In Europe, summer and fall are the seasons of the open-air music festival. Today, it’s a custom countries around Asia are starting to catch up to, and Taiwan is on the verge of birthing its own regular rotation of summer and fall events. With the return of Formoz Festival (野台開唱) this summer, the recent success of Rock in Taichung (搖滾臺中), and upcoming events such as the Rainbow Bay Festival (大彩虹音樂節) in Kaohsiung, the large-scale concert calendar in our little corner of the world is rapidly beginning to fill up. This weekend offers yet another highlight, with a focus on the best that the underground scenes of Taiwan and other nations around Asia have to offer. Once again, it’s time for Beastie Rock (巨獸搖滾).
Beastie Rock founder, the self-proclaimed Indie Lord (音地大帝), real name Yao Ken-hsiang (姚茛翔), presents an interesting contrast. Looking and sounding every bit the introvert, the soft-spoken and at times guarded would-be festival magnate is tasked with something directly at odds with his personality — playing the shameless promoter. But Beastie Rock is less about widespread popularity and pinpoint organization than it is about being a taste maker, a bold statement and an abject avoider of trends. Bands are selected by Indie himself and a small circle of collaborators that he shuffles every year to avoid stagnation. For Indie, change is as vital as the music itself.
“I don’t like to do the same thing every year. I have different ideas every year, so there will be different stages, different concepts,” he says in an interview with the Taipei Times.
What bands are selected is also a statement, and not just one of musical taste. “We invite the bands other festivals ignore, or the bands that would rather not play government-sponsored festivals,” says Indie, adding that he prefers, “the bands that want to stay more underground.”
Originally launched to fill the void left by the departure of Formoz Festival — which of course has since returned — and to provide an alternative to the more mainstream Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival (貢寮國際海洋音樂祭), Beastie Rock, now in its third year, is not yet a moneymaker for Indie. But more importantly it is growing in stature for fans and bands alike in Taiwan and around the region, and that’s a great thing for the underground scene.
As for bands to check out this year, Japanese/American garage rawk duo Ken South Rock will be making another trip to a country that is fast embracing the pair, now based out of Brooklyn. They will headline the Smelly Oil Depot stage (臭油棧) on Sunday night in what will be the first of five shows up and down the country. The only band that might be able to give Ken South Rock a run for their money in the energy department is South Korea’s Apollo 18, an explosive post-punk/post-metal amalgamation that will take to the Smelly Oil Depot stage Saturday night. Saturday would also be a good day to stake out a spot at the Tree Out stage (樹外), where hyped local acts such as out-and-out riff rockers Formosa Romance (寶島羅曼斯), stoner rock band supreme Sleaze (湯湯水水) and EBM punkers Roughhausen will be performing throughout the day.
Beastie Rock takes place today, tomorrow and Sunday in Tamsui District with stages set up a short walk from the Tamsui MRT Station. The address is 22, Bitou Street, New Taipei City (新北市鼻頭街22號). A single-day ticket for today is NT$600, NT$800 for tomorrow and Sunday. Three-day passes are NT$1,400. Tickets can be purchased onsite, through Indievox online or at ibon machines at 7-Eleven throughout Taiwan.
■ On Sunday night, Revolver hosts another emerging underground festival mainstay, Raw Noise Attack VII (RNA, 第七屆猛烈爆音攻擊極端音樂會).
RNA, a metal show if the name wasn’t a dead giveaway, is a kindred spirit of sorts with Beastie Rock, as both eschew modern trends entirely. This time RNA sports one of its most international lineups to date. Malaysian sludge metal outfit Wynken Delirium is making its first trip to Taipei for the concert, while speed thrashers Fastkill from Tokyo are returning following their last visit when the band opened for German thrash giants Destruction in 2011.
Another band making a return to our shores for the show is Australian doom/ambient power trio Fear the Setting Sun, who first visited Taiwan last year. The band is in the midst of its third tour of Asia, this time playing in support of its latest EP, Beyond Our Darkest Skies, released independently just in time for the current tour. Vocalist/guitarist Henry Weston is looking forward to experiencing the Asian metal scene again, a scene which he says benefits from its relative youth.
“It is definitely a stronger scene in some respects to our home scene. Seems the Asia metal scene is a little younger and a little more hungry for new styles of metal music. It’s great to see everyone enjoying music in general, no matter the style or genre,” says Weston.
Fear the Setting Sun is a band that fits in perfectly with RNA’s mission statement: underground bands doing it not for fame or ego, but for the pure love of the music and honest expression. When asked about the rigors of international touring for an independent band, Weston is quick to steer the conversation towards the positive.
“The pure passion for our music and the experience to share our music worldwide is what we are truly grateful and humble for.”
Raw Noise Attack VII takes place Sunday night at Revolver, 1-2, Roosevelt Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路一段1-2號). There are only 100 tickets available, NT$750 at the door.