Pentaport Rock Festival – The Pioneer
Today there is no shortage of music festivals in Korea. However, when it comes to the biggest and the best rock music festival, only two names come to mind – Jisan Valley Rock Festival and Pentaport Rock Festival.
Pentaport was the first music festival of its size in the Republic of Korea, dating back to 1999. At that time, the festival was called the Triport festival and the impressive lineup was scheduled to include Deep Purple, Rage Against the Machine, Dream Theater, The Prodigy and more. Unfortunately, the weekend was struck by torrential rain, causing damage to the stage and the entire show to be cancelled after the first day.
“I remember it was just raining and raining and raining. I had never been so sopping wet in the rain before that. It was more than 350 mm during two days,” recalls Lee Yong-suk, the general manager of Yescom Entertainment. “I remember there were drops of water on Deep Purple’s drum set. I think ‘Nanta’ got its inspiration from that,” teases Lee.
Due to this catastrophe, and the financial burden it caused to the organizers, a second attempt didn’t come along until much later. It wasn’t until 2006 that the first festival was announced under the Pentaport name, with acts including The Black-Eyed Peas, Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. The festival was co-produced by Yellow 9 entertainment and Yescom Entertainment, two top Korean promoters. At the time of this announcement, there was nothing else here like it, so there was a genuine excitement and buzz in the air upon hearing the news. Back then, pickings were slim for music fans and typically they had to take what they could get.
“Before Pentaport, it was sort of a big deal if Toto came around,” jokes PR Consultant and nine-year Seoul resident Niels Footman. Up until that point, there were no festivals, just one-off concerts at over 100,000 won per ticket. Suddenly Pentaport came around and changed the game entirely. “People were very excited. Now they could see a number of great bands in one weekend, and there was camping, too,” recalls Summer Walker, Groove Korea’s music editor.
Pentaport was essentially responsible for introducing Koreans to music festivals, so with that came a bit of education. What was a music festival? Early promotional materials actually explained what a festival was and what attendees could expect in terms of music, camping, food and all aspects of festival life. “Most music fans at the time hadn’t really been to a festival before, apart from Koreans who had studied overseas. So I think for that reason it’s always going to hold a special place in the hearts of some people,” explains Footman. Pentaport paved the road for what was to come over the next five years, with new festivals popping up every year.
Despite heavy rains and some financial losses once again, the 2006 concert was deemed a success, with over 25,000 attendees. The festival continued on over the next two years, consistently landing big international names and rapidly increasing the crowds. However, in 2009 the two promoters involved - Yescom and Yellow 9 - ended up having some irresolvable differences. It is a delicate subject for anyone who has been involved with the two promoters, so no one is eager to give up the juicy details as to exactly why the falling out happened. And today it’s a bit less newsworthy than when it first happened, but generally it seems there were differences in opinion over lineups, artists, finances and matters along those lines. It was at this point that Yellow 9 left to start its own festival, which is the Jisan Valley Rock Festival we know today.
The first year after the split hurt Pentaport, as now there were two major festivals vying for the same artists on the same weekend. It is no secret that typically the promoters of both festivals will try to snag bands from the nearby Fuji Rock or Summer Sonic festivals in Japan, while many of the major international acts are already on this side of the globe. After that first year, Pentaport decided to move its festival back a week in order to diminish the competition from Jisan. Since then, both festivals have managed to maintain a level of success. Jisan has become known to have a stronger international lineup than Pentaport, but Pentaport has managed to hold its own as a place to discover new music and give more underground local artists a chance to reach wider audiences.
"These festivals have helped a lot of local acts not only gain exposure to local audiences, but also prep them for playing overseas festivals, too," explains music industry veteran and President of DFSB Kollective Bernie Cho. "Over the past few years, Korean bands are regularly invited to Japanese summer festivals. And last year, directors from Canadian Music Week, SXSW, and CMJ all came out to Pentaport to check out some of Korea's best and brightest live acts."
Not only have Pentaport and other subsequent music festivals helped the music scene, but they have also exposed South Koreans to new social experiences. “I think they have helped open and broaden the minds of people in South Korea,” comments JC Ahn, partner and international director of VU Entertainment, one of the companies that helps to produce Pentaport.
“If you really think about it, a festival is like 10 to 20 concerts in one. It’s something more enjoyable than a regular concert. At a concert, you come in, you buy your ticket and you find your seat. At a festival you have time to walk around, shop, go buy some food, play some games and enjoy yourself with your friends. You get drunk and dance. There are so many options. I think it was a good thing that Korea actually had the chance to experience something like that.”
What to expect at this year’s festival
The 2011 Pentaport Rock Festival will take place on Aug. 5, 6 and 7 at Dreamfield Park in Incheon. The festival lineup has been announced in multiple parts, with the first consisting of a mixed bag of international performers. Acts will range from the intense rock of headliners Korn, to the funky disco beats of !!! (Chk Chk Chk), to British pop duo The Ting Tings, to the pop rock of Plain White T’s. Korean performances are scheduled to include longtime punk act No Brain, the electronic trio Idiotape, up-and-coming rockers Galaxy Express and many others.
This year’s festival will also be different from past Pentaport festivals in that Friday will be a special night devoted mainly to hip-hop acts, while Saturday and Sunday will focus more on rock and electronic acts. Friday’s Toyota-sponsored event, called SuperTraxx, is intended to reinforce support for world athletics by celebrating and pumping up the athletes who are preparing for the upcoming World Championships Daegu 2011. SuperTraxx will showcase performances by Grammy Award nominated artist B.o.B, Korean Music Award winners Drunken Tiger & T Yoonmirae, Taeyang, and Miss A, as well as K-Pop chart-toppers G-Dragon & T.O.P.
As for food and drinks, festival prices have been to known to be quite reasonable in the past, with costs about the same as you’d find anywhere else outside of the festival. And, as with most music festivals, you can expect crafty, bohemian vendors and maybe even a fun surprise here and there - like a pool with a slide, which made an appearance at a past Pentaport festival.
“Pentaport does not take place in a refined location, so it is more wild and passionate. However, wildness and passion are the essence of youth, so we expect our fans to embrace this and come with an open mind. But don’t worry, the venue will be very comfortable and we are working on providing many places for downtime,” says Lee
For tickets, the full lineup and the latest information go to pentaportrock.com. For more information on Friday’s SuperTraxx stage, go to super-traxx.com.