While many were preparing to enjoy the three-day weekend on Sept. 30, the organizers of Zandari Festa were busy kicking off the four-day music conference and showcase festival that brought in around 150 bands from Korea and overseas, as well as 46 music industry delegates from all over the world.
The festival offered a more laid back experience for the 4,000 attendees than other music festivals over the summer. Shows took place on Saturday, Sunday and Monday evenings at 12 venues in Hongdae and attendees, bands and delegates were able to move around as they pleased.
Even Mother Nature complied, offering refreshingly cool and dry weather every day except Sunday. Even then, the rain petered out early on in the night.
Each venue had its own distinct atmosphere. Steel Face’s rooftop played host to a few soft acoustic acts that were as light and airy as the breeze that kept the audience cool. Steel Face itself was a small, dark corner of quirky bands, while the more famous traditional venues – Freebird, Club Ta, Gogos 2 and FF – offered up loud, lively acts.
The bands went on at hour intervals which included time for teardown and setup, making it easy to move venues in between sets. While some chose to stick around for whole sets or multiple sets in a row at one venue, others chose to stay on the move, stopping in to see a couple songs before moving on to the next, so as to catch as many bands as possible. The festival featured fewer bands this year for that very reason, according to founder Dalse. To make it easier for delegates and fans to see more bands.
But even with the large number of bands, there were still the gems that stuck out.
French band Ko Ko Mo electrified FF on Saturday with their wild curly hair and funky 70s-inspired rock. The two-member band managed to fill the space with music so intense and powerful, it was hard to believe all that noise came from just a guitarist and drummer. Sometimes part Lenny Kravitz and other times reminiscent of Muse, the band was non-stop energy, with Warren Mutton’s high notes eliciting many an impressed cheer from the audience.
For Hong Kwang-sung, aka Laser, the frontman for Korean indie band Phonebooth who played Saturday night at FF as well, the increase in international artists at Zandari has made the experience more gratifying. He said his favorite band of the weekend was Magnolian from Mongolia and that it was great to see so many overseas bands.
“I’ve been going to Zandari Festa for quite some time and now it feels like a real festival. I’ve made a lot of new friends and have seen a lot of new faces,” he said.
Sunday brought out a lot of Hongdae favorites, including Love X Stereo and Street Guns, who both performed at Muv Hall. Love X Stereo’s Annie Ko put on a performance that rivaled that of any famous artist with her captivating stage presence, while Street Guns put on a lively set that had people dancing to the kimchibilly beat.
And while many were looking forward to Crying Nut and Galaxy Express, the top headliners on Monday night, there was rambunctious revelry at the Lazybone set in Rolling Hall. The crowd seemed to be mostly made up of hardcore, loyal fans who frenziedly danced and moshed their way through the set. One lucky fan even managed to stage dive and crowd surf, exhibiting unabashed trust in fellow attendees. Even frontman Jundoy leapt into the crowd a few times to join in on the mayhem.
With five years now under the organizers’ belt, it is clear that Zandari Festa runs like a well-oiled machine. It is primarily for the bands and music industry professionals who attend, providing many networking opportunities and open access to musicians or the delegates from music companies. But it is also enjoyable for music fans, providing a variety of music styles and a little something for everyone.