Summer Sonic Fest in Japan: Beck Duets With Daoko, Noel Gallagher Headlines


Japan's biggest summer music fest centered on international acts, Summer Sonic, was held simultaneously in Tokyo and Osaka August 18-19. Noel Gallagher' High Flying Birds and Beck headlined the two nights in Tokyo but many other acts added panache to the proceedings. George Clinton and Funkadelic graced the Beach stage while Queens the Stone Age, Tame Impala, Chance the Rapper, Mike Shinoda, and Higher Brothers helped fill up the bill.

The floor and the first deck Zozo Marine Stadium (the main stage) were nearly full for Beck, who headlined the rival Fuji Rock Festival as recently as 2016. He wasted no time, opening with "Devils Haircut" and then launching into "Loser" to the joy the crowd. He ran through tracks from last year's Colors LP, while throwing in "Sexx Laws," before bringing out rising Japanese pop singer Daoko to duet on "Up All Night." He closed with "Where It's At."

Despite the broad line up, attendance was down, with a total 160,000 coming to both venues this year. Last year 172,000 turned up, down in turn from 209,000 in 2016 and 225,000 in 2015.

Noel Gallagher played a mix High Flying Birds and Oasis songs, with the latter being the crowd-pleasers. He dropped "Little by Little," "Whatever," and "Half the World Away" before giving the audience what they wanted with "Wonderwall." He closed with "All You Need is Love," which may have missed the crowd by a few decades.

Queens the Stone Age was a clear highlight the fest when they rocked the Mountain (second) stage in the Makuhari Messe Hall. The band opened with "Feet Don't Fail Me," but then switched it up to the Clockwork Orange title music as they actually came on stage with a white light background, reminiscent the tunnel scene from the film. The set was heavy on songs from their new release Villains, but they threw in "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire," "In the Fade," and "I Appear Missing," the last song using a double-necked guitar. Before that track Josh Homme asked for silence, this apparently being the track he wrote after his heart stopped during routine surgery. Before launching into the hit "Little Sister," Homme told the audience to "go the way they want to go before going with the flow" and "to be yourself and not try to be like other people."

One the new attractions this year was the Billboard Japan stage. Billboard Japan hosted the "Billboard Japan Party" at the event's Beach Stage in Tokyo from 2014 to 2017, and the affair expanded this year to a separate Billboard Japan Stage, which stood outside the Zozo Marine Stadium. On choosing the bands, Ryota Nagasaki, assistant gm  the Billboard Division, said "We aimed for a seamless crossover veteran and up-and-coming acts as well as international and domestic artists."

Indeed, the quartet Chinese rappers Higher Brothers stole the show, sending the crowd into a frenzy with their rhymes in a mixture Mandarin, Sichuanese and English. On the Sunday afternoon this was the set to be at as the crowd Japanese and non-Japanese alike rocked in unison.