The Third Seoul DJ Festival 9th-10th May 2009: An Experiment in Festival Journalism Gone Horribly Wrong
The Seoul World DJ Festival is an annual soiree held at the Nanji Campground on the banks of Seoul’s Han River in South Korea.
The first festival was coordinated by the city’s tourism agency and due to an influx of praise, especially from Seoul’s ex-pat scene, the event was consequently transformed into a proper festival with an admission fee and all. Each year it attracts more than ninety-thousand people over the duration of a weekend. By the time we arrived four beers, a Bloody Mary and a Bailey’s mixer had taken place. Dark sunglasses reflected the twinkling lights of the heaving metropolis that is Seoul while the strobes and search lights raked across the sky, transforming the Han River into a lurid water colour of fluorescent greens and reds. This fateful night also happened to be hosting a full moon, no mere coincide, especially when you consider how the word lunatic is borrowed from the Italian "lunacus", which in turns borrows from "luna", denoting the age old link between madness and the turns of the moon. This was a dark omen for a few drunken fools on the river side surrounded by ninety thousand Koreans tanked up to the eye balls on soju and free hugs, like the summer of 69’ crossed with a Gooneys Christmas Special. After some bad noise at the press registration we got in and shambled around with a few other magazine folk before making our way to what we assumed to be the press tent. We had full press credentials, courtesy of a magazine known as Expat Experiment, we were in, taken care of and ready to interview some big names. How little we knew.
Though the music was loud enough to make our ear drums explode the arena was a fair size smaller that we’d imagined, with only a single bar in the whole place. We found our way to the back stage, flashed our passes and entered what we quite reasonably assumed to be the press centre. I remember remarking to Darren Jones, the photographer on this dreadful night, that those inside the tent appeared to be vampire fruit cakes, gawking over their iMacs, Twittering and nursing their ramen noodle pots. A travesty in terms of serious music journalism I thought to myself, not a goddamn cocktail in sight! I doubted this turd bags would even know good hard and dirty dance music if it ran up and bit them. No competition was a slight let down but we were resolute to solider on despite any good sport. Yet when Jones tried to access the stage his pleas were cold heartedly refused. The steroid gobbling harness bull of a security guard only grunted, “Get in the pit!” Jones dove in, scampering round in front of the stage, keeping his heard down as if to avoid machine fire, crouching below the masses pressed up against his crowd barrier behind him. I went to follow but an unexpected sonic blast wave from the speaker stack next to me sent me reeling away, desperately hoping my ear drum was still intact. I staggered behind the stage in search of an interview, still holding my ear only to be turned away and I told I didn’t belong there.
I retreated to the press tent filled with what thought were half baked journalism interns, noting some of them were looking at Japanese scat porn website .I started searching around the tent for the makings of a fresh soju cocktail when suddenly I was strong armed out of the tent and informed that it was not in fact a press tent at all and the people I’d been making fun of were in fact festival stewards.
It became instantly apparent how our press passes were only good for removing dirt from under our finger nails, truly worthless, literally opening no doors because there weren’t even any to open. No interviews, no stage access, not even any where to sit.
In order to make up for lost time I got involved with a few rounds of cocktails. Meanwhile Jones procured a fire extinguisher from the good people at the Jägermestier tent with which to protest against the festival’s inhume treatment of the press (I was already drafting a letter to Amnesty International on the back of one of Jones’ cigarette packets). Down at the front was where the real action was to be found, the crowd surfers waiting to be picked up and carried by an ocean of hands rising and falling with the occasional sacrifice, some poor fool sentenced to a fate of tumbling head over heels, descending from the crest of upturned palms, landing on their heads, only to leap back up with a dumb grin on their faces. The DJ’s, Ricky Stone and Towatai, hypnotized the masses, sending them berserk with the simple flick of a fader.
At the opportune moment I aimed the nozzle to the sky, pulled the pin and unleashed the beast. The little metal dragon spewed a volcanic eruption of toxic flame retardant chemicals high into the night sky and the masses reeled away, coughing and spluttering.
Looking up I discovered a deathly stare being shot at me from a security guard behind the steel barrier in front of the stage. It was a stand off straight out of a spaghetti western: He fingered his walky talky as I moved my hand towards the squat little dragon’s nozzle, I could hear some more toxic chemicals sloshing around in the squat little dragon’s belly and I’d already observed the lack of any medical teams on the site. We both knew any confrontation would be a case of assured mutual destruction. Finally I began to back away into the crowd, never letting my eyes leave his. I discreetly lay the squat little dragon at someone’s feet as I passed. Our eyes were locked until we were out of sight of each other, destined to meet on some god forsaken twilight battlefield another day. The streets of Seoul were dark and deserted, providing a clam respite that was greatly needed. If one thing was for sure it was that the Seoul DJ Festival had been an exhausting hedonistic meltdown, leaving all concerned with a cataclysmic hangovers and a need to find some secluded place to hibernate in for a few weeks.