Thursday, October 24, 2013

City Break

TIMELINE: 17 - 18 August 2013

After a blissful vacation in Bali it was incredibly tough to come home and get back into the swing of things.Thank goodness my post vacation depression would be short-lived as I had two, really fantastic things to look forward to.Firstly, it was Korea's Independence Day on 15 August, which meant I only had a 4 day week.Secondly, that coming weekend I was going to one of the biggest rock festivals in Korea - Hyundai Card Super Concert 19 City Break!

The reason City Break is one of the biggest concerts on the calendar is because of the artists they get to come and play.The concert has been going for 19 years and seen the performances of Green Day and Lady Gaga to name a few (I would mention more but there is absolutely NO information about this concert on the internet and those are the only two I can remember seeing on the posters *grin*).This year the line-up was just as impressive with the legends, Metallica and Muse, headlining the weekend.

The festival takes place over two days and unfortunately I could only afford tickets to the Saturday.That means I missed out on Ash, Rise Against, Metallica and about 15 other local bands who were all playing on the Sunday, but I wasn't too concerned.Saturday had an amazing line up to look forward to with the likes of We Are the Night, Okamoto's, The Used, Iggy and The Stooges, Limp Bizkit and two of my favourite bands of all time, White Lies and Muse!I never in my life dreamed I would get to see either of them live in concert, let alone on the same day.

Saturday was an early start as we had to get to Seoul, check into our hostel, and then make our way to the concert which started at 11am.I had only ever been to Seoul once before, for UMF, but that was with an organized tour.Navigating the subway on your own is a whole other story.I am so used to seeing Daegu's subway map with it's grand total of two lines, so arriving in Seoul to a web of about 10 subway lines was daunting.After looking like a dear in the headlights I eventually found my bearings and headed off to find the hostel.The hostel was located in Itaewon, right by the subway stop, so it literally only took a couple of minutes to run in, drop bags and head back out to the Olympic Stadium.

I was so excited arriving at the stadium for another music festival.In South Africa we are a little starved for events like this, especially in the city I live in, so if there is an opportunity to attend a concert or festival, I am there with open arms.The layout for the City Break concert was also a lot better than UMF, and what impressed me most was the actual stage times.For UMF I had to run between arenas to catch all of my favourite artists but for City Break, every single band had their own time slot with a couple of minutes in between so you could move between arenas.It was AWESOME!

The stadium was divided into 3 sections - Super Stage, Culture Stage and Music Stage.The Music Stage was the first area you walked past and was the best place to just hang out.The stage was at the end of the field in front of a small grass area.Behind the grass area was a huge tent with tables underneath so you could sit and enjoy the music with one of the many drinks they had on offer.The drink selection was great too, with a variety of beers, cocktails and even Champagne!There were a couple of food places and then an awesome Cool Zone which was a dome like tent fitted with loads of those water spray things.It was a scorcher of a day so it was quite a popular place to hang out.

After having a drink at the Music Stage it was time to head to the Super Stage for The Used.I didn't have a clue who they were but my friend was eager to see them so we joined the growing crowd.The Super Stage was set up in the actual stadium and was obviously the most impressive with it's massive big screens and lighting effects.The Used played during the day so it didn't really give me an idea of how incredible that same stage would look later that night for Muse.I also couldn't imagine that entire floor of the stadium being jammed packed with people but we'll get to that later.

The one thing I can say about Koreans is that they really know how to party and party hard!I had seen it at UMF with the crowd going absolutely berserk over the likes of Carl Cox and Avicii but I wasn't expecting the same madness for a bunch of overseas rock bands.I was honestly taken aback with the love and adoration they had for these bands and how they knew all the words to practically every song.The day was starting off well and The Used did not disappoint with their performance.

Next up was White Lies.About 2 years ago I came across a song called 'Nothing To Give' and I immediately fell in love with everything about it - the lyrics, the melody, the mood of the song and most importantly, the beautiful vocals that literally moved my soul.After a lot of searching I eventually found out who these guys were a small, humble band from the UK called White Lies.Since that day I have got every song they have ever released and have yet to be disappointed by any of them.They are honestly one of my all time favourite bands.The problem with being a massive fan of a relatively unknown band worldwide is that there is no chance in hell that they will ever tour to South Africa, which means I never ever entertained the idea of seeing them live.To come all the way to South Korea and see them on a line up in a festival was a dream come true and one that I couldn't wait to cash in on.

I honestly think I was more excited for White Lies than I was for Muse, which should indicate my absolute love for this band.They were performing on the Culture Stage which was set up in another section outside the main stadium.The stage was set up at the far end of the arena with a grass patch where you could listen to the band.As with all the other arenas it was surrounded by tents with food, drinks, merchandise and a cooling zone.I got to the stage area as early as possible as I wanted to be right upfront against the railing.I arrived half way through the set of an Asian band that sounded similar to Coldplay, so they were enjoyable to watch but I was more focused on elbowing my way through the small Korean crowd.

