Sunday, 8 August 2010

Summer Sonic 2010

Last year I had to decide between getting a cheap ticket back home for two weeks, or seeing the 10th anniversary Summer Sonic three day event. The $500 return ticket was too hard to pass up, so I had to forgo the festival. Shame that. There were a lot of great bands playing such as Placebo and Nine Inch Nails.

I have quite mixed feelings though about Summer Sonic. On one hand the lineups are pretty impressive, BUT on the other hand, the way they scheduled each band there was inevitably going to be some compromises to how many you can actually see.

This year was no different. The best bands were playing around the same, or close to the same time, and because of the size of the location, getting to another stage by start time was no mean feat, even with those buses.

The second issue is tickets. The two day ticket "sold out" on the Thursday, and yet the one days were still available? This looks clearly like a grab for cash. Fortunately I managed to get the two day ticket, and at a nice reduced price as well.

For those outside of Japan, tickets can be purchased at Lawson (convenience stores) Loppi machines, so you might avoid the uncertainty of buying them over the internet.

Another thing that annoys me is the banning of cameras. At events like these, it would be great to take some "real" photos of your favourite bands. I had to resort to using my crappy iPhone quality for photos, which looking at them now pale in comparison to what I could take with my SLR.

Ok, enough of that rant. Let's get on with the show, shall we?

We got up nice and early to be able to see the opening bands of the day. None of the bands held my attention long enough to stick around.

Many people around this time took the opportunity to LINEUP to buy t-shirts from the "OFFCIAL" (lol) goods stands. By the end of the festival, there weren't too many shirts left. A lot of Japanese wore their Summer Sonic t-shirts from this year, and past years gone by. To me it's like wearing a Brisbane shirt in Brisbane, but I digress.

General Fiasco kicked off a great set on the Mountain Stage. For a three-piece, their sound was really full and they oozed a fair amount of stage presence.

It Hurts to watch this band (With a name like that, it's kind of like, asking for it). I heard their songs, "Better than Love" and "Wonderful Life" prior to coming here, and I REALLY wanted to like this band. The lead singer did a lot of strange "flourishes" with his hands. It came across as a more gay BROS (if that can really be possible).

Their backup singer looked way out of place looking like a supper club waiter. I liked their 80s sound (could use a guitar though), but too many overblown ballads. "Sunday" has a nice Killers kind of vibe though, if only the singer took stage presence tips from Brandon Flowers. Better still, go see The Killers. They're absolutely awesome live.

Yes Giantess had a nice disco sound reminiscent of early Michael Jackson, but a lot of their songs sound quite similar. Maybe they should change their synth presets a bit more often. Not a bad set though.

Jasmine and Maika had their times switched around. I prefered Maika's performance more than Jasmine. She had a Japanese "Alannis Morissette" vibe going on, whereas Jasmine was a wannabe Beyonce, incomplete with distracting (not in a good way) dancers.

We made our way back to the Marine Stage stadium to watch Eikichi Yazawa. For a 60 year old, he kicked off a rocking set and it was obvious he is revered among the Japanese.

It was quite bizarre watching everyone throwing their towels though during his set. What's up with that?

On the Beach Stage one band that I'm recently really digging was Clammbon (クラムボン). The singer has a really unique voice. Slightly similar to Chara, so much that the first time I heard this group I thought it was her. These guys have a bit more of a jazzy freeform sound, which live was a bit hard to get into. Want to know if you'd like them too? Listen to "Folklore" and then "Chicago". What do you think?

Next we watched Nickelback. I had to confirm how much I dislike this band. Yep, still do. Even before they came on stage, I saw the wall of guitar speaker cabinets. Nothing wrong with that if the songs are any good.

I liked "How You Remind Me" when it came out, but any band that starts a song with, "I like your pants around your feet" has lost me forever. Please learn a bit of street cred from Slash. Arigatou.

One of the big lures for me to this festival was a-ha. Being a kid of the 80s, I grew up with their hits, and hearing that they were disbanding, I had to see them live. Morten has a great voice but he was struggling with his foldback earphones and looked uncomfortable.

They played a lot of new songs which didn't do them any favours. The hits sounded great. I was hoping for "Manhattan Skyline", but it never came. A little disappointing.

We had a nice break after them, so we chilled with some African kebabs, while watching The Offspring on the live video feed from the Marine stage. I saw them many years ago back in Oz, so not a big loss there. We caught the end of Richard Ashcroft's set singing "Bittersweet Symphony". It sounded great.

I had to choose between Jay-Z and Smashing Pumpkins (Thank you organisers). I knew more Pumpkins songs so that's where we went. Like a-ha, the hits sounded awesome, but his newer material pales in comparison as well. Interesting ukelele bit. He worked the crowd well. Instead of catching the last set by Orbital we went home.

Day one was more consistent, but the second day had a LOT of filler. If it hadn't been for Stevie Wonder and Slash, I probably would've done just the first day.

I was hoping to arrive in time for Monkey Majik, but we only just got there at the end of their set. Damn.

K'naan did nothing for me, neither did My Passion coming across like a bad "My Chemical Romance". Surfer Blood weren't too bad, but it didn't hold my attention long enough to stick around. That's the nature of the music fest I guess.

In the lull, she got a t-shirt. I probably should have got one too, but none of them were calling out to me.

Next Orianthi. I can't help but think that without her "break" in Michael Jackson's band, she wouldn't be at the level she is now. She's not a bad guitarist. Her instrumental, "Self Esteem" certainly has some nice "Vai"-isms, but I felt like she's still finding her feet. "Bad News" sounded like "Get Me To The Bathroom". Go figure. I don't think she has commanding stage presence just yet.

Having said that.. Big Bang made Orianthi look like the next best thing since sliced bread. This Korean boy band were woeful. They have a lot of young adoring Japanese fans, but it's hard to sing and dance without microphones, right guys? Good thing ripping off the kids too with 4,000 yen plastic necklaces. Sheete.

SUM 41 had the arena floor fill almost to capacity. They sure had a lot of fans. I only knew "In Too Deep". Not my kind of music but what they did, they did well.

Courtney Love of Hole probably still has a hard time shaking the "Mrs Cobain" stigma. No one is going to say she has a good voice, but she put in a good enough performance with "Malibu" and "Celebrity Skin" hitting the high points.

Had a super quick look at Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, before making my way to see Slash.

I have to say it right now. Slash was hands down the best performance of the weekend. Ably helped along with fantastic vocals from Myles Kennedy, I was enthused from the very beginning.

Usually when the singer is replaced, the remaining guys feel like a cover band (eg. INXS, RIP Michael). In this case, when I heard a G'N'R tune, I believed I was hearing Guns and Roses! It just goes to show Slash was just as much G'N'R as Axl. His solo record material killed as well. I wished I could've stayed till the end of the set, if it hadn't have been Stevie Wonder I wanted to see.

It didn't help that Stevie Wonder got on stage a whole twenty minutes late. What can you say about Stevie? He was in fine voice. He knows how to work a crowd. His sing-a-longs sometimes were hit and miss with a mostly non-English audience.

He attempted to get us all to sing Jay-Z's, "Empire State of Mind", which even I didn't know the words to. All was forgiven when he got us singing, "I Just Called To Say I Love You". Corny as ****, but everyone could sing this.

I DID get a little bored with the ballads, and was thinking of Dream Theater that I was missing on another stage though. We made our way out when the end was near, to make a quick bus dash to see The Pixies.

I only had to hear one song, "Debaser", and I was able to go home satisfied.