If you didn’t know, now you know – Koreans can party. This past weekend, Seoul threw big bash 5tardium (pronounced Stardium) to celebrate the kick off to another fun-filled summer. Thousands of music enthusiasts showed up in the sweltering Korean heat to the 2-day festival. Five stages formed a pentagon that encircled the attendees, creating a truly immersive 360 experience.
As I crossed the main bridge to get to the venue, I felt a familiar sense of excitement washing over me as the bass trembled from the ground to my ears. The five points of the stages peeked out over the hill as they overlooked the Hangang River. Once inside, a massive crowd caught my attention. Among the vendor tents, one was clearly the most popular. Tattist, a collective of tattoo artists, was offering free temporary tattoos with just a follow on their Instagram. Of course, I had to get my favorite sadboi on my arm in anticipation of his closing set that night.
I decided to explore the rest of the festival before heading into the pentagon. I knew once I was in the crowd, nothing would be able to pull me away. With Retrovision, Pegboard Nerds, and SASASAS playing their insane sets in the background, I wandered the grounds. 5tardium was sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, and they definitely spared no expense. There were a plethora of photo opportunities provided, like a giant confetti-filled ball and slides into a ball pit. Monster Energy also showed up to the party, offering their Monster spiked drinks and free t-shirts for those who showed off their upper body strength on their pull up bar. The food truck area was a cozy corner with string lights weaving from vendor to vendor