BUSAN, South Korea – If last Saturday was any indication, the Busan Battle of the Bands is officially in full swing, and it’s swinging all around the peninsula. Six incredible bands delighted a packed house of live music fans from far and wide. The sole let down of the night was that only one group was able to advance to the finals.
Millstone Grit kicked off the evening with a set of all original songs composed by the budding high school rockers. Watching them shred onstage and react to the audience members dancing recalled memories of garage bands back in the day – when dreams of stardom were less-clouded by the daily grind.
Next was Taco Handshake from Gyeong Ju. It was clear the out-of-towners brought their entourage with them. At the first note, the crowd seemed to surge toward the stage and sing every word out of, frontman, John Hopton’s mouth. Their rock anthems were danceable and unpretentious which easily got everyone in the crowd, local or otherwise, behind them.
Busan natives, Nacho Pupa, commenced the punk portion of the evening with the authority that six spike-and-leather clad Koreans can command. With their accordion and banjo, they nailed the Irish punk genre. They even managed an impromptu version of The Pogues “Dirty Old Town”, while the drummer was dealing with some technical issues. Oi!
Newcomers, Plastic Duck Armada from Gimhae took the stage next. By this time, the club was full and they got the dance floor buzzing with funky guitar-driven rock.
The final competitors of the night were The South Bay. I’ve seen these guys many times and they never fail to impress. They grabbed hold of the crowd by starting their set with two covers: “Johnny B. Goode” and “Ruby Soho”, by Rancid. Then it was complete mayhem on the dance floor.
When the dust and cigarette ash had settled, Busan’s own South Bay had taken the victory. With the way they got the crowd raging, it was hardly a surprise. Interestingly, Taco Handshake took second place as an almost-repeat of last year’s dark horses The Burning Sensation from Changwon.
After the winners were announced, Pinnacle and the Antidote from Seoul rocked the crowd until the early morning hours. If you’ve never caught these guys, it should be on your to-do list while in Korea. MC Pinnacle lays down his lyrics over the funky aural fabric of The Antidote a la The Roots. The crowd was lucky to have them as they just took first place at Stompers Battle of the Bands last week.
Next Saturday is the final preliminary heat before the Grand Finale. Prominently featured is the head-to-head collision of two prominent Busan favorites: Hajimama and The Headaches. Each act is sure to bring everything they have to the stage. Filling in the lineup will be Bad Head Cold, Genius, and Great Grape, who between the three, run the gamut of Brit-rock, funk, and everything in between. The music will be as diverse as Vinyl Underground is pleasantly packed, so get there early. And don’t forget to Vote!!!!!
South Bay at Busan Rock Festival 2009
Battle of the Bands Heat 3 event page:
Heat 2 Photo Album by Mike Dixon is here:
Brian Kilrain is the bass player for One Drop East–last year's victors in the first Battle of the Bands.