About This Festival
They come in their fashionable best: girls in gauzy shirts and floppy sun hats, guys in pressed t-shirts and fedoras. Many chalk their hair bright blue, pink, yellow or purple to set the mood. Rock fests are a relatively new concept in Korea, and the energy at Ansan — the country's largest such event — is palpable. The bright-eyed crowd bubbles past the wildflower-strewn gardens, kitschy replica windmills and reedy waterfront at Daebu Sea Breeze Theme Park to the concert grounds. They unfurl mats on the muddy grass and wait for the music to begin.
More than 75 bands take the stage at Ansan Valley Rock Fest during three steamy days in July. A hefty list of international headliners –Oasis, Radiohead, The Cure and Nine Inch Nails, among those in years past—share the bill with bangin' Korean groups. Never mind that you probably haven't heard of the latter. Just know that the nation's hard-rocking scene is thriving and on fine display at Ansan. One of the coolest things about the fest is walking up to a random stage and seeing a trucker hat-wearing screamo band followed by a guitar-shredding metal band and then a clown-costumed rock quartet—all fresh to your ears. And though fans are hugely enthusiastic, there's no pushing or moshing, which makes for a uniquely relaxed vibe amid such badass music.
The crowd ricochets between four stages. Often there are long gaps between bands, anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. While fans amass around the stage when someone is playing, everyone leaves after the act is finished – so it's fairly easy to get front and center for a favorite band if you plan ahead.
The festival grounds sprawl, offering plenty of action away from the stages. Vendors grill meat, tofu and veggies and pour cold beers under a slew of tents. Fans whoop it up playing on inflatable slides, shooting hoops at the basketball court and spinning the roulette wheels for prizes. Jumbo squirt guns are a popular accessory, and soaking battles ensue.
If that doesn't drench you, count on rain doing the trick. It typically downpours at some point during the festivities, turning the grounds swampy enough to lose a shoe.
History and Past Lineups
The three-day festival began in 2009 with its mix of indie and major label acts. It was known as the Jisan Valley Rock Festival for its first four years, when it was held at the Jisan Forest Ski Resort in Icheon. In 2013 it moved to Daebu Sea Breeze Theme Park in Ansan—a site twice the size of the previous one—and so the name changed to Ansan Valley Rock Festival. (Just to confuse you, organizers then created an event called the Jisan World Rock Festival that takes place at the old venue.)
- Oasis, Weezer, Jimmy Eat World and Patti Smith headlined the first year. Muse, Massive Attack, Pet Shop Boys, Belle and Sebastian and Corinne Bailey Rae did the honors the second year. Top acts in the following years included:
- Arctic Monkeys, Chemical Brothers, Incubus, Suede, Feeder, Amadou & Mariam and Atari Teenage Riot in 2011.
- Radiohead, Elvis Costello & the Imposters, Stone Roses, Los Lonely Boys, James Blake and Beady Eye in 2012.
- Vampire Weekend, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, The xx, My Bloody Valentine, Skrillex, Cat Power, fun., Polyphonic Spree, Sterophonics, Foals, Steve Vai and Yellowcard in 2013. Fun fact: The Cure played for almost three hours.
The majority of the 100,000-plus festival-goers are young Koreans. It's also a big draw among the many Western expats who live in the country. Tickets go on sale in the spring.