9 hours to musical nirvana

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A Woodstock-like musical marathon in Ho Chi Minh City last Sunday attracted thousands despite the scorching sun

Korean boy band Big Bang stormed in and out of Soundfest Vietnam to the delight of delirious fans in Ho Chi Minh City's Phu Tho Stadiumon April 15

Buying a can of Coke for VND6,000 could have got them a ticket for Soundfest Vietnam, a music festival held in Ho Chi Minh City's Phu Tho Stadium on April 15. But not many of the thousands who turned up, especially teenagers, seemed to have preferred to go into a lucky draw.

They were happy to shell out VND350,000-2.2 million to buy a ticket instead.

For the first time at an event in Vietnam, people did not have to crowd around the entrances trying to get in because they merely had to swipe their tickets at the automatic gates.

The fans started to stream in at 10 a.m. for the 2 p.m. concert.

It began with an introduction of the stars by a host, a pointless exercise since all the performers were marquee names.

Rocker Tran Lap and his band Buc Tuong (The Wall) were first up, playing some of their hits. They were followed by local artists like pop singers Phuong Vy, Van Mai Huong, and Thao Trang, rappers Tien Dat and Suboi, and rock bands Unlimited and Microwave. Apart from Buc Tuong, the rest are young and also known for their social and charitable activities.

Some of them also sang in English. Thao Trang and Thanh Bui, who shot to fame after taking part in Vietnam Idol and Australian Idol, had the audience humming.

Bui also sang a duet "Just the way you are" with Thai pop bombshell Tata Young.

Many in the audience thought the imported high-end speakers were a real boost for the concert.

Thousands of concertgoers attended Soundfest Vietnam 2012

Korean hysteria

The hysteria began in the evening, with members of V.I.P, the global fan club of Korean boy band Big Bang, going berserk.

Quynh Nga, a television reporter, said she was shocked by the younger generations' adulation for their "kimchee" idols.

"They make me feel like I am attending a solo show of Big Bang rather than a music festival, which also has other famous singers like Tata Young, Taio Cruz, and Kimberly Caldwell.

"Their shouting, crying and fainting were irrational. Are they weird or am I too old?"

Organizers expected over 30,000 people to come and see the local and foreign artists perform. Promoters also set up hospital tents and had ambulances standing by, and they came in handy.

Nearly 30 teenagers were brought in after they fainted or had convulsive fits, the organizers said, blaming it on the heat. But Vietweek suspects it was the sight of seeing the Koreans in flesh and blood.

The show was interrupted many times when security officials had difficulty in restraining fans from running past the security barriers and up to the stage.

After an unexpectedly brief, 30-minute performance by Big Bang, hundreds of fans rushed to the exit behind the stage as the boy band left for the airport, leaving security officials struggling to retrain them.

The day before the show members of the fan club thronged Tan Son Nhat Airport to give their idols a big welcome. However, the Koreans gave them the slip, with the organizers whisking them away through the VIP gate.

Nguyen Nam, deputy director and "general commander" of security agency International Security and Protection told Vietweek that fans had been overly exuberant this time, making their job very hard. Besides, they had gotten several different plans every day from the organizers.

"Fortunately, everything was under control, and there were no dangerous situations. We have learnt a lot since [Korean boy band] Super Junior performed in Vietnam two years ago," he said.

Newswire Zing News has revealed that Big Bang's half-hour performance at Soundfest cost the organizers US$250,000.

Rapper Suboi performs at Soundfest Vietnam 2012

Thai-American bombshell Tata Young, 31, said at a press conference April 12 that the popularity of Hallyu pop culture had a lesson for many countries with regard to cultural support and preservation.

"The language barrier can prevent your artists from developing their products or career.

"But the fact is that many people have tried to learn Korean to understand their favorite songs. So, just support your local artists, they really need it."

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