The Origin of Rock Festival
Today’s rock festival originated from America in the 1960s. The American society in 1969 was highly unstable due to racial discrimination and anti-war demonstrations. In this context, the generation after World War II, so called baby boom generation, became hippies and claimed love, peace and anti-war. They were passive class of people who avoided reality and aspired after Utopia instead of actively participating in society. By their lead, Woodstock Festival was held under the slogan of ‘3 Days of Peace & Music’. Hundreds and thousands of people gathered and enjoyed music and drugs despite the criticism from the government and adverse public attention. However, it didn’t take long for them to realize that nothing had changed and everything was the way it was after the party. But Woodstock still remains as a nostalgia and legend to many people because of its purity; despite the absence of progressive idea, it actualized free world of music in three days. An agony over a contradictory world seems like a common thing that transcends times and cultures- and midsummer’s festival field was a way out for young people in all those ages.
Rock Festival, a Haven for Young People
Rock festival is an outlet for young people in Korea. They enjoy enthusiastic performance culture such as ‘slam’ ; a behavior of audiences pushing and bumping against each other while enjoying music, or ‘wall of death’, which means people dashing to each other and colliding their bodies in an empty space made in the middle of the crowd. Korean audiences are also noted for ardently singing along with the band in one mind, also known as ‘ttechang’, which has impressed many legendary performers all over the globe. Being immersed in the festival through these ways, youngsters can blow away their daily stress. Rock festival also operates as a gateway for unknown musicians to become a star. Since Korea’s music market is dominated by idols and pop musicians mostly managed by large entertainment agencies, indie bands have no place to stand. In this situation, rock festivals give opportunities to talented rookies who couldn’t gain much attention before. For example, ‘Green-Plugged Seoul’ holds ‘Rookie Green Friends’ every year; an event that organizes auditions and votes to select one rookie who will receive full support from the organizers. Incheon Penta-port Rock Festival has also traditionally reserved spaces for rookies so that they can perform and make their names known. Finally, rock festivals partially contribute to the local community’s economy by actively luring of visitors who spend money in the city for their meals and lodges. Therefore, rock festivals positively affect the audience, musicians, and the local society.
Party or a Mess?
Nowadays, commercialism is prevalent in rock festivals. The host often allows sponsors to have their promotional booths inside the concert hall, and in turn receives significant sum of money. It is a common practice but it grows in to a problem when it gets excessive. The sponsors sometimes conduct excessive company public relations or overprice their snacks in a situation where individuals bringing their own food is banned. Tyranny of the hosts cannot be overlooked as well. Those production agencies have total control over ticket prices; they often churn out complimentary tickets which end up being traded in low prices on the internet. This happens as the domestic market becomes overheated due to the recent emergence of several festivals other than the original top three. So, drawing as many people as possible has become existential for each festival. But their greed can negatively impact the success of the festival- if tickets keep flood and be traded in low prices, people who were faithful to the festival may no longer book the ticket anymore.
Furthermore, festivals lack their own characteristics. Korea’s top three festivals are all standardized; they all take place in July and August, and there aren’t any differentiations in line-up and concept except Busan International Rock Festival, which once had an inclination toward progressive music like heavy metal. These similarities are what make each festival compete even more fiercely.
Of course they have their own nominal concepts, but they are not well practiced. For example, the original purpose of Busan International Rock Festival was to make visitors feel Busan’s unique oceanic atmosphere and openness. However, most people regard it as a mere free entertainment rather than a local fair since there are no components in the event that promote viewers to actually feel Busan.
Poor management is what participants complain about the most. The hosts are often not able to skillfully deal with climate change. Last year’s Ansan M Valley Rock Festival was held near the beach. Rain poured and the ground got very muddy, yet shower booths were far from enough and the host provided small mats to sit down only at the last moment. Inappropriate actions of security guards were also issued recently. They violently kept back the crowd and restrained them from doing ‘slam’, an important part of enjoying the performance. Many people were treated cruelly during the process; some of them were assaulted and dragged by their hair, and one got permanently disabled. Pointing out the lack of convenience facilities would be stating the obvious since people are already fed up with the situation that they’re unable to find proper place to sit down and rest or smoke after using up all of their energy.
Rock Festival, a Long Way to Go
Rock Festival is an industry that is still in its infancy, just taking its first step. Many rock festivals still find themselves in deficits, gradually accumulating their brand values. In fact, considering domestic music fan’s narrow spectrum, if there is one festival that casts huge stars like Muse or Metalica, other festivals have difficulty surviving. Thus we cannot blame them for being engrossed in casting star musicians and using huge capital rather than striving to create meaningful value. However, they should start thinking about the essence of music festival for their future development in the long run.
It should focus on giving ‘positive effect’ to participants, delivering and inculcating uplifting messages. The attempt of ‘Green-plugged Seoul’ seems refreshing. They focused on delivering messages about environment throughout the festival. They provide tumblers and encourage their usage during the event as a substitute of paper cups, and distribute biodegradable garbage bags. This way, they give opportunity to ‘think’. As a result, the audiences were actually quite careful in their behavior mainly in throwing cigarette butts anywhere or clearing the place where they stayed before leaving.
Korea’s top three festival, Jisan, Penta-port and Busan festival also had its own purposes originially: Jisan’s ‘Go Green’, means it observes policies for ecofriendly festival. Penta-port’s was ‘friendship’, a sense of equal fellowship that transcends race and class, and Busan aimed to be, as mentioned earlier, a festival that harmonizes with Busan’s unique oceanic atmosphere and openness. If they keep and develop these spirits, maybe Rock Festival could grow as a leading domestic industry. The utmost important thing would be pleasing people who love music and visit the festival.
Jisan Valley Rock
Music & Arts Festival
-well equipped with camping zone around the stage
-displays arts works related to rock spirit, promoting
complex culture space
-was separated into Jisan World Rock Festival and Ansan M Valley Rock Festival, but reunited this year
-best preserves the essence of Rock
-gives consistent attention to local artists and unknown bands
-nation’s first trial to promote rock music
(2006 Tri-port rock festival)
-has a preference for radical musicians
-casts artists from various countries
-took place at a beach until 2011