Originally posted on www.asiansinamerica.org, written by Melissa Nolledo-Christoffels
Perhaps one of the most ambitious festivals of its kind, covering eight hours and showcasing eight Asian rock 'n' roll bands of significant colorations from all over the East Coast is the first Annual Asian Rock Fest slated for May 22, 2004 at New York City Manhattan's lower east side live venue and hyperspot Piano's. Helping celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month is the festival's prodigious musical line-up of both up-and-coming and firmly established acts which include: Eyes Like Knives, Carol Bui, Kite Operations, Strangeway, The Infirm Glory Of The Positive Hour, Johnny Hi-Fi, Bastion and Serious Weapon.
Founder and organizer of the Asian Rock Fest is Taiwan-born Eric Hsu of Queens, New York. Musically driven at the age of 14, Eric's vision is to launch this 2004 installment, then to have Asian Rock Fest presented on both the East and West Coast in 2005 and multi-day, multi-city showcases in 2006. His heady vision also includes invitations to major artists from Asia in 2007 and other prominent acts from all over the USA as the growth of the festival progresses. Teaming up with Eric is Coyote Music Artist Consultants and its owner Wiley Koepp. The festival's online portal www.AsianRockfest.com is already being touted as one of the most comprehensive online resources for listings on Asian musicians across all major musical genres.
Eric started performing with his own rock band 12 years ago and after more than a decade and 300 shows from coast to coast, he is still of the mindset that Asian musicians are underrated, unappreciated and unexposed. He has decided it's time to hasten the process and change a few attitudes pervading the music scene.
Eric's thinking: "We're not taken seriously outside of the classical genre. I got to meet and discover an underground phenomenon: more Asian rock bands are forming and doing it better than anybody else. It's an exciting time for Asians in the American entertainment industry. In the last few years, more and more Asians are rising as actors, writers, movie directors and producers. You can spot an Asian musician once in a while, but they are always anything but the main focus. After years of coming across phenomenal Asian-fronted acts, I decided to take matters into my own hands and bring some spotlights onto what's destined to become the next big thing."
His vision seems to have been compromised by a few post A.I (American Idol) happenings in the last few months. Says Eric, "Asia Rock Fest is a festival that is supposed to push Asian musicians into the spotlight, but now just seems like digging ourselves out of the William Hung tragedy."
Wiley Koepp says Coyote Music decided to jump on the bangwagon and help publicize the event because of its scope and unprecedented significance to the Asian music scene. "Asian Rock Fest is the first step in a much larger musical wave. It aims to take the next logical step by bringing together all of these performers and making one united musical statement. Musicians and music industry professionals should know about this event and take part. Who wouldn't want to say, 'Yeah, I was there when it all started?'"
Wiley Koepp and Eric Hsu have worked together on previous ventures and. Koepp is willing to invest in his old partner's vision. "A project of this size and potential historic magnitude requires planning, organization and a lot of hard work. Asian Rock Fest has all its bases covered so sponsoring an event this rock solid was not a tough decision to make."
Eric's motivation for organizing such an ambitious project also stems from his desire to help his fellow musicians. "My main goal is to help showcasing Asian musicians who stepped out of the stereotypical box of classical music, and into the world of rock music. I believe it is more than difficult to pick up an electric guitar and a distortion pedal when you have parents breathing down your neck about medical school and violin practices. I believe the people who took the leap deserve a chance to display their talents and be noticed for it."
For Coyote Music, it has always been about exposure and marketing. "We're bringing attention to up-and-coming bands and helping young artists fully develop their music careers. Our focus now is writing reviews of independent artists' albums, EPs and demos and critiquing bands' live shows, recordings and press kits so they can better identify their strengths and weaknesses and build upon them. Asian Rock Fest will expose more artists to Coyote Music, which can be a positive thing for everyone involved."
With the birth of an idea as grand and cathartic as the Asian Rock Fest, long hours of labor and significant birthing pains were to be expected. Eric encountered many challenges along the way. The venue was just the beginning: "Overcoming stereotypes is the biggest hurdle. When the concept of Asian Rock Fest was first born, most music venues did not even bother to respond with their refusal to host the event. They chose to completely ignore it. It took another Asian booking agent to see the potential and merit of this event and agree to put on the showcase."
Wiley's take: "Every major cultural movement in our country's history has faced its own set of obstacles. Prejudice and stereotyping certainly plays a large part--in venue booking agents' minds when fill their calendars, in bouncers' choices of who to let into a club, etc. Some nasty things happen to everybody in this business but after talking to a number of Asian performers it is clear that they must jump over hoops that others do not. Piano's nightclub in New York City happens to employee an Asian booking agent, who was one of the very few to respond to booking inquiries about this event. I can only hope that the success of Asian Rock Fest will open the eyes of those who are still culturally unconscious."
Contribution to the Community
In this age of American Idol and Kelly Clarkson wannabees, the Asian Rock Fest coordinator just wants to break stereotype, which he believes is what every ethnic group works hard to achieve. Intones Eric, "If in a minute way Asian Rock Fest can change the way some people think about Asian musicians, it would be the most success we can hope for. Our website also hopes to bring together the Asian musician communities across the country, to exchange ideas and comments; to inspire more Asians to get creative outside of the office cubicles; and this network of musicians may very well bring together like-minded souls who will take the American music industry by storm."
Asian Rock Fest is about making a musical statement. Says Wiley: "Asian musicians and the bands they're in are an indelible part of today's music scene."
Asian Rock Fest 2004
Saturday, May 22, 2004
6:00 pm to 2:00 am
Piano's, 158 Ludlow Street (at Stanton)
Lower East Side, New York, NY