Another Pleasing Summer Sonic

Promoter Creativeman Productions reported a total of 190,000 people attended the 10th-annual Summer Sonic festivals in Tokyo and Osaka, which took place simultaneously during the August 9 weekend and featured 107 artists.

The Tokyo half of the event, which was held on Tokyo Bay at Chiba Marines Baseball Stadium and nearby Makuhari Messe Convention Center, attracted 120,000 with what could be called a British-dominated roster.

Coldplay and The Prodigy headlined the main Marine Stage, and of the 10 top-billed performers on the other five stages, five were British.

Although the Sex Pistols played the Mountain Stage on Saturday night, punk was less evident than at previous Summer Sonics. Hip-hop, which was a big draw the last two years, was virtually non-existent, unless you count Santogold’s comment on the Dance Stage.

“It’s a hip-hop thing, screwing up the beat,” she joked after her DJ messed up the opening of a song. Three other song intros faltered as well, and Santogold eventually explained that it was the first time her new band had played live anywhere.

Santogold wasn’t the only act making its Japan debut at the festival. Vampire Weekend played a Sunday noontime set on the Marine Stage to a surprisingly large and vocally enthusiastic audience.

Manchester duo The Ting Tings performed before an even larger crowd Sunday morning on the Mountain Stage. Punk band Against Me! and Band of Horses played spirited and well-received sets in front of much smaller audiences, but the most striking debut was probably Cajun Dance Party at the Sonic Stage on Saturday afternoon.

The young London band’s first album has been something of a sleeper in Japan, selling very well on the heels of a successful promotional push by Beggars Japan. The band attracted an estimated 10,000 people to its show and has already scheduled a return trip in October.

“This is our first concert outside of Europe,” leader Daniel Blumberg told the crowd. “And it’s definitely the most fun we’ve had since starting the band.”

The Sonic Stage hall was effectively filled to capacity for the CDP show, but security didn’t close it off like it has at past Summer Sonics under similar conditions.

Because three of the stages are inside the convention center, crowd control can get pretty hairy but most of those problems seem to have been solved this year.

Nevertheless, at least one venue was closed even before the performance began – the noontime Beach Stage show for local rock favorites ET-King. The Beach Stage is the only venue that can be seen and heard by non-ticketholders, as anyone strolling along the shore can simply stand outside the low fence and watch.

Another over-capacity show was from Kyoko Koizumi, who was a very popular idol singer in the ’80s and hasn’t played live in more than 12 years. Just as many people crowded to watch from outside the Island Stage as did inside.

The only last-minute no-shows were Adele and Albert Hammond, Jr., who were scheduled to play back-to-back on the Beach Stage Saturday evening. They were replaced by The Dead Trees and Scott Murphy of Chicago rock band Allister who has recently made a solo name for himself in Japan playing covers of J-Pop classics.

Technically speaking, The Kills were not a no-show, but after a delay of more than half an hour, member Alison Mosshart came out to a chorus of boos and a shower of PET bottles to apologize and say the duo couldn’t play. Somehow, the data on their drum machine had been erased.

Among the veteran acts, Devo’s show received the most effusive praise from festivalgoers, many of whom could be seen all weekend sporting the group’s signature plastic headgear.

The Sex Pistols made the most of its gig by characteristically insulting the audience.

“Look at the Westerner calling out for ‘Anarchy in the U.K.,’” John Lydon sneered. “Go back to where you came from and cause some anarchy yourself. We did.”

The Jesus and Mary Chain and Paul Weller were much more contrite in front of their adoring audiences, but it was Coldplay that made the biggest concession to local fans – not by bringing Alicia Keys out to play piano on “Clocks,” which they did, but by covering “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana,” a hit song by superstar boy band SMAP.