Saturday, August 02, 2008

Formoz, The Festival A Typhoon Blew Away

(Photo credit: 4 Bonjour's Parties)

How sadly fitting it was that on the last night of the final Formoz festival ever, a typhoon hit the island of Taiwan, nearly closing down the event. Many acts scheduled to play that night canceled, and only the die-hard fans showed up, wrapped in plastic bags (I wasn't one of them...).

This was the last year that the Taipei music festival was to be held, bringing down the curtains on summer festivities that started in 1995. The stated reason was that the Chinese cultural park that hosted the festival was being torn down, so the festival would have to end too. But it's hard to believe that's the whole story. Exhaustion among the organizers, money problems, or other reasons? I have no idea what the truth is, but it was clear attending this year's Formoz that this festival had seen better days. I mean, looking at last year's Formoz, the organizers were able to attract from Japan such big name acts like Ging Nang Boyz, Quruli and Anna Tsuchiya. No one of similar stature was on the bill this year. Does anyone know what the story is? In any case, I got the feeling making the rounds of the several Formoz music stages and looking at the acts that, although there were lots of good bands playing, the festival itself was going out quietly.

One interesting thing, though, about the festival this year compared with the one I attended two years ago was that there seemed to be a much more prominent place set aside for political activists, including those protesting against Burma/Myanmar and calling for a free Tibet. Maybe it was because this was a few weeks before the start of the Beijing Olympics.

On the other hand, what there wasn't a lot of at this year's Formoz festival was: booze. A lot of the sections didn't even sell beer, and I didn't see any other sort of alcohol at all. I was surprised about this because one of my most vivid memories of Formoz 2006 was how good the beer tasted while listening to music in the sultry Taiwanese evening.

I have to confess that because it was SO hot I didn't check out exhaustively the Taiwanese bands on display, so, for example, I missed 1976's show, and the only act that I really enjoyed was Go Chic, mentioned in the last post. Writing from a perspective of near-complete ignorance, I wonder how the indie music scene in Taiwan is going these days. I stopped by the Eslite music store to check out the Taiwanese music CDs, but didn't notice that much that was new. However, this post says that there's a quite cool-sounding music festival in southern Taiwan, so maybe there's interesting stuff going on that I just don't know about, which wouldn't be surprising.

As I wrote at the start, Typhoon Fung-Wong blew into Taiwan exactly on the third and last evening of the Formoz festival, and though I briefly stopped by because 4 Bonjour's Parties from Tokyo was scheduled to play that night, I decided to turn back after a while of getting wet. Maybe if I were an idealist in my twenties or teens, the poor weather would have infused the event with even more meaning, that here we all were, not letting a mere typhoon get in the way of enjoying great music. But these days, in most cases, I prefer to be safe and dry.

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