Thursday, 21 October 2010

Daejeon Rock Festival

Written for Gwangju Blog

A day that was filled with promise turned into a case of what might have been. The first annual Daejeon Rock Festival guaranteed good music, world food and international beer. It barely delivered on any of the fronts. The festival was stopped at around 11pm (having been billed until 5am) due to complaints over noise pollution. The food fair was shoddily put together: three hundred advertised vendors shrunk drastically to about a dozen overpriced and confused (samosas come from Mexico? And is spaghetti a national dish of Spain?) fast-food retailers and the international beer and wine promised manifested itself as a shed-load of Cass. The sizeable Gwangju contingent that made the trip was certainly under-whelmed.

Nonetheless, it was beautiful to be able to bask in the last rays of sunlight before the onset of winter in the pleasant setting of the Daejeon Convention Centre. What survived of the music was a mixed bag, but for the most part enjoyable. One serious gripe, however, is that there were few announcements or little information on big screens to differentiate one band from the next. The whole thing had an amateurish feel about it… a shame, really, given the picturesque surroundings. The stage was thrust in amongst the apartment blocks and as the sunset, the backdrop was stunning. Hundreds of lanterns were raised to the sky and everybody was gearing up for a long night of music.

The first band was a shock to the system, proving that Screamcore is alive and well in Korea. Babies were wheeled bawling from the arena, locals wore concerned looks upon their faces and a general air of confusion reigned momentarily. They made way for an altogether more pleasing proposition, in ex-pats Dirty Gangneung. Rootsy, Black Keys style riffs were met by a tunefully wailing lead singer to wash the aural ruin of Act One from our ears. A crowd surfer and a spectacular firework display ensured that the visuals matched the audio, and the evening was ushered in, in fine style.

The third band to take the stage, Kickscotch, was arguably the most impressive. A female fronted quartet, they continued the brash rockiness of the precursors. The lead singer was reminiscent of PJ Harvey, head swirling and playing a flying V that completely dwarfed her. The music itself was more like an R-rated B-52s: call and response vocals, delivered over muscular riffs.

Kickscotch were followed on by the Seoul City Suicides, another riff heavy three-piece recalling Austin, Texas garage rockers White Denim. It was an enthusiastic, impressive set, but perhaps not as well-received as that of the ensuing act, Whatever That Means. Ignore the name; it wasn’t too hard to work out what was behind their music. They sounded like the fallout from Green Day’s Dookie personified and thrust onto a far-eastern stage. It was some tuneful refreshment to the heavy rock of the previous few bands and provided one of the highlights of the sadly curtailed evening.

A largely forgettable EMO ensemble were next up, followed by the strangely monikered, Skasucks. Apparently there is a healthy ska scene in Korea, and despite the irony of their name, they are surely one of the forerunners. They inspired moonstomping aplenty and by the end of their set, had filled the stage with crowd members hell-bent on replicating some of the Specials’ most video-friendly moments.

Shortly after, we realized there wouldn’t be anymore music. What was supposed to have gone on for eleven hours, lasted for around half that. Organizers had seemingly not fully considered the setting of the venue, in the midst of some large apartment buildings. Complaints over noise pollution resulted in the plug being pulled on an eventful, yet anti-climactic day in Daejeon.

No comments: