▲ Music geared to a young audience proved very popular with the crowd gathered at Jungmun Beach July Fourth. Photos by Brian Miller
While surfers descended upon the waters of Jungmun Beach for the July Fourth International Surfing Competition, bands flocked to Jungmun to provide an energetic soundtrack for a day of fun in the sun on Jeju’s southern coast with the sixth annual Stepping Stone Festival .
Tourists and participants flew in from all over Korea, including Busan and Seoul, to attend the event. Some surfers even flew in from Japan just to catch a few days of waves and to demonstrate their surfing skill.
Many groups of young Koreans and families gathered on the beaches to watch the judges scoring the competition while they eagerly awaited the performances to begin.
“We look forward to this concert every year,” said Lee Hyuk Joon, a Jeju native who had attended the past three Stepping Stone festivals. “There aren’t many places for smaller bands to play to large crowds on Jeju. This is really a great day for everyone who enjoys local music.”
A large guitar cutout was draped over the sandy slopes just behind what was dubbed the “Sunshine Stage” for the Stepping Stone festival. Bands tuned up and the music began around three o’clock.
“We love playing Jeju. It’s such a nice excuse for a trip down here!” said Kim Gi Hyeong of the Korean rock band Enswer who came from Seoul to play the event as one of the first bands to go on.
The bands were all up-tempo but ranged in style from psychedelic surf-rock to edgy screamo and punk. Despite the youth-oriented music lineup however, this year’s Stepping Stone festival sought to create an atmosphere geared toward making the event a family-friendly affair.
One simply had to look around at the groups of families with everyone from toddlers to ajumas dancing to the music to know that Stepping Stone achieved exactly this goal.
With the setting sun, rows of surfboards lining the beach, a healthy crowd of music-lovers cheering on a band rocking out on stage, Jungmun was imbued with a festive quality markedly different from its normally low-key tourist vibe.
After dark the hillside guitar cutout began glowing with strings of electric lights. A large gibbous moon shone on the ocean and lapping waves. The music blared out across the open beach dotted with the tents of surfers and spectators alike. Although many were calling it a day, the night was just beginning for many more.
A truly magical evening unfolded as the “Moonlight Stage” bands began their sets. Many in the crowd began impromptu firework shows; launching bottle-rockets into the sky while doling out sparklers to children as they ran up and down the beach.
“I came out for the surf competition but didn’t realize what a fun day this music festival would turn out to be,” said John Gunnel an English teacher from Busan who planned his trip to Jeju around the Jungmun festivities.
The Stepping Stone Festival was the perfect outlet for local-music fans and bands to express themselves in Jeju. Both Seogwipo and Jeju-si have summer concert series, most notably the summer concerts that happen at Tap Dong every year.
Unlike these better-known concerts however, Stepping Stone Festival is an event that allows lesser-known acts to play for larger groups of people who otherwise wouldn’t hear their music, while still maintaining a setting that is less formal and more personal than most large venues on Jeju would allow.
Hopefully as word spreads each successive Stepping Stone Festival will continue gaining popularity and draw even more enthusiastic listeners to the beaches of Jungmun for a perfect summer’s day – and evening – of entertainment.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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