‘Headbanging’ wins teen a U.S. trip

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‘Headbanging’ wins teen a U.S. trip

It starts with the hair. More is better. Longer is great.
A sense of balance is another requirement ― and flexible neck muscles, if you don’t want to suffer from whiplash for days.
Headbanging is an art. For Jung Hae-jee, headbanging on one hot night was a free ticket to a four-day trip to Seattle, stomping grounds of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. The 18-year-old left yesterday for the Summer Sanitarium Tour in Seattle, where Metallica, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Deftones and Mudvayne are headlining. It doesn’t get better than that.
All she did to land this plum deal was place among the top three in a headbanging competition.
The “dance” ― free-for-all head shaking, jerking one’s chest back and forth, twirling the neck and even ramming into other headbangers or the wall, for that matter ― took off during the early 1970s in Birmingham, England, considered the birthplace of heavy metal. That was where Ozzy Osbourne began a revolt against the hippie movement with the founding of Black Sabbath. Led Zeppelin also formed at this time.
Officially, the competition was scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday at Slug.ger, a live music venue near Hongik University, but nobody is on the floor at that time. A few people are sitting on the steps nearby. A young woman with black tattoos on her arms plays an arcade game next door. A tall guy with a stud below his lower lip is standing under the building eaves. A teenager in red shoes is chatting with her friend. Another teenager with a black scarf around her neck has found a resting spot on the sidewalk.
Downstairs, the deejay, Lee Jun-young, is setting up two decks and a mixer on stage. The members of Novasonic, a heavy metal band, discuss their schedule behind the stage. A few staffers of Warner Music Korea, which sponsored the Seattle trip, and CJ Media are checking lighting and cameras.
At 5:06 p.m., a collective sigh goes out. The girl with red shoes, the guy in jeans, all slowly make their way downstairs. The floor starts to fill from the edges inward. A stage crew turns on a Linkin Park music video. Several minutes later, Crash takes to the stage and the audience rushes to the front.
Hard by the stage, Jung Hae-jee, along with a pack of girls, twirls her long hair round and round. She has on a red shirt, black platform boots, and fake tattoos on her arms. Her friends are with Tiffany, a hardcore Novasonic fan club. Wherever Novasonic tours, these five follow.
Ju Hyun-suk, a 28-year-old singer for the underground band Raan, jumps with power. In midair, his knees are up into his chest.
In one corner, two preppy boys in plaid shirts stand still and watch. Nam Jae-geun, 15, just discovered Crash this year. “It’s exciting,” he says.
Near Jae-geun, Jung Won-jeong is wearing a newsboy hat, perched jauntily on her hair. She loves the Cranberries, not heavy metal, and only came because of her cousin. She says, “I had no idea Korea had these kinds of people.”
In the center of it all, Jung Young-hun, the manager of the underground band SVP, shakes back and forth with his eyes closed before taking off on a jump-a-thon. Later he says, “My dream is to be the best headbanger in the world.”
After Crash comes Novasonic, then two emcees take the stage. The competitors are divided into smaller groups. Each person pins or tapes on a bib, and then thrashes like mad. Heads spin like tops, bodies shake like Jell-O, and of course there’s the jump: the higher, the better. Water flies, drops of sweat are everywhere.
After a 15-minute break, the participants go outside as judges tally the votes. Two lackeys wipe down the floor.
When the judges return, they call up individuals, like Mr. Jung, who demonstrates his trademark move. He asks people to clear a path, and runs into the wall.
Placing third in the contest, for what the judge called “the sexiest headbanging we’ve ever seen,” was Jung Hae-jee. She won the trip because the winner and runner-up both lacked visas to the United States. Ms. Jung claims she was hoping not to win. “I didn’t tell my mother where I was,” she says. So how did she manage to explain a free trip to the United States? She used her older sister as a go-between. Luckily, Ms. Jung says, “My mom laughed at me and told me to have fun.”


by Joe Yong-hee

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