Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Trip Diary: Franz and Hedwig

July 30th, 12pm:

After a lazy morning, and an almost fruitless search for good coffee (where the heck was that place Yvon showed us yesterday? Dammit. Looks like we'll have to settle for Starbucks.), we head back to the subway to begin the trek out to Incheon.

The Seoul subway system is top-notch, by the way. Speedy, well-designed stations, and quite cheap. In our "Moving to Seoul" mental list, we make note of this in our "pro" column.

We transfer from the Seoul subway line to the Incheon line at Bupyeong - Amanda's former stomping grounds!! As instructed, we give a shout out on her behalf. Hey Mandy, look how the station's changed since you've been there!

Jim and I have checked ourselves into the Songdo Beach Ramada, because we decided we're just getting too old to do the rock-festival-camping thing with our friends. We'd also been warned that the festival grounds were ridiculously muddy. This is no exaggeration. We get onsite and find single flip-flops half buried in mud everywhere. Yesterday was the official last day of the rainy season here, and it sure gave Incheon one big last blast.

We catch up with Mark, Miranda, Kai, and Morlin (not pictured) by their campsite. And by "catch up", I mean "drink some cold beer".

Apparently, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had opted for a 2pm timeslot on Friday - good thing we didn't bust our asses to get up here Friday night. Most of the headliners were stopping here en route to the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. Last night was the Black Eyed Peas show. We hear they'd tried to do a cover of "Sweet Child O' Mine" but realized they had no appropriate backing track to pull it off, so they stopped after a few bars. At least Fergie didn't pee her pants this time.

Over at the 2nd Stage, a hip hop act called Atmosphere are soundchecking. We're allowed to bring in as much to drink as we like, but we can't bring any caps with us - they're collected at the door. One theory for this: those 2-liter bottles of Cass Beer can be used as weapons, so it's a security thing. Another theory: a lot of people are drunkenly wandering around barefoot at this point, and they want to limit the foot injuries.

But back to the show itself: the soundcheck guys for Atmosphere get almost as much applause as the band itself when they take the stage. Everyone here is just so darn appreciative that such a music festival is even happening. There aren't whole lot of (English-speaking) big acts that stop here. So, with this in mind, there was a lot of hands-in-the-air-like-they-just-don't-care going on.

Taking awhile to chill out, have a quick bite at the food tents, and wonder whether or not our feet will ever be clean again.

Overall, the crowd at this festival of 15,000 is about half Korean and half "waygookin" (foreigner) - and the proportions shift a bit either way throughout the day, depending on who is playing at any given time. There really isn't a whole lot of mixing, except for during the really big (mostly English-speaking, international) acts. Jim and I meet two guys who've only been in Korea for a week, just starting their new teaching jobs. They're from Halifax. They were in a band, they know a lot of the same folks we know. (Rachelle, Chris and Paul from Running With Scissors say hi.)

The sun sets, and folks start making their way to the main stage to see Franz Ferdinand. We pass by the merch booth, noting one t-shirt design that looks like a standard emo-stripey shirt, only with the "Franz Ferdinand" logo emblazoned on the front. Fireworks, glowsticks, and all that jazz light up the field. We get a great spot, and wait for the lads to come out.

They make their entrance to a bit of music from the end of Neutral Milk Hotel's song, "Two Headed Boy", and greet the crowd with a big, rock and roll-style "HEEEELLLLOOOO, South Korea!" After tearing through a couple songs, the lead singer manages to wrap his mouth around a very deliberate "AAHN-YOUNG-HAH-SAAAY-YO!" and anoints South Korean audiences as the best they've ever seen. I'm not sure whether he's looked out to notice that about 2/3 of the audience is obviously not of Korean descent, but anyway, people get excited again and off they go into 3-4 more songs from the latest record. We dance, we enjoy the energy. "KAAHM-SAH-HAAM-NEEE-DAAH!" The lead singer says. Then he coyly sings, "what's wrong with a little destruction?" to the crowd, and we sing along, and I'm somehow reminded of the fact that we're only about 50 km from the DMZ. I enjoy myself, but I can't decide what it is that feels weird to me about this set. All I can think is how I wish I'd been around to see the Kinks in their early days and Blondie at their height of fame.

A good proportion of the foreigner crowd takes off after Franz Ferdinand, though some hang around for a late night DJ coming on after one last set on the 2nd stage. We notice that the Korean characters for the name of the final band on the 2nd stage, when sounded out, are "Heh-dou-eeg" and "Ahn-ga-lee-een-chueh". Sure enough:

How surreal is it to see the Korean version of a set of songs about an East German transsexual-glam-punk rocker (who wears a cape that says "Yankee Go Home... With Me")? Answer: not surreal at all. In fact, it was the realest thing we'd seen all day.


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