Archive for the ‘TOURS’ Category


Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

I was tuning up in the artistes’ enclosure.

Behind me, festival producer Ray Park bounced around asking everyone to cut short their set. See, the 8th Busan International Rock Festival was running 30 minutes late. While that length of delay would be looked upon as a scheduling achievement back home, it was a matter worthy of mild panic here.

I checked to see how my band was doing.

Lewis and Andy were sharing a joke in a corner. Aji was talking quietly with Ren in the dressing room. Mac was sitting by himself next to the drinks cooler. Everyone seemed calm. Not surprising really. They play to bigger crowds than this regularly for mega pop stars. Not me though. So I paced steadily. Like Ray did. Two stress-balls rolling back and forth as the teeming crowd on Dadaepo beach stirred inexorably to life.

A shapely cowgirl hurried past. Expensive perfume mingled with sweat. I followed my nose. Streaky peroxide blonde. Cowboy hat. Tiny skirt. Bare midriff. Nice. She disappeared into one of the dressing rooms. I thought of edging closer to sneak a peak. But Crystal interrupted my lechery. She is one of two volunteers assigned to chaperone us for the duration of the festival.

“Would you like to be interviewed before or after your autograph session later?”

“Slobber”, I mumbled.


“Before, thanks.” I recovered.

Just then, I nearly got knocked off my feet from behind. I looked up in time to see a blonde figure flash past. Bare midriff. Tiny skirt. Cowboy hat. She hung a right and disappeared from sight, leaving behind her musky frangrance and a trailing chorus of “Go Rock Tigers!” from volunteers in the enclosure.

“Ah. The cowgirl must be from the Tigers”, my loins concluded.

We were scheduled to go on after the Rock Tigers. The wait was almost over now. So I checked my tuning again. The 95% humidity of the Korean summer air did weird things to string tension. It wouldn’t be so cool if my tuning went funky mid-song. Sure enough, the B string was a little sharp. The rest seemed to be settling nicely though. I felt more at ease.

Someone hollered.

It was Tama. He had just finished his set and was flushed with adrenalin. A big man with a ready smile, he was a producer of dance tunes for major label artistes but played indie rock for fun. We’d hang out a few days later in Seoul, where I had scheduled a series of meetings after the festival, and we’d become fast friends.

“You like Korean cowgirl?”, he teased.

“Moo.” I said.

“She not cow. Her name Gina.”


He laughed.

“How you are feeling?”

I did not answer. But I did not need to. Despite the false bravura and boyish machismo among many musicians, it was an unspoken fact that solitude before a performance is sacrosanct. So Tama slapped me on the shoulder and left me to myself. I took a deep breath and went through the set list in my head. Then I checked my tuning again. When I was done, I looked up to find that the rest of the band had gathered around. Lewis cracked a joke. We all laughed.

It was time.

We arrived at the stage just as the Rock Tigers began their last song. Gina was gyrating her hips to her band’s rockabilly groove. Her midriff glistened with sweat now and her blonde hair fluttered in the wind. And her tiny skirt? Well, let’s just say it was pretty gratuitous. The crowd, which had by then swelled to well over 10,000 people, went absolutely crazy.

The Tigers were done soon enough. We barely had time to wish each other good luck before the stage manager signaled frantically for us to get on. A pause. Handshakes exchanged. Then we walked out to beneath the bruised Busan sky…

I really can’t recall much of what happened beyond this point. I only remember looking out into the massive crowd as I tuned up for the last time. Then I gave Lewis the cue to count us in. He smiled as our eyes met. Its a long way from No Black Tie. Shortly, the band began playing the opening stanzas of ‘Shine’. The crowd roared. I began to sing as the rhythm took hold. Time slowed. Everything else became a blur. The stars began to fall. The sea rose. Delirium.

Amid the slo-mo pandemonium, I saw Gina looking on from afar in her tiny skirt, cowboy hat and glistening midriff.

“Moo”, she said.


Thanks to Ray Park for inviting us. Special thanks to Crystal, MJ and Nam for looking after us so well. Love to to all my friends [especially Tama & The Vagabond, Nagaura-san, Han Chul, Yutaka, Yoko, Shiori, Tanimura-san, members of Joey Zasa, Tetsuo Nakajima, Jae, Led, Brian, Ken, Sang Geun and Moon Seon]. Hope to see you all again soon. Apologies to Velvet Gina and other members of the Rock Tigers for taking liberties with the story. Busan cheekie ne!

Pictures by Shiori Takeuchi and BIROF official photography team.

