Summer Sonic Tokyo 08

by Ed Lau on August 12, 2008

Summer Sonic, Tokyo, Japan, Coldplay, Alicia Keys

There are few things that make me wake up during hours that end with AM. Awesome concerts is one of them.

Summer Sonic is one of the two big rock fests during the summer in Tokyo each year, the other being the Fuji Rock Festival. I woke up early to get my ass all the way out to Chiba, which is about an hour away from my apartment or more depending on which trains happen to be running at the time.

I wasn’t the first one at Summer Sonic. By the time I got out to Chiba, there was already a decent sized crowd. I honestly didn’t expect the scale of the venue, which spanned two entire buildings, the Chiba Mariners stadium as well as a very large convention center. It wouldn’t be much of a problem except that there’s a highway in the middle which makes for a very long walk around and the shuttle buses between the two venues are perpetually full.

Summer Sonic, Tokyo, Japan, The Teenagers, no pictures

Before I go any further, I did not bring my DSLR to the concert. That would be like…carrying a child on your back all day long. That and security kept telling everyone not to take pictures anyways and were quite strict about getting in the way if they saw you take out a camera. I don’t believe in taking lame, shaky pictures with a point-and-shoot but I did manage to snap a few and get a good video at the end.

I arrived in time to catch the last half of The Ting Tings set that began at 11:30am. You’ll probably know them as “The Band That Does The Current iPod Commercial Song”, taking that title away from Feist earlier this year. Decent set, good but not great. The same could be said for Vampire Weekend, who are fun but don’t exactly fill a 60,000 seat stadium to capacity.

Then I had some time to burn. I really didn’t know what to do between Vampire Weekend and Justice, which was pretty much the act I said I had to be in the front of the crowd for. I thought I should probably get to the Mountain Stage, where they would begin just after 5, during the Junkie XL performance and stay there, inching my way forward as I could.

After grabbing a bite, I stopped at the Dance Stage, where I thought I’d go see The Teenagers. I really knew nothing about them but I read about them in a few music mags before as an up-and-coming French band so why the hell not. I did also catch the end of the set for The Shoes, which piqued my interest when I heard a mix of Daft Punk’s Robot Rock with LCD Soundsystem.

The Teenagers put on a good show. I can’t say I’m a fan of their music but whenever the crowd is really into it and the band performs well then you can’t help but get sucked in yourself. I just listened to a few of their tracks on YouTube…well, let’s just say they have a lot more energy live.

This is where Summer Sonic seriously started to rock. Junkie XL was incredible. I’m sure most people will remember Junkie XL for the remix of Elvis’ A Little Less Conversation but he puts on some CRAZY beats. I could barely hear by the end, perfect for jumping around with a few thousand sweaty strangers!

Right then, I expected to get a front row seat. I mean, who the heck were the next act? Boom Boom Satellites? Never heard of them.

HOLY #*%&. Japanese folks are usually polite, organized and rather reserved but…I quite literally got swept up in a freakin’ sea of people. A huge wave of bodies rushed to the front as soon as Junkie XL finished and about ten people left and about ten thousand rushed in. I was wedged in so tightly that I couldn’t even raise my hands in the air to wave them like I just didn’t care.

Boom Boom Satellites…well, when they brought out the DJ equipment, I thought it would be another DJ. But then some of the sound guys started setting up all these electric guitars as well so I was starting to wonder what was going on. The band consists of two guys. One is lead guitar and the other is the DJ…and also guitar. There’s also a crazy drummer as well. You can find some of their music online if you want but it doesn’t have nearly the same power as it does live. Well, maybe if you played it at 11…or 12. If you can find their live videos like this…that gives you a pretty good idea.

I really can’t tell but…I think they’re singing in English.

Ever been in a Japanese mosh pit? I assure you it is neither polite or organized. I had to hold back a tad since, well, there were a lot of girls in the crowd that probably were less than half my size and I didn’t want to seriously injure anyone but holy #%*&! The energy from the guitarists and the crowd was totally nuts. Although the convention center is air conditioned, I can tell you that doesn’t mean jack when you’re pressed up against thousands of other sweaty people. Even though I was wearing all Dri-Fit, by the time Boom Boom Satellites finished, I was just drenched in sweat. As I mentioned on Twitter, some of it might even have been mine!

Justice…well, Justice was EPIC. They put on such a great show. The lighting, lasers and with that big light-up cross in the front of their speakers…well, it was like being in church. That is…a very loud, sweaty, dirty, French church. If you’ve been the Daft Punk show where they’re in that giant pyramid, it’s quite similar except you get two greasy-haired Frenchmen in denim vests and leather jackets instead of robots. Whereas Daft Punk seems to have a robotic organization, Justice is dirty and grimy, with tempo changes and off-kilter distortion everywhere. Apparently Justice is huge in Japan as nearly the whole crowd knew the “lyrics”, since everyone sang along to We Are All Friends. If you want to see what the show is like, this video of their performance at Coachella is similar.

Since Justice started a little late, I literally had to run to see Alicia Keys and caught the second half of her hour. I maintain that she is probably the most talented vocalist in the world at the moment and damn, she’s gorgeous. After thrashing around for the last four hours, I just wanted to sit down. You don’t really mosh to Alicia Keys anyways, so I grabbed a seat, where I stayed for Coldplay as well. The crowd was getting huge now and I didn’t want to wade through the ocean of people since there was no chance of getting right to the front.

Coldplay was also epic. Say all the “You know how I know you’re gay” jokes you want but they are fantastic performers. They played some songs off their new album as well as old favorites. I still think their performance of Politik at the Grammy’s years and years ago is one of the best performances ever and it was just as good in person. They really go out of their way to put on a good show. Chris Martin learned a few Japanese phrases as well as a Japanese song, which the girl sitting next to me, who was a huge Coldplay fan, explained to me a popular SMAP song called Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana.

They also brought Alicia Keys back on stage to help Chris Martin play the piano for Clocks. The highlight, as I mentioned yesterday, is that they went into the crowd on a tiny stage and played The Scientist with acoustic guitars. A great moment in the concert that the crowd really loved.

Summer Sonic, Tokyo, Japan, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, fireworks

Just a great concert. I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend 9+ hours.

in Entertainment,Travel

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Thrifty August 14, 2008 at 1:31 am

Wow, what a lot of fun…….it must have been truly amazing to be part of that. I would have agree that is a great way to spend 9 hours!!!!!!:)


Muhammad August 14, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Yo! Just wanted to say your blog roxx. I followed everything surrounding your trip in Japan. The way you write makes me feel like im right there with you.

You have given me a lot of inspiration, cuss Japan/Tokyo is where I want to be next summer. And the locations/restaurants you have chosen are all places I want to try (except for the chain one). Are you by any chance going to be there next summer?

Also I wanted to ask you about the costs there, I know Tokyo is a bit expensive, but how much money do you need, to be able to enjoy your self for two months?

Should I consider getting a job there? Please respond via my e-mail or on the comments. Thnx alot and please post more on your blog!


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