Finally, my long expired post on Kenting’s Spring Wave Music and Art Festival. I took awhile to organise my myriad of feelings and thoughts after I returned from my Taiwan trip. It is quite challenging to organise my haphazard reflections so I shall start with a general review of Kenting’s Spring Wave Music and Art Festival and reflections on Mayday’s segment.
It was a long journey to Kenting – the most southern part of Taiwan. One has to take a 2 hours bus ride from Kaohsiung (Zuoying Station or Kaohsiung Railway Station). Coming from Taitung, I had to take a train from Taitung Station to Fangliao Station (枋寮車站) and changed to a bus heading for Hengchun. Kenting’s Spring Wave Music and Art Festival 2014 was held at Hengchun airport (恆春機場). The airport is also known as ‘五里亭機場’. It is about 20-30 minutes bus ride from Hengchun Bus Interchange (恆春轉運站). You have to get off at the ‘五里亭’ bus stop and trek for about 10 minutes to the concert venue. If you stay at Hengchun, you will take a shorter time to travel to the concert venue. However, most people prefer to stay in Kenting as it is closer to the attractions and ‘summer action’.
The usual suspects, ‘Concert Paraphernalia Vendors’, ambushed the concert-goers who were on their way to entrance of the concert grounds. The S.H.E merchandise were replaced by Mayday goodies on 5 April Saturday.
This lady created interesting ‘Mayday-Kenting hybrid’ postcards.
The doors were opened at 3.30 p.m. on both days. By around 4.30 p.m. on 4 April Friday, the queue was already quite long. The queue moved rather slowly as the organisers conducted security checks. Food and drinks were not allowed to be brought into the concert venue. However, the security guards were not that strict and I successfully smuggled snacks (which I buried deep in my backpack) into the venue on both days. The turnout for the music festival this year was much smaller than previous years as many students were participating in the protests back in Taipei.
Most of the concert-goers belonged to 3 main gangs – The S.H.E, Flumpool and Mayday fans.
Opposite the venue for ‘Spring Wave Music and Art Festival’, there was a concurrent ‘Spring Wave Electronic Music’ concert. Unfortunately, it seemed that the Electronic music concert was not well-attended. The organisers tried to entice the Spring Wave Music and Art Festival’s mainstream crowd to join the Electronic music party with discounted tickets. However, the ‘Spring Wave Electronic Music’ concert grounds appeared sadly deserted.
Whenever Mayday goes, the crazy fans will follow. True enough, some enthusiastic Mayday fans started queuing on Friday. When the concert ended on Friday night, I saw Mayday devotees camping outside the entrance. I saluted my fellow Mayday comrades for their dedicated and loyalty. I am too old to engage in ‘marathon-queuing sessions’ and the beautiful sights and food in Kenting are more tempting than queuing my time away.
As expected, there were many exciting fringe activities in the concert grounds. Pringles (品客 – I was very amused to find out Pringles’ Chinese name) was the main sponsor for the festival. I gleefully collected many free cans of Pringles over the course of 2 days.
What’s a music festival without booze? One could purchase cans of Heineken and receive free lightsticks. I was offered free tequila shots and whiskey by sexy ‘Alcoholic Goddesses’ as they tried to tempt to buy their ‘goods’.
There were many food stalls to satisfy the hunger of the concert-goers who had to endure at least 3-4 hours of wait time before the major act eventually appeared around 10 p.m. I was surprised by a new ‘Night Market’ discovery – Fried Century Egg! Other than food, there were game stalls manned by ladies clad in summery attire.
I was pretty impressed by the charitable aims of the festival. All proceeds from the sales of concert t-shirts were donated to help the indigenous children and fund the ‘Little Yellow Flower Education Foundation’. This year’s official concert t-shirt was designed by Sandee Chan (陳珊妮).
On Friday, the festival started with a ‘地球春浪大賞’ contest. Various music bands competed for the title of the ‘地球春浪大賞’ and the winners had the opportunity to perform on Saturday and even perform in other countries as part of the ‘Spring Wave Music and Art Festival’ Asia Tour. Sandee Chan, Hsiao Hung Jen (蕭閎仁) and Ascent (乱彈阿翔) were the judges for the contest.
I was pretty excited when Sandee Chan took the stage. I was very curious about her as I read about her when I was researching on the Taiwanese film, Monga (艋舺) and found out that she composed the film’s original score. She has a unique voice and her songs have an indie / non-mainstream quality. Even though I did not ‘get’ some of her songs, she is obviously a talented singer-songwriter and music producer.
I was very impressed by Hebe (田馥甄). Before the concert, I was not a fan of her ultra-emo love songs. But her supreme vocals and performance actually moved me and made me more interested in her music. By the end of the night, I developed a tiny ‘Hebe-crush’ as she is really very very very pretty.
