Summer Sonic: who to watch

20 acts you don’t want to miss at this year’s festival

Summer Sonic: who to watch

Aided my some unfathomably good weather, Fuji Rock set the bar high for the accolade of this year's best summer music festival. Now it's time to see if its urban rival can do one better. Once a strictly rockist affair, Summer Sonic has grown increasingly chart-savvy over the years – witness the main stage lineup on the second day of this year's fest, which boasts the combined pop overload of Perfume, Pitbull, Ke$ha and Rihanna. But if that ain't your bag, there are plenty of other tempting options to be found elsewhere, from Icelandic post-rock to Korean indie pop, via Japan's barmiest idol group.

Here are our 20 top picks for the weekend – and yes, there are some glaring omissions here. If you don't agree, let us know via our Facebook or Twitter pages. Especially if you're a Jamiroquai fan.

Summer Sonic 2012 is held at Makuhari Messe and QVC Marine Field, August 18-19

Summer Sonic: who to watch
Saturday | Sunday


Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

The pop quotient at Summer Sonic is a lot higher than at most other festivals, so you may as well get stuck in early. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's ultra-sugary ditties are a giddy/guilty pleasure, and she's guaranteed to be sporting one of the most outlandish costumes of the entire weekend. Sonic Stage, 11.30am

Watch on YouTube: Pon Pon Pon


Canadian musician Claire Boucher's genre-smearing dream pop had already earned the approval of the music blog cognoscenti, but she hit the big time with the release of third album Visions earlier this year. Both refreshingly new and weirdly familiar, it's the coolest thing you'll see at Summer Sonic that also sounds a bit like Enya. Sonic Stage, 1.25pm

Watch on YouTube: Genesis (Later with Jools Holland)

St. Vincent

Annie Clark's debut Tokyo gig back in January is still one of the best shows we've seen this year. The art-rock brainiac behind St. Vincent is a captivating performer, and a mean guitar player to boot – too bad that she's only got a 40-minute time slot here, but we'll be happy to take whatever we can get. Sonic Stage, 2.30pm

Watch on YouTube: She Is Beyond Good and Evil (Live)

Crystal Castles

With Western pop producers no closer to ditching their obsession with Eurodance, it's nice to have a few groups like Crystal Castles, who take the same genre tropes but twist them into far uglier shapes. The first track off the Canadian duo's forthcoming album sounds dark as fuck, while their live performances can teeter on the brink of lunacy. Which, er, is always good at three in the afternoon. Mountain Stage, 2.50pm

Watch on YouTube: Black Panther (Live)


Some beatmakers are content to spend an entire 'live' set huddled behind a laptop. Not SBTRKT, though: the mask-wearing, pop-savvy producer spends his stage show switching between samplers, mixing desk and live drums, accompanied on vocals and keyboards by soulfully voiced singer Sampha. Sonic Stage, 3.40pm

Watch on YouTube: Something Goes Right (Live)

Yellow Fang

It's far easier to admire Summer Sonic's 'Asian Calling' stage than it is to love most of the bands who actually play on it, but Yellow Fang seem genuinely promising. Hailing from Bangkok, this female trio evoke fond memories of The Raincoats, The Breeders and Stereolab – hardly the most original combination, but an endearing one all the same. Island Stage, 4pm

Watch on YouTube: I'm a Feeder

Franz Ferdinand

Do you remember when these artsy Scots were as big as The Strokes? Actually, do you remember when The Strokes were as big as The Strokes? Though they have to content themselves with second billing nowadays, Franz Ferdinand haven't lost their bite: the group earned strong reviews for their performance at Lollapalooza earlier this month, suggesting they won't disappoint at Summer Sonic. Marine Stage, 5.20pm

Watch on YouTube: No You Girls

Lite feat. Caroline

Once considered Japan's answer to math-rock supremos Battles, Lite have let some human warmth creep in amongst the technical dexterity. This performance with Mice Parade vocalist Caroline promises to serve as a good appetiser for Sigur Rós later in the evening. Beach Stage, 7.25pm

Watch on YouTube: Arch feat Caroline

Adam Lambert

Glamorous, theatrical and possessed of a truly bombastic voice – not for nothing did Adam Lambert get recruited to fill in for the late Freddie Mercury at a series of Queen gigs in Europe last month. Pretty good for a former American Idol contestant, and we suspect that Lambert is going to blow away Ke$ha and Rihanna's shows on Sunday. Sonic Stage, 8.05pm

Watch on YouTube: Trespassing (AOL Sessions)

Sigur Rós

Confession time: we've always found these Icelandic post-rockers a bit vanilla, like Mogwai with all the grandeur but none of the grit. Then again, we've also lost track of the number of times that people have bleated the time-old refrain: 'Oh, you've got to see them live.' You win, Sigur Rós fanboys. Mountain Stage, 8.20pm

Watch on YouTube: Festival (Live)

Summer Sonic: who to watch
Saturday | Sunday

By James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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