This weekend sees the biggest musical event of the year in Busan. Although the lineups aren’t as star studded as some of the other big festivals in Korea, Busan International Rock Festival is unique in that it is free and that it takes place right in the city. This year’s headliners stay true to the festival’s pedigree of hard rock, metal and punk that dominate Korean indie music. But the past few years the organizers have been bringing many new types of bands such as celtic, ska, reggae and funk.
The festival will, once again, take place at the spacious Samrak Park (삼낙공원) that borders Busan’s west edge against Gimhae. There are two stages, the main stage and a smaller stage for up-and-coming acts (And the award for best second stage band name goes to… Velcro Sex out of Daegu!). Also there are concessions and a “Club Music Lounge” which, in the past, has been a nice, if not quiet, place to get out of the heat.
Lineup-wise, this year is dominated by some big names in Korean indie rock. The festival headliner is Stratovarius, from Finland. Perhaps the band I’m most excited to see, however, is SOIL & “PIMP” SESSIONS, a jazz/funk 6-piece out of Tokyo. I’ll give a run down of what bands to check out, and why, below. Click the band name for a youtube link.
SOIL & “PIMP” SESSIONS – I was introduced to this band by Ahn Woo Sung, trumpet and band leader of local jazz/funk powerhouse Hot Pepper Pasta. SOIL & “PIMP” SESSIONS call their brand of music ‘Death Jazz.’ It certainly isn’t your father’s jazz. One member of the band doesn’t play an instrument or sing. Instead he is an ‘agitator’ and his job is to… eh… agitate the crowd. I’m interested to see what all the metal-heads make of it. Sunday 6:20
Kingston Rudieska – I freaking love this band. They are THE original Korean ska band and after 10 years or so, they’ve only gotten better with age. They always attract a crowd… expect all the kids in the audience to lose their shit once KRS hits the stage. The singer, Suk Yeul, is a consummate showman. Gonna be a great set. Friday 3:40
Romantic Punch – The first time I saw these guys was 3 years ago on this same stage. At first, I didn’t know what to think. The singer is flamboyant and androgynous and the band looks like they’re out of the 80’s. But Romantic Punch just puts on an incredible show! The frontman is just nuts… he’s got a bigbag of tricks to get the crowd frothing! Saturday 7:40
Icy Cider – Along the same lines as Romantic Punch… the lead singer is CRAZY but these guys play white knuckle ska-punk instead of straight ahead rock. Very fun band to watch. The frontman kind of reminds me of a Korean Jack Black. He’s a monkey! Friday 3:00
#1 Korean – Another great ska-punk band… these guys like to lay back into some reggae from time to time though. The onstage chemistry between the band members is fun to watch. Friday 2:30
Feverdogs – One of the few Busan bands to see the main stage this year is Feverdogs. Everything about these guys is tip top. The songwriting, the musicianship, the talent. My advice to you is catch this band before they move to Seoul and become the next big indie thing. Sunday 2:00
Stoned – Another local band, Stoned, is a handful of punksters that have been heavily entrenched in Busan scene for years and years in one band or another. One fixture of their shows is mischievous fun… who knows what kind of tomfoolery will visit Samrak park this weekend. Saturday 3:00
Jennifer Isolation – I hadn’t heard of this 4-piece before… but after looking up a few of their videos, it seems like a Japanese Rage Against the Machine. Definitely looking forward to checking them out. Friday 5:30
Crying Nut – Probably the most famous band to come out of Busan. Their sound is hard and fast and fun… yet their latest single is super poppy. I’m interested to see how it fits in their usual set. Saturday 9:40
No Brain – Korea’s Green Day. They are noteworthy because of their fame in a country whose radio waves are dominated by K-Pop. Lotte Giant’s fans will recognize their song Your Falling Into Me as Gang Min Ho’s walkout music. Friday 9:30
YB – This is the main musical project of Yoon Do Hyun, who is kind of like the Korean Ryan Seacrest. He is very famous for his TV show and various appearances on other shows (you can see him as a judge in the Romantic Punch link I posted). I’ve seen him before and his live performances are much more energetic and rocking than his studio stuff. He is probably the most famous act at the festival and will be closing it down after Stratovarius Sunday night. Sunday 9:50
PIA – Another very famous Busan band, PIA had a bit of international success after playing with Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park during their respective heydays. They started off as very hard rock but in recent years their sound has mellowed. Their video link is quite funny as they try to channel Michael Jackson on Top Band. Saturday 5:30
If I missed anything, please let us all know about it in the comments.
How to get to Samrak Park
Take the Green Line (2) to Sasang station and go out exit 3. Walk straight about 4 blocks. You will go past E-mart and Homeplus. From there, take the bridge over the highway… and you’re there!