Summer Sonic 2012

by Vivian Morelli and Tom Hall

Summer Sonic festival took over a corner of Chiba last weekend, bringing as usual an unashamedly mainstream yet diverse lineup; it’s a tough task taking the tastes of all of Tokyo’s tribes into account, but the result was an eclectic mishmash of genres which seemed to please everyone, and the weather was (mostly!) great.

So, wanting to see the whole picture, we tackled our own preparations for the impeccably organized Summer Sonic with, for us, unprecedented preciseness. Armed with rigorous handwritten schedules and liquid amenities, we were ready to roll.


Every year, Summer Sonic brings some huge world-renowned pop artists to the table, something that many festivals in Japan fail to do. Some of these artists should be avoided at all costs, but it’s always fun to see megastars onstage and what kind of show they put on. This year’s Sunday headliner, Rihanna, didn’t disappoint, putting on an awesome stage show complete with giant Egyptian statues [naturally?!], a fair number of dancers and smash hit after smash hit.

I’m not at all ashamed to say that Rihanna was my festival highlight – despite a disappointing lack of costume changes. Other pop acts who performed varying degrees of success across the weekend were Nelly Furtado (cute & classy), Ke$ha (the polar opposite of cute & classy), Pitbull (bland), Adam Lambert (intriguing) and Japanese electro-pop queens Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Perfume, who are very fun but seem to do more talking than actual singing.

Sadly we had to miss Japanese idols Momoiro Clover Z but we have it on good authority that they were excellent. Special mention to Korean seven-piece boyband, Infinite, who won us over with their awesome dance moves and matching hairstyles/outfits.

Nostalgia is something that Summer Sonic always caters for, with this year giving us twenty-somethings great performances from indie favourites The Cardigans and Death Cab For Cutie, making us reminisce about summer flings and sunny days gone by.

Old favourites Tears For Fears attracted a dedicated (slightly older) crowd who came equipped with sunflowers, while Garbage, Jamiroquai and New Order were big hits on Sunday night.

Green Day

Basket cases: we preferred Sigur Ros...

Fans of the slightly-less-mainstream were also kept more than happy this year. While the majority of attendees were enjoying the triumphant return of Green Day (pictured on the left), another giant crowd gathered to watch Sigur Ros perform a stunning, magical set of  ethereal post-rock anthems. Other savvy attendees also got to see a blinding set by the effortlessly cool and supremely talented Grimes, as well as great performances from other blog favourites such as Crystal Castles, SBTRKT, St Vincent, Iceage, Kindness, Other Lives and Passion Pit.

Those people who just wanted to dance would have been best advised to come down to Sonic Mania on Friday night, where we were treated to world-class DJ sets by ParaOne, Surkin, Basement Jaxx and 2ManyDJs, who also blew us away with their incredible live set as Soulwax.

Homegrown DJs entertained the crowds all night on Saturday, but Sunday dance fans were lucky enough to see a whirlwind performance by hip-hop and fashion-scene goddess Azealia Banks, who is one to watch as her live set seems to be getting better and better. (TH)


The sun was blazing, the pavement sizzling. Thankfully, a great chunk of Tokyo Summer Sonic takes place indoors, unlike its Osaka counterpart; cool concrete flooring welcomes sleepy concert goers heading inside for a break as well as those who just want to soak up the music in a more relaxed atmosphere.

The festival extends its grounds all the way to the beach, with shuttle buses provided to abridge the great distance between the various stages. There were times when the festivals felt a little over-organised, with ticket-exchange beurocracy meaning that we had to miss out on some early Saturday acts and the massive wait to get out of the stadium after major acts finished meaning that we had to forgo some other favourites but, ultimately, it was a small price to pay…

Summer Sonic not only spills out in terms of area, but also in its features. The weekend goes beyond just the music: art covers the hallways, with live artists painting canvases and previous years’ artwork displayed around the venues. To pass the lull between our favourite acts, we had an array of options ranging from pachinko games to haircuts and even foot massages.

The Beach and Garden stages are much more picturesque than their concrete counterparts, providing a great place to soak up the sun and have some summer fun with your friends. After midnight, we got to continue our Sigur Ros journey with a showing of their new film project on the Garden stage cinema, and on Sunday things got a little bit silly in the Silent Disco, which is always a must for anyone who likes to mix their dancing with a hearty dose of laughter.


Ke$ha sets a trend...

As for the festival fashion, it ranged from camping-chic (perhaps those sporting hiking boots and backpacks were Fuji Rock returnees?) to Ke$ha-fan style (colourful neon getups, fake tans, heeled sneakers and glued on nails and lashes), to simple summer shorts and tees with a sophisticated touch and tasteful accessories.

Undoubtedly, this season’s must-have item was the towel, to fend off the strong sun, the August humidity or just use as a pillow.

It’s safe to say that Summer Sonic provides something for everyone and, on balance, always seem to do a good job of keeping all the punters happy. Once Sunday’s headliners finished, the masses heading back to the station and packing onto trains were all exhausted yet the mood was good; sleepy yet satisfied. (VM)

Waking up for work on Monday morning was tough, but spending an action-packed weekend in the company of some of our best friends and favourite artists was definitely worth it. Thanks Summer Sonic, and see you next year!

Many thanks to Creativeman Productions for giving us permission to reproduce their images.