BUSAN, South Korea – The preliminary heats for the 2010 Busan Battle of the Bands ended with a bit of drama last Saturday night at Vinyl Underground in Kyungsung. The final five bands of the competition performed in an unimaginably close contest.
After the last chords were struck, the audience cast their votes leaving just a single vote difference between the winner and first runner up. One Little vote would decide it all for the night.
Anticipation was thick in the air as the club filled up sometime after 10pm. People had been looking forward to the matchup between the Headaches and Hajimama, two of Busan’s favorite regular acts, all month long. Friendly banter on the Facebook event page (which continued onstage) added fuel to the ‘feud.’ Since both bands had such large, established fan bases, there was no way to predict who would advance to the finals.
A recent addition to the scene, Great Grape, kicked off the evening with a crowd pleasing set of sing-along covers and catchy original tunes. They were followed by Bad Head Cold, a three piece outfit who backed up their cocky onstage vibe with blistering rock chops. Then after an impassioned and hard-to-decipher introduction by a young Korean fellow, Hajimama took the stage.
One way to describe these guys might be: THE cross-cultural party band of Busan. They played all originals sung in both Korean and English sprinkled with witty references to the foreigner-in-Korea experience. Adding to the ear candy, frontmen Collwyn Craig and Dan Panozzo entertained the crowd between songs. The amount of fun the band had onstage was as obvious as it was contagious.
By the end of their 30 minutes, the crowd was heaving to and fro to Hajimama’s poppy jams. Hajimam put on a great show, but ended up a mere one vote shy on winning the heat Next the Headaches took the stage with swagger and intent. The set featured lead guitarist, Robbie Wagner, melting faces with his inspired solos interspersed with lyrics by singer, Chris Tharp, belted passionately. They describe themselves as mixing ‘punk, grunge, and 70's blues rock into a potent cocktail that's guaranteed to sear your skin.’ Amen. Finally, Genius wrapped up the preliminaries with 30 minutes of punk rock played with passion and poise. I had never seen them before and I was impressed with the level of talent in regards to both their songwriting and musicianship. Hopefully we will see them playing around town more often.
After they were finished, the crowd milled around the club waiting for the results. As it was such a great showing by all the bands, most people decided to stick around for the announcement. The tallying took longer than normal, mostly due to the fact that it had to be done numerous times by five separate people to verify the winner.
Eventually, organizers Russell McConnell and Dave Khimasia emerged to announce that, by the grace of a single vote, the Headaches would be advancing to the finals. Joining them will be Busan punk/ska stalwarts The South Bay from Heat 2 and buzz-worthy newcomers The Defector Frequency of Heat 1 in addition to a wildcard act to be announced later this week.
All of Busan is piddling with anticipation over this lineup and you should be too. If last week taught us anything, it might be the importance of every vote. So get out to Vinyl Underground this Saturday night. Doors will open around 9:30… so get there early.
This event will fill up. And don’t forget to VOTE VOTE VOTE. Brian Kilrain is the bass player for One Drop East–last year's victors in the first Battle of the Bands.