The organisers of the 2012 edition of Jisan Valley Rock Festival were the first promoters in Korean history to bring Radiohead to the peninsula. While it’s commendable that they managed to lure arguably the biggest band in the world to play a headlining set, it felt like this was used as an excuse to rest on their laurels and put little effort into the construction and planning of the rest of the festival.

Radiohead’s set was flawless, though, with excellent sound-quality throughout. The band (including a pony-tailed and bare-chested Thom Yorke) opened with ’Lotus Flower and played for over 2 hours when only a 90 minute set had been promised. Although many attendees lamented the fact that they didn’t play Creep, their most notorious tune in Korea, die-hard Radiohead lovers were more than pleased with this since it doesn’t truly reflect the rest of their body of work. Personal highlights for us included ‘Kid A’, ‘Reckoner’ and ’15 Step, although the crowd seemed to gain fervour at ‘There There’, ’Idioteque’ and ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’. There was genuine demand for an encore and Radiohead didn’t disappoint, finishing on a high with ‘Paranoid Android.

As a James Blake fan, seeing the talented post-dubstep musician headline a festival in Korea was phenomenal. His Saturday night set was intelligent and well-thought out, encompassing all of his best tracks (including finale song ‘The Willhelm Scream’, bass-heavy ‘CMYK and stand-out Feist cover ‘Limit To Your Love) in a hypnotic arrangement of sounds. He also brought a rare slice of the London underground scene to Korea with his cover Digital Mystikz ‘Anti-War Dub’. Disappointingly, much of the audience not situated at the front of the crowd seemed unmoved by his musical ability, although most remained quiet and respectful throughout the performance.

Other festival hits included late night performers Glen Check and Idiotape, Korean bands with an electronic vibe. Both bands played on the Red Stage on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively. Every single person in attendance at these gigs was dancing recklessly to the vivid performances, with even some attempts at a mosh pit being made.

As previously mentioned, there were some major downsides to the festival. While the event was still fun, as only getting drunk in a field with several other like-minded music lovers can be, there were far too many annoyances. The camping facilities were terrible; most tents had to be pitched on a slope due to lack of flat space, the floodlights were left on all night, and you had to be totally inebriated to sleep through the noise of the –mostly low-quality – acts screaming their way through their sets on the Open Stage (located in far too close a proximity to the ‘Quiet Zone’ camp). Nonsensical new rules seemed to be put into place regularly and makeshift barriers were constructed on a whim throughout the weekend, confusingly denying access to areas the public had previously been able to walk through. Also, getting to the festival was a nightmare due to lack of information at Icheon Bus Terminal, where festival-goers were expected to catch a public bus to the event. Some hand-written information on a sheet of paper would have been useful!

Overall, Jisan Valley 2012 was successful, but this was due to the excellent headlining acts, the hot weather and the superb mountainous, riverside location, which was mostly unmarred by the overly-corporate booths and festival decorations. Jisan’s organisers would benefit from realising that choosing a line-up and inviting Smirnoff, American Apparel and Red Bull to set up tents does not make an entirely satisfying event, and that attendees expect more care and attention, particularly considering the competition (hello Super!Sonic) currently popping up in Korea.

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