Fri, Jul 15, 2005 - Page 13 News List

Spot the star at Ho-Hai-Yan

Thousands of people are expected to flock to the east coast next week for the annual Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival, but few will be going for the music

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Earlier this week it looked as if this year's Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival would have to be canceled for the simple reason that there just wasn't enough beach in Fulong (福隆). Ceding to demands by Taipei County Government, Taipower on Wednesday began to replace the parts of the beach washed away in recent heavy rains. Come next Wednesday there should be plenty of beach for the two huge stages and the thousands of festival goers expected to descend on the sleepy seaside town.

Since its inception six years ago, when a handful of local indie bands played to a few hundred music fans and a couple of hundred curious onlookers, the Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival has morphed into the nation's largest free outdoor music festival. Last year's festival, which was the first time international bands were included in the line up, attracted an estimated 100,000 people over a three-day period.

Organized by the Taipei County Government with the help of local indie label Taiwan Colors Music (角頭音樂會), A Strong Production (壯態影音傳播有限公司), and with corporate sponsorship this year coming from President Chain Store Corp's (統一超商) 7-Eleven, the event is, according to the county government at any rate, set to be bigger and better than ever.

Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival 2005 will run for five days -- Wednesday, July 20, through Sunday, July 24 -- rather than the traditional three. It will see a total of 180 local and six international acts performing and will include a mini-movie festival at which half a dozen well-known music related films will be screened.

Although a mammoth five-day rock festival in Taiwan may seem a bit over the top, Taipei County Government initially wanted to extend the festival time frame to nine days. Pleas from the more music festival savvy co-organizers, however, put a halt to this idea.

"At first [Taipei County Government] wanted to make it nine days and we thought they were crazy. They talked about making it `bigger and better,' but this depends on the definition of `big,'" said international band coordinator Arthur Chen (陳彥豪). "They had no idea that there is a big difference between the length of the festival and the quality of music."

While exact numbers are impossible to predict, organizers expect the number of festivalgoers to increase by at least twofold this year. Pre-festival estimates by the county government apropos the number of people expected to travel to Fulong at one time or another during the festival period has been put as high as 500,000. More credible sources expect the figure to be somewhere in the region of 200,000.

The numbers may look impressive on paper, but the reasons so many people choose to go to Fulong paints a very different picture. The Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival might well be the nation's largest outdoor music festival, but of the thousands of people only a very small percentage attend the event for the music.

According to a survey carried out by co-organizers last year, a mere 10 percent of those who traveled to Fulong had done so to see the bands. The remaining 90 percent of those questioned had simply chosen to visit the seaside resort during the weekend of the festival to party, have fun in the sun and, as one cynical member of the local independent music scene put it, "to look at girls in bikinis."

According to Freddy Lin (林旭佐), who heads the Taiwan Rock Alliance and organizes the Formoz Festival, the reasons so few people go for the music is due to the lackluster manner in which the county government advertises and promotes the event.

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