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Review: Busan International Music Festival

By Deirdre Madden

Last weekend, my friends and I drove down to join in the 12th Annual Busan International Rock Festival, held this year at Samrak Park, near Gimhae. The event took place over three days, kicking off Friday evening at 4:30pm, and finishing up Sunday at around 11:30pm.

The point of this festival is to showcase Korea’s highly talented non-K-pop bands, and introduce Korean rock fans to international talent. Being a small-scale, free, city-run event, it doesn’t attract the big headliners that Jisan Valley can pull in, but it does what it does well.

The Korean bands mostly performed original songs, all with an alternative, rock or metal style. There were also Japanese, Indian, German and UK bands in the lineup. Not a single note of K-pop, nor a choreographed dance step was to be seen.

Some of the highlights for me included the ska band, Kingston Rudieska, who played a high energy set complete with a wailing horn section, and Crying Nut, possibly Korea’s foremost alternative band. Another band I really enjoyed was Mrigya, from India. Their mix of modern rock sounds with traditional instruments created a distinctly Indian quality without seeming to be hokey or forced or “World Music”-y. All of these bands can be found on Facebook, if you’re interested in finding out more about them.

The headliners on Saturday night, Buhwal, were a little too hair-metal-ballad for my taste, and I kept picturing the guitarist standing on a windy desert bluff while he played his solos, but they were well received by the crowd.

In all, everyone on stage throughout the Saturday show knew how to play their instrument, and how to do it well. I put this down to the Korean determination to be the best at what they do, or not do it at all.

What surprised me the most was the number of older Koreans hanging out in the park, intently watching the performances. The chair seating was practically filled with Halmony and Halabogie, tapping their toes along to the pounding drum beat. At home, people in that age group would be complaining about this being just noise, and how in their day music was much better and at least you could dance to it.

My only complaint about this year’s festival would be the “Cool Zone” tent. While I appreciated the fact that the smoking zone was contained indoors, and well away from me (I’m a rabid anti-smoker), I didn’t appreciate the dance club trance-type music they were blaring, which at times interfered with the main stage performances.


Ok, I have two complaints. The other is that last year this festival was held down on Dadae beach, which meant both rock music and swimming, and it doesn’t get much better than that.