Something must be working right
at promoter Creativeman, because this year's bill at Summer Sonic is arguably
even stronger than elder sibling, the Fuji Rock Festival, which it follows by
only one week. When it comes to Britrock, at least, the festival boasts two of
the three most influential English bands of the last decade, in the form of Blur
and Radiohead (Oasis must grudgingly be given their due). Both bands have just
released new albums, with Radiohead's challenging Hail to the Thief topping
the UK charts this June, in addition to the band being chosen as the headliners
of this year's Glastonbury festival.
In terms of American offerings,
the Summer Sonic bill seems equally split between dinosaurs and newcomers. The
biggest question mark among the dinosaurs are the lawsuit-bedeviled, reconfigured
Doors, who have been touring this summer with a lineup that includes original
keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger, with singer Ian Astbury
from the Cult and drummer Ty Dennis. Manzarek and Krieger have been sued not only
by founding drummer John Densmore and the parents and in-laws of late singer Jim
Morrison, but also by ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland who was axed after playing
in the first Doors reformation last summer.
More dependable dinosaurs
include power pop outfit Cheap Trick, one of the best live shows in the business,
aging punk idol Blondie, and the left-field new wave electro group Devo, who get
the most-anticipated nod from this writer. Commenting on the lineup, Creativeman's
Yoshinari Hirayama describes this year's themes as "revolving around
the UK, the '70s and '80s, punk, and emerging artists."
Punk, however, is represented not by old-guard warhorses, but by the new crop
of teen-angst neo-punkers like Blink 182, Good Charlotte and Sum 41. Emerging
artists, meanwhile, include Denmark's Mew, whose recent Frengers CD was
a more accessible take-for this writer's money-on electronica-influenced
post-rock, than was Radiohead's Hail to the Thief. Other bands to keep
your eye on are Hot Hot Heat, who evoke the minimal new wave of the Cure, guitar
orchestra the Polyphonic Spree, boy-girl duo Kills, who impressed in a showcase
live in spring in Harajuku's Astro Hall, and over-the-top scream-metalists
Japanese bands, which Hirayama says are picked to fit nicely with
the mainly Western lineup, include veteran raunch-rockers the Hi-Lows and ska
outfit Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra.
Creativeman is also broadening Summer
Sonic this year to give exhausted fans a break from the heat, noise, concrete,
and traipsing back and forth between the stages, adds Hirayama, with comedy performances,
movie showings, and even bowling among the possible alternative recreation.
Summer Sonic takes place at Chiba Marine Stadium
and Makuhari Messe on August 2-3. See concert listings for details.
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