With Indie thrust into national prominence due to his role in the Sunflower movement, I wondered what I would find at his annual Beastie Rock festival. Would politics overflow into the event?
Cosmetically, there were many reminders of the Sunflower movement. The stages were named after the key locations of the movement. Slogans and images from the various social movements around Taiwan were prominently displayed. There were stalls selling civic disobedience merchandise and political ideals.
However, Beastie Rock was still very focused on music and its community. The festival featured a vast array of music. There were metal bands. There were the post-rock guys. There were J-rock enthusiasts. There were stadium rock bands. There were noise art bands. There were intentional and parodied “Taiwanese”-ness with Bobby Chen’s Hakka mates 黃連煜+四物玩 and the irrepressible Black Wolf. There was the usual well-curated list of foreign bands.
The sheer range of musical genres was confusing at the start. It then dawned on me that despite differences in the genres, music is still music. Different people enjoy different things and no one should be excluded. The community was open to all shapes and forms. In addition, I noticed the increasing number of families with children at Beastie Rock. These children were experiencing the vast range of music and the open-minded community.
That was the true genius of Beastie Rock. Politics did seep into the event but it is the same statement as the previous three iterations. Beastie Rock is about inclusiveness and openness. It is about the alternatives that life can and should offer. They say rock and roll is subversive. Beastie Rock is its best subversion.
Beyond the great music (Vulner!! Dronetonics!!), what struck me most about this year’s Beastie Rock is how affirming it felt. Beastie Rock isn’t anything more than the independent music family having an easy 3-day happy hour in Danshui’s backyard, and that’s perfect. We all know of the bullshit that has damaged our scene in recent years, and yet here we are, still having fun. As the saying goes, a family that plays together, stays together.
I experienced this community spirit firsthand during my band’s performance. My guitars broke string after string after string, and all mid-song. Ridiculously, I went through 5 guitars in 30 minutes. And it was also beautiful, for with every break was another friend or stranger placing their instrument by my monitors on stage (thank you, Frusciante!). We guitarists can get kind of protective of our gear, so that readiness and trust was awesome to experience. Without it, our set would have lasted 2 songs. Instead, we kicked out the jams. It may sound simple, but that kindness and generosity was powerful, and infused the weekend.
To wit, my prevailing memory of the weekend is of lots of people smiling. Smiles for friends, smiles for something silly 阿強 (88 Balaz) said, smiles for a killer set, smiles for the sake of smiling. Our small scene explains a lot that familiarity and closeness, but the physical lay-out (small stages/settings that allow for intimate band-crowd interactions, as opposed to mega-stages and lighting rigs) did much to encourage the fun, too. Beastie Rock isn’t trying to launch new superstars, impress anyone, or rip people off ($50nt tall-boy beers!). It is simply... simple, pure in its aims and application.
God bless Beastie Rock.
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