CHIBA (TR) – One of Japan’s largest music events, the Summer Sonic festival continues to expand, this year holding an all-nighter from late Saturday through Sunday morning, though with mixed results.
Much of the audience for the Hostess Club All-Nighter streamed into two halls at the Makuhari Messe following the end of the sets by the Summer Sonic headliners while the rest came specifically for the shows after midnight.
Headlining was Thom Yorke, the Radiohead frontman, performing work from his latest solo album, “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.” Yorke has long experiments with electronic music, and with his new live set, may just have about achieved the unlistenable. A huge crowd watched Yorke and long-time collaborator Nigel Godrich perform glitchy electronic noise with drowned out vocals. Was it because this was the first time for Yorke to perform the album? Or because he had announced earlier in the day his split from his partner of 23 years? Whatever the problem was, the show will have appealed only to Yorke’s loyalest fans.
Spiritualized were a welcome relief after Yorke, performing actual songs, with a rhythm and choruses. Jason Pierce, subdued as ever, belted out tracks from the band’s back catalogue, with those from “Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space” receiving the best reception. Matthew Herbert, meanwhile, DJed a set almost entirely of his own music. The crowd, many of whom were sunburned or sun-deprived from a day at the festival, failed to muster up the energy his set deserved.
Franz Ferdinand and Sparks (FFS) were the real highlight of the night. They took to the stage and performed each other’s songs and those from their recent collaboration album, with Alex Kapranos and Russell Mael sharing vocal duties. The performance felt more like a drunken karaoke party than live show, and Mael, at the age of 66, could barely contain his excitement to be playing in front of a large crowd of kids, most of whom were two decades away from birth when he formed Sparks. His enthusiasm was infectious and for the first time in the night, the event felt like a festival.
Did the All-Nighter work? In a way, yes. There were enough crowd-pleasing bands on to make sure that the event was full and there was something to watch from start to finish. But the event suffered from the same problems as Summer Sonic struggles with on the whole: Makuhari Messe is a glorified garage much more suitable for trade shows than music; and the crowd know it. Whereas at many festivals people celebrate music, at the Hostess All-Nighter they merely watched it.