In the end, I succeeded in wriggling my way to the front, and found myself right up against the railing and just left of centre stage I couldn't have been anymore excited at my prime position!When Harry, Charles and Jack came on stage I was so overcome with excitement that I think I spent the entire set just standing there staring at them.The first song they sang was To Lose My Life which is off their first album of the same name.They followed it up with their latest single There Goes Our Love Again which is off their new album Big TV.At the time of the concert, Big TV had only been released the Monday before so it was great to hear their new tracks as well.

The rest of the set was made up of a mixture between old and new songs, which really showcased their incredible talent (and yes, I will be as biased as I like!).From the album To Lose My Life they played the single that kick started their career, Unfinished Business, as well as A Place to Hide, Farewell to the Fairground and Death.From their second album Ritual, they played The Power & the Glory and Bigger Than Us, which is the song they ended their set with.As for Big TV, we got to hear quite a few of their latest songs as they played Be Your Man, First Time Caller and Big TV.I can honestly say that Harry's vocals are just as impressive live as they are in every single one of their songs and as a band, they are one of the most humble I have ever seen.For me, there is something special about a band playing in a country for the first time.There were no theatrics, no light displays or fireworks just 3 guys (well 5 if you include the keyboard guy and another guitarist but they're not part of the actual band poor things) on a stage playing their music and loving every minute of it.The only complaint I have about the entire performance is that the base was far too heavy, to the point where my eardrums were practically bursting, other than that, it really was a dream come true.

After the euphoria of seeing White Lies I needed a time out and headed back to the Super Stage for a drink and some shopping.I was ecstatic to see Big TV on sale and obviously bought it right away.At the time Iggy and the Stooges were absolutely rocking out on stage so I went and chilled on the grass to soak up the atmosphere.I wasn't too shocked to see that after all these years, Iggy Pop still has the energy of a 20 year old on stage.He was adorning his usual bare chest, unbuttoned jeans (that almost revealed far too much to the entire crowd) and long sweaty hair whilst bouncing around the stage like a mad man.I truly believe the guy is absolutely crazy BUT in the best way.Young or old, standing or sitting, the entire crowd was jamming to his music, it was a glorious moment and I am so happy I got to see this legend of a man performing.

After Iggy and the Stooges we had planned to see a bit of Limp Bizkit before Muse, however, we noticed the crowd was not going anywhere and if anything, it just continued to grow.We made a decision to stay put and camped out in a pretty good spot until Muse was due to play.At one point I did go break the seal (too many cocktails) and went by the stage where Limp Bizkit were playing.It was perfect timing because as soon as I walked into the crowd, they came out on stage and opened with Thieves which they followed up with Rollin'.I had serious flashbacks of my first year in University and was absolutely loving the little mosh pit that was forming in front of me.

I arrived back to our spot in the Super Stage arena and was quite stunned by the amount of people who had started piling in.We were packed like sardines on the grass and I won't lie when I say it was the most uncomfortable I have ever been at a concert, and Muse hadn't even started yet.Suddenly there was movement on stage and the entire crowd just stood up and surged forward, it was crazy.It turns out it was the sound guys but there was no way to get thousands of people to sit back down so we stood for a good 40 minutes like that, just waiting.At some point the screen did a scan of the crowd behind us and I was blown away.I couldn't see an opening in the floor of the stadium, there were people packed up until the seats and I still can't comprehend how many thousands there were.At one point I felt like I could be crushed as every time there was a hint of Muse coming out on stage, the crowd would surge forward.

When Muse did eventually grace the stage with their presence the noise was absolutely deafening.I couldn't even hear what song they were playing until the heavy guitar riff for Supremacy blasted through the speakers, which is also when the entire crowd seemed to have realized what was being played and erupted into absolute chaos again.I felt like I was in a riot of some sorts but a really amazing one!To hear so many voices belting out the song was just as mind blowing I don't think I have EVER been to a concert like that before and we were only on the first song.The one thing I can say about Muse is that they are entertainers.Their use of lighting and screen images sets the tone for every song and as a band, they sound just as flawless live as they do on any recording.This isn't just about the music, they take you on a whole journey, getting you all hyped up and then bringing you back down slowly. I think they are the type of band who really thinks about their set list and the show as a whole.

Anyway, after almost being crushed by the monstrous crowd, I eventually found my footing and began to enjoy the spectacular show that was unveiling before me.After rocking out hard to Supremacy they moved straight onto Super Massive Black Hole which kept the crowd jumping.They kept up the energy with Bliss followed by Hysteria and then completely won the crowd over by having Matthew play the Korean National Anthem on his guitar.It was a special moment hearing a crowd that big belt out their National Anthem with Muse as their back up and I think all the hairs on my arm stood up out of pure emotion of what I was witnessing.

