Fri, Oct 16, 2015 - Page 11 News List

Live wire: The music festival night market

By David Frazier  /  Contributing reporter

Nordic metal band Hammerfall will play Rock Bandoh, a music fest that takes place in the plaza outside the Yuanshan MRT Station from 1pm to 10pm tomorrow and Sunday.

Photo courtesy of Da Da Arts

This is the third straight weekend with an indie rock music festival — actually two of them. Following on the heels of Beastie Rock (巨獸搖滾) two weeks ago and Unlimited Freedom Festival (無限自由音樂節) last weekend, this weekend Taipei gets a free music festival inside a high school, G103 Music Festival (車庫103搖滾派對) and Rock Bandoh (搖滾辦桌), a music festival modeled on banquets that take place at Taiwanese weddings.

Lately it seems that music festivals are like night markets: cheap, crowded, smack dab in the middle of the most crowded cities, and with every third stall selling the same thing (or every third band playing the same music). And of course, the more night markets the better. If you want a nice, big, professional music festival, best to buy a plane ticket to Japan.

Two weekends ago, Beastie Rock, held for the fifth year in Tamsui with five stages and over a hundred bands, was fun and bustling, with a few hundred people bouncing around the venue of colonial brick buildings and makeshift stages in fields and yards. The sound systems were decent for a change, and if the point was for a bunch of indie bands who usually play for 20 or 30 friends to unite for a weekend in a larger version of a university rock club, then the goal was well achieved.

The music quality was spotty, but amazingly on Sunday night, the whole festival seemed to coalesce around the performance of a group called No Party for Tsaodong (草東沒有派對), whose members are all still students at Taipei National University of the Arts. The band has almost literally come out of nowhere and has yet to release an album, but scenesters are calling them “Taiwan’s Two Door Cinema Club” and a crowd of several hundred, standing on rocks and uneven piles of dirt, made their Beastie Rock set feel like an event. The audience knew all the lyrics to all their songs. The band itself was emotive, crisp, rocking and passing bottles of vodka out into the crowd. In short, they were killing it.

Unlimited Freedom Festival, held last weekend in an outdoor camping area near Taichung, was much more ambitious than Beastie Rock. It had big stages, a gorgeous camping area, over 100 bands on the schedule, one stage exclusively for overseas bands from Japan and a really great Web site with perfectly clear information. They did everything right but attract an audience. Perhaps their mistake was not being on a Taipei MRT line.

Coming this weekend, Rock Bandoh has not made the same mistake. Taking place on tomorrow and Sunday at the plaza out front of the Yuanshan MRT Station (圓山捷運站), the event will have four stages, 42 bands and some random international additions like the Nordic metal band Hammerfall.

The event will also serve dinner each day in makeshift tents to 80 tables of rockers sitting around round tables on cheap plastic stools, with dinner cooked by notable chefs of the street banquet industry. Bandoh is Taiwanese for “street banquet,” and this is where the event takes its name and ostensible theme.

When I asked the organizers if they were going for a Tai-ke Rock (台客搖滾) kind of feel — taike (台客) basically means “Taiwanese redneck” and a large music festival was held with this name several years ago — they said no, they are actually trying to be international, but using fun Taiwanese themes.

The four stages include one for established Taiwanese rock bands, one for international bands, one for singer-songwriters and one for younger indie bands. The Taiwan Stage has some reasonably big names, like Bobby Chen (陳昇), The Chairmen (董事長樂隊), Quarterback (四分衛) and Truck (拖拉庫). The international stage, called the Temple Stage, hosts some high-profile indie bands from China like Miserable Faith (痛仰樂隊) and Omnipotent Youth Society (萬能青年旅店) along with groups from Japan, Thailand and Korea that range from pop metal to mainstream indie. The biggest name on the singer songwriter stage is Waa Wei (魏如萱).

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