Two weeks ago, I went to the 2nd annual Jisan Valley Rock Festival which was held from July 30 to August 1. It was not quite a short journey to reach the site. I had to go on a subway trip continued with a shuttle bus ride to go to festival area, it took around two and a half hours to get there. Yet, it was surely a very great time I had there!
Day 1 - The Warming Up
I came right to the Big Top Stage when Belle and Sebastian hit the stage. With their cheerful tunes, they captivated the crowed. They tried to engage with the crowds and they did it very well. Not only from their music, but they also approached the audience by inviting some people on stage to dance along together. I came to a surprise when I saw the vocalist, Stuart Murdoch, went off the stage in the middle of the performance and walked into the middle of the fans. He did a good job there and the crowd loved it very much.
Done with Belle and Sebastian, I decided to take a stroll to the Green Food Zone just right at the upper hill in front of the Big Top Stage. Besides the food stalls that provided all the food and beverages, this zone also comprises of stalls for sponsors and merchandises. In between there were also beer stall and the fire zone and some small stalls that sold accessories.
Later, I moved to the Green Stage, which was unfortunately quite far from where I was before. The lengthy distance between the Big Top Stage and the Green Stage quite consumed my time and energy. It was supposed to provide a bigger space for the pool that also became one of the attractions in the festival to beat the heat. After about 10 minutes walking, I got to the stage. I missed the beginning of Diane Birch’s performance but it was not that much. Performing her songs from her debut album ‘Bible Belt’, Diane Birch captivated the audience by her soulful voice. The performance itself comprised of some upbeat and lowbeat tunes. She tried to engage to the audience in between songs, so it was nice to capture the lovely side of her. The lovely performance was a little bit annoyed by a delay at the close-up big screen.
Vampire Weekend surely did not disappoint. With their stellar performance, they successfully made the crowd follow their flow. Open up their performance with the songs from their 2nd album ‘Contra’, they really know how to make the audience released their energy. Another problem came up when a technical problem on the main vocalist Ezra Koenig’s microphone, so his voice was cut off. Yet, he continued the performance and left no worries to the audience.
When the night approached, the party had just only started. Making my way back to the Green Stage to watch the last performance of the Korean pop-band ‘Brocolli, you too?’, I could see that many people had just came and made their way uphill to the camping sites bringing along their bags and itineraries. The food stalls also got crowded with people. The weather was a little bit cooler compared to the day yet the humidity was still unbearable.
‘Brocolli, you too?’ showed that they already had a legion of fans. Singing their songs like ‘No calling for encore’ and ‘Dance’, I was pleasantly surprised that many people sang along with the band. The first half of the performance was nice but I got bored when it came to the 2nd half. They played nice but I was not quite a fan of the order of the setlist, it did not lift my expectation to finish their performance.
Brocolli, you too?
The last performance of the day was from the main headliner, Massive Attack, with their experimental sound and their political-social messages represented by the backdrop of the stage. After the crowd was pleased by the full energy in Vampire Weekend’s performance, the mood was toned down and the audience was left to have some time to digest the sound. It was interesting, however, since there were some vocalists took turn to sing. The feeling of each featured song was changing in many ways to deliver the feeling of haunted, depressed and even with some elements of African ethnic sound on the vocal. It was enjoyable but probably did not satisfy many of the expectations for their first performance in Korea.
Day 2 - When It’s Getting Hotter, Literally
The weather was surely hotter than the previous day, not to mention the humidity too. After the exciting first day, I had some expectations for the performances on that day. Yet, my first performance of the day already turned upside down. Mate was probably not on their lucky day. They had to delayed their performance about half an hour and cut half of their performance due to some technical problems on the set. It was somehow still a very enjoyable performance when they played their upbeat songs like ‘It’s All about Love’ and ‘Fly to the Sky’.
One of the special performances highlighted for that day was ‘Crazy for Crash’ at the Green Stage. With a line up consisted of Matzka (Taiwan), Apollo18, Pia, and Crash, it was surely a stage which had its own crowd. One of the highlighted performances of the special stage had to go to ‘Pia’. Their lighter sound compared to the other performers also became a reason why it was also accepted easier by the audience. One of my awaited performers, Apollo18, did not lift my expectation. They played more of their ‘Blue’ album songs which were of course more suited to the theme. Yet, I still felt something was missing from their performance.
The boys from Kingston Rudieska hit the Big Stage with their skanking melody. With a very agile performance from the vocalist, it successfully made the crowd danced along with the melody amidst the already high temperature. It was also another treat when the vocalist bravely got off the stage and sang in the middle of the crowd. Continued with another stellar performance by Jang Kiha & The Faces. It was a great treat for people who had been missing these boys. With the absence of Mimi Sisters and the more casual attire, Jang Kiha proved to be loved by the crowd when people massively danced along together and waving their hands to the music. With some humor, spoken song and some acts in the middle of the performance, Jang Kiha proved to be a true entertainer for the crowd.
