Super Sonic at Summer Sonic!
Summer Sonic is a two day festival that runs concurrently in Osaka and Tokyo - the same artists appear in both places - so if a band is on in Tokyo on Saturday they’ll be in Osaka on Sunday and vice versa. The festival is now in its eleventh year, and is a production of Creative Man, a very well respected promoter in Japan that specializes in bringing in overseas acts mostly from the US and Europe. In Tokyo the festival venue is at Makuhari Messe, a vast conference and concert complex which is about an hour’s train ride from central Tokyo, and is situated right on the coast at the top of Tokyo Bay. The Festival also has a big outdoor venue at the stadium across the street, the home of the Chiba Lotte Marines a local baseball team. The event is much more than music with lots of marketplace vendors and enticing food stalls operating all over the event grounds. One of the most popular draws is the outdoor Silent Disco where two hundred or more participants dance wearing headphones to music that is wi-fi’d to them. It’s a funny sight to watch a field full of people apparently dancing in unison to absolutely no sound!
Last year, which was the all-important 10th anniversary, (tenth anniversaries are a very significant mark to recognize in Japan), was our first year at Summer Sonic, and we supplied and installed a large selection from our Atomic Rental inventory in the three vast indoor halls at Makuhari Messe, as well as hundreds of giant pinwheels that we fabricated and put up as a sort of art installation along the approach walkways into the Marine Stadium which we reprised again this year. What I quickly realized last year, was that the rental inventory, however cool, was simply not the right scale for the enormous exhibition halls which just swallowed up scenery and made even big stuff look miniscule.
So, this year my mission was to convince the client to actually let us design and build some pieces that would work better for the venue. Now it’s important to point out that the client wasn’t unhappy with what we did last year, they were actually thrilled, but I could see that a smaller number of big simple things that were much easier to light, would be a much better strategy than turning up again with a panoply of small stuff that needed a lot more lighting positions. Also they would own these pieces and over the years they could build up a useful rolling inventory of items that could be mixed and matched and continue to provide new looks every year. Plus they would also have some pieces that would constitute a resource for other shows that they were promoting that could enhance an otherwise generic touring show.
With this in mind we designed a number of items that would be the right scale, would provide the right vibe for each of the three stages, and wouldn’t need a lot of lighting fixtures to make them stand out. The three stages are Mountain, which is a double hall - a truly gigantic space, Sonic which is a single hall (both of those are for regular rock acts) and then Dance, which is a slightly smaller space and because of the music tends to be more like a club venue (but it’s still pretty huge!) There’s also another Hall which needed a scenic element, which is a chill-out space for tired concert goers to get away from the outdoor stadium’s high heat and humidity and relax in the air conditioning of the exhibition space.
Since it’s easier to light something white than anything else we made that the basis of our designs. We came up with six elements - the Floating Columns. the Diamond Box wall, the Truss tubes, the Chill-Out wall, the Op-art Cubes and finally the Triangle Columns. We also added a couple of rental things that had worked well last year since time and budget dictated that we couldn’t do everything the first year. Next we built renderings and animations showing how the pieces would work on the various stage and how we thought they would work best lit. I went to Tokyo in June and presented the ideas which were luckily well received and then came back to the states and started building. We shipped the scenic pieces to Japan and last week we installed everything on-site.
In comparison to last year it was night and day - the various scenic elements really gave each stage a unique look, and I felt totally vindicated that my instincts had been the right ones. We have a really happy client, and to put it mildly some pretty incredible pictures!
I love working in Japan, with such friendly hard-working crews and great clients. This year the weather wasn’t quite as stifling as last year when a typhoon passing to the West super-saturated the already hateful humidity, but just the same it only took a few minutes of physical exertion and every item of one’s clothing would be wet through. With last year’s experience we learned that the most important piece of kit was an absorbent hand towel worn around the neck to soak up the sweat. But there were so many compensations - amazing Izakaya food at our favorite restaurant - Hana - situated in an otherwise unremarkable outdoor mall behind the station, Yuko “Doramie” Soutome our totally brilliant translator and crew chief who made the job run so smoothly and above all Tak Hara who production managed the indoor stages with his customary cheerful and unflustered efficiency - so thanks to everyone for making 2010 Summersonic such a memorable experience!