Over the last few days I called around asking livehouse managers and indie concert organizers for thoughts on both 2012 and the year to come. The big news is that the Formoz Festival will return in 2013, after a five-year hiatus.
Formoz was Taiwan’s first answer to Fuji Rock, a scrappy university rock club festival that started in 1995 as an answer to Spring Scream (if the laowai can do it, why cant we?) and grew through the 2000s to attract tens of thousands of fans and headliners like Moby, Megadeth and Yo La Tengo. Taiwan’s scene may not have the scale to support a festival with a hundred international acts, but Formoz was the first and only to bring at least a dozen or two.
In 2013, it will be held on the weekend of Aug 2 in Taipei, says CEO of The Wall Music Orbis Fu (傅鉛文). This is the weekend between Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic, and the festival could potentially pull artists from both. “On the weekend of Fuji Rock [July 26 to 28], there are too many festivals in Asia, and I don’t really want to compete with them. There are big rock festivals in Korea, and we have heard that the Chinese festival Modern Sky will also move to that weekend,” Fu said.
If there were two main trends for 2012, it was this: more shows happening, and more rockers moving into DJ land. First, for the new bounty of live music, there were huge acts: Sting, Elton John, Noel Gallagher, Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson, Spiritualized, Sigur Ros, Dinosaur Jr and more. There were smaller buzz bands and up-and-comers: The Vaccines, No Age, Trippple Nippples, The Jezabels, the Naked and Famous and Kensouthrock. In terms of both scale and consistency of international live music, 2012 was a breakthrough.
Locally, meanwhile, Fu saw “a lot of new bands gaining quick recognition” — like Elephant Gym (大象體操) and Manic Sheep — “while some older bands, like Sorry Youth, which just put out its first CD, also got some overdue appreciation.”
Feel free to read “recognition” and “appreciation” as “concert ticket sales.”
Arthur Chen (陳彥豪) of Legacy gave a shout out for Flesh Juicer (血肉果汁機), a punk band from Taichung. “They don’t play Taipei often, but I really love their stuff,” he said. The post punk trio Forests (森林) was high on several people’s lists. Jez Gray, a partner at Revolver, calls them “the best new band circulating now… I feel they are trying to push something, and try something new. I’m unsure of what it is, but when they play it feels like they have ‘it.’” He also gives a nod to Formosa Romance, “the best kept secret of 2012, and one to look out for in 2013. They are uptempo and melodic, with a hint of the 80’s and a Billy Idol-esque singer.”
Japanese bands were a presence, from stadiums to tiny rock clubs. “One reason Japanese bands like to come is because Taiwan donated a lot of money after the 2011 earthquake. They want to take the opportunity to thank the Taiwanese people,” says Allen Liu (劉培倫), bandleader for Useless Brotherhood (無用兄弟).
As for the party trend, there seems to be no pure rock venues left. Taipei’s main underground rock clubs — Pipe, Revolver and Underworld — all have regular electronic music events. Some punk rockers are now finding bigger payoffs when they DJ, and The Wall is experimenting with the occasional all-night dance party.
“Every weekend there are so many parties. Its actually kind of scary,” says Liu, who has one promotional group for DJ parties and another for concerts. The strategy is pretty typical.