The Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival has been bringing some of the biggest international names in rock to Korean shores since 2006. And this in turn, of course, guarantees a brilliant lineup of local acts to help round out the bill each year.
Taking place at Incheon’s Songdo Pentaport Park, the festival grounds are about a 10-minute walk from the train station and this either meant a dash under the stinging heat of the sun or wait around in it to catch the free shuttle service on offer. Inside, aside from vendors selling hover boards and sugar drinks, a ring of stalls laid out a decent selection of food and cocktails. One thing they do need to work on is making sure there are a few options for vegetarians.
Like most outdoor music festivals in Korea, Pentaport is incredibly family friendly. It’s a safe and fun environment where you can pitch a tent with a decent view of the mainstage and lounge about having a few drinks between friends. And as one friend put it, the benefit of the Cass monopoly on beer is that you are unlikely to get too carried away drinking.
I arrived at the tail end of Galaxy Express’ set on the main Pentaport Stage, which is like arriving at your favorite restaurant when they are closing up. It sucks and it makes you damn hungry. In this case for some rock ‘n’ roll. Fortunately, seasoned local metalheads Crash were on hand to belt out their eclectic mix of heaviness in the Dream Stage tent against a backdrop of flaming skulls.
The highlight of the day was without a doubt Run River North who performed on the Pentaport Stage while the sun was still up. This six-piece folk-rock band has a sound that is reminiscent of Mumford and Sons with at times the melodic nature of The Head and the Heart. With a violin and keys and a spring in each step, these Korean American guys and gals know how to put on a show. “Run and Hide” and “29” from this year’s “Drinking from a Salt Pond” album were both standouts, but I wasn’t disappointed by any of the nine tracks they performed. The inescapable conclusion is that they were made for that blue sky summer’s day.
Between songs they joked in broken Korean about the few Korean expressions they knew. One thing they had somehow picked up during their short stay in Korea was the obligatory selfie with fans at the end of their show. Let’s just say they knew how to ingratiate themselves.
Main stage headliners Suede came out noticeably looking their age and a little stiff in their stride. I was quite prepared for something of a lackluster performance until vocalist Brett Anderson managed to almost tear off his sleeve and expose his well-maintained chest within just the first couple of songs. Opening with “When You Are Young” from their most recent album, “Night Thoughts,” and moving through a number of their anthems including my personal favorite “Animal Nitrate” from their 1993 self-titled debut and even an acoustic rendition of “She’s in Fashion,” they played a total of 19 tracks while the crowd sang along in unison.
All in all, a brilliant first day.