Greenplugged Seoul is the next big international music festival


It is the beginning of summer in Seoul. On a weekend, people from the city flock to Nanji Hangang Park, a perfect space to seek shade under the trees as the spring breeze still lingers, with scenery that breaks the concrete horizon.

Tents were set up all over the park’s grounds, and its green carpets of grass were replaced with colorful mats and rugs. People brought their bikes, scooters and skateboards, while others carried picnic baskets.

On the weekend of May 21, the park was host to the city’s version of Coachella, and we discovered every Korean musicophile’s top secret: the Greenplugged Seoul Music Festival.

It was a celebration of (and testament to) Korea’s massive local and independent music scene. It was an epic experience with four major stages and three minor sets located all over Nanji Hangang Park. On its eight straight year, the two-day Greenplugged festival featured a total of 65 artists in an all-local lineup.




On each end of the park are two pairs of main stages, the Sun & Earth, and Moon & Sky, respectively. It took a short walk to get to each end, and in between the main venues were a skate park and playground where you can enjoy people-watching. The Busking and Wind stages were also in the middle of the park, and all you had to do is follow where the music is to find them.



There’s a reason why indie music is big nowadays. With the world of pop saturated with auto-tune and repetitive melodies and nonsensical lyrics, there is a global demand to experience familiar yet uncharted sounds, a collective craving for music that focuses on mood and poetic songwriting.




And although we didn’t know more than half of the artists playing, nor understood less than half of what they were saying and singing, we let their songs flood us with emotions. We immersed ourselves with a smiling and enthusiastic crowd with only music uniting us with its creative chords and beautiful beats.

Artists who busk or perform on the streets, who are widely seen in Seoul’s collegiate areas like Hongdae and Ehwa Womans University, also got their own stage at Greenplugged.

   WIND STAGE   



I loved the K-indie Wind stage, a small open auditorium that focused on the acoustic genre and provided chill vibes all afternoon. At the Wind stage, you may gaze at the faraway queue of cars that traveled east, while the Han River flowed toward the opposite direction. It also offered a space where the performing artists can engage with their audience easily.



20 Years of Age had a five-piece live band behind him. For each song he performed, he taught the recurring harmony to the crowd. And to make the people burst into laughter, he even instructed them at which lyric line to cheer. His set was light and cheerful—and the crowd did not refuse any of 20 Years of Age’s requests.


He sang the catchy melodies of “Let’s Walk, I’m in Front of Your House,” “Roller Coaster” and “I’m Your Peter Pan.” While the audience chanted the lyrics back to the artist, and he ran to them and shared fist bumps and high fives.



For YEIN, there is nothing more important than the mood her music plunges its listeners into. Her voice is like a mermaid’s enchanting serenade, it is magical and heavily influenced by classical sounds straight from a vintage French film.


The rookie sang a cover of Emily King’s “Distance,” a wistful and romantic song, and a perfect representation of her serene voice. Her original “Rose of Sharon” was performed to a bigger audience too.

TAEK quickly followed his fellow On the Record artist YEIN’s performance. The Future R&B and electronica artist released his five-track EP a day before the festival and the crowd got to hear its tracks “Send Me to the Galaxy” “Liar” and “We’re Always Together.”

   PICNIC STAGE   



In a more intimate but relaxed stage, yooncell puts us all to shame with her being a modern Renaissance woman. The medical doctor and assistant professor recently took on the music scene as singer-songwriter. However, she needs to be more comfortable on a live stage, because her modest and sweet voice is one that needs to be heard by many. yooncell’s songs all have happy melodies that go perfectly with her calming vocals.





1415 then swooned the audience with their love songs—each line that they sang felt like a serenade. Every track by this pop-rock acoustic duo had a dreamy touch and was accompanied by sweet but imaginative guitar licks. They played their entire “Dear: X” EP along with a cover of LANY’s “ILYSB,” that got people swaying during their entire set.

The songs “Lovable,” “Spring is Coming,” “Miracle,” “Paradise” and “Draw the Line” are all romantic in nature. Its melodies are not complex yet entirely captivating with its jazz undertones. 1415’s first EP has thematic songs and is nothing short of paradoxical—it is sweet yet nostalgic; it feels infatuated but fearful of love.

   MAIN STAGES   

We also loved the performances of acoustic balladeer Yu Seong-woo and soulful contemporary rapper Junggigo as they turned the atmosphere into a sweet party under the smelting sun on the first day of the festival, while DEAN closed the Sky stage with a bang on the second day. (Read more about DEAN’s festival performance here.)






It was the first concert where the alternative R&B artist played his most recent collaboration with Syd of The Internet, “love.” The crowd unsurprisingly went crazy for the song. 

Psychedelic screens and lights matched his diverse set list, with a mix of party, R&B, hip-hop and pop tunes that created a night to remember. He sang “I’m Not Sorry” “Come Over,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “21” and “D (Half Moon)” for the Greenplugged festival-goers.

Wherever you are, indie music has the same charm, and witnessing South Korea’s music at its grassroots will make you love the global phenomenon that is K-pop all the more.


This post was previously published as a newspaper article on Inquirer Super.

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