John Lynch was in Spain tour-managing a singer when someone played a song by Yndi Halda, a post-rock band he'd never heard of before. The music blew him away, and he imagined the group must have been from somewhere really obscure in America. No, the man said, the band was from Canterbury.
"I thought: 'I'm in Spain and I'm hearing a British band that are amazing.' It was shocking to me that I hadn't heard about them or they weren't in the press or anything," said Lynch, now Yndi Halda's manager. "I found it very frustrating that there was a group that was so talented [but] that didn't have a big presence yet."
Yndi Halda - pronounced YIN-dee hal-DAR - needed no such introduction when they played at the recent Formoz Festival 2007 (野台開唱). Band members, all university students aged 21 to 22, estimated they had performed in front of 1,200 people at the concert. A spokeswoman for event organizer TRA Records said as many as 10,000 people saw them play, a rough figure she calculated by dividing the number of entrances to the festival by the number of stages. Local indie music trendsetter Loou Wang (王聖懷) has sold 1,000 copies of their EP Enjoy Eternal Bliss through his Avante Garden Records, compared with the band's US sales of 5,000 units and around 1,500 in Japan.
The reception bands like Yndi Halda received at this year's Formoz would have been impossible even a few years ago - before Youtube, blogs and social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook helped put fans in direct contact with musicians - because these are bands that would never get air time on stations like Hito Radio or ICRT, much less shelf space at major music-sellers like Rose Records.
"I think that so much of the success that we're starting to get is because of the Internet," said drummer Oliver Newton. He noted his band, a rising star in the post-rock scene, still gets little press in print journalism and no radio coverage. "Previously we would not have made it out here, and I doubt we would have toured Europe because everything depended on the radio." But now, he said, "You get people in [the] deepest rain forest in South America adding us on Myspace."
Yndi Halda is accustomed to playing for crowds of a few dozen, sometimes a few hundred people. Before Formoz their largest audience numbered 600; the smallest was two homeless Frenchmen and a dog in a La Rochelle bar. Nothing could have prepared them for the panorama that greeted them when they took the stage at Formoz: thousands of screaming, sardine-packed Taiwanese fans, many of whom were intimately familiar with their music.
"You had goose bumps," said Yndi Halda guitarist James Vella. "It was the best feeling in the world. You walk out on stage and it's so surreal," said band-mate Brendan Grieve. "I mean, when I walk out on stage, I don't really look. When I tuned my bass up, by the time I look up, I'm like, 'What?' I'm just, 'Whoa!'"
Formoz only pays its headliners, so Avante Garden's Wang told Yndi Halda not to go. "It was going to cost them US$4,000. It's a bad business decision," he said. "But they're young. They didn't listen." Defying Wang's expectations, Yndi Halda turned a profit from their Taiwan trip, selling every single T-shirt, CD and LP they brought with them. "As we finished playing … there was this queue for the [autograph] signing that went all the way down the hill," said Vella. "It was completely mind-blowing. … I had no idea that that would be the reaction."