A surprise came when Sister’s Barbershop started to play. It was more like a cooling down performance. With some mid tempo songs combining their old and new songs, people were extremely pleased to enjoy ‘Beautiful Things’, ‘100 Years of The Heart’, and ‘The Most Common Being’ among the setlist.
The last headliners, Mutemath heated the crowd at the Green Stage and The Pet Shop Boys followed at the Big Top Stage. The Pet Shop Boys successfully pleased the crowed with their complete audio-visual treatment and their music. The beautiful backdrops of the stage and the dancers really brought up their music to another level of enjoyment. They truly left a very deep impression to the audience at their first ever show in Korea after three decades. Therefore, it was so memorable that it was even emotional for their some of their Korean fans.
The Pet Shop Boys
Day 3 – The Finale
Another day to enjoy the festival and unfortunately the weather was getting hotter. More people seemed to come on the Sunday, the 3rd and last day of the show. People might have expected to see Third Eyed Blind, Kula Shaker, Corinne Bailey Rae and Muse. The performances of the day were a mixed of loud and calm sounds. Yet, it was toned down compared to the 2nd day.
At the Green Stage, Korean bands like Bye Bye Band, Achime and Neons started the day with their modern-rock sound. Then, Taru showed up with her cuteness and cheerful melody. Later, Im Ju Yeon delivered a very lovely performance featuring Lee Neung Ryong from Sister’s Barbershop, who had already performed on the previous day. She got a very nice combination of pop and jazzy sound in her music. Then, Jeju Boys calmed out the crowd by their breezy guitar sound and vocal. It was also nice when they asked the crowed to just sit down while enjoying their performance, which made all the people even got more relaxed while listening to their music.
Next performer was Toe from Japan with their unique performance. With their instrumental sound without any vocal, a mixed of experimental, jazz and modern rock, they performed in their own mystical way, especially when the guitarist seemed to be very much absorbed by the music. He began to play with his guitar and moved around with his head banging. Lastly, the lovely Corinne Bailey Rae as the main headline at the Green Stage also had a very good performance. In her first visit to Korea, she began playing her new songs from her latest album ‘The Sea’ and played her popular hits from her first album like ‘Put Your Records On’ and ‘Like A Star’ in the middle of the performance. She looked emotional when she performed some songs but she never put off her lovely smile throughout her performance. It was a romantic and lovable performance to wrap up the Green Stage.
Toe & Corinne Bailey Rae
Galaxy Express, Schizo, and Moonshiners warmed up the crowd at the Big Stage. The first two bands offered rock sound to the audience, with Schizo sounded heavier with their metal sound. Moonshiners hit the stage with their oldies rock and roll tunes. The HIATUS continued to rock the stage bringing Japanese rock sound to the audience. It was enjoyable at the first half but the power was somehow reduced and left the second half a bit flat. Third Eyed Blind was surprisingly bland and not that very much enjoyable. Some songs they played were enjoyable, but the others were not flat. Yet, they tried to engage more to the audience in between their songs and the crowd seemed to like it. Next, Kula Shaker hit the stage and entertained the crowd with their britpop sound. They performed their songs like ‘Peter Pan RIP’, ‘Mystical Machine’, ‘Tattva’ among their setlist, and a closing performance of ‘Govinda’.
Third Eyed Blind
Muse was a real good one to wrap up the show. Despite the fact that they came back quite soon after their concert last January, it was proven that Muse was the main reason for many people to come that day. They had a complete performance with full of energy and pleasant audio-visual experiences. With the beautiful backdrops and laser, their songs were so enjoyable while jumping around and throwing hands on the air. The crowd looked very much energized throughout the performance. They even completed their performance with two encore songs. Lastly, the fireworks became the finale for all the performances in the last three days.
As a summary, the festival was very enjoyable. The food and beverages were nicely served and priced. With quite a lot of variations, people could picked their favorites among kebab, taco, noodles, hot dogs, chicken, rice cake, beer, cocktail, juice, etc. Many freebies were also given, ranging from coupons to handy fans. Beside the Big Stage and Green Stage, the Open Stage provided some nice music to enjoy from a number of Korean Bands. It was also a very nice place to relax in between the other two stages. Besides the stages, lots of people seemed to enjoy the pool very much. There where a lot of people seen to flock at day time and gathered with their fellows around the site. The mountainous area became a very nice treat for people to also enjoy the summer feel. Those who were able to camp in the area surely had an enjoyable time since there were electric stage for the nighttime, live music at the open stage and other side events like fire zone, juggling available.
Yet, the slogan ‘Go Rock, Go Green’ was not really implemented very well. A lot of people seemed not to care much about their own trash. So, the left-overs were seen piled up in some places. Problem at the shuttle bus also happened at the 1st day which left quite a very long queue at the festival entrance. Yet, it was thankfully solved on the next day.
It looks like Jisan Valley Rock Festival has finally made their stance to be the biggest summer music festival in Korea in its 2nd installment. No wonder that it has now finally become one of the most-awaited summer music festivals in Korea.
See you at the next gig!
Photo credit: Mnet media / 9Factory, Personal Collection
Thanks to: Shawn Despres, Smashing Mag, and Donna Kim for making it one of the best times!