Nearly every song ended with the drummer literally attacking his kit. He scowled, he threw his sticks at it, he probably kicked it, and if he had a knife, I bet he would've stabbed it. Alternately sullen and enraged, but 100% fuck-the-world, this young man was like 20 teenagers in one. Welcome to 昏鴉 Murky Crows, a Bauhaus-y 4 piece that kick-started my day. And welcome to Day 2 of Freak Out Beast, Taipei's Lunar New Year indie rock festival.
In direct contrast, the following band, 強迫女孩 OCD Girl, featured a drummer with the biggest humanly possible smile ever, the gaping joy seeming even wider compared to his bandmates' cool focus. It was good to finally see them play and not just listen, as their debut occurred with Underworld at full capacity, and I riding the back wall. The sailor girl costume, the mini-cymbal claps, the surfy breakaways and solos... these things look good, too. I could also feel them playing a tighter set. 強迫女孩 OCD Girl propelled forward, picked up speed, and coalesced forcefully by their final number, 愛人. Yeah!
As punkers BB Bomb took the stage, I began to take notice of all of the crossover between the bands on the weekend's roster. 喵 Miao and 尤世儒 A-Lu of My Skin Against Your Skin were serving up drums and bass, respectively, for BB Bomb, with 喵Miao in fact pulling triple-duty later on with 非人物種 InhumanBand (and I swear I saw him with 八十八顆芭樂籽 88 Balaz not so long ago, too). 昏鴉 Murky Crows' drummer is also the fellow from yesterday's 心電樂 Heartones. And on and on.
Does all this sharing suggest a scene that's too small? Is it just friends helping friends? Are these people who just can't get enough rock? Or is it simply coincidence? Hmmm. There was a time when I found myself in several different bands concurrently, because they were all projects I wanted to be involved with. So perhaps it is a bit of everything, a blend of bands' needs and personal desires. I don't know the answers and I don't have any point to make, but it got me thinking. All I could say with any certainty is that these busy individuals are surely going to feel pretty exhausted by Sunday night.
Anyway, BB Bomb took the stage and quickly made me happy with their 2009 tune "The Last Night". They didn't really hit their stride, though, until "Just Say Oi", an older number. From then on, there were smiles all around, both on and off the stage.
As they packed up their gear, I thought it may be wise to move around and explore the Noise Stage (吵) , as it was spirited and bursting all of yesterday.There I found 任天堂世代憂鬱 Nintendo Generation Blues playing subdued Brit-pop, but the clear skies carried a buzz from whence I came. Intrigued by the energy, and inspired by the excellent weather, I returned to the big stage to see what was up. Passing several dancing grandmothers as I neared, I found 隨性樂團 Random rocking hard, and then harder. Nearing the close of their set, their earnest singer pulled off a most impressive feat - he implored the audience - the lazing, relaxed Sunday afternoon audience - to stand up and rock - Stand up!!! Rock!!! And. They. Did. Wow! As they say in sports, he left it all on the field, looking almost pained but, I'd have to expect, feeling most satisfied.
And as the say in science, nature abhors a vacuum, and it was the huge, distinct voice of Yoz of 包子虎 Bowz Tiger filling the void following 隨性樂團 Random's set, calling to me from across the park. Even though mic'd up, I still felt impressed with his range, to hear him from such a distance. And so it was that I hustled back and forth and back and forth between the stages and bands for the remainder of the evening, where the stakes got higher with each act.
"Inhuman is on now, " I texted my friend, " and their pants are off."
Raucous entertainers, 非人物種 InhumanBand incited a rush to the stage and a riot of laughter as they shed their pants for red nylon stockings, and then proceeded to shred them as recklessly as their instruments. Whoooooo!
How to follow-up? Beijing's popular Carsick Cars, newly re-crafted and featuring Taipei's own Ben Ben on drums, that's how. 志愿的人 from the first album led off their set, and the shoegazey headbanging had begun. 和声 and 蘑菇 followed and I was feeling something like love. I was also hearing some of the new elements the new ensemble had to offer - backing vocals and harmonies. It works. The fuller, deeper textures nicely complement all the droning swells of sound, and there's a wealth of that. "You can listen, you can talk" pounded its way into their ostensible hit, 中南海. It's a hit for a reason - it's a catchy song that resonates - literally. Oh, beautiful feedback! With their fans all lathered up, Carsick Cars climaxed with a speedy finale and exit.
That ought to be enough, but no. This is a festival, man. As in festive. As in party, As in, we're not done yet, my friends. As in, 透明雜誌 Touming Magazine on one side of the park, 八十八顆芭樂籽 88 Balaz on this one. Decisions, decisions.
透明雜誌 Touming Magazine burned. I don't mean like they were on fire. No, they WERE fire. And the throng smushed, burned, screamed, jumped, hooted, and hollered blissfully every note of the way.
八十八顆芭樂籽 88 Balaz - what hasn't been said yet? 阿強 is relentless, indefatigable, charismatic. The man IS rock 'n roll, and the party was on here, too. Yee-haw! Shirtless and cheerful, 阿強 pushed 88 Balaz to the limits of the noise curfew. And then an encore on top of that. Thanks to that last shot of adrenaline, I could make one last journey back to the Noise Stage (吵), where the final group, the aptly named 盪在空中 Hang In The Air was already in full swing.
And wow. The perfect end to a perfect weekend of perfect weather and a perfect festival. The mellow uplift of their reggae tilted, chilled smoothness had me entranced. I've missed their shows too many times to count, for one lazy reason or another, and they showed me for the fool that I was, or am. What exactly took me so long? The crowd, obviously wiser, swayed en masse, sang along, and eased through the rising & falling tempos and dynamics. I felt welcome here, good vibes abounding. Lai Q's passionate vocals crooned and pleaded into the night air. "The Taiwanese James Dean," said one friend, but under Lai Q's spell, I think we were all feeling pretty damn cool right about then.
It's a gonna be a good year.
< Postscript: Kudos to the organizers for a well-planned event. The stages and line-ups were good fits, and Da-an Park was a comfortable and inviting location. I love that it was so inclusive - and free! - , allowing so many people from varying backgrounds the opportunity to hear what local rock musicians are creating.
While I would have appreciated a hand-out detailing the schedules, I didn't have to ask more than two friends to learn the name of the next act (and to be fair, it was posted at the booths to the side of each stage - I just wanted something to carry with me as I crisscrossed the park.) On the second day I merely arrived with it all written down beforehand in my notebook. Otherwise, there's nothing I can really criticize, except maybe something ridiculous like, "Man, they shoulda brought over Slayer." But that's nitpicking. ;-)
Awesome festival. Thanks!!! >