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Mud and mayhem at Jisan Valley Rock Festival
Korea's sound hounds come out in force for one wet party weekend
Despite all the positive energy, there was a lot to overcome at this year's Jisan Valley Rock Festival. As it sported the weakest lineup since Jisan’s inception, many fans were worried whether the show would go on at all after flash floods swept through nearby Seoul in the days beforehand.
But once the celebratory spirit got pumping, there was no way the foul weather could put a damper on the weekend’s revelry. Starting Friday afternoon, fans came out in full force for some aural appreciation, not caring if the ground was soggy underfoot. The estimated attendance for the entire weekend was approximately 90,000.
Headlining the first day, The Chemical Brothers were without question the high point of the entire three-day show.
As expected, the group’s combination of grinding beats and a frenzied light show turned the main Big Top stage into a giant dance party, the kind that would put any Gangnam club to shame.
With weirdly wonderful visuals, from the dreamy silhouette of a boy and girl to the Jabbawockeez-esque dance numbers by muscular masked men, the crowd truly had no other option but to listen to the music: “Don’t think. Just let it flow.”
Day two meant bigger names and bigger crowds wading through ever-swelling muck. Rocking the smaller, covered Green Stage in the afternoon were local darlings like Zitten. While their own tunes such as "It's Okay" (괜찮아) were perfectly groovy, they got the crowd cheering with their soulful cover of Damien Rice’s “The Blower’s Daughter” -- a favorite among Korea’s indie set.
Emotive Hongdae mainstays Dear Cloud attracted a mass of “Clouds,” as their fans call themselves, to the Green Stage.
“We’re going to play like there’s no tomorrow,” declared lead singer Nine in her trademark husky voice, despite the fact that the venue was starting to stink like a stable.
For Jaurim’s set at the Big Top, chic lead singer Kim Yoon-ah got legions of fans to accompany her as she belted out favorites. Sure, at times she did smack of a bootleg Alanis, but there was no denying the power in her pipes for “Il Tal” (일탈), their finale.
The much-hyped Arctic Monkeys were pitch-perfect in their raucous, headlining set Saturday night, although they neglected to play the best tracks from their first album. But the real stars of the night were UV, Korea’s answer to The Lonely Island.
Festival-goers formed a bottleneck as they rushed to see UV, hoping to catch the comedic rappers’ hits like “No Cool, I'm Sorry" (쿨하지 못해 미안해) and the ubiquitous “Itaewon Freedom.”
Sunday brought out the big guns -- and the torrential downpours. But that didn’t stop poncho-clad sound hounds from shuttling between stages throughout the day.
“Today may be the third day of the festival,” said Jang Kiha, the bold frontman of the intensely popular The Faces, “but this is when it’s really starting.”
True to his word, Jang, inspiring all the fervor of a Southern Baptist revivalist preacher, incited his mass of devotees to dance like the Peanuts Gang under a relentless cloudburst.
But the winner for best crowd appreciation was Lovefoxxx, the manic lead singer of Brazil’s CSS. Streaming sweat from her makeup-streaked face, she did a backward roll onstage and later leaped into the crowd -- and that was on top of her effusive verbal adoration.
As the deluge continued, the crowds stirred up the grounds of the Jisan Forest Resort into a hot, sticky mud pit. Luckily, the venue’s pool, while smaller than last year, provided reprieve. For local bands 10cm and Delispice’s sets, the waders went wild, splashing to the music.
The banner name for Jisan 2011 was Suede, who turned the festival into one huge, soaking wet karaoke bar. Who knew these aging Londoners could evoke such adoration?
Charlie Charlton, a BBC presenter traveling with the band, later tweeted, “Wow! South Korea, hot, hot, wet, wet, but man, can the audience sing!”
"Well that's a turn - worst rains for 100 years+country we've never visited before=best crowd of 2011. Thank you JisanValley," tweeted Suede bassist Mat Osman.
Thus, as attested by the warrior-like attitudes of the 74 acts and 90,000 fans of this year's Jisan, fits of rain and lightning can't keep a good crowd down. That, and the fact that Koreans sure know how to party.
See everyone at Pentaport and Green Groove.