BUSAN, South Korea — Week two of the Battle of the Bands came and went like a weekend in Bangkok. It was loud, colorful, surreal at timesâand over much too quickly for anyone’s liking. Every band showed up to rock the crowd and every fan was in attendance to vote their favorite through to the finals. If week one was all about energy, then this past week, to the delight of everyone there, dripped swagger. Without hyperbole, it was one of the greatest lineups in the short history of Battle of the Bands.
First to descend onto the stage were newcomers Tonic. I had caught them at an open mic once and they had seemed a little shaky and unsure of themselves, but there was no trace of that band Saturday night at Vinyl. They played with passion. They were comfortable on the big stage. On any other night, this act might have been taken away a dark horse win, but the following bands were just too mighty.
Next was Millstone Grit, the hardest working band in Busan right now. They have been on the scene for a couple years and have steadily improved. It shows in their musicality and especially in their command of the crowd. Once upon a time, they were that high school garage band; now they just plain rock, no caveat about age necessary. They whooped their hometown fans into a frenzy with a full set of all original songs. Keep an eye on these boys: you might find yourself saying you knew them way back when.
It is always a treat to see Pinnacle the Hustler in Busan. This time was extra special as he brought along his new band down from Seoul, RFD (Ready For Deportation). With the crowd still foaming at the mouth over Millstone Grit, Pinnacle took to the stage and had his own way with them. His command over an audience is unmatched by anyone else working a stage in Korea these days. His rhymes were smart and RFD melted faces. There were DJ scratch solos, soaring guitar licks and the grooviest beats. Sadly, Pinnacle and RFD only had 30 minutes to perform, and the lyrics rang true: A taste of honey is [almost] worse than none at all.
The last act of the evening was a grand surprise for everyone in the room. JUNK! set up an array of keyboards, computers, projectors and Atari joysticks to perform the most unique Battle of the Bands set ever. As his gold cape sparkled in the lights of the stage, JUNK! bounced around like he was high on gummy berry juice, demanding the crowd get involved. And they did. If you ever get the chance to see this show, runâdon’t walkâto the venue and get as close to the front as you can.
So after the dust and glitter of JUNK! had settled, Millstone Grit emerged victorious. But with the level of talent exhibited by every single act, the win could have gone to any one of them. In fact, it was a shame that all the bands couldn’t advance to the final. But that is way of such things when the bar is set so high.
After Millstone Grit was announced as the winner, the crowd demanded more JUNK! and he returned to the stage for an encore performance. There was still a devoted group grooving to the beats when I left at 2:30 in the morning.
This weekend’s lineup is just as jam-packed as the first two. The rumble will be between two Busan powerhouses, Jake and the Slut and The Positions; a new electro-pop act on the scene, Kickki; and Perhaps-You’ve-Seen-Us-On-TV rockers from Jeonju, Asleep Without Dreaming. Once again, a ticket will get you a free drink at Vinyl and a 5,000-won heaping plate of delicious food at HQ bar before the show.
Door prizes from Wolfhound, Kai Surf Shop, California Burrito, Beached Bar and Dugout are waiting to be won as well.
Tickets can be bought at HQ before the show or at Vinyl Underground for 10,000 won.