September 20th, 2011


‘Top Band’ concert draws diverse audience

KBS2’s audition program moves away from the popular pop ‘idol’ phenomenon toward rock music

» Broken Valentine performs at Rolling Hall club in Seoul’s Hongdae district, Sept. 18. (Courtesy of Lee Yoon-kyoung) 

The scene at the Rolling Hall club in Seoul’s Hongdae district on Sunday evening was somewhat different from usual. A long line extended out of the venue before the start of the performance, filled by middle-aged guests with greying hair, dressed in hiking gear. The reason was simple. Four of the seven groups performing that day: Toxic, Broken Valentine, Aissisaida and Burnout House, had appeared on KBS2’s “Top Band” audition program.

“I enjoy watching Top Band every Saturday night with my son,” said 40-year-old Lee Sang-yong, who had come with his wife and 12-year-old son. “I hope it provides a chance for band music to become widely known.” 38-year-old Hwang Su-i said, “I used to mostly listen to idol music like that of Big Bang and Shinee, then I watched ‘Top Band’ and became a fan of Broken Valentine. Today is the first time I have been to a live music club in Hongdae, too, so I am really excited.”

After a hot performance from Toxic, which manages to weave a distinctive, close-knit sound despite having only two members, five-member band Broken Valentine took to the stage. The two bands had competed against each other in the Round of 16 on the episode of Top Band broadcast on September 10. The early confrontation of these two bands, both of which had been tipped as strong contenders for overall victory, became known as an “advance final round.” In the end, Toxic was the winner by a hair’s breadth, but both bands presented viewers with awesomely good performances.

As if consoling the band for its bitter loss, the audience raised both hands in the air, chanting “Broken Valentine.” The band began a passionate performance after Seong Hwan, its leader and bass player, said, “It seems many of the people we met back at home after ending a smoldering, bitter and sweet affair, are here.” After finishing an encore amid wild applause, the band left the stage with the words, “We hope you show all rock bands in Korea the passionate love you have shown for us.”

Encountered off the stage, Broken Valentine was calm.

“There were a lot more things we wanted to say on TV, so it’s a shame we crashed out, but we can keep showing our stuff in other places,” said Seong Hwan’s younger brother Byeonji, the band’s guitarist. “We have become busier since crashing out of the TV program,” said guitarist An Su. “We are working harder on our album and aim to release it by the beginning of next year at the latest.”

Broken Valentine is now in its tenth year. In 2009, it beat ten teams from each country in Asia to win the top prize at Yamaha’s Asian Beat Grand Finals. What made it risk a qualification controversy to enter “Top Band?”

“We founded our own record company, with difficulty, and released an EP, but making our music known to the general public was not easy. We thought we need a special opportunity if we were to get past this big barrier. We did not feel like entering a survival style competition where we had to work hard to find opponents’ weak points and beat them, but we decided to take part in ‘Top Band’ after judging that people would recognize us if we just stayed true to ourselves,” said An Su.

“We had dreamed of a utopia where idol singers and bands compete side by side. So at first we thought about entering the Mnet show ‘Superstar K.’ But we thought ‘Top Band’ would be better for conveying band music properly. This is partly because it is produced in KBS’s cultural department, not its entertainment department, but above all because we could feel that is considerate toward bands and we liked that,” said Seong Hwan.

In contrast to this, controversy continues over the group Yeri Band’s recent abandonment of the “Superstar K” show in which it was competing, claiming that the show had involved false editing.

“Bands do not say bad things about each other because they know how hard it is to form a band and make music. We have known Toxic for a long time, too. We were encouraging each other as we prepared for the Round of 16 standoff. Bands are not suited to competition. Maybe it is because of that culture that ‘Top Band’ got its reputation as a good audition show,” said Seong Hwan.

Sourse: The Hankyoreh