Korean classic rock greats highlight festival lineup

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Korean classic rock greats highlight festival lineup


Kim Chang-wan Band, led by musician Kim Chang-wan (center) is playing at the Hyundai Card City Break festival on Sunday. Provided by 9 Entertainment

In just seven years, since Pentaport kicked off the international summer music festival phenomenon in Korea, Korea has gone from musical desert (at least for international bands) to an embarrassment of riches. This year, just between July 26 and Aug. 18, there were five international, multi-day festivals ­- Ansan Valley, Jisan World Rock, Pentaport, Super Sonic and City Break.

Each has its own sound, location and feel, combining the biggest groups from Korea and the West (and, increasingly, groups from around Asia, too). But for my money, the most exciting single day this summer will be the second day of City Break, on Aug. 18, because of its amazing combination of old and new, Korean and international.

Yes, the headliner that day is Metallica, and I know they have been a popular metal group for a long time. But for me, the big draw that day are shows by two of the biggest names in Korean classic rock, Shin Joong-hyun and Kim Chang-wan.

Shin is often called “the godfather of Korean rock,” having written many of the biggest songs and created the biggest bands of the 1960s and ’70s. Now more than 72 years old (he’s given different birthdays in the past), Shin doesn’t play much, but as a living piece of history, he’s totally worth catching when he does.

Kim Chang-wan made his name in the next wave of rock that came after Shin, as the leader of the college rock group Sanullim. Making their debut in 1977, Sanullim had a remarkably jangly, loose sound that somehow worked. With the death of Kim’s brother, drummer Kim Chang-ik, in 2008, Sanullim is no more, but Kim Chang-wan now leads his own band, playing all his old hits.

“We find it a little odd how kids these days can relate to our songs and lyrics, written decades before they were born,” said Kim. “But music has no boundaries.”

For Western groups, as popular as Metallica might be, personally I would choose Japandroids, the two-piece Canadian outfit that won oodles of praise for last year’s Celebration Rock. I’ve seen them live before, and found them one of the most fun, high-energy shows I’ve gone to in years (and when you’re an old guy like me, it takes a lot to appreciate energy).

“Our first Asia tour [earlier this year] was just to see if there was any interest in our band,” said drummer David Prowse in an e-mail. “It went really well so we wanted to make sure to come back as soon as possible.”

“It seems like the world is opening up to ‘indie rock’ in a pretty amazing way right now,” he added.

If you have a taste for local indie music (and can get up early), two of the best indie groups in Korea are playing, too. First up is the four-piece band Juck Juck Grunzie, one of the weirder and wilder groups in Korea. These three women (plus one guy) have an edge and attitude that is uncommon in Korea, but they’re totally worth a listen.

And at noon, Apollo 18 will play a set on the main stage. Loud, post-rock Apollo 18 has won several rock awards in Korea and plenty of raves from international critics for their live shows in Canada, the United States and Great Britain.

“Playing at big summer festivals is a lot of fun,” said Kim Dae-inn, bassist for Apollo 18. “It’s really cool to know that we have the chance to affect the moods, movements and souls of so many people at big events like City Break.”

He is especially excited about the Shin Joong-hyun show going on later in the day. “He’s a living legend,” Kim said.

With 19 acts playing on Sunday - including Ash, Rise Against and the reformed Rocket From The Crypt - there is plenty to listen to. Any way you look at it, it’s a pretty amazing day of music. I highly recommend any music fan go check it out.

Tickets cost 165,000 won ($148) for one day or 250,000 won for both days. For tickets and more information, check out ticket.interpark.com/Global.

By MARK RUSSELL [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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