Summer. Can’t you feel the excitement just by looking at that word? Especially after a grueling semester, everyone has at least something to look forward to during the summer vacation, whether it is sleeping in all day long or traveling to a foreign country. For me, it was this year’s Jisan Valley Rock Festival.
Held at the Jisan Forest Resort in Icheon City, this year’s festival took place from July 29 to 31. For the people who were staying for multipe days, camping tickets were sold and tents were made available for lease. The facilities within the festival area were surprisingly decent in general. The food stands were quite satisfying in both taste and variety. The showers were unbelievably horrid but passable, especially since my expectations were low to begin with. There were a lot of company-sponsored booths that provided cellphone charging services and cool lounges for people to relax in during the day. You could also borrow Crocs, which were just as convenient for the muddy grounds as they were terrifyingly ugly.
There were three main stages that were set up far away from each other to prevent overlapping of sound. The Open Stage was in the middle of one of the food zones, so people could watch while eating under the parasols. Bands that performed on this stage were usually lesser-known artists but because the stage was very small and open, it invited and attracted people passing by to check out the bands performing. An interesting Korean band I discovered at Jisan is Sumiara and Ponstubert, who play music that incorporates jazz, reggae and rock.
A big roof covered the Green Stage, despite it being outdoors as well. It was rainy for almost all three days of the festival, so going to see a band perform at the Green Stage was always a relief. Most of the artists who played there were Korean indie bands. For Delispice, a famous band in the indie scene, Jisan was their first time performing in almost ten years. The die-hard fans sang the lyrics to almost every song. Also, I still can’t believe that CSS, a Brazilian electro-rock band, came to Korea to perform. The vocalist was extremely sweet and it was fun to watch her perform as she kept telling the audience “Saranghaeyo,” meaning “I love you” in Korean, in her cute Brazilian accent. There was stage diving, spitting water all over the stage and dancing, which made CSS one of the liveliest performances of the festival.
The Big Top Stage was the largest of the three stages, as some of the more famous bands performed on it. The headliners that marked the end of each day of the festival were The Chemical Brothers, Arctic Monkeys and Suede. Out of the three, the most extravagant stage setup probably belonged to The Chemical Brothers, with their lasers, gigantic lights and strange yet interesting videos that were screened behind them. Arctic Monkeys were very good live but lacked showmanship, which the fans had somewhat expected. On the other hand, Suede vocalist Bret Anderson gave a very exciting performance as he danced around the stage and played with the cameras. For all three bands it was extremely crowded and the audience went crazy whenever people’s favorite songs came up.
There was a fireworks show on the final day of Jisan, but that wasn’t the last event of the festival. After Suede had finished, there were performances on the Open Stage until daybreak. The Tatles, a Beatles cover band, played a hilarious show as they dressed up in suits and bowl-cut wigs to look like the actual band members. As the cover band was Korean, they covered for the Beatles’ British origin by speaking in broken English, which had the audience tearing up over laughing too much. There was also a Nirvana cover band called Nabwana, which is a word play that reads “look at me” in Korean. Although the quality of their performance wasn’t as outstanding as The Tatles’, my being a dedicated Nirvana fan made it one of the best performances of the festival for me.
This year saw a significant increase in ticket sales, which shows that more people in Korea are interested in attending these rock festivals. My personal opinion is that the more people the better, because that means the festival gains more profit through which they can get more bands to play the next year. However, I feel that if you don’t know much about a certain band, you should then let go of your obsession with seeing every artist from the front row. The sound quality is better at the back anyway, and fans that will enjoy the experience more should grab the bars in front of the stage. But aside from the usual ill-behaving people that every crowd has, most of the people were very nice and friendly. Even though my tent got flooded and I hardly got any sleep during the three days, looking back I think the festival is one of the purest forms of happiness a music fan can experience.