“Music does not excite until it is performed.” ~ Benjamin Britten
28.07.2012 - 29.07.2012 35 °C
Every year, thousands of people enjoy the Korean summer by going to the magnitude of music festivals held all over the country. Some, like the Jisan Valley Rock Festival, are bigger than others. First started in 2009, this festival continues to bring in big international acts like The Arctic Monkeys and Oasis. This year the headlining acts were Radiohead, James Blake and The Stone Roses, who were preceded by Beady Eye (Oasis without Noel Gallagher). The headliners all hailed from England, making my English friends at the festival very excited.
Welcome to Jisan
The festival is held at the Jisan Valley Ski Resort which is a green valley ideal for festivals and camping in the summer. In winter, the slopes surrounding the valley, becomes an icy ski paradise. It is located about 1.5 hours away from Seoul near the city of Icheon (note: not Incheon). During our bus ride there the traffic was so bad that it took us more than three hours to make our way down. We finally arrived and then we had to queue three different times. First, to hand in our e-tickets to get our festival band, then we had to queue for our camping band and finally for our over 19 band, which allows you to buy alcohol of course.
The Jisan Armbands
As we were moving about 10km/h on the way to Jisan, we arrived pretty late and was only ready to go out and explore at about 6pm. We had to pick a spot, carry all our bags up the hill and then set up our tents. The camping area was up one of the ski slopes to the one edge of the festival. After setting up, we went down to load money on our T-money cards and started enjoying the festival. T-Money cards are Korea's solution to an electronic money society. These cards are mainly used for public transport in Korea. When you want to walk trough the turnstiles at the train station, you use your T-Money, on the bus, in the taxi, etc. You can even use them at stores. The problem is that once money is loaded onto the card, you cannot take it off, and when you lose your card, the money on it is also lost. That is why no one ever uploads a lot of money on their cards. The really clever thing about Jisan, is that they did not accept cash at any of the stalls or shops. This meant that when you buy something you quickly swipe your T-Money card, there is no hassle with money or change. And when you have money leftover on your card after Jisan, it doesn't really matter as you can use this card everywhere in Korea.
First sunset over Jisan
At Jisan there are a few different stages. The Open Stage is for amateur bands and singers who get invited to perform here. The Green / Red Stage is the same stage. During the day, it was called the Green Stage and some bands would play, but during nighttime it became the Red hot stage and Korean Rap crews and Dubstep DJs would take to the stage. The Red Stage came to life after the last act at the main stage finished and everyone who weren't too tired or too drunk to party on, moved on to the Red Stage. The main stage was called the TOP Stage and this is where all the headliners performed.
Red Stage Craziness: Drinking out of buckets, crazy semi-naked rappers on stage, Koreans jumping all over, sitting on each others shoulders and getting chased off by security, that's the red stage for you.
With temperatures ranging between 35 and 40 degrees during the day, sleeping late was not an option. The tents were in the middle of a field and not long after sunrise, everyone had to jump out to get some air, a quick shower and then move on to seek shade. The showers at Jisan were very clean and neat, but I did wait an hour for an icy cold shower. Also, it's metal trailers of open showers. About 5 girls can shower at the same time. Koreans have no shame about their bodies and being naked. Being a foreigner, Koreans will always stare. Being a naked foreigner, they will stare even more. Upon entering the shower trailer and realising the shower situation, I took a deep breath, quickly threw my clothes in the locker, showered with my back to them and jumped out to get dressed as quick as I could. Glad that ordeal was over, I made my way down to the festival area to get some food and shade.
That night James Blake headlined the TOP stage. An unknown boy, who sang the most depressing music known to man. We headed to the Red Stage instead to watch Owl City and some Korean rap crews again. I only knew Fireflies by Owl City, coincidentally using it in a lesson with my kids the previous week too, but he was still fun watching.
More Red Stage Craziness: We met Mario, drank out of buckets again, ate some pineapple that someone stole somewhere, danced with more crazy Koreans and wore buckets as hats, all the while dancing to good music.
The second morning, we woke up even earlier than the first. The reason: this day was boiling hot. Later, temperatures would go up to almost 40 degrees. There is only one advantage of waking up at 6am after going to bed at 3am and that is the showers are empty. Disadvantage, no food stalls are open yet and thirsty, hungry, hungover people are cranky.
Early morning deserted festival
And then suddenly the sun started setting and like vampires hiding from the sun the whole day, we could risk leaving the shade. The time had arrived for the highlight of the weekend. Beady Eye and The Stone Roses. The British boys being so in their element at seeing The Stone Roses that they could not contain themselves.
When The Stone Roses finished their set, a massive display of fireworks started next to the stage. Bob Marley's Redemption Song played in the background with everyone singing along. The words "Won't you help to sing, these songs of freedom" felt very fitting as we watched the fireworks light up the night sky. Music is about expression and expression is freedom. Music is freedom. Music brings us together and sets us free.
And that's a Korean music festival for you. Just like the Benjamin Britten quote says: Music doesn't really excite until we experience it when it is performed. And that is what a music festival is all about. Soaking in good music and talent on stage with thousands of people who love it just like you do.
1. Do book a place in a pension. If you do not want to camp and want to be able to sleep late, try and book a place in one of the pensions or hostels right outside the festival. They fill up very fast, so try as early as possible.
2. Do book the official Jisan bus. Public transport leaves from the Bus Terminal and then stops in the nearest town which means you will have to take a taxi or walk down to the festival area. The official busses start at three different destinations throughout Korea, our closest was Seoul Station, and then drop you off right at the festival. The busses take you back again as well. Well worth it. A friend booked these tickets, but the information is on the official Jisan website.
3. Do take enough money. I loaded about 300, 000 won on my T-Money and it was more than enough. If you are a full-blown alcoholic, a little more money would possibly have to be taken.
4. Do take a fold-up mat or light blanket of some sort. Sitting or sleeping on the grass with ants biting your bum is not as fun as you might imagine.
5. Do take your T-Money card with. If you already have a T-Money card, you can use it at Jisan, no need to buy the official Jisan card.
6. Do take your ARC / some sort of identification with. How else can you prove your age and get an Over 19 armband?
7. Do take sunblock and apply regularly, drink lots of water and stay in the shade. You will dehydrate to the point of being sick and this is no fun for anyone.
8. Do take advantage of all the free stuff. Promotions, promotions and more promotions. Just take it all.
9. Koreans are efficient and organise things to the extreme. This is an amazing festival, so please, DO HAVE FUN!