Unknowns Shine At Spring Scream

The 19th annual Spring Scream music festival takes place April 3-7 in Kenting, a beach town on the southern tip of Taiwan.

The festival features seven stages and 260 music acts and DJs, selected from some 600 applicants hailing from all over Asia, who will have to pay their own way to perform at the festival. Almost all the acts are unknowns, which is the main point of the festival, whose philosophy, according to a recent article in the South China Morning Post, is “everybody come and play.”

Some have called the festival Asia’s answer to South by Southwest, while others think it offers more of a classic Woodstock atmosphere.

“We focus on the music community,” organizer Jimi Moe told the newspaper. “This is still a festival held by musicians and for musicians. So it is the musicians who really create the direction for the festival, and because of that it is sustainable. Having that community is why we have lasted so long.” Having started in 1995, Spring Scream is the oldest continuing music festival in Asia.

Informality is the festival’s most striking aspect. Though organizers say about 6,000 people “attended” last year’s festival, local police estimate about 100,000 visitors came to Kenting that weekend for “related parties and other events.”

This year, the related events include Spring Wave, a competing music festival that boasts some top Taiwanese pop acts, and the Bikini Bubble Party, a “spring break” type event. Moe admits that in the past 10 years a lot of new festivals have sprung up in Taiwan, but Spring Scream remains the only one of its scale that has maintained its popularity “away from a major city.”

Also, because these other festivals attract international artists, they usually have to make some sort of accommodation with other festivals in the region. The Formoz Festival, for instance, usually shares artists with Japan’s Fuji Rock, still the biggest rock festival in Asia. Though Spring Scream occasionally snags a few foreign artists, it tries to keep its distance from the music industry.

“I would say that now we are closer to what we started as, compared to what we were a few years ago,” Moe told the Post. “We are certainly more professional in terms of the back end and management. We have much better stages. But the spirit is something we are really trying to keep the same.”