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In November, Two Music Festivals Set to Rock Southern Vietnam

The next two weekends will be huge for live music in southern Vietnam.

A diverse collection of bands is set to perform in the region thanks to two festivals with very different lineups, but similar goals.

This weekend, We're Loud Fest hits Saigon for the first time. Offering punk rock, hardcore, garage, postpunk, powerpop, thrash and trash, the festival is the brainchild of Peter Menchetti, who also owns an international record label called Slovenly Recordings.

First held in Athens, Greece in 2015, We're Loud Fest has taken place annually ever since, with other editions in Istanbul, Naples, Puerto Rico and Mexico. It starts on Thursday and goes until Sunday, with a lineup of 15 bands hailing from both Vietnam and around the world. Cut Lon and District 105 are two of the local highlights, while Australian band Total Control headlines the Saturday night show at Arcan in Binh Thanh District.

Other acts include The Tweezers and Stompin' Riff Raffs, both from Tokyo, The Monsters, hailing from Switzerland, and Canada's King Khan & BBQ Show.

"We try to bring underground music festivals to places where they don't usually have them," Menchetti said about the festival, which he curates. He has a personal connection to Vietnam, one that paved the way for this event.

"My father was drafted to come fight here but he was a conscientious objector," Menchetti shared. "I always wanted to bring my father to Vietnam on vacation, and finally managed to do that last year. I decided almost immediately to try and do a music festival here, and things really fell into place in surprising and amazing ways."

The international bands — none of which have played here before — are excited to play in Vietnam, though the organizer shared that filling out the domestic side of the lineup was harder. "The most difficult part was finding Vietnamese bands because there just aren't that many that fit the festival," Menchetti said. "But I'm really happy with the ones we did find."

While full festival passes are pricey by Vietnam standards, about VND1.8 million, some of the income from those sales is being used to subsidize the Saturday afternoon show at Arcan, which features six bands and costs just VND200,000.

"Hopefully a lot of Vietnamese kids come to that one," Menchetti says. "The idea is to turn people on to new music. I think people here would like bands like Total Control and King Khan & BBQ Show if they are exposed to them, so that's part of our mission."

For those who don't want to buy the full pass, tickets will be sold at the door for each performance, depending on space. Updated info will be posted on We're Loud Fest's Facebook page over the weekend.

Music on the Beach

The following weekend, the second Coracle Music Festival will take place in Ho Tram. The lineup is a diverse mix of genres, with headliners including the previously mentioned King Khan & BBQ Show, as well as Vietnamese powerhouse Ca Hoi Hoang, along with William McCarthy, Lydmor and The Lemonheads.

The latter two have played in Vietnam before, back when Cargo still existed in District 4. Other Saigon-based acts include psych rock outfit Skeleton Goode and rock duo The Kanonos, along with a drag performance from Gender Funk. 

Damian Kilroy, a stalwart of Saigon's live music scene and Coracle's lead organizer, is excited about the festival's new home, Huong Phong Resort. "It has bungalows, a swimming pool, water sports and more, so there is a lot more going on than last year," he said. "We have a pool party in the afternoon, kinetic art installations, outdoor screenings and grassy areas, and of course the beach."

While the international headliners are a major draw, Vietnamese bands like Ca Hoi Hoang and 7Uppercuts are just as important to Kilroy: "They really represent how quickly the local scene is developing here."  

Following a well-received first edition in 2018, if all goes well later this month, Kilroy and his team hope Coracle will be firmly established on the national music map. 

"We already have some amazing acts interested in playing next year, which is really exciting in terms of developing something special here," he said. "Our main objective is to improve every year, so there is something new and it becomes part of people's calendar."

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