Last weekend in Naeba, Japan at the Fuji Rock Festival, I ran into the head of The Wall Music, Orbis Fu (傅鉛文) during Radiohead’s Sunday night set. He hinted that the Formoz Festival (野台開唱) may be making a comeback in 2013, which would definitely be good news. Japan now has about 30 summer music festivals, with both Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic acting as the twin Meccas for Asian rock fans. Korea also has two big festivals in Pentaport and the Jisan Valley Rock Festival that get Fuji Rock headliners and dwarf anything in Taiwan.
The closest we’ve got is Ho-Hai-Yan, which rock fans are starting to avoid because it is mainly a giant night market, and TWinkle Rock Festival, which kicks off next weekend with performances by Smashing Pumpkins (Aug. 10, tickets NT$2,500 to NT$3,500), Nelly Furtado with Bassment Jaxx and Go Chic (Aug. 11, tickets NT$2,000) and the post-grunge band Garbage (Aug. 15, tickets NT$2,500 to NT$3,500). Then six weeks from now it’s Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds (Sep. 27, tickets NT$2,500 to NT$3,500), which is basically like Oasis-lite, as Noel wrote most of the Oasis songs and has continued to perform them since the band broke up three years ago. (Noel Gallagher played Fuji Rock last weekend to mixed reviews, which is not to say he was terrible. He just wasn’t Oasis.)
In truth, TWinkle Rock really isn’t a festival at all. It’s just a concert series of headliner-type acts. Tickets for all the events are all sold separately, and there are none of the normal music festival benefits, like dozens or hundreds of bands to check out or anything that can be construed as a festival vibe.
The promoter, Very Aspect (有像音樂), is one of two corporate-style concert promoters in Taiwan. In recent years they’ve been behind Justin Beiber, Massive Attack, the Pet Shop Boys and Bob Dylan. Now that the market is moving more into indie rock, so are they.
A few months ago, the Marilyn Manson show Very Aspect organized at Taipei Show Hall II (台北世貿展演二館) was unforgivably bad. There was no opening band, fans were still lining up to get into the venue when Manson started, the performance was terrible (not completely their fault), and they used a stupid system of putting a fence through the middle of the venue, so people who paid more were in the front of the room and people who paid less were in the back, like cattle. All the TWinkle Rock shows will be in the same room, and most will be using the same dumb system of separating the crowd. The line-up is not bad, but to be honest, your money would be better spent flying to Tokyo for Summer Sonic (Aug. 18 to 19, www.summersonic.com).
■ TWinkle Rock: www.twinklerockfestival.com
More Fuji Rock news, briefly. The Taiwanese bands Chthonic (閃靈) and Deserts Chang (張懸) were the only non-Japanese Asian bands to play the festival. (Take that, Korea!) Chang’s set at a smallish, hippie-themed stage called Gypsy Avalon included shout-outs to Spring Scream and an announcement that she has an album coming out in Japan next month. Chthonic’s set was on Fuji Rock’s second largest stage and surprised a lot of people with its heavyweight guests. These included one of Japan’s most famous kickboxers, Musashi, and former-Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman, who performed one song with the band.
“Since we’ve performed several times in Japan during the last few years, we thought we should do something special for Fuji Rock,” says Freddy Lim (林昶佐), contacted by email after the festival. So Chthonic asked the Japanese metal label Howling Bull to contact Friedman, one of the band’s long-time idols. It turns out that Friedman was a big fan of a Chthonic concert DVD and happy to do the gig. The pro-fighter Musashi meanwhile had been known to the band since he surprisingly showed up at the afterparty of a Tokyo show a few years ago. “After that, we gradually became friends with him. This time he said he hoped he could come on stage and sing the song Takao with us. But the refrain is in Taiwanese, he had to specially practice,” said Lim.