Supersonic Goes Ahead With Zedd, Steve Aoki, ‘No Shouting’ Rule
– Supersonic Festival
Supersonic, the only Japanese music festival this year that has featured foreign artists, took place Sept. 18-19 at the Zozotown Marine Stadium in the city of Chiba, just east of Tokyo.
The Osaka edition of the festival had been canceled several weeks earlier owing to logistical difficulties involving transporting artists between the two cities after they had undergone quarantine protocols mandated by the government. However, it was these protocols that prompted angry comments on social media after the Saturday night headliner, German DJ Zedd, posted a video several days earlier of the deluxe hotel suite he was staying in for his three-and-a-half-day quarantine stint along with an inventory of all the wonderful gifts he had received. As it stands, no foreigners are allowed to enter Japan due to the pandemic unless they already have permanent resident status, and even they and actual Japanese nationals are required to quarantine at home for 14 days. And depending on the country they are coming from, they may also have to stay for up to a week in a tiny government-designated hotel room with no outside access at all (all meals are delivered to the room). So Zedd’s video triggered a great deal of negative feedback, especially from students and guest workers who haven’t been able to enter Japan for more than 18 months.
In addition, the city of Chiba had asked the organizer, Creativeman Productions, to either postpone the festival or reduce the audience numbers because of a surge in infections during the month of August, and when Creativeman refused to do either, the mayor pulled the city’s sponsorship. Consequently, the rules for attending the festival were especially strict, seeing that all eyes were on Supersonic to avoid the kind of problems that plagued a recent hip-hop festival that took place in August in central Japan and which received a great deal of negative press, not to mention fines from the local government.
First of all, all ticketholders for Supersonic had to download two COVID-related apps to their smartphones. One was the government-approved tracing app called Cocoa, and the other was a dedicated festival app in which the ticketholder uploaded their health situation on a daily basis, including body temperatures, and whether they have been vaccinated. These apps were checked by security when entering the stadium on both days (attendees for the second day had to update the dedicated app with their body temperature that morning). In addition, alcohol was not sold in the venue and not allowed to be brought in. Reentry was prohibited on each day. Masks were not only required (Creativeman provided their own special masks for the festival) but checked constantly by staff members who patrolled the stands and the arena and badgered attendees if theirs had slipped below their nose. As a bit of performative overkill, other staff walked around constantly wiping off surfaces of railings and empty seats with disinfectant. On the arena floor, meaning the field in front of the stage, seats were placed far enough apart for proper social distancing and occupants were told not to move outside of the boundaries indicated. They could stand up and jump in place, but shouting was prohibited. Applause was allowed.
All of the foreign artists were either DJs or electronic musicians who didn’t require full bands. The Japanese acts included some idol groups who also sing to recorded tracks as well as homegrown DJs and rappers. All pointedly supported the “no shouting” rule, some in creative ways. The female vocal trio Perfume came up with an elaborate set of hand gestures for people to show their appreciation and get into the proper mindset for their performance. Headliner Steve Aoki at one point said that the Supersonic crowd was “the most exciting, quietest audience I’ve ever played in front of.”
One of the scheduled artists, Frank Walker, could not make it into Japan at the last minute, so his slot was filled with a battle of the DJs between Zedd, Aoki and Alan Walker (no relation).
Attendance for each day was estimated at between 10,000 and 13,000.