My music feeds are usually determined by what my husband listens to, and fortunately enough, I love LOVE everything which he religiously downloads every morning (except for death metal or any song from Ghost). It’s his breakfast. And I’m not complaining since I imagine I’d have to wake up and actually be a dutiful wife and make his eggs and toast and kopi and kacang pool if he were to ever unimaginably change his appetite for music. Hell, no. We’ve also been collecting vinyls recently, a collection that seems to mirror the rows of cassettes and CDs which he just cannot let go off. I won’t let him.
Despite all the vinyls, music banks on the iPod and Mac, cassettes, CDs – music festivals is my favourite way of exploring music. Before we head off for any fest – I’d try to listen to most of the bands in the line-up, be it the headliners or the never-heard-of-befores to kinda smarten up my auditory lingua. Some songs which I really love, I’d begin to stalk the bands on YouTube/iPod just to make sure I can sway/jump/shake at the right moments of the song when I actually see it being performed live. Kind of nerdy of me!
Last year, deciding that we had no plans for my birthday coupled with the fact that Summersonic’s first day landed the day right after Raya – we went fuck it, let’s hop on that plane and take a break from work. It didn’t require a whole lotta planning with Summersonic being an urban fest (no camping, no sleeping on the grass next to mud) but there are some essentials.
1. First up, buy your tickets online – tickets are snapped up fast (especially the early bird, two-day deals). We bought ours via Rakuten, and you get to choose which side you prefer – the right or left side of the stage (this applies to the main Mountain stage, all other stages are free and easy).
2. Wear light, summer in Tokyo is optimal for frying-eggs-on-the-car-hood experiments so you can imagine that it’s hotter and scorchier than Singapore. Shades, sunblock lotion and a cap are good ideas.
3. Bring a small towel, you’ll see everyone with one draped on their shoulders to… wipe off sweat. Even if you’re one of those people who are genetically-born with minimal perspiration genes – you will sweat. If you do forget to bring a towel (that matches your festival wear) there are many shops onsite with towels as merchandise.
Mass sprinklers to cool off
4. Plan what you want to catch. Stages are far apart and walking in the heat takes the energy out of you (most energy should be reserved for the mosh pits). If you look at the map – the Mountain Stage is the biggest stage, so headliners will be there.
At the main Mountain Stage, waiting for Metallica
After we caught Alt-J and Churches at the Sonic/Ocean Stage, we ran off to the Mountain to rest up for Metallica only to find most seats taken up and people were like bees – hived up in the standing arena. And that was TWO hours before play-time. Plan ahead, if you intend to be up in front jumping about – arrive early.
A map of all different stages – it takes 10-15 mins to walk from Ocean/Sonic/Flower stage to Mountain Stage
5. You will notice that there is a Free Tent Zone. You have to be very very ambitious and possess skins that can tolerate extreme heats – because anything left out there to absorb so much of the summer sun will not live, even as temperatures drop at night.
Initially, we both thought that it’s the only way to fully experience the fest-vibes by camping but am so glad we didn’t. Trains operate late during those two nights, and rather accessible from the city area plus the experience of taking the train with SO many festival goers, sweaty, fashionably dressed, fulfilled – was an entirely different experience worth having.
6. There were portable toilets in certain areas, which are clean but because the fest is located in huge convention halls (think Expo) – there are many clean normal toilets and there’s not much of a queue.
7. Don’t worry about food! There are many stalls offering so much good food from curry rice to ramen, pizzas, kebabs and really good sloppy burgers. Some stalls are set up outside but the cooler sites near the smaller stages provided much respite plus if you get tired, the cold cement floors make it conducive to lie gown and recharge.
8. Summersonic is not just a music festival – it’s about the arts. In between acts or when you need a breather there are many areas where you can try something different. Like body-painting, carnival rides, mini game shows hosted by short shorts-wearing girls or the hourly Mardi Gras performances at the indoor food hall. I thought the craziest gig was seeing Japanese guys howling at a transvestite from Thailand, singing cute poppy songs!
My final and most important tip is MEET PEOPLE. Even if you feel like there’s a language barrier, think about it – all the Japanese people congregating to enjoy and watch music with lyrics they don’t necessarily comprehend but that’s the beauty of music – you don’t need to understand to feel and appreciate. And making friends perfectly complements the music absorption process for me. Oh, and be open to new things! And people!