BUSAN, South Korea – Last year about this time, a newly formed promotion outfit by the name of Busan Live! kicked off its first Battle of the Bands. It exceeded even their wildest expectations selling out each show over the 4 weekends it ran with impassioned fans voting for their favorite band.
“To be honest, it really took us by surprise,” said co-founder, Russell McConnell. “We were hoping for 80-100 people a night and ended up nearly tripling that number. It was nuts.”
People lined up outside the door to catch a glimpse and a listen of an event that had before been something you only hear about happening in that other city—Seoul.
The second Battle of the Bands is back this Saturday and this year promises to be a significant improvement over the first. The lineup is stacked with hometown favorites, as well as bands that are new to the Busan music scene. In addition, there are five out-of-town acts that are gonna make a run at the big showdown after three weeks of prelims.
“Our goal for Battle of the Bands this year was to expand on the success of 2009 and make this a national event,” said Dave Khimasia of ALLiVE (formerly Busan Live!), who are once again putting on the show this year.
The rules are simple: Each band plays a 30 minute set which must include at least four original songs. Fans vote once for their favorite act that night and the winner of each heat competes in the Grand Finale with the intention of being crowned ALLiVE’s Best Band – 2010. The winner also gets free studio time to record their next album.
“Having done so well last year, we wanted to make the prizes even better this year,” said McConnell.
Call me biased, but there are a few acts that are my personal favorites that that should not be missed:
The Headaches: They were victims of a disappointing early-round elimination last year, but since then have proven their status as Rock Gods of Busan.
South Bay: Not Just-Your-Basic Korean underground punk/ska band… they do it best on the peninsula. The crowd really gets into when they take the stage.
Defector Frequency: Quite new to the scene… catchy electro-pop.
So, I have a few favorites, but that isn’t to say there aren’t a ton of other talented acts to whet your appetite for great original music: Hajimama (Partyband), Wayfarer State (Songwriter), and Plastic Duck Armada (Jamtastic!). Plus, it’s certain there will be a few pleasant surprises thrown in each night to keep the voting public honest.
There are 15 bands to check out between now and December 11th, when the finals will be held at Vinyl Underground in the Kyungsung University area. Each show is 10,000 won for admission and a free drink, however, there is an option to purchase a ticket to all four shows for 25,000 won. In addition, prizes will be raffled off before 11 p.m. each night, so get there early!
If you are new to Korea and love music, there is no better opportunity to check out the scene. Even if you feel like you’ve seen it all, at least get down to vote for your favorite act. You will probably be surprised by how much these bands can deliver when they only have 30 minutes to get their point across.
Whatever your situation, the next month is going to rock Busan, so get down to KSU and experience it.
Battle of the Bands Heat 1 event page (lineups can be found there): http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=167463559940793
Brian Kilrain is the bass player for One Drop East–last year's victors in the first Battle of the Bands.