The big decision this weekend, at least for us Taipei folk, is whether to head out to Fulong for Ho-Hai-Yan Gongliao Rock Festival (海洋音樂祭), or stay in town for Underworld’s (地下社會) last weekend. Ho-Hai-Yan offers a gigantic stage at the beach, a way to beat the heat, the spectacle of a gazillion people, many of them half-clothed, and really, actually, in spite of the festival’s bureaucratic organization and night-market atmosphere, there is a pretty exciting lineup of bands, especially on Sunday, when the international acts play. Sunday is, of course, Underworld’s last day, with bands playing from afternoon until late evening, when Taiwan’s most legendary rock club will pull the plug, perhaps forever. It will be cramped, smoky and in the sweltering city, but our friends will all be there. Decisions, decisions.
The quick guide to Ho-Hai-Yan is as follows: It started on Wednesday and goes to Sunday, with bands playing from 2pm to at least 10pm. There are two stages, conveniently named the Big Stage and the Small Stage. You will only need a bit of common sense to tell them apart. I won’t bother to tell you what you missed (yesterday was incredible!), but as for what remains, tonight is a rare chance to see one of China’s best indie bands of the last decade, Muma and Third Party (木瑪 and Third Party). I’ve spent almost two decades trying to like Chinese music, and they are one of the few bands whose recordings I actively seek out. Honestly, I can’t recommend them highly enough. The group was started in 1998 in Beijing by lead singer and guitarist Muma. The sound is propulsive, dark-wave and enthralling, and the songwriting is masterful, and the vocal delivery is as mesmerizing as it is effortless. Think Joy Division meets the Doors, and you’ll get a general idea.
Tomorrow is the Indie Band Awards, where ten local bands will try to convince the judges they deserve the NT$200,000 prize. As usual, I don’t really care who wins, because as Yoz, lead singer of Bowz Tiger (包子虎), once said, “culture comes from community, not competitions.” However, that probably won’t stop me from complaining about the results later. Whoever it is, I just hope they get blind, stumbling drunk like White Eyes (白目) did in 2008.
Sunday is the international lineup, though it also features local pop rockers Mayday (五月天), because otherwise local “fans” would have no reason to come. Get there early for The Dirt Radicals, a raucous pop-punk band of two Australians and a Japanese dude that’s based out of the UK. They start at 4pm and are followed by a well-traveled street-punk band from Berlin, Frontkick. Then there is the K-pop band Ya Ya. Hanggai, based in Beijing, is an awesomely weird fusion of Mongolian music and hardcore that got great reviews last year at the Japanese mega-festival Fuji Rock. And finally, before Mayday and the fireworks, is D’Erlanger, one of the bands that invented Japan’s visual rock movement – a real treat for anyone who loves cartoon vampires.
Ho-Hai-Yan Gongliao Rock Festival: July 11 to 15, 2-10pm. Free. Take the train to Fulong Station and follow the crowd, or check www.2012hohaiyan.tw.
The Dirt Radicals and Frontkick will also play The Wall next Wednesday for only NT$400 at the door. Info: www.thewall.com.tw
Underworld has been packed every night since word got out that the city is shutting it down. The atmosphere has been lively, but also emotional. DJ Floaty ended his final set last Friday with “I Fought the Law” (the Dead Kennedy’s version, which ends “…and I won!”) and Twisted Sister’s “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n Roll.” Then the sound system went quiet and he stormed out of the bar.