Fri, Jan 02, 2015 - Page 11 News List

Live Wire: Last year’s live music scene

By David Frazier  /  Contributing reporter

The Deadly Vibes were pound-for-pound one of the most rocking acts in Taiwan over the past decade. They called it quits last year.

Photo courtesy of Ian Kuo

With New Years Day already behind us, the upcoming two days are shaping up to be a lost weekend. So rather than fight it, I’ll embrace that feeling of being too-hungover-to-get-off-the-couch, which also happens to be a perfect mental state to look back on Taiwanese live music last year, as well as what’s coming up this year.

The news that’s hot off the presses is that Taipei’s own Muddy Basin Ramblers have been nominated for a Grammy — in CD packaging design. Their album Formosa Medicine Show, designed by the local firm Onion Design, will compete against recent albums by The Pixies, Pearl Jam, FJA Twigs and Passenger for the golden statue of that strangely upright dude. Bandleader David Chen and designer Andrew Wong will fly to LA for the awards ceremony on Feb. 8. Best of luck!

Interesting to note, Taiwan has only ever had Grammy recognition for album art, never for music. Local designer Xiao Qing-yang (蕭青陽) has been nominated four times for music packaging since 2005, but he has never won. Last year’s winner in the Recording Packaging category went to an album by a relatively small band, Reckless Kelly, but previous years saw awards go to major names including Bjork, Arcade Fire, The Black Keys and David Byrne.

A couple of major music festivals went on hiatus last year, but will back this year. The Formoz Festival (野台開唱), normally held in early August in Taipei, and the Megaport Festival (大港開唱), an annual festival in March in Greater Kaohsiung, both took a break last year following a shareholders’ shakeup at The Wall, a top music promoter.

Megaport, now in the hands of a group headed by Freddy Lim (林昶佐) of the band Chthonic (閃靈), is set to return Mar. 28 and Mar. 29 in Greater Kaohsiung’s Pier 2 District with several Japanese headliners, mostly punk or metal bands. The same weekend in Taipei, The Wall is mounting its own T Fest, which in local slang sounds like a festival for lesbians, though I am assured that is not the case. T Fest headliners will be British and Danish shoegaze bands Yuck and Mew. Both festivals happen just one week before Spring Scream. Can anyone say, “awkward”? Let the music festival wars begin.

The best music festival last year was the Heart Town Festival (山海屯音樂節) in Greater Taichung, and not just because it filled a vacuum. It had the best bands and was the most fun. The music was all raging metalcore, hardcore and punk. It rained hard every afternoon. And I have never in one day seen so many bands instruct crowds to form a wall of death, crouch down then jump up, swirl into a circle pit and so on. But the bands were at the top of their game and the crowd was massively energized. Crossfaith and Dark Rain, a couple of white-hot young bands from Japan, channeled every volt of the massive wattage behind them for butt-kicking shows.

Most notably, Heart Town Festival was organized by a new promoter, Jimmy Liu (劉鈞輝). A new festival promoter on the scene is definitely a good thing.

After Heart Town Festival, my other best shows last year were the German avant-garde pianist and composer Nils Frahm at Legacy, the Japanese no wave punk girls of the ZZZ’s, also at Legacy, and the Idan Raichel Project, an Israeli band that played at Daniel Pearl Day, albeit without frontman Idan Raichel. Raichel had committed to the gig but at the last minute was called away to New York by Alicia Keys. Yet his band was still a whirlwind of traditional music and neo-soul, and everyone in the front was dancing. Unfortunately they were also the only ones who could hear, as the sound system was badly underpowered.

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