Rocking tectonic shift
Super!Sonic challenges Pentaport-Jisan duopoly
By Kwaak Je-yup
Where there is something hot, Koreans flock to it.
This year, the hottest item seems to be festivals, with electronic dance music-focused Sensation and Ultra Music Festival joining the already-crowded summer of beats and sounds.
The most interesting to watch is the potentially tectonic change in the rock world, where the inaugural Super!Sonic Festival is challenging the pre-established Coke-and-Pepsi-like order of Pentaport and Jisan Valley.
With tickets costing hundreds of thousands of won (hundreds of dollars), most music fans are facing a problem where they have to pick just one of the three.
For Mike Shanee Min, a 27-year-old white-collar worker in Seoul, the latest addition is welcome. But the die-hard music fan is ditching all three to attend Tokyo’s famous Summer Sonic Festival, which has booked some of world’s most popular artists such as Rihanna and Green Day for its two-day line-up on Aug. 18-19.
“If I weren’t going to Tokyo, I’d go to Super!Sonic. 100 percent,” said Min. “I am contemplating going to Super!Sonic as well before I head off to Japan.”
Why? “The great line-up,” he said. But with the likes of Radiohead and Snow Patrol headlining Pentaport and Jisan, respectively, the choice is not easy for many, especially for casual audiences.
Super!Sonic does have a mouthwatering list of artists booked already, thanks to its association with the venerable Japanese festival that Min plans to attend.
Some of the world’s most celebrated rock and pop musicians in the last two decades, The Smashing Pumpkins, New Order, Gym Class Heroes, Foster the People, Gotye and Soulwax are stopping first at Seoul’s Olympic Park on Aug. 14 and 15 before they head to Tokyo and Osaka. Local favorites like Jaurim, Guckkasten, Idiotape and Jang Gi Ha and the Faces are slated to appear as well.
But people will face a hefty price tag, with two-day passes starting from 200,000 won.
(The event has no ties to the similarly-named Supersonic Festival that takes place annually in the English city of Birmingham.)
It is to be seen whether its inner city location will be a blessing or a curse, as its two competitors have long prided their respective locations outside Seoul as important assets.
Pentaport Rock Festival
Pentaport Rock Festival, the original large-scale rock festival in Korea was established in 2006 and is best known for the vast former landfill location in Incheon, about 30 kilometers west of Seoul. It goes head-to-head against Super!Sonic as it takes place a few days earlier, from Aug. 10 to 12.
Its line-up may be a little unfamiliar to the public, even the headliners Snow Patrol and Manic Street Preachers, both British alternative rock bands active since the ’90s. Outside a few exceptions, the line-up is filled with Korean indie bands like Urban Zakapa, 10cm, Hot Potato, Crash, Eastern Side Kick and Kingston Rudieska.
Since the Incheon festival’s original management/promoters left to create its rival Jisan in 2009, it appears the artist choices have become less mainstream, which could potentially alienate inexperienced audiences. But for the fans, the more affordable prices, with the three-day pass at 165,000 won, could not sound sweeter.
Jisan Valley Rock Festival
Jisan Valley, from July 27 to 29, is going the opposite way. With a chaebol backer this year, it has managed to book Radiohead, one of the world’s most popular and critically-acclaimed bands today — and the festival’s biggest draw this year.
“I haven’t bought the tickets yet, but Radiohead makes me want to go to Jisan,” said Kim Joon-dong, 24, Seoul native and regular summer music festival attendee. For Kim, the three-day event at a Gyeonggi Province ski resort has a proven track record. “From my experience, it is the most pleasant.”
But that comes with the highest outlay of the three, at 250,000 won for the whole weekend.
It will not be a one-act wonder though, with the rest of the list filled by internationally renowned artists like Elvis Costello and the Imposters, James Blake, The Stone Roses, Los Lonely Boys and also Beady Eyes, the U.K. band formed by former Oasis members minus Noel Gallagher. Diversity of the line-up continues with Korean acts, with modern jazz great Lucid Fall and nine-man funk, soul and R&B act Common Ground included.
Whatever your ultimate pick may be, it is certainly not a summer to stay home.
The Jisan Valley Festival will take place from July 27 to 29 in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province. Visit www.valleyrockfestival.com for more information.
Pentaport Rock Festival takes place from Aug. 10 to 12 in Incheon. Visit www.pentaportrock.com for more information.
Super!Sonic Festival is from Aug. 14 and 15 at the Olympic Park in Seoul. Visit www.supersonickorea.co.kr for more information.