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Seoulsonic Bands Galaxy Express & Idiotape Among Top Asian Indie Acts Invited to Summer Sonic Japan

Eastern promises: Taiwan's Go Chic think the Asian Calling portion of this year's Summer Sonic will be a great way to expose new bands to Japanese fans.Summer Sonic Prepares for an Asian Invasion

(TOKYO JPN) Amid all the rivalry between Japanese and South Korean pop groups and the contrived debates about whether the manufactured crap from one country is better than the manufactured crap from the other, fans of independent or alternative music have been left scratching their heads.

Surely there's more to Korean music than just K-pop?

Queen Sea Big Shark, from China, also think the event will help them and other Asian artists gain traction in Japan.The Asian Calling Stage at the Chiba leg of this weekend's Summer Sonic Festival will provide a definitive answer, sticking two fingers up at the slushy ballads and choreographed personalities that dominate the charts across Asia.

That's because, over two days, 16 fresh-faced bands from Korea, China and Taiwan will commandeer the Island Stage (which this year has been moved from its usual tent outside Marine Stadium to inside the Makuhari Messe complex).

"I think the recent K-pop boom will help independent bands from around Asia to find an audience in Japan," says stage director Shinji Taniguchi, an employee of Summer Sonic organizer Creativeman. "Also, the idea behind this stage is for us to capture the attention of Asia — and by extension, the world."

Working with partners in each territory — Bad News, which operates live houses in China; Yescom Entertainment, organizer of the Pentaport Rock Festival in South Korea; and Taiwan's The Wall Music, an integrated agency for independent bands, Creativeman has cherry-picked a strong lineup of bands, some of whom have the potential to go on to big things in Japan.

Many of the acts have already played at international festivals such as mega-conference South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, as well as at regular club shows around the world. Some, including Taipei's neon electro-punk lasses Go Chic and Seoul's centrifugal psych-rockers Galaxy Express, have played shows in Japan before, too.

"The Japanese live scene is much more advanced than ours in Korea, so it's a great learning opportunity for us," says Galaxy Express vocalist/bassist Lee Ju Hyun.

Creativeman, a Tokyo-based agency that operates festivals and tours throughout Japan for domestic and international acts, is open about its reasons behind creating the Asian Calling Stage. Taniguchi cites several, including a hope to bolster Creativeman's presence in those countries with a view to one day possibly booking shows there. But more immediately, he aims to raise the profile of this clutch of pan-Asian bands at Summer Sonic so they will be able to come back for club tours over the coming years.

Boys' generation: South Korean band Galaxy Express will give audiences in Japan an alternative to K-pop, which has now become popular with local music lovers."We already get a lot of visitors at Summer Sonic from China, Korea, Taiwan and also Hong Kong and Singapore," Taniguchi adds. "By putting on bands from those countries, we think more people will be enticed to come to Japan for Summer Sonic, and that they'll be delighted to see bands from their own country alongside artists from all over the world."

Of course, by segregating all the Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese bands into one corner and not mixing them up on stages around the festival with other international bands (which this year include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Public Image Ltd and The Strokes), there is a risk that the Asian Calling Stage will become a ghetto. Indeed, a cynic might regard it as a hollow gesture designed to placate partners in territories that are growing in importance.

On the other hand, it could put these bands, most of whom are unknown in Japan, into a more attractive context and give them a better shot at getting seen.

"I think it's fine that all the Asian bands are on one stage together," affirms Galaxy Express' Lee. "Sure, it would be fun to appear on a stage with bands from other parts of the world, but the thing is, very few people know who any of these Asian bands are, so I think putting us all on one stage is a good solution."

"There are many good Asian bands who people might like, but it's hard to discover them," echoes Sonia Lai, guitarist/keyboardist with Go Chic. "This stage could be a good way to introduce them to the media and to the fans."

Kazutoshi Chiba, founder of Bad News, knows all about this. He opened the music venue Mao Live in Beijing and Shanghai with the express aim of helping to raise the quality of independent bands in China, where rock 'n' roll is a relatively new concept and where a shortage of equipment and know-how has made it hard for bands to progress.

Chiba selected all eight of the Chinese bands appearing on the Asian Calling Stage. He says he feels grateful to have this chance to put bands from China together with bands from Korea and Taiwan here in Japan.

"We should combine our power as Asian neighbors and work together to take the sound of Asia to the rest of the world," he says. "It's all about cultural exchange; the bands need to help each other in their respective territories to succeed.


Japan is a difficult market for foreign bands to crack. Its music business operates in a unique way; over 80 percent of music sales are made by domestic artists; and even the rock charts are dominated by bands backed by a major label or management company. Few concert agents or promoters are willing to take a risk on an unproven artist, and the DIY route involves ludicrous costs.

