As a self-professed music nerd, there is one skeleton in my closet I’m ashamed to discuss: I kinda hate music festivals. Sure, they seem a great idea on paper: several awesome bands in one place for a bacchanalian jubilee. But there’s no guarantee it will be any of that; between unpredictable weather, unpredictable musicians and a metric fuck-ton of unpredictable people, your weekend-long music orgy can go from Woodstock to Altamont quicker than a PA can announce “Radiohead will not be performing this year.”
But that doesn’t stop me from attending. I can hardly wait each year for the big Japanese festivals to announce their lineups so I can start planning. In fact, the closest you’re going to get to a perfect festival experience is in your head. And If I had to plan the perfect festival excursion this summer, I’d go with Summer Sonic, Osaka. Fuji Rock is fine, but if I wanted to spend my time sardined together with the unwashed masses at the height of crotch-swamp weather, I’d ride a Nagoya train. And the Tokyo lineup is much better, but it’s sold out and there’s no reason to make this anymore of an exercise in futility than it already is.
So, with my trusty sidekick Justin – because even in my imagination, it’s depressing to attend these things alone – I present to you the Daniel Ostrander’s perfect plan for Summer Sonic, barring any shitty weather or cancellations.
The first thing I do is leave the main stages to Justin and head straight for the Sonic Stage. The lineup is more to my liking, and it’s inside. It is so much easier to enjoy music when you’re not suffering from exposure. The gates open at 9:30 but the first band doesn’t go on until 11:45, which is good because you’re going to want to get right up front for LA band Capital Cities, a nice toe-dip into the dance music that dominates the Sonic Stage this year.
I don’t need any more Swedish pop in my life, so I skip the next band The Royal Concept and venture over to the Flower Stage where most of the Japanese bands are performing. It’s here that performances from FLiP, Keytalk, and Knock Out Monkey assure me that the J-music scene is still comfortably stuck in the 90s. Before heading back for the garage rock of Palma Violets, I hit up the Silent Disco stage where the DJs are spinning dance-fuel right into my pair of provided headphones. Once I’m back out of the sun, I spend my time during Modestep’s set of filthy, filthy dubstep taking a rest in the arena seating. I need to catch a few Zs before the coming marathon of excellence.
At 18:00 Johnny Marr hits the Sonic Stage with over 20 years of being right in the middle of music history. Few bands would be able to follow Mr. Marr, but Two Door Cinema Club’s upbeat dance rock is a nice bridge to carry you straight through to Midnight Sonic. This is a relatively new after-hours concert, which this year features the best acts of famous French label Ed Banger, including Breakbot and Justice. Terrible Kobe-based screamo band Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas will also be there.
Day 2 promises more of the same from the Flower Stage, so I’ll skip it all together. The Sonic Stage has more than enough for my money’s worth. Scottish electro-rock band CHVRCHES and the indietronica of Bastille throws me right back into the action. By the time Kodaline takes the stage, I’m in need of a breather that their beautiful folk-infused rock provides.
I leave Mew to their legion of Japanese fans and stop by the Mountain Stage to sing along to “The Flame” from Cheap Trick… uh, ironically. And I’m back just in time for M.I.A. Lots of people come to these festivals to catch one act, and for me it’s her. And while the smooth flow of NAS would be a damn fine cap to the day, I just can’t resist breaking my own rules one more time. If I run, I can catch the end of Metallica’s set on the Ocean Stage. I hope they play anything except everything that came after The Black Album.
Summer Sonic: August 10/11, 2013
Tel: 0180-993-030 for information (Japanese)
Full line-up: www.summersonic.com/2013/lineup/
Tickets: ticket.rakuten.co.jp/features/summersonic/en/index.html#summersonic_ticket (English)
Tokyo: ¥15,500 for one day ticket or ¥28,000 for both days.
Makuhari Messe (goo.gl/maps/vxUj7)
Osaka: ¥13,000 for one day ticket or ¥23,000 for both days.