BUSAN PHOTOGRAPHS – [Click To Enlarge]

BIROF. The Busan International Rock Festival is the largest music festival in Korea. Funded mainly by the Busan City Hall, it takes place on the famous Dadaepo beach over 2 days and draws visitors from all over Korea every August. It used to host a music market as well but a diminished budget put paid to that this year. The fact that it is a free concert that occurs over the summer school holidays also means that crowds of over 20,000 per day is not unusual. [Website]

ACTS. The festival features acts from USA, Japan and Korea each year. While it was purely a hard rock event in the past, this year saw the organisers widen its programming policy in favour of variety. Thus, other than head-bangers [LA Guns, Beatallica etc], this year’s line-up included pop / folk / rock acts [Lee Han Chul, Pete Teo, Joey Zasa, YB etc], Ska bopsters [Kingston Rudie Ska, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra etc], one industrial / electronica artiste [Elsa] and one rockability band [Rock Tigers]. Due to georgraphical proximity, most Japanese bands who played here hail from Fukuoka. I hear the scene in Fukuoka kicks ass and hope to play there next year. My muse for this blog entry – Velvet Gina [pictured here without her cowboy hat] and the Rock Tigers – are Korean. They were good. [Website]

BAND. [Clockwise: Me, Ren Takada, Andy Peterson, Aji, Lewis Pragasam & Mac Chew]. Lewis has been bugging me about gigging with this line-up forever. Busan seemed as good an event as any to try it. To be honest, I was worried when we only managed to rehearse [from scratch] 3 times before we left KL. But all of them play for household names and I was in good hands. In fact, Ren played with Yellow Magic Orchestra barely a week before Busan. Shivers.

VOLUNTEERS. [L to R: Crystal & MJ] The Busan city hall recruited over 100 volunteers from the local community to help with the running of the festival. Some of these were assigned to act as guides and translators for performers. We were fortunate to have Crystal and MJ as our chaperones for the entire duration of our stay in the city. While Crystal was steadfast and solid, MJ was bubbly and outgoing. Both were great. They were students from the local university.

FUN SET. I was taught a few words of Korean the night before the show. These included ‘Anyong Haseyo’ [Hello], ‘Pete Teo Im Ni Da’ [I’m Pete Teo], ‘Kamsa Hamida’ [Thank you] and, most importantly, ‘Cheekie Na?’ [Is this cool?]. The last is crucial because the crowd would answer ‘Cheekie Ne!’ [Yes, its cool!] if they liked your set. I tried it and they did. Phew. Anyway, here’s a what the TV monitor showed while we were playing – with the crowd in the background.

PRESS. We were hurried to a press interview after our set was done. Questions included my work in film and my favourite Korean food. In the foreground of this photo is Nam. We met when I was in Busan for the film festival last year. An accomplished traditional musician and production manager at the Busan Cultural Centre, Nam was our driver and all round fixer. One of the nicest people I know. He will show me some traditional Korean music next I am in Busan.

AUTOGRAPH. After the interview I was charged off once again to the merchandise area to meet fans and sign autographs. To describe Korean fans as warm is a massive understatement. They were excitable, generous, friendly and fun to be with. I was asked to autograph anything from scraps of paper to posters to torsos. This photograph wasn’t taken then though. It was taken at the hotel lobby the next day. I’d love to do more in Korea.

JOEY ZASA. [L to R: Matsuo Tsuyoshi, Me, Nakao Atsushi & Nakajima Tetsuo]. I was invited to a party at a downtown night club. A young Fukuoka band called Joey Zasa played. The trio caught my attention from the word go. They were raw, late-Beatle-esque, and charismatic. But an iffy PA system spoiled it. So I decided to catch their set at the festival the following day. Unfortunately, the skies opened up and the festival grounds became a mud bath. But Joey Zasa sounded great anyway. As it turned out, the band saw our set the previous day and loved it too. We quickly became friends. Their CD is on repeat on my machine as I write this. It’s melodious, energetic and compelling. You really should check them out. [Website]

POST PARTY. When the festival came to a close, it was time for free flow at the post event party, where volunteers mingled with administrators and artistes. A few bands went onstage to provide entertainment. I braved a couple of drunken numbers too. The person to my right in this photograph is Ray Park, the festival producer. The band onstage is Tama & The Vagabond. We were pretty smashed. The party didn’t start till midnight and didn’t end till dawn.

SEOUL. [L to R: Lee Han Chul, Me & Tama] I had meetings with music labels in Seoul after I was done in Busan. Tama, who lives there, kindly volunteered to be my guide. After my meetings, we’d hang out with Lee Han Chul [who also played the Busan festival this year]. He is a popular indie singer songwriter with a string of hits to his name. We are trying to set up an indie touring network spanning several countries. Both might come to KL soon. [Website]