Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - Page 11 News List

Live Wire: Formoz returns with a bang

By David Frazier  /  Staff reporter

The San Francisco band Deerhoof is indie famous for making anti-pop music that takes catchy rock ‘n’ roll ideas and then destroys them in noise and on-stage freakouts. Other US or European bands to look out for include The Antlers, Blood Red Shoes, A Place to Bury Strangers, Nosaj Thing, The Soft Moon and metal acts Evile and Warbringer.

Japanese acts will include several fantastic indie bands — Te and the Okamoto’s are not to be missed — and at least two pure products of the Japanese pop music machine. Puffy, the ubercute duo of Ami and Yumi, was huge in the late ‘90s. One wonders what sort of nostalgia factor they can milk in Taiwan now that they are 40.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu however is the Puffy of today, a 20-year-old Harajuku pop princess who perhaps represents Japan’s most successful attempt yet to turn a real person into a comic book character. Expect extreme fashion, and if her fans are out in force — in March she sold out a 1,200-capacity show at Legacy — the crowd will be as much of a spectacle as what happens on stage.

Fu sees acts like Puffy and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu — who, unlike rock bands, are regular fixtures in Taiwan’s entertainment media — as “broadening the appeal to people who wouldn’t go to see an indie band on the weekend.”

He expects that any single headliner — including Suede — will only draw 1,000 to 2,000 fans, but that their presence will make the NT$3,600 ticket price worth it to a much larger group that “just want to see a famous band.”

In many respects, Formoz 2013 will not be very different from Formoz 2008. Fu describes it almost as a reboot.

“Fan’s expectations were extremely high, but they expected so many different things. Some wanted more international bands. Others wanted more Taiwanese bands. Some wanted cheaper tickets. Others were asking, ‘Why did Fuji Rock get some band, but Formoz didn’t?’” says Fu.

“In many ways Taiwan’s tastes are still very local. Bands like Fire EX (滅火器) or The Chairman (董事長) have more appeal than many international bands. But at the same time, people want to see new things. By taking time off, we have been able to redirect expectations and reassert Formoz’s image,” says Fu.

And that image is “an international music festival that’s based in Taiwan,” he continues.

The one major change is the venue. In 2008, Formoz was already using the Taipei Children’s Recreation Center (台北市立兒童育樂中心), an amusement park for kids just across the Keelung River from the Grand Hotel. They will still use the kids park this year, but have also more than tripled the area of the site to include the parks to the west and south of the nearby Taipei Fine Arts Museum. These areas were developed for the Taipei International Flora Exposition in 2010, and include several little-used pavilions.

Flora Expo construction was actually one factor in forcing Formoz’s hiatus, as the government would not let events onto the site until the expo was over. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) has since declared the zone, which is relatively removed from residential communities, to be a center for concerts and events.

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