|Brian Setzer (center)
and the Stray Cats remain Big In Japan
The convention business may be slow, but
Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba has been working
overtime. Its vast, concrete spaces have in the past few months
hosted techno fest Electraglide and the three-day Countdown
Japan 03-04, to name just a couple of the big music events
taking place there recently. Now promoter Creativeman moves
in with a winter rock festival that takes its cue from their
own annual Summer Sonic festival.
Sonicmania actually began as an all-night techno fest bridging
the two days of Creativeman's marquee event, Summer
Sonic, but now returns as a full-fledged rock festival. Like
Summer Sonic, artists shuttle between Tokyo and Osaka on alternate
days, with bands fixed to a tight schedule that leaves little
room for error.
Next weekend's lineup offers distinct stylistic contrasts.
Saturday, for example, seems to have been conceived as a tribute
to roots rock, with headliners that look to a bygone age for
Frequent Japan visitor Brian Setzer takes his cue from rockabilly
and swing, and has led the Stray Cats as well as his own 18-piece
swing orchestra. Evidence of Setzer's enduring popularity
here can be seen in last year's release of his Luck
Be a Lady by Japanese record label Toy's Factory, while
BMG Japan is just in time for Sonicmania's issuing
of a greatest hits collection of Stray Cats material.
year's nu metal discovery Evanescence
Though they look to a more recent era, Setzer's
fellow headliners, Rancid, still base their sound firmly in
the past-in their case, classic '70s punk. Forming
in the '90s, singer Tim Armstrong and co. were key
to the movement that redefined punk in the early years of
Speaking of classic punk, perhaps the most intriguing act
in the lineup are Sham 69, who came together in 1976 as part
of the initial punk explosion. Reconvening in the late '80s
after nearly a decade of quiescence, the group will provide
an interesting comparison to tours in recent years by fellow
first-generation UK punkers The Sex Pistols and Joe Strummer.
Sunday, meanwhile, looks to the demographic tuned into the
rap-metal hybrid sound that's dominated airwaves since
the late '90s. Recent Tokyo visitors Limp Bizkit and
Linkin Park may not be on the bill, and Slipknot may have
cancelled, but Korn and Evanescence should provide plenty
of power chords set to hip-hop beats for the mosh-hungry.
Korn arrive with a new album in hand, November's Take
a Look in the Mirror (Sony), which marked a slight change
of direction for the California band, as they opt for a more
concise sound that brings the album in at 45 minutes.
Evanescence, meanwhile, are last year's big discovery.
Centered on the Arkansas duo of Amy Lee and guitarist/songwriter
Ben Moody, the band came out of nowhere with the multi-platinum
To fit all the bands into one venue, Creativeman has designed
a unique, V-shaped stage that sees one band performing on
one side while the next is setting up on the other. Depending
on which band you want to see, this will mean some scrambling
for frontal views.
Sonicmania takes place at Makuhari
Messe on January 31 and February 1. See concert listings for
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