Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 17 News List

Storm rising over Fulung

Now in its fifth year, the Gungliao Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival offers sun, sea and big-name rock bands all for free

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

Dirty Three are one of the most anticipated acts at this year's Gungliao Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival.


Five years since bringing together a few dozen amateur bands for a day on the beach at Fulung, Taipei County, the Gungliao Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival has morphed into a full-blown, three-day festival, this time with bonafide international stars, like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

The festival isn't on the scale of the major European festivals or Japan's Fuji Rock -- not even close -- but the exponential rate of the event's growth shows that it doesn't lack in ambition. And the fact that admission is free sets it apart from most festivals in a distinctly positive way.

"We'd like to see the festival develop into a benchmark event for the Chinese-speaking world," said Zhang 43 (43), head of the independent music label Taiwan Colors Music (TCM) and one of the main planners behind the festival along with Taipei County Government.

"Five years ago, the whole thing was organized on the fly, calling up people and saying `hey, why don't you show up and just play?'" he said. Now the festival rejects three times as many applications to play as it accepts.

battle of the bands

As in years past, the festival has two main parts: a battle of the bands between up-and-coming groups, and shows by major local and international bands. The first year of Ho-Hai-Yan, the battle theme was to pit local bands against expat bands, having taken inspiration from the interaction between groups that played at Spring Scream a few months earlier.

In its third year, the battle was called the Taiwan Indie Rock Award and started to give handsome cash prizes of NT$200,000. A second award, the judge's panel award, also gave a sizable check for NT$50,000.

The Indie Rock Award also attracted some controversy over the term "independent," which was used as a qualifying criterion. Many felt that some of the competing bands, in particular the ones with agents and management contracts, didn't quite live up to the term. So this year, the contest was opened to anyone, though the wording of the qualification criteria mentions the term "huaren" (華人), which could be construed to mean the award is implementing a Chinese-only policy, despite TCM's insistence to the contrary.

Band schedule


5pm Stone

5:45pm XL

6:30pm Sandee Chen

7:20pm LTK Commune

8:20pm A-yue

9:10pm Special Clippers reunion show


3pm - 10pm 20034 Ho-Hai-Yan Indie Music Award


4pm Chairman, A-Di-a, Dog G

5:05pm Mach Pelican

5:30pm The 5,6,7,8's

6:20pm Dirty Three

7:20pm Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

8:30pm Andrew W.K.

graphic: tt

Anyway, the 10 bands that are competing in tomorrow's battle made it to the finals by passing a first cut with a demo and then making a second cut at concerts held in Tainan, Taichung and Taipei over the past month.

no more nu-metal

According to Zheng Hsiao-dao (鄭小刀), who is chairing the committee of judges for the award, this year's selection of bands is notably more varied than last year's, when a lot of the finalists seemed like less hairy versions of Limp Bizkit. There are several folk-rock bands in the Wilco vein and an unprecedented number of girl bands or bands with female members.

"The bands are a lot more interesting this year," said Zhang of TCM.

Those with the good fortune to be able to make it to Fulung today will be able to catch some of Taiwan's best bands.

This year's program

The music starts at 5pm with sets by last year's two winning bands, Stone and XL, both nu-metal groups that turned the several-thousand-person mosh pit in front of the stage into a frenzied, heaving mass.

Slowing things down a bit after these two will be Sandee Chen (陳珊妮) with her moody alternative pop, but the music will pick up with LTK's irreverent punk and then Chang Chen-yue (張震嶽), known as A-yue (阿嶽), who manages to walk the line between saccharine Mando-pop and angsty grunge. Closing out tonight's show will be a reunion set by the original members of Clippers (夾子).

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