BY AISHAH HAMZA
I’ve been listening to music for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories of rock music was watching news footages of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. For days after, all you could hear on the radio was “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Nirvana’s music became a huge part of my life and one of my biggest regrets is that I will never be able to watch them perform live.
So I made it my life’s goal to catch the second band on my list. That band is Radiohead. And this dream is 17 years in the making.
Why did it take so long? Because Radiohead has never and will probably never perform in my home country, Singapore. Rumour has it that they are against, what they view as, a harsh imposition of capital punishment in Singapore. But that’s another story for another time.
This one is about how I went to see Radiohead headline Summer Sonic Festival 2016 in Tokyo.
The road to Chiba Prefecture, where the 2-day festival was held, was not an easy one. It was my first time going to a music festival overseas. I was lost in translation while trying to purchase tickets on the official website because I could not read Japanese characters. Thankfully, as foreigners living outside of Japan, my friend and I could purchase tickets via the English-language Rakuten ticket website.
But other misfortunes happened. My friend had to be offloaded from our flight because a family member of hers passed away. I boarded that flight alone.
When I arrived a day before the music festival, I realised that the airlines messed up and my luggage was still in Singapore. I was alone in Tokyo with just my passport, some money, a printout of my Airbnb reservation and my handphone.
I remember thinking to myself, could things get any worse? And it did! I was hit by a typhoon with all my wet-weather clothes still stuck in a luggage back in Singapore. Two hours after I arrived at my Airbnb apartment, a 5.4 Richter scale earthquake hit Chiba Prefecture.
That night, bewildered by the chain of unfortunate events, I prayed that natural disasters wouldn’t stop me from fulfilling a dream 17 years in the making.
Things began to look up on the day of the festival itself. My friend managed to attend to her family emergency and flew in with my luggage. She barely had any rest as we hopped on the train to Kaihimmakuhari Station. We just about made it for the mid-portion of Weezer’s set. Walking into the massive baseball stadium with the rain on our skin while “Beverly Hills” was playing will remain in my mind for a long, long time.
I looked around and remembered thinking that there was a good kind of energy at the music festival. Not the obnoxious frat-party, ‘let’s get drunk’ kind of energy. But the ‘dance like nobody is watching’ kind of energy.
I loved how the Japanese people we encountered at the festival were not self-conscious at all. They were in their own world, listening to the same live music but marching to the beat of their own drum. Nobody danced the same and nobody cared to.
When they were done rocking out and moshing to bands like Two Door Cinema Club and Offspring, they turned to the persons next to them, bowed slightly and said ‘Sumimasen’ to apologise for bumping into them. It was a graciousness that I was not used to seeing at rock music sets.
My personal space never once felt invaded even though a reported 209,000 people attended Summer Sonic 2016. Who would have imagined that I would be able to stand so comfortably in a packed-out stadium while waiting for Radiohead to perform?
Who would have imagined that I would be watching Radiohead perform? Not on Youtube like I usually do but live before my very own eyes. It felt like a dream—the kind of dream where I was not just a spectator anymore, but a very willing participant.
You know how people would sometimes describe the atmosphere as being electric? I never understood that and I always thought it was a lazy and clichéd description. But when Radiohead appeared onstage to play a 6-minute instrumental before launching into ‘Burn The Witch’, the atmosphere was electric.
We all stood in awe just listening to these songs that everyone had personal attachments to. We come from different countries and we speak different languages. Some probably listened to Radiohead to get over heartbreaks. Others, who may have felt like outsiders of the world, relied on these songs for solace. Most just wanted to be connected to something that spoke to them on a personal level. These songs meant different things to different people. But they all meant something.
Personally, Radiohead’s music gave me the strength to be vulnerable because of its own vulnerability. It has this uncanny ability to break you just to build you up again. It was the shield that my misunderstood-teenage-self used, to cope with personal struggles.
I owed it to that kid to experience this music in the flesh. And I did.
Watching that performance at Summer Sonic 2016 with thousands of strangers who have the same special affinity with Radiohead, I was moved to tears.
