Fri, Mar 29, 2002 - Page 7 News List

Giddyup, it's Spring Scream Horse

Now entering its eighth year, Spring Scream is finally starting to mature as a music festival. At least that's what Taiwan's record companies are saying

By David Frazier  /  STAFF REPORTER

It's live, it's outdoors, it's four days of solid rock `n' roll. Spring Scream Horse rides again. Below, :40 of Hell, a band from Oklahoma, will play Spring Scream for the first time this year.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SPRING SCREAM AND :40 OF HELL

"Spring Scream is completely independent. It doesn't really rely on anything commercial, so in the industry, we really respect it. I mean I can't talk for the whole industry, because not all the companies are into producing live performers, but for us, it's important."

Roger Lee (李文寬), who said this, is in charge of packaging and marketing bands for Taiwan's biggest rock and roll record company. He works for Magic Stone, a key sub-label of Rock Records, which released 60 locally produced CDs last year as well as distributing for various import labels from Japan, Korea and the US.

The thing Lee's referring to, Spring Scream, is an annual music festival held near the beach town of Kenting in southern Taiwan. Last year, 160 bands played on its three stages, providing over 12 hours of music a day for four days straight. Next Thursday through Sunday, this will happen again as the festival reaches its eighth year, Spring Scream Horse.

Lee continued: "Our company, we have a cycle every year where we take a break in the winter. People go home or take time off to write songs or whatever. And then, Spring Scream comes as kind of a wake-up call. For us, it's an extremely important event on our annual calendar. It's basically the start of our year."

And then, perhaps tangentially: "It's like a drug."

This year, Lee and Rock Records will send more than 30 people to Kenting for the music festival, which is Taiwan's biggest. "If we want to sign some new artists, it's a good chance to make a first contact. For example, two years ago was when we found MC Hot Dog. We'd never seen him before that."

MC Hot Dog was Taiwan's first home-bred rapper to blow up island wide. Last year he released four mini CDs which sold over 220,000 copies.

Though popular, MC Hot Dog is hardly the biggest act to come out of the anybody-can-do-it rock scene that Spring Scream tends to foster. The biggest would have to be Mayday, a poppy, rocky group of five Taiwanese kids that has now sold over one million CDs to their screaming, adoring Taiwanese fans.

Spring Scream co-organizer Jimi Moe can't clearly recall which year Mayday first played Spring Scream, but guesses it was 1996 or 1997. All he can say for sure about his early impressions of the band is: "I remember looking at a box of tissue paper that was also called Mayday and thinking, `Whoa, they have the same name as a box of tissue paper.'"

Mayday last played Spring Scream in 2000. Speaking for Rock Records, Lee said: "I can't say for sure that we `discovered' them at Spring Scream, but it definitely had a lot to do with our becoming aware of them."

In August 2001, Mayday did a mini-tour of Taiwan, playing three concerts that drew between 20,000 and 30,000 fans each. Crowds at last year's Spring Scream Snake, by comparison, topped out at around 3,000, according to the other half of its organizing team, Wade Davis (there are no official statistics for Spring Scream, but many feel the crowd could have been twice as large as Davis' estimate).

"If really big bands come, they'll attract too many people. Then Spring Scream would be like a sideline for Mayday and the whole thing would be ruined."

This comes from Randy Lin (林志堅), who within the narrow range of Taiwan's rock music production industry, is probably at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum from Roger Lee. Lin, one of those ultimately unpretentious musical encyclopedias to whom the need to fabricate a band's image has probably never occurred, manages Scum records, a sub-something or other of Taiwan's most esoteric label, Crystal Records.

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