I followed the first season of KBS ‘band survival’ show Top Band with great pleasure. Initially I wasn’t too keen on all the school bands joining as I’d rather see ‘real’ bands and thought it strange that Gate Flowers was accepted in an amateur band competition considering that they’d won Rookie of the Year at the KMA earlier that year, but all in all I enjoyed the format getting to know some really good new bands while also seeing some bands I already liked getting good exposure.
KBS opened up for video auditions to the second season of Top Band in February and as it closed a month later there were 665 applicants total, including Led Zeppelin. At first it looked like I had expected. There were the bands that entered but didn’t make it all the way to the tournament part of the show the first season. There were the bands that I was somewhat familiar with. There were the bands that I had never even heard of before. Then there were all of these well established bands that already have seen more success than any of the participants in the first season have managed since.
While I’m glad to finally see Frida Kahlo make another comeback, I’d rather it be done in a way more suitable to their status. Monni vocalist Kim Sini was one of the expert judges during the Top Band auditions last year, but obviously that didn’t stop his band from thinking they were better suited to compete on the show. And Transfixion–that’s about as big as an indie band can get in Korea so why they’re auditioning rather than acting as mentors on the show is beyond me. But perhaps that’s also the problem. If you’re not on a popular TV show most people will never even know your band exists, however big you’re considered among your peers in Hongdae.
Top Band is no doubt an excellent chance to promote your band to a new audience. Although I suspect it opens up for plenty of embarrassment for the more established bands should any of them be eliminated in favor of a rookie band. Browsing through the audition videos I could spot a few bands that are probably embarrassed already not to have made it further, considering what they’ve achieved until now.
To me the biggest disappointment with Top Band 2 is to not be able to get to know as many new bands as I had hoped. As the list of bands that made it to the next round of auditions was revealed I found that I was already familiar with the majority of the bands. Some I even considered myself a fan of when I first got into Korean indie music a decade ago.
Likely the format has changed since the first season, with viewers of the audition videos able to affect the outcome of the auditions instead of just having live performances in front of a panel of judges. The show itself is said to have more of a rock festival format, again with the audience being able to influence who makes it and who doesn’t. Regardless it is clear that this is no longer an amateur band survival show and I’m very curious as to how the producers will be able to make this a fair competition between the bands that have just started out and those that have been around for about as long as there has been a scene for indie bands in Korea.
Hoping that the increased interest for bands in Korea will eventually lead to a new show to bridge the gap between the first season of Top Band and I Am A Singer, now I’m waiting with excitement to see what the second season of Top Band will bring.