After a quick AC/DC Back in Black outro we were treated to Resistance, which is one of the best songs for a crowd to sing at a concert, and sing we did I'm pretty sure half of Seoul heard us! After that it was Plug In Baby, Hyper Music and then one of my favourites - Follow Me!The screen images and lasers for this song was just incredible and it was the perfect time to bring the crowd down from all the high energy (and by high energy I mean 'body crushing') madness from the first half of the set.After that it was Chris's turn to 'WOW' us with his vocals and awesome Bass Guitar riffs with Liquid State before we were all caught up in the emotion of another favourite of mine - Madness.Again, the lights, lasers and words being shown on the screen made for an incredible set.It is also one of those songs where everyone knows the words so for the first two lines it was just the crowd singing which was beautiful to hear.

To up the tempo slightly they went on to play Time Is Running Out before going balls to the walls with Stockholm Syndrome (with Metallica's Enter Sandman as an intro and Rage Against the Machine's Freedom as an outro) before finishing off with Agitated it was absolutely crazy with strobe lights, lasers and Dominic going mental on the drums!Just like that, without any warning, the song finished and Muse had disappeared off the stage leaving us in darkness.Then The 2nd Law: Isolated System started playing without the band and the only light was that coming off the giant screens displaying the same pictures as in the music video.At one point the crowd starting clapping to the beat which sounded so great as it echoed throughout the entire stadium.It was the perfect way to give themselves and the crowd a break before coming back for their first encore!

To kick things off they started with Uprising, which really got the crowd going again.To hear thousands of people clapping along and shouting the "hey" parts was brilliant (ah hell, I am seriously running out of adjectives to describe this experience so sorry).They followed this up with an absolute classic - Starlight!For this song Matthew went for a little walk around the crowd so we got to see a good view of him as he passed our side of the stage.A little later Chris came to play in front of us as well.Starlight was great as it's another song that everyone knows the words too.To end off their encore they played out with another one of my favourites - Survival.It was the perfect song to end off on.

However, Muse weren't done with us yet.For their second Encore they played The 2nd law: Unsustainable (live) where they had a giant robot come out onto the stage shooting smoke from its head.It was quite mental to have this thing moving around stage with Muse playing in the background almost like the robot was the one singing those parts of the song (the Robot is called Charles by the way).To end off one of the most spectacular concerts I have ever seen in my life, Chris played a haunting melody on the harmonica as an intro for Knights of Cydonia.The last song absolutely rocked the crowd, as did the effects which had fire shooting up from the stage and plenty of strobe lights.

Leaving the stadium was heartbreaking as all you want to do is go back in time so you can have the day all over again.Music is such a huge part of my life, it defines everything for me, so to be able to experience it live is something I absolutely live for.Every song takes you back to a particular moment, a place or a person so leaving made me feel like I had just spent a day with family and friends back home and I had a huge sense of longing for them to be there with me.My reflective moment didn't last long however, as we had to catch a subway back before they closed for the night, so we were on a mission.After a quick stop at Burger King we were headed back to the hostel.

The next morning I was determined to end off the weekend on a high so I decided before I even came that I would have a Sunday Lunch at Braai Republic.For any South African in Korea, Braai Republic is a little piece of home in Seoul, offering traditional South African food and drink.The restaurant itself is typically South African with wood furniture, clippings of Die Beeld on the walls along with framed photographs of South African themes - hunting, landscapes etc.What really makes you feel at home, however, are the smells wafting through from the open kitchen.Delicious, mouth-watering smells of lamb chops, potjie, boerewors and pap (I am drooling while I write this).

The menu is quite extensive considering we are in South Korea.Dishes generally consist of a meat - lamb chops, boerewors or pork bangers with a side of potato/sweet potato/garlic potato, spinach, slaw or pap.They also do a Karoo Surf and Turf with lamb chops and prawns and then my personal favourite - lamb or oxtail potjie served with pap.As for the drinks menu, they have the usual South African favourites of Castle, Hunters, Savanna and of my drinks of choice back home good old Klippies and Coke!Needless to say for lunch I settled on the Klippies with a delicious lamb potjie.

I was beyond excited when my drink arrived, let alone the food.To have the taste of a good brandy in my mouth was incredible.All I needed was a rugby game to be happening on the big screen and my day would have been made.It's crazy how much you miss the small things when you are away from home (for instance, I would kill for a vanilla steri-stumpi).When the food arrived I was even more impressed.It was beautifully presented in a little potjie pot with a huge helping of slaw and pap on the side.When I stuck my fork into the potjie I was not surprised to see how the meat just melted off the bone, it was done just as a South African potjie should be I was in heaven.

I literally cleaned my plate and pot and could probably have had another one to go but I was saving myself for dessert.I really wanted a slice of melktert but unfortunately they were sold out that day. Instead I opted for the equally delicious Amarula cheesecake.I can't even begin to describe the taste but if you've tasted Amarula, you will recognize it immediately in this creamy, mouth-watering cheesecake it is food porn at its best!After a hearty South African meal it was time to leave the big city lights of Seoul and head on home.

There is no doubt that City Break will be on my list of things to do next year it was just that (insert adjective here)!Another tick off the bucket list

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