crowded trains.  It took about an hour and a half, and of course the train was super packed.  By the time I got to the Rinkai line though I was able to sit down.  There is at least one good thing to be said about taking a super expensive line that normally people don't ride: you can sit down.  I collapsed into bed, hoping to rest up these old feet for another day of the same punishment tomorrow...


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