A short report about Day 1:
Next, MC Hotdog rocked the stage with his hip-hop music. I only know about MC Hotdog through his collaborations with A-yue (张震岳). Some of his songs were quite catchy. However, his performance seemed like a semi ‘Getai’ concert as the scantily clad dancers became too distracting after awhile.
Finally, the long Friday night reached a climax with S.H.E. The trio bounced around on the stage with their signature S.H.E energy. It was like a journey through time as they sang most of my predicted songs.
They put in great effort to complement the festival’s atmosphere with special music arrangements of their songs. They added ‘electronic music’ beats to some of their songs to compete with the loud electronic music blaring from the other venue. In their own adorable way, they included a ‘beach’ segment (海洋組曲) and even a ‘Bossa Nova’ version of ‘戀人未滿’.
Friday’s gloomy weather was redeemed by the glorious sunny skies on Saturday. After spending a great day gallivanting from Kenting’s Cape Eluanbi (鵝鑾鼻燈塔) to Kenting’s bustling main street and consuming lots of sinful Taiwanese snacks, we slowly made our way to the concert venue at around 4 p.m. With the influx of Mayday’s diehard fans, Saturday’s concert crowd was visibly much bigger than Friday’s. However, the crowd was still smaller than what I would expect in a normal Mayday’s performance. I wonder if the weak attendance hinted a lingering presence of the ‘backlash’ against Mayday due to their recent ‘saga’.
亂彈阿翔 is one artist whom I really wanted to watch in a live concert. He won the ‘Best Male Singer’ in 2012’s Golden Melody Awards. His old-school rock songs are very impressive. I was blown away by his wind-swept hair and ‘rock’ spirit. Unfortunately, he probably does not receive enough recognition for his talents. It is evident from how most people were more excited during Jia Jia’s segment.
Jia Jia’s signature vocals was employed effectively during the upbeat songs. She sang a mixture of love ballads and more energetic tunes. It was refreshing to see her performing some covers and rocking the stage with more ‘rock’ songs like A-mei’s ‘三天三夜’.
The next big act was Flumpool. Flumpool’s performance was so amazing that I was semi-converted into a Flumpool fan. The lead singer, Ryuta, was a great performer. He was very charming and I was ‘electrified’ by him on many occasions.
He was jumping around the stage with unlimited burst of energy. He mischievously played with the camera and drove the fans crazy with his ‘kawaii’ demeanor.
Flumpool invited Ashin on stage for their last song ‘證明’. When Ashin came on stage, I was shocked by how ‘bloated’ and tired Ashin looked. I had never seen Ashin in this state before. In contrast to the energetic and fresh-looking Ryuta, Ashin looked very weary. There was not much banter between the boys. I was pretty disappointed that they did not sing ‘Belief (給等待春天的你)’ again.
OAOA (with Ryuta)
The boys warmed the stage with ‘離開地球表面’ and ‘傷心的人別聽慢歌’. I had never witnessed such a ‘tired’ version of these two songs. Ashin did not jump much.
I felt that Ashin looked burdened and jaded. He seemed to deeply troubled by the recent ‘drama’. I could hear many fans’ heart breaking when he said, “我從美國洛杉磯回來了，很想家，從來沒有一次像這次這麼想家.”
I was pleasantly surprised by ‘借問眾神明’. The official picture below captured one of the best moments during the concert. The boys looked relaxed and actually ‘happy’ when they sat down and sang the song.
When Ashin sang ‘永遠的永遠’, the lyrics seemed to tell a story of the wrinkles accumulated on his weary face.
為什麼 心內的感覺 鼻頭在酸澀
我想說 我已經 是漂泊的人
A clearer picture from 中時電子報.
Some not very flattering pictures of Ashin from Tungstar.
One of the few smiles from dear Ashin that night.
The boys appeared rather pensive that night. Masa did not even say anything after than introducing his name. I guess Masa feels very strongly about the recent ‘saga’ as his Offline Cafe was targeted quite viciously. This news report even pointed out that Masa was silently protesting at the end of the concert.
I think it was very meaningful when Ashin sang ‘向前走’. Struggling with the recent setbacks, Mayday probably need some motivation (as echoed by the lyrics) to continue to ‘向前走’ and hold on to their beliefs and dreams. I guess it is important to embrace the ‘啥咪攏不驚’ spirit in the face of adversity. Over the past few years, Mayday’s fearless (啥咪攏不驚) spirit may have guided some fans through their darkest times.
OH! 再會吧 OH! 啥物攏不驚
OH! 再會吧 OH! 啥咪攏不驚
OH! 再會吧 OH! 向前走
OH! 啥咪攏不驚 OH!向前走
The official video of Mayday singing ‘向前走’.
‘向前走’ is actually composed, written and sung by 林強. This original video is super ‘retro’.
