The Busan International Rock Festival will hit Daedapo Beach next weekend. Set on the lonely end of the orange line, Daedapo is one of the most scenic beaches in Busan, and a good place for a rock show.
While called an “international” rock festival, the lineup only has four bands from outside of Korea, so it is more of a chance to check out top Korean rock acts than anything else, though the American heavy metal band Firehouse will be there. Interestingly, at the 1992 America Music Awards, FireHouse was awarded Best New Hard Rock/Metal Band over Nirvana and Alice in Chains. Go figure.
Busan International Rock Festival (BIRF) is unique for a couple of reasons; first there is its gorgeous setting, second, it’s one of the only major festivals in Korea to book heavy metal acts as headliners, and third (and perhaps most important) it’s FREE!
The line-up this year keeps with its tradition of staging an eclectic selection of rock music from Friday to Sunday during the second week of August. The line-up looks very cool this year as well. Korean rockers Ynot? will take the stage, although I have to admit they fell far short of impressive last weekend at Pentaport. Keeping with the Y-name flow YB, who were much better at Pentaport, will also be performing. PIA (think Linkin Park) is another band that, like Ynot?, doesn’t do much for me (sorry, not a Nu Metal fan here) but will get a good turnout among Koreans.
Crying Nut, maybe one of the most important and influential bands in Korean music over the last 20 years, will also be playing. Crying Nut are often credited with the birth of ‘Chosun Punk’, the small but tightly-knit group of punk/alt and grunge bands that spearheaded the birth of independent music in Korea, as well as its flagship scene, the Hongdae area surrounding Hongik University in Seoul. Interestingly, the other band that gets credited most often alongside Crying Nut, No Brain, headlined the Sunday night line-up at last year’s BIRF. I’ve seen Crying Nut a number of times at a number of venues and even drank with them once (well, sort of– I was at the other end of the room with the other bands they played with, but still that counts right?) and they are always fun.
Bu-hal is another Korean rock band that have been around since the early days of Korean indie. I’ve never really seen them before, so I’m kind of excited about checking ‘em out. Achime, a sort of mellow indie/atmospheric modern rock band has been slowly growing over a number of years and should add a cool vibe to a (hopefully) beautiful summer day on the beach. Superkidd, the Korean answer to ‘a Simple Plan’, is a band that I hold in the same esteem as PIA–not too into them, but I expect will bring out the teenagers. For Korean punk proper, look no further than Yellow Monsters. Yellow Monsters are a new band formed by GUM X’s front man. A little more explanation is need here.
Since, the Crying Nut/No Brain explosion of the early-mid 90’s, very few bands from the indie scene, or rock scene in general, have gone on to the type of rock star status that we are used to seeing bands achieve in the west. One of those bands, however, is GUM X, a skate punk band much akin to the bands that swelled the rosters of labels like Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords in the 90’s. While Gum X were fairly successful for a punk band in Korea, their real success came in Japan’s vaunted punk scene. Only the front man still lives in Korea, and to give you an idea of how big they are in Japan, their manager flies him back and forth to Japan for every show. Yellow Monsters is his new Korea-based project and musically in a similar vein to GUM X.
Speaking of Punk, Daejeon-based Ska-punk band Burning Hepburn will be on site–you may have seen them several weeks ago at the last big Busan punk show (an interview with them will be forthcoming on this site). They’re not coming from Daejeon alone however, as Metalcore band No Eazy will also be making their way down to Busan.
Rounding out the Korean line-up are Jude (funk) Windy Cat (alt), Lee Han Cheol, United 93 (Emo, I think) and Telefly.
And, then, of course, there’s the international line-up. This year sees BIRF following through on its tradition of bringing metal to the beach, with The Haunted. The Haunted have often been compared (and favourably) to Slayer, so put off that hair cut for another few weeks and get your headbangin’ on.
At the other end of the metal spectrum is Firehouse. Firehouse are a 90’s speed metal band, but don’t compare them to Maiden or Priest. Rather than hard-hitting odes to the fantastic, the subversive or the downright criminal, Firehouse’s music is more… well, just look up ‘Overnight Sensation’ on YouTube. They’re kind of a guilty pleasure for me, as they bust out track after track of montage-erific anthems. Seriously, you can go into the show a hapless oaf, and by the rules of 90’s montages, after three songs, you’ll be a champion kickboxer/downhill skier/ skateboarder–you’ll win the day, get the girl AND save the Rec Center for the lovable, yet misunderstood misfits that make up your supporting cast.
Two interesting international bands from Asia also add to the affair, with Japan being represented by Nontropo, who are described as, and I quote, “New Wave, Dub, Reggae, Jazz, Progressive, Samba and Trance” or alternatively “tropical avant dance”, so…awesome?
On the other side of the coin is BADASS Hong Kong Hardcore band King Lychee. I was fortunate enough to see them in Korea five or six years ago, and they are truly bloody-knuckled Asian hardcore at its finest. From what I’ve been told, you’ll also see be able to check them out at Club Realize, around the corner from Underground on Friday the 6th.
Definitely worth checking out Realize if you haven’t yet. It’s a new club that focuses mainly on metal, punk and hard rock live acts and music, and with it being located so close to Vinyl Underground, it has quickly added some depth to the Kyungsung-dae area.
And last, no BIRF round-up would be complete without mentioning the locals. This year it’s the always awesome Unchained, the heavily Alice In Chains influenced grunge/hard rock band that’s been rocking the crap out of Busan for more than ten years.
All in all, while eclectic, BIRF looks to be bringing some much needed edge to the Korean Music Festival circuit this year. Assuming the weather holds up, expect a couple thousand people to show. Not much for amenities–usually the few vendors there sell beer at near-corner shop prices, so down a few on the cheap for a good time on a beautiful beach with some great music.