ICHEON, Gyeonggi Province ― The hills were definitely alive with the sound of music this weekend as an estimated 100,000 people braved the scorching July heat and traveled south of Seoul to the Jisan Valley Rock Festival near Icheon, Gyeonggi Province.
With some of the best bands from around the world and Korea, this year’s Jisan was bigger and better than the previous three runs, with more food and drink booths, sponsor tents, activities and bigger bands.
It was reminiscent of the festival’s first two years, when top bands Oasis and Muse graced the Big Top Stage.
Three of the ski slopes were blanketed in colorful tents, a testament to the jump in attendance. And there was no room in the area inns with most, if not all, of the nearby pensions, condos and hotels fully booked months before.
It was no secret that rock fans came out en masse to see Friday night’s headliner, Radiohead, by far the biggest name on the line-up. And they certainly did not disappoint fans. Scheduled to end at 11 p.m., the band played several encores and finished up at almost midnight.
Accompanied by a simple color block design backdrop that highlighted each member of the band, Radiohead played mostly new songs, but surprised the crowd by throwing in “Paranoid Android” before leaving the stage.
Though clearly the biggest act of the first two days of the festival, Radiohead didn’t have the only enjoyable set. Elvis Costello and the Imposters got the crowd on its feet and dancing, building up the energy right before Radiohead. And before that, Korea’s Kim Chang-hwan Band drew in a large gathering despite the stifling heat that lingered well into the evening.
The party atmosphere continued on into Saturday, as did the heat. Japanese band SPYAIR charmed the audience by interacting with fans in Korean and playing favorites such as “Some Like it Hot” and “Singing.”
Undoubtedly, one of the most popular acts of Saturday was Owl City, headed by singer-songwriter Adam Young. Though playing on the smaller Green Stage, the entire area surrounding the stage and back into the nearby eating area was packed with singing, dancing fans.
Young brought happiness and exuberance to the stage, often thanking the crowd for bringing him back to Korea and changing the lyrics to include Korea. The highlight of his set was the audience-wide sing-along during “Fireflies,” his most popular song here.
Headliner James Blake, a singer-songwriter and electronic producer from Britain, was Saturday night’s big act. While incredibly talented as a musician, as well as humble, his music mellowed out the high-energy atmosphere. Many opted to sit through the set, while a number fell asleep after a long two days of non-stop music in the hot summer sun.
MPUB’s Sounds Up set at the Open Stage picked things up after the headliner with popular Korean indie band Pony, and the Red Stage brought some hip-hop to the rock fest with contestants from hip-hop audition show “Show Me The Money.”