‘18 Hours of Rock n Roll. Featuring Seoul’s finest Tribute acts and some of Korea’s up and coming Indie Rock Artists’
The crowds were there. The fabled “If you book them… they will come”— whether it be in relation to the crowds or the gigs— seemed to stand true.
As music festivals go in relation to the global scale and an overall party-factor, RocKorea was quite a long way down there. In its total defence, this was most likely due to the overall lack of people tripping balls and lying around in the dirt looking at the sky. The vibe was undeniably split, between those looking to rock out, get a little messed-up and have a laugh with their friends and those who appeared never to have been to a music festival outside of South Korea, and thus had never experienced chemical-orientated sex in a field nor wandered a campsite aimlessly smelling like a hobo.
So, bad points first, of which there are very few—The beer was somewhat monopolised and thus W6000 / $5.56 a pint of beer or W4000 / $ 3.71 a pint of something Korean masquerading as beer. Consequently, a bottle of soju for W3000 / $2.78 from the old lady with the octopus that repeatedly tried to leave my plate was a better option. Problem there is, there’s only so much soju that one can drink and it doesn’t mix that well with decent beer.
The festival ran from noonish through to the next morning at 0600ish. You couldn’t bring your own alcohol (though this wasn’t enforced, thank Christ) and the whole shindig ran 18 hours. At a good beer an hour that’s still over $100 a head. Add to that the W40,000 entrance fee and you have quite a bill (this writer fortunately received free tickets from TBSeFM).
Closely linked to the beer semi-hitch was the lack of an ATM machine. The closest appeared to be located at Incheon Airport, a good thirty minute drive away. If there was another around the place, it wasn’t marked out. Granted, an ATM and a festival don’t go hand in hand, but some way of hitting up more cash would have helped. A common complaint came from the unprepared who had to leave to get more cash or just leave.
Second proper error: the really great music went on after 0200, or around then; early evening the venue was packed with a few thousand people, maybe a few more (so in all honesty an excellent turnout for a first ditch attempt at a festival). Then there was an exodus. Not biblical, but a majority over-hall; a mass wave of people skipped out on a couple of late-ish bus rides and they all missed out on the late-hour party-time, which was a real shame. There were a handful of tents set up, but no campsite vibe. Anyone approaching tents received a sort of, ‘Why are you hanging around my tent?’ look. This says more about people who have not attended enough festivals, than organizers.
The music though, compared to that of the early morning (the majority of the tribute bands) did not particularly compare. Everything prior to it sounded like most of the rock music in Korea, like people who didn’t get signed and whose name you don’t remember. This comes straight to the concept of the VIP are a being a tent with some plastic chairs in it. If there are no Very Important People in the place, you can tell.
Then suddenly, ‘Midan: New City’s’ dawn—a place where someone has planted trees and laid pavement but as of yet no buildings stand, rendering everything outside of the perimeter of the festival venue quite apocalyptic—swept in with its 0300 mist. And the music just kicked-off. I swear that it wasn’t just a personal taste thing, between the legendary musical composition of AC/DC, Guns & Roses, Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The dudes covering the songs were fantastic and the place just lit up.
So a hat off to THE THREE ANGUSES, Leotard Skynyrd, Over the Hills and Far Away and R.U. Estranged, whose names pretty much spell out who they were covering.
The stand alone, original material award goes to Pinnacle & The Antidote, a five-piece rock-jazz-funk-break down featuring a hip-hop front man who really doesn’t fuck about. Highly professional and well disciplined musicians with a hint of Sage Francis about them. If they have not been signed by now, you’re reading this, you own a record label and can make someone a worthy offer, go have a look.
Additional highlights included the White Lies Burlesque Show, which predominantly consisted of very attractive women with great bodies taking off their clothes and The Tatles, a Japanese Beatles cover band whom may have had personality disorders in that aside from being suited, booted and playing the same instruments as the Beatles circa 1966 (including McCartney’s Hofner Violin Base and Harrison’s Gibson ES-330, et al) to the tee, they also sang with mock-Scouser accents. Utterly surreal but most excellent if only for high class comedy aspect; The Tatles also pulled the largest crowd by far.
At some point, attempting to flush out the soju I stumbled off to find Lance, a man I’d never met but had a description of. He had planned the whole thing. After locating him, and like a totally moronic flid, I leant over a very shiny box of buttons holding a ash-burnt smoke and a wobbly cup of coffee to ask him what he made of it. He told me to move. Fair enough. I asked him again and the general jist of it was that the festival was a “first time” thing and that he was “happy” with it. He looked busy and I was possibly drunk so I left him to his business and went to find some more coffee.
Overall, if it goes on next year and you were not there this year, I strongly propose that you get on it. The crowd was a pleasing mix of Koreans and expats, which makes a difference. You know that you’re doing something right when you get both. In relation to the Kabrew Riverside Music Festival in Gapyeong-gun that took place on Saturday the 28th of May that had all the sound switched off around 2200, some really dodgy bands and probably six Koreans, this rocked hard.
Last point of importance: Logistics. Public transport to and from the place, available from various locations, was entirely solid. Drivers had no problem parking for free, the public toilets were shockingly clean, food was in no way poisoned and the whole event was by far better than the sort of dodgy night out in Itaewon that ends in vomiting on your shoes and finding receipts for things that you don’t remember in your pockets somewhere around lunchtime the next day.
For a first attempt at encouraging people to rock out, gold stars all around.
*All pictures from Mipa Lee of the blog Alien’s Day Out.