The New Year's Eve party sponsored by Taitung County government, CTV (華視) and the Taipei Times got off to a cold, wet start on Friday evening, but warmed up toward the witching hour with the arrival of an estimated 35,000 people.
The event was scheduled to start at 7pm, with Aboriginal singer and human rights activist Kimbo Hu (胡德夫) taking the stage ahead of a roster of Taiwan's top Aboriginal acts.
But the start of the concert gave way to more urgent needs: the building of bonfires to warm the few fans who'd braved temperatures in the low-teens. Kimbo took the stage to perform for a few thousand folks and by the time the evening's star Aboriginal act, the Betelnut Brothers (檳榔兄弟) went on, the crowd was filling the courtyard square of the National Museum of Prehistory (國立台灣 史前文化博物館), near the Taitung City airport.
It was an appropriate spot to have a concert whose first half was given over exclusively to Aboriginal acts. Following Kimbo and before the Betelnut Brothers was Chen Yung-lung (陳永龍), Hu Hao-en (吳昊恩), Cheng Chieh-jen (鄭捷任), the Malan Chanters (馬蘭吟唱隊) and the AM Band (AM樂團).
Also known as A-Minor, the AM Band comprises several Aboriginal tribe members whose success has been propelled, in large part, by the popularity of the group's lead singer, Samingad (紀曉君). Samingad won a Golden Melody award in 2002 and will soon be traveling to France for another award honoring the world's best Aboriginal musical acts.
Following the Aboriginal acts were speakers from Taitung County government. They wished everyone a happy new year and encouraged them to sample some of the food and snacks set up in a row of tents just outside the concert area. Their advice came a bit late, however, because by the time they'd finished speaking the crowd has already found the food areas and was tucking in. Gathering the longest lines were an Aboriginal stone-grill stir-fry and, not surprisingly, the several stands offering hot drinks.
The concert regained its pace around 9:30pm when several top pop acts began taking the stage, including Luo Mei-ling (羅美玲), Sticky Rice (糯米團), Chiang Mei-qi (江美琪), Huang Xiao-hu (黃小琥) and Wu Si-kai (伍思凱).
CTV aired the festivities live, cutting during the news hour between the station anchor -- who was at the Pre-History Museum -- and the hosts of the evening's festivities, Tai Chih-yuan (邰智源) and Lang Zhu-yun (郎祖筠). The mercury had dipped to around 8oC, but the stiff winds whipping through the grounds of the Pre-History Museum made it feel much colder.
Most of the crowd seemed more interested in the food than the concerts, but Sticky Rice managed to bring everyone running back to the stage and the concert motored on at full throttle up to the midnight hour, in spite of a few technical difficulties. Wu Si-kai was the last to perform and was then joined on stage by the rest of the pop performers in a countdown to 2005 that was punctuated with a barrage of fireworks.
Taitung County government had procured a train to take everyone from the Pre-History Musem's Kangle train station to Taimali after a few hours of hip-hop dance music. The idea was to greet the sunrise of the new year on the scenic east-coast beach.
But with the temperature continuing to drop, there were few people who seemed interested in going. Everyone's first resolution of the year seemed to be: Get warm.