SummerSonic Festival – Friday 7th Aug 2009


Humidity, blistering sun, ants, mosquitoes, ants, tangy Corona, queues, trendy hair, friendly folk, luminous everything, a spattering of foreigners, megaphones, dripping wet (rain and sweat), Nine Inch Nails, pristine sound, airport hanger, kebabs, an excellent diverse line up – These are just a few of the phrases that spring to mind when I try to piece my Summer Sonic memories together.

An early rise Friday was difficult especially after a night drinking Happoshu beers (nasty) the night before in an Izakaya in Koenji with my most recent visitor from Ireland.  Putting the grumpiness, mild headaches and groggy throats aside we were totally pumped for the day ahead of us and the all important NIN performance which is why we are going.  Tokyo is their 4th last gig ever and there was no way I was going to miss them after missing their last 2 Irish shows.  We arrived reasonably early to the venue which was already buzzing with people running around with Summer Sonic/My Chemical Romance/NIN T`s.  There was some interesting acts playing early which was a great way to whet our appetite.

The choice venue is an definitely an odd one.  It takes place mostly indoor inside what looked like an enormous airport hanger with 3 stages separated by huge partitions.  From experience, huge indoor gigs in big empty rooms usually means bad sound and zero atmosphere but this was different.  Excellent sound systems, a really enthusiastic crowd and they even attempted to decorate the arenas and stages with some interesting decor.   There was also no sound spilling into other stages which I expected.  The main stage was in a smallish outdoor stadium at the back of the hanger.  The 15 minute walk was a little inconvenient but it was hot and sunny so I didn’t complain (but we obviously did – “that heat is a terra!”).  All of Japans big sellers play here and it was interesting to see what made it to the big stage – pretty much a genres are getting an airing here – pop, J-pop, rock, metal, nu-metal, industrial and electronic.  Obviously you can`t like them all but I have to say it`s quite refreshing to see a line up so diverse.

Here is what I saw!

School of Seven Bells:  First band of the day in the very busy Sonic Stage arena/hanger.  I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the crowd at such an early time for an Brooklyn band who are relatively unknown.  I am assuming Sony Japan snapped them up and are now one of the 100 or so buzz bands at the minute in Japan.  Shoe gaze fans and lovers of loud wailing distorted guitars click here.

The Big Pink:  Next up is current buzz band The Big Pink.  I missed these guys when they support TV on the Radio in Dublin Tripod as they were seemingly playing at lunch time or some ridiculous early time.  Their set was equal parts brilliant and dull.  The start and end are so good but the middle dipped into generic indie rock territory which made the crowd a bit restless.  Some of their songs played live are just not that interesting and handful of people ended up leaving during their set.  It was possibly the low light of the day even though parts were great but the slight sound issues they had onstage and them playing the worst stage just made it a little hard to appreciate.  Opener “Too Young To Love” and closer “Domino” were the highlights of their somewhat disappointing set.  Check them out here as there recorded material is great.  They also play Electric Picnic festival in September!

Girl Talk:  My first Girl Talk gig and I was rather excited about this.  He is playing on a stage infront of a very packed Dance Stage Arena crowd and he had some fans (some foreingers!) on stage dancing behind him for his set.  Quite simply this guy is brilliant.  His dance mash-ups include everything from Metallica to Sinead O’ Connor to Faith No More to Guns and Roses to the Fraggle Rock theme tune.   He also paid homage to the late Micheal Jackson twice.  The crowd went nuts for his entire set.  Of course there was props, it was a festival after all.   My personal favourite was the leaf blower with toilet rolls attached to the end which covered the front few rows!  Toilet roll everywhere, confetti, sweat and big smiles.  Girl talk is the ultimate festival band and it really started to feel like it was a festival and not some expensive corporate music showcase in a hanger.  I do think he could have headlined this stage quite comfortably.  I expect a return to Tokyo very soon after the response he got at Summer Sonic.  After the gig it was time for a sit/beer and it was definitely needed after such a work out.



