Like an old friend, Spring Scream seems like it hasn’t changed and never will. That is, until you look back.
What started as a small beach party in Kenting with a few ragtag bands 15 years ago has become an annual mecca for thousands of college-age revelers and adventurous expats, as well as a showcase of Taiwan’s best indie music.
And this year’s festival, officially titled Ox 2009 Spring Scream (春天吶喊2009), boasts its biggest headline act ever: Amit (阿密特), the on-stage alter ego and Aboriginal name of pop star A-mei (阿妹).
Mulling the presence of Taiwan’s queen of pop in the band line-up brings up another Spring Scream ritual: questioning whether the festival has become too big and too commercial.
For founders and organizers Wade Davis and Jimi Moe, it’s become an inevitable question as the festival has grown. They say they hemmed and hawed this year about whether to even have a “big stage” with major Taiwanese acts, one major change of the past two years when the festival moved to its current location at Oluanpi Lighthouse National Park (鵝鑾鼻燈塔公園).
Ultimately the two knew they wanted to continue cultivating Spring Scream’s audience, which numbered up to 5,000 on Saturday (the peak day) last year, according to Davis. They decided the additional crowds that A-mei and other major acts draw would be a boon for the event.
This way more people can “enjoy all the other bands,” said Davis, referring to the some 200 indie acts scheduled to play on eight different stages tonight, tomorrow and Sunday.
More importantly, Davis said, the original DIY spirit of Spring Scream and its bands will always be there, big stage or not.
“We’d like to attract people that haven’t been [to Spring Scream] that would be inspired by that or would possibly enjoy it,” he said on the phone from Taichung.
“Otherwise they might wind up at some other event that may not be as inspiring,” he said, referring to the handful of festivals that festivals and parties that make up the annual Tomb Sweeping Day weekend landscape in Kenting.
But A-mei or not, revelers can expect Spring Scream to be as wild as ever.
“The thing that’s the same, you always know it’s going to be a good party. You always know that you’re going to see good music,” said American expat Karin Parmelee, who says she has been to every Spring Scream since it began.
The Taichung resident has also participated in the festival in nearly every way possible: she helped clean up as a volunteer in the early years; she performed on stage with her now-defunct band 69 Across; and this year she’s running a stall selling candles, photographs and postcards of images from past Spring Screams.
For Parmelee, one major change has been a positive one: the bands seem to get better every year, she said. She has noticed more costumes and stage chutzpah among Taiwanese bands in particular. “I love to see the young Taiwanese in such get-ups and really going for it, and they’re so excited to be there,” she said.
From experience, Parmelee offers advice for getting the most out of Spring Scream.
“What I’ve learned is don’t have expectations,” she said. “Enjoy what it is.”
Other major local acts appearing this weekend include French rock duo The Inspector Cluzo, pop-jazz wunderkind Joanna Wang (王若琳), and former Sticky Rice member and Cape No. 7 star Ma Nieh-hsien (馬念先). Other events include a film festival from the organizers of the Urban Nomad Film Festival and an air guitar contest.