A tall purple sky and a coliseum of heat-warped white brick stretched ahead of me at the entrance to the Hyundai Card Citybreak festival. The number of people outside belied the soon-to-swell mass that heaved in Jamsil’s Sports Complex for the two-day rockathon. Don’t sweat if you missed it — because you certainly would have sweated if you were there — here’s a play-by-play of both little-known and beloved acts populating the three stages.
Cutting the ribbon with some ambient indie folk was Heureun. A perfect choice to kick off the two-day sway; their feel-good pop was energetic, and set a fine precedent for the other bands.
Moving from the tiny Music Stage to the mystifyingly named Culture Stage, the next band to catch was Japanese act Okamoto’s. The four-piece, all in their late teens or early twenties, have been touring like devils and their energy surged through the bustling crowd. Led by a tambourine-wielding Mick Jagger doppelganger, their friendly psychedelic rock sound couldn’t offend a soul, striking close to what I like to think of as solidarity rock and roll, the sonic pulp of the past that has in recent history been on a skyward tangent. Having already been signed, toured the States and played SXSW, there’s little doubt they’ll slot Seoul into their frenetic schedule again soon.
A little lost on the biggest of the three stages, The Used were up next. Front man Bert McCracken could barely be contained, blowing water out his mouth three times and declaring with the desperation of a poet, “I think there are a lot of people in this world” to zealous rapture. To their credit, they had a don’s control of the crowd, which had been growing all the while. To their discredit, Bert informed us with agonizing enthusiasm that the final song on their bill was the greatest rock and roll song of all time, and the band dove into the opening hook of Smells Like Teen Spirit. Mind-blown fans sprinted into the pit to get involved, and the song changed to a sea of hands dropped in disappointment, like a flock of ostriches dropping their heads to the floor.
Heading back to the smallest of the stages, I was chuffed to see another impressive supporting act in the form of Seokyo Group Sound, a no fuss staccato punk rock band with a touch of rockabilly on the edges. Looking like an Asian Keanu Reeves, the frontman had the kind of face you just want to see sing, and the mysterious smattering of blood on his forehead added the kind of spontaneous dynamic that makes live music so great. The band’s youth showed in their slight inexperience, but the front man never lost control and closed the set by jumping off the stage, powering through the crowd and getting the sound guy in a playful but aggressive headlock as fans bellowed in bemusement. Judging by the name, these guys are from my hood and I’m looking forward to catching them again soon.
As the afternoon faded, White Lies walked into view with unapologetically big smiles, bathed in the sound of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax.” What followed was one of the biggest voices and bone-shatteringly resonant bass notes I’ve ever heard. Impressed with their sound from the get-go, I was soon leaning into the onslaught of ambience that turned the air around me to custard. Lead singer and guitarist of the humbly monochrome band revealed in earnest between songs his surprise at the number of fans in the crowd. It was no cyclical band rhetoric either (Are we having a good time? I said are we having a good time?), the crowd was giving back what it got, singing along to every song. The Euro-rockers were a pleasure to watch, more so for how much they clearly enjoyed being on stage.
Living up to the hype, anticipation and title of their juggernaut album “Raw Power,” Iggy and the Stooges absolutely destroyed. I had little left in the way of consciousness after they’d barreled through their openers “Gimmer Danger” and “Raw Power:” my notes from the pit read like an ecstatic fever dream. The twisted sculpture of hulking flesh, Iggy Pop, tore around the stage, jumped to the floor, travelled the length of the fencing being blessed all the way by a frenzied laying of hands, all the while contorting his face like a chef would dough. Reminiscent of both The Wrestler and Venus in (leopard print) Furs, Iggy drove home for me exactly why I’ve listened to punk rock all these years. His explosion of life on stage both inspires and terrifies. A true star: unpredictable and burning fierce at the core.
The members of Limp Bizkit each look like a toe from a different foot. Somehow, these satellite digits united to become the icons of nu metal. I certainly had preconceptions about Durst and his enclave; specifically, that they were culturally obsolete. After seeing the biggest, most united crowd at the festival mimicking his iconic dancing style and screaming along in true unison, I felt a little branded for being too quick to judge. Watching Limp Bizkit with an audience on the verge of apoplexy was gargantuan experience. The band is comprised of seasoned veterans, and helmed by Durst, they knew exactly how to work the crowd. Fulfilling the Nirvana prophecy (I’ll never know, but I hope it was in reaction to The Used’s misfire), the band lapsed into Smells Like Teen Spirit. No one came running, though. They were all already there.
Stadium rockers Muse closed out the day. They drew a massive crowd, and it’s easy to see why. Their sound was stellar and every riff carried the danger of kicking you to the floor. They built their following with the kind of music that makes the musical layman feel like a genius for listening to it. It’s busy and nuanced, and all vociferations of their progressiveness among the band’s fans are sure to be received and redoubled. As you can tell from the photos, the deadlock of sweaty Muse lovers didn’t let me get that close; they were rapt, and their chiming chorus was enough to diminish your sense of self. A kind of clarity (or maybe I just fell further into misunderstanding) struck me when I headed to the stands to get a wider view of the scene. The lights dimmed and a massive toy robot wheeled onto stage of it’s own accord, rolled around impressively and futilely for a while, and then rolled off. It was a pretty solid visual metaphor for what Kate Hudson’s Husband’s Band has become. The toy robot of my childhood was something at first awe inspiring in its progression, it’s precision, its indication of an inevitable future for small hands and eager eyes; something that older eyes see more as a trinket, a fond memory and a throw back. I first believed Kate Hudson’s Husband’s Band’s music was unattainable, unassailable by the normal in our great numbers. The truth though, is that it’s not. They’re no longer exceptional in the true meaning of the word. Intrigue and wonder of the show aside, it’s hard to feel as taken with their music as before.
Read the day two review of Citybreak here.
Images and words by Chris da Canha. Check his blog for more stunning photography.