"Getting hold of a visa to perform in Japan is quite difficult for a Chinese band," adds Fu Han, vocalist with Queen Sea Big Shark, an electro-rock crossover band whose overseas tours have included the United States and South Korea. "Also, we don't know how the Japanese music industry works yet. I think it would go more smoothly for us if we had a management company in Japan."

Of course, if these bands didn't believe there were opportunities for them in Japan, they wouldn't bother coming. There's the allure of playing in one of the world's top-three music markets, for one thing. Japan was the first Asian country to integrate a Western music-business model, for better or for worse; and the huge J-pop section you'll find in music stores around Asia attests to the fact that Japanese pop culture is plenty influential.

"I've been to see some festivals in Japan before, which made me want to show the Japanese festival-goers how a Chinese band does it," Fu says. "It was my dream to play at Summer Sonic."

"Have any Taiwanese bands been successful in Japan before?" Lai asks rhetorically. "In all Asian countries, to some extent, people and the media tend to follow Western culture and pay less attention to their neighboring countries' culture. Fortunately, some people have started to notice that and they're trying to make something different."

The Asian Calling Stage is part of the Chiba leg of the Summer Sonic Festival at Makuhari Messe on Aug. 13 and 14 (ticket prices vary). For details, visit Taiwanese bands Sunset Rollercoaster, Go Chic, Matzka and The White Eyes will also play Taiwan Calling at Daikanyama Unit in Tokyo on Aug. 15 (6 p.m.; ¥3,500 plus drink; [03] 3462-6969).

Asia is calling, but what is it saying?

In their own words, our top picks for the Asia Calling stage at Summer Sonic describe their sound:

Queen Sea Big Shark (China): "We try to create a surreal world of music, design and performance that the audience can come inside of and get lost."

Galaxy Express (South Korea): "I think our shows are pretty passionate, energetic affairs fueled by primal emotion."

Go Chic (Taiwan): "We hope we can make people dance and scream and spray beers around, because that's what we'll be doing on stage."

Rounding out the bunch, don't miss: Raunchy postpop provocateurs The White Eyes (Taiwan); sassy electro alterna-Gaga unit W&Whale (South Korea); low-key IDM (intelligent dance music) group Sunset Rollercoaster (Taiwan); moody postpunk trio Rebuilding the Rights of Statues (China); indie-rock fashion victims The Koxx (South Korea); melodic emo songsmiths Perdel (China); and genre-hopping folk-via-rock-via-jazz six-piece Namo (China). D.R.

- Daniel Robson (Staff Writer)


2K11 SEOULSONIC ASIA Korean Punk Pioneers <Crying Nut> to Partycrash Singapore’s Music Matters Live


(SEOUL KR) : As part of its 2K11 SEOULSONIC concert series promoting AltROK’s top breakthrough artists overseas, K-Pop creative agency, DFSB Kollective, has just announced that Korea’s best-selling indie band of all-time, Crying Nut, has been invited to perform at Singapore’s first ever Music Matters Live (May 26th - 28th).

Bundled as the grand finale for Asia’s premier digital entertainment conferences (Digital Matters & Music Matters : May 24th - 28th) and in partnership with HP computers, Music Matters Live is a free 3 day international music festival featuring 40 bands from 18 countries who are set to takeover 7 of the hottest venues in Singapore’s swinging nightclub hub, Clarke Quay.

On opening night, Crying Nut will get the party started as one of the headline acts for the official Music Matters Industry Showcase at Central Fountain Square (THU May 26th @ 10:30pm) and will be playing weekend gigs at SE7EN 1nch (FRI May 27th @ 7:00pm) and Lunar (SAT May 28th @ 9:00pm).

In addition to their trio of Singapore live shows, Crying Nut has also been tapped to be one of the festival artists who will be recording a special version of Coldplay’s “Fix You” which will be released worldwide as a charity single. All proceeds from the sales will be donated to support the survivors of Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami disasters.

In celebration of their 15th anniversary, a 15-track Crying Nut (2K11 SEOULSONIC iMix) compilation is now available exclusively on iTunes Music Stores worldwide

For more concert information and event updates at Music Matters Live, please check out :





Bands We Like: Korea’s Galaxy Express are Noise on Fire

(NEW YORK CITY USA) At this year’s SXSW, Korean punk rockers Galaxy Express powered through their set so hard that they literally blew a fuse. Luckily, the tech just pulled the circuit breakers, turned them back on again, and the band never let up its tsunami-gale performance.