從我能夠記事起就在聽音樂。我最早關於搖滾音樂的記憶之一就是看到 Kurt Cobain 自殺的新聞片段。在那之後的一段時間裏，你在電臺裏只能聽到那首 “Smells Like Teen Spirit”。Nirvana 的音樂成了我生活中很重要的一部分，而我最大的遺憾是終究沒能看到他們的現場演出。
為什麽會這麽久？ 是因為 Radiohead 過去從來沒有，將來也可能永遠不會在我的國家新加坡演出。有傳言說是因為他們反對新加坡嚴厲的死刑制度。不過這又是另外一回事兒了。
這個故事是關於我去東京看了以 Radiohead 為主角的 Summer Sonic Festival 2016。
去到那場兩日音樂節的舉辦地千葉縣並不容易。那是我第一次出國參加音樂節。因為不會讀日語，導致我在官網上購買門票時候也看不懂那些翻譯。所幸的是，我和朋友還能通過英文票務網站 Rakuten 買上票。
我提前音樂節一天到達，然後知道航空公司搞混了我的行李箱，以至於我的行李還留在新加坡。我只身一人到了東京，僅僅帶著護照、一點錢、一份打印出來的 Airbnb 預訂單和手機。
當時我就在想，還會更糟嗎？ 結果果真如此！ 我遇上了臺風，但我所有的防雨服還呆在滯留於新加坡的行李箱中。在抵達 Airbnb 公寓後的兩個小時，千葉縣發生了裏氏5.4級的地震。
音樂節當天，事情開始有所好轉。我的朋友在處理完親人的突發事件後，帶著我的行李箱飛來了。她幾乎沒怎麽休息，就和我一起踏上了去海濱幕張站的火車。我們到現場時 Weezer 的演出剛好到一半。一邊淋著雨，一邊走進了這個大型的棒球場，當時正唱著的歌曲 “Beverly Hills” 將會在我的腦海中停留很長很長一段時間。
我向四處看了看，記得當時就在想這場音樂節有一股好的能量。它不是那種令人生厭的大學派對中所散發的類似 “讓我們不醉不休” 的能量，而是一種類似 “跳舞吧，就像沒有人在看一樣” 的能量。
他們會跟著像 Two Door Cinema Club 或 Offspring 這樣的樂隊狂舞，當結束的時候，他們就會轉向身邊的人，微微欠身，然後說一句 ‘Sumimasen’ 以表示剛剛碰到對方的歉意。這一種禮節，是我在過去搖滾音樂節上不曾見過的。
即使報道上說 2016 年 Summer Sonic Festival 有 209, 000 人參與，我卻一點都沒有感覺到個人空間被侵犯。誰可以想象那樣的場景？ 在擠滿人的體育場裏，我竟然可以站得如此舒服，等待 Radiohead 的演出。
誰能想到我會看著 Radiohead 的表演？ 不是在我經常看的 Youtube 上，而是就在我眼前真實的現場。我覺得就像一場夢——在那裏，我不再是一個旁觀者，而是一個如此心甘情願的參與者。
你知道有時候人們會描述一種氛圍為很嗨？我從來都沒有搞明白，並且一直覺得那是一種偷懶又老套的描述。直到 Radiohead 出現在舞臺上，做了6分鐘的樂器表演後準備開始唱 “Burn The Witch” 的那一刻，整個現場嗨了。
全部的人都肅然起敬，聆聽著那些充溢在每個人心中的歌曲。我們來自不同的國家，說不同的語言。有些人可能是靠聽 Radiohead 來熬過心碎的日子。有些人可能感覺與這個世界格格不入，需要靠這些歌曲得到撫慰。大部分的人都只是想從歌曲當中找到情感的共鳴。這些歌曲對不同的人意味不同，但它們都有特定的意味。
從我個人來講，Radiohead 音樂本身的脆弱性賦予了我敢於變脆弱的力量。Radiohead 的音樂有一種不可思議的能力去打破你再重新建造你。它是我在整個被誤解的青少年時期曾使用的盾牌，用來對付個人的掙紮。
與成千上萬名一樣喜愛 Radiohead 的陌生人一起看 Summer Sonic 2016 的演出，令我感動到落淚。
Aishah Hamza lives in fast-paced Singapore. She travels to slow things down. She works as a librarian and strongly believes that the written word has the power to shape perspectives and civilisations.
Aishah Hamza 居住在快節奏的新加坡。她旅行是為了讓事物慢下來。她是一名圖書管理員，她深信文字擁有塑形觀點和文明的力量。