I was filled with a tumult of indescribable feelings and thoughts after the concert. Since 2004’s ‘天空之城’, I had watched quite a number of Mayday concerts. Mayday’s performance at Kenting was the first time that I saw Mayday looking so ‘tired’. Not to be over melodramatic but my heart really ached for the boys. Many fans would have been bombarded with the recent news surrounding Mayday’s unfortunate embroilment in the latest tensions between Taiwan and China. Here are some links which provide some perspectives about the ‘saga’.
After speaking to some locals (the cab drivers were very eager to share their passionate views) about the issue, I learnt more about how some Taiwanese feel about the recent debacle. Since I am not an expert on Taiwan-China Cross-Straits relations, I shall analyse Mayday’s involvement through the lens of celebrity-culture studies.
Pop music is a community genre. According to David Marshall’s analysis of music celebrity, the musicians’ close connection to their audience is important sociologically. Marshall states that the music celebrity creates a relationship with the audience through a direct address of lyrics and shared feelings. The mode of address is constructed to be direct as, “Whether on record or in concert, the vocalist includes the audience in this address.” Due to the directness of the address of the musical performer, the relationship between the music celebrity and audience is developed at very personal level. This symbiotic relationship between the music celebrity and audience generates the fan base that consists of fans who can relate to the feelings or messages which are shared through the music.
Undeniably, Mayday and their music have great impact on the Chinese community in Taiwan and China as the fans identify with messages and values that Mayday share through their songs. Popular songs like ‘憨人’, ‘人生海海’ and ‘倔強’ resonate with the fans who find solace in Mayday’s lyrics which reflect their sentiments. Singing with Mayday during the live concerts, the fans find comfort in knowing that Mayday are just like them and are plagued by similar ‘existential’ problems. The fans gain strength from Mayday’s ‘underdog-success story’ – their ability to overcome obstacles and eventually achieve their dream. As a result, many fans invest personal stakes in their intimate interaction with Mayday. Hence, some fans (from both Taiwan and China) became very emotional and agitated once they perceived that Mayday had betrayed their trust.
Ang Lee who attended Mayday’s concert in New York’s Madison Square Garden said that, “Mayday started doing their own music in a pursuit of freedom. But now they’ve done it, they are no longer free.” Fame and success is a double-edged sword. After 15 years of journey in pursuit of their dream, Mayday has more than successfully achieved their dream but they are ironically trapped by their overwhelming success. Due to their mega star status, they shoulder immense expectations placed on them by various stakeholders in the music industry. Their actions are scrutinized by their fans, other music artists, the media and even the government.
In a sense, Mayday has to juggle the roles of ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ simultaneously. According to Richard Dyer, a star is both ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’. Dyer suggests that a star must be represented simultaneously as ‘ordinary’ just like the audience, but also at the same time possesses something that the audience do not have; something that makes him ‘extraordinary’. This ‘ ordinary/extraordinary’ paradox is observed in unrealistic expectations thrust upon Mayday. The boys are five ‘ordinary’ people who create music that they love. It is precisely their ‘ordinariness’ that propels them to fame as the audience can relate to their common experiences. However, their stardom makes them ‘extraordinary’ as they are the ‘heavenly band’ bestowed with accolades that are unprecedented in the history of Chinese rock bands.
During the Madison Square Garden’s concert, Ashin delivered a moving speech in response to recent criticisms.
這就是了，Let the imagine (imagination) follow you walk.
Going back to these lines:
Mayday’s goal has always been to create good music. Some detractors mocked Mayday for their monetary pursuits. They accused Mayday of ‘selling out’ and being too focused on making profits. Any musician will need to feed himself and his family, thus profit-making is an indispensable part of the music industry. If Mayday just wants to only focus on making money, they would not be dragged into this ugly political mess in the first place. They can always take the easy way out and write simple love or rock songs. However, Mayday’s music is more than just radio-friendly hits. Their songs speak to people because they explore ideas and themes that are relevant in contemporary societies. They sing songs that matter to them, to their fans, to people trying to make sense of an imperfect world.
As quoted in ‘V for Vendetta’, ‘ideas are bulletproof’. Perhaps I am an idealist, but I believe Mayday’s music is ‘bulletproof’ as their beliefs and ideas expressed in the songs are universal and timeless. We can be from different countries and cultures. We can speak different languages. We can live under different political systems. But everyone will have dreams that they want or fail to achieve. Everyone will have their ‘憨人’ moments.
After 15 years of battle against all odds, Mayday has finally reached their current status. They persevered and truly demonstrated the ‘我的手越骯髒、眼神越是發’ spirit. While I would love to attend Mayday concerts for the rest of my life, I wish the boys can have a good rest and enjoy their lives away from the limelight.
Belief (相信). Perseverance (倔強). Fearlessness (啥咪攏不驚).