There were more reasons than one to celebrate on Monday night. Ringing in the New Year obviously got top billing, but this was also a gathering of the who’s-who of Kaohsiung’s adolescent indie-rock scene. This evening marked the first time in a long time that so many of the city’s trail-blazing artists shared the stage again.
While some of the bands are relatively new (Fuguko, Core Point, Bison Country), their respective members have been helping cultivate the scene in Kaohsiung for over a decade now. “Newcomers” Bison Country opened the show at 5:30 sharp, performing their shoegaze-inspired rock for an audience for the first time ever. Lead singer Ji-Hao once played in Wet Dolls, one of Kaohsiung’s seminal nu-metal bands, and disappeared from the live scene for a while, but has resurfaced with a different sound. Along the way he got Sorrow Of Youth leader Sebastian to sign on as bassist.
Next up was Core Point, whose members’ contributions to Kaohsiung indie run long and deep. Singer A-Chang was the frontman for punk band Maho, which was one of the oldest groups in the south until disbanding in 2009. Bassist Rong-Yan was Fire Ex’s very first drummer way back in high school. Core Point’s sound is not unlike Maho: furious punk rhythms melded with traditional Taiwanese melodies, the kind that A-Chang’s parents and grandparents could appreciate. This band ripped through their set with alcohol-fueled abandon, and for this evening’s show they ‘kidnapped’ Combine guitarist Wang Lee to perform with them. The final number of their set was a cover of “Another World” by long-gone group Hardcore Party, one of the earliest punk bands in Kaohsiung history. Their leader Lin-Di happened to be in attendance, and was forced onstage by audience members to join his old friends for the final few verses.
Punk heroes Fire Ex hit the stage next, and got the audience bopping, perhaps in a bid to help warm their frozen bodies on this chilly winter evening. The show was a mix of old and new material, including their anthem “Goodnight, Formosa”. Even with a truncated set (the band had to leave early and fight long-weekend traffic to make it on time to another New Year’s show in Taichung), the crowd ate up every note. Having every audience member singing along with every song is a sure sign that you’ve done things right.
Fuguko quietly came on next, and without a word, blasted into their first song ‘Orca! Orca!‘, causing all those milling about outside to beeline it back inside. Singer/guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter Wama showed that she definitely has talent to spare. More often than not, she worked the microphone, guitar and keys simultaneously. People have often mistaken her and Ben Ben as sisters, and although they are not related by blood, they definitely are kindred spirits. Even Leo, the guitarist from Fuguko’s former incarnation Orange Doll, stood transfixed as if he was in awe of what he was witnessing, and once part of.
Metal has never had much of a stronghold in the south, but the fifth band on the bill, Losing Art, is looking to change that. This five-member group definitely has the skill, the sound and an engaging frontman with vocal chops aplenty. Both melodic and abrasive, they got their diehard fans in a celebratory mood fast. The set featured mostly songs from their newest CD 無從選擇 and the band certainly got the audience’s core temperature up more than a few degrees.
Here is a testament to just how close-knit the Kaohsiung indie community is. KoOk was scheduled to close the show, but after the afternoon soundcheck, bandleader Leslie suddenly felt very ill and immediately went to the hospital. Whatever bug that’s currently making the rounds apparently latched onto him, and he was incapacitated for most of the day, and unsure if he could perform. Halfway through Losing Art’s set, he had not yet returned to the venue, so organizers asked Combine (whose guitarist appeared earlier onstage, and whose drummer works at The Wall) if they could pinch-hit. They called their bassist, who was allowed to leave his job at a music store early. Within ten minutes, a replacement band was arranged. Combine took the stage, explained the situation, apologized to KoOk’s fans, and then proceeded to play a short set of their breakneck punk.
After the live show was done, the venue stayed open, playing music over the house system. Fans could mingle with band members and count down to the New Year together. All things considered, this was a special day for all in attendance, a special day for Kaohsiung indie rock, and a special way to usher in 2013.