Phoenix:  We are still recovering from Girl Talk as we made our way over to the biggest indoor stage where I saw the Big Pink.  It’s busy, very busy, actually as the band take to the stage the big arena is rammed.  Their latest offering is just great and I highly recommend it.   Pop music it is but I just can’t ignore great pop like this.  A Brendan Benson meets the Strokes aural orgy.  Free single “1901”  and the experimental abrasive synths/Battle-esque guitars on “Love Like a Sunset” worked brilliantly live.  The band are clearly overwhelmed by the turn out and the singer totally takes advantage of this with a Bruce Springsteen style strut down through the pit divider with adoring fans screaming for him, seeking that all important grope.  Big in Japan.  Yes you are Phoenix, yes you are!  Their Osaka show the following day was canceled making this their only Japanese date.  Music here.

Nine Inch Nails:  It’s time for the main event and judging by the amount of NIN t-shirts on show, this band were a big crowd puller.  I would never say I know everything about this band.  It`s quite difficult when they have 20 years of material under their belts (I have been slowly working my way through their back catalogue for the part 7 or so years now). It`s getting dark in the outdoor arena and spotlights come on and NIN take to the stage and tear through a blistering set.  Unusually mosh pits form and there was a lot of scary crowd swaying.  Two songs in and it starts to rain.  It`s light but quickly turns into the torrential downpour Japan is famous for.  It’s heavy and it sting the eyes (assuming it`s a form of acid rain) but it`s really not going to stop the crowd enjoying one of the most influential bands of the part 2 decades.  Trent is on top form declaring “Don`t be pussies and leave”.  No one even budged even though it was the heaviest rain I have experienced (the notes in my wallet were even stuck together they were that wet).  Thunder and Lightning starts and it strangely added to the gloominess of the NIN live sound –  menacing and eerie.  Highlights were “Closer”, “Hand that Feeds”, “The Frail”, “Wish”, “Afraid of Americans” and “Hurt”  with lightning and the sound of rain dripping around everyone.  Surprisingly nothing from their latest album was played.  Their live show will be missed but never forgotten.  It saddens me that My Chemical Romance headline the stage after them, a band who were most definitely influenced by the kings of industrial rock at some stage.


#  Somewhat Damaged [The Fragile]
# Terrible Lie [Pretty Hate Machine]
# Heresy [The Downward Spiral]
# March of the Pigs [The Downward Spiral]
# Closer [The Downward Spiral]
# The Frail [The Fragile]
# I’m Afraid Of Americans [David Bowie – Earthling]
# Burn [?]
# Gave Up [Broken]
# The Fragile [The Fragile]
# The Big Come Down [The Fragile]
# Wish [Broken]
# Survivalism [Year Zero]
# The Hand That Feeds [With Teeth]
# Hurt [The Downward Spiral]  **ENCORE**





Aphex Twin –  It`s only 8pm and I am on a complete high.  I decided to check out Aphex Twin as I was slightly intrigued and I had time to kill before the last train.  I would never claim to be an Aphex Twin fan.  To be honest, the guy scares me and his music creeps me out sometimes.  I did not recognize much of his set but “Window Licker” was great as was his “I Want to Dance With You” – Michael Jackson mash up.  Aphex Twin is all about the visuals tonight and some of the visuals are just wrong and disturbing.  I love people experimenting with visuals but really some of this was just headache inducingly weird.  Footage of dead murder victims is about the only one I can mention on here.  The closing visual was just unbelievable and I don’t know how this is allowed to be shown!  It was an interesting show but I do think he needs help.

Things I missed:  Mogwai (although I caught last song “Batcat” which was great), Mew, Soulwax, 65 Days of Static.

Over all – excellent day out!


the aftermath


~ by redegg on August 12, 2009.

2 Responses to “SummerSonic Festival – Friday 7th Aug 2009”

  1. I think my daughter and I met you on Friday at Summer Sonic.
    We had a great time!
    Enjoyed your pictures!

  2. Did we meet? Hmmm possibly.. I don`t remember meeting many people here to be honest but then again my memory is not the best! Good weekend and I will go again in the future.

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