Of the wave of Korean indie bands that took SXSW by storm this year, Galaxy Express are the truest rockers: the most ass-kicking, dog-whistle-shrieking, tearing-their-shirts-off of the lot. With their shaggy hair and motorcycle jackets, they are the Ramones, if the Ramones knew how to tear up some karaoke (check out their no-holds barred noraebang performance of single “Jungle the Black”). Soundwise, their songs are a guitar feedback riot with vocal harmonies between guitarist Park JongHyun and bassist Lee JuHyun punctuating their snarling.  In sum, Galaxy Express is a feel good (I mean, feel bad), jump-up-and-down-and-shriek-til-you-drop sort of band.

Even though they’re animals onstage, they’re not kidding around with their music. Their first album Noise On Fire, was a 26-track double CD that won Album of the Year at the 2009 Korean Music Awards. In 2010, they dumped their label and at the same time wrote and released an album in 30 days. Now represented by independent management (Loverock Company) and agency (DFSB Kollective), they’re still on fire – last year’s Wild Days was nominated for 2011 Album of the Year.

With their amped emergy and stage exhibitionism, they’re the best live act to come out of Korea since…well, maybe ever.

Check out tracks from Wild Days here

진짜 너를 원해 - Galaxy Express from LOVEROCK on Vimeo.


Bands We Like: Vidulgi OoyoO’s Majestic Korean Shoegaze

(NEW YORK CITY USA) Seeing Korea’s Vidulgi OoyoO live is like witnessing some unexplainable and awe-inspiring cosmic event. You really hope someone else saw and heard what you saw and heard so that they can help you sort through the experience.

The quartet, whose name means “pigeon milk,” blend the best qualities of all your favorite shoegaze bands into one majestic whole. They have the sublime prettiness of Asobi Seksu, and they can command the waves of noise of My Bloody Valentine. Their songs, like “See Myself Through Your Eyes,” can express the kind of aching sentimentality Puerto Rico/New York favorite Kordan specializes in, but many of their songs lean toward the epic Explosions in the Sky school, evoking uncharted wilderness and the vastness of the night sky.

The many facets of Vidulgi OoyoO’s sound blend seamlessly and conspire to overwhelm the senses in the live show. Their lovely guitar tone and lead singer/guitar player Jihye Ham’s ethereal vocals will lull you until you are completely defenseless. Then they hit you with a big wall of sound. This is what happened to us when we caught them on the Seoulsonic tour of North America with Galaxy Express and Idiotape.  Fortunately, it has happened to a lot of other people too, so we don’t feel like we’re crazy.

Following a brief lull, shoegaze sounds seem to be quietly on the rise worldwide. Next to our beloved Braids, Vidulgi OoyoO is without a doubt the new school’s finest representative. If you aren’t going to get the chance to catch their live show soon, the tender sparkling jam “See Myself Through Your Eyes,” of their debut album Aero, is a great introduction to their special take on lush and layered rock.

Vidulgi OoyoO '너의 눈으로 나를 본다 See Myself Through Your Eyes' by DFSB_Kollective


Concert Review > Idiotape @ SXSW 2011: Korea’s Electro Rock Trio Blow It Out

(NEW YORK CITY USA) If there was any SXSW show to shake a leg at, it would have to be the disco house outfit, Idiotape, that is breathlessly blowing up South Korea’s live club circuit and earning more critical nods and frenzied fans by the day. And if any one word could sum up these three guys’ set at Easy Tiger, it would be “anticipation.”

Idiotape is made up of two synth masters — DJ’s Dguru and Zeze — and DR, their delightfully zestful drummer. DR is the backbone of Idiotape, and the band apparently wants you to know it. Their first number began with a lesson — via a recorded sound bite — of drumming basics: “There’s the bass drum, snare drum, and little drums called tom tom…now to teach you rock n’ roll beat…1,2,3,4…1,2,3,4.” And with that an onslaught of rich, funky electronic layers mixed with infectious, aggressive drum beats hits the audience and crazed dancing materializes almost as quickly. But as the groove comes to a fever pitch, darkness descends — darkness in the form of a technical malfunction and loss of electricity to the entire club. The dancing immediately comes to a halt and the waiting begins.

The drummer continues on with a steady basic beat in a last ditch effort to avoid completely losing momentum. DR has the crowd clapping eagerly along to his solo performance as the lights finally come back on. Cheers abound as the guys waste no time in launching head on into another song. People are bopping and sounds are flying, and suddenly it strikes again…out go the lights!

Thankfully the second episode ends decidedly quicker, and Idiotape takes a minute to dust off the dust-up with technology and grace us all with a set of frenetic songs featuring samples ranging from a little MJ – Billie Jean — to Blur – Song 2.

As I scuttled through the crowd to run to my next show there were copious grins and countless rave hands. One of those grins was mine. This show was the equivalent of a delayed thunderstorm after praying for rain repeatedly and only getting a few precious drops. Nothing brings satisfaction quite like anticipation.

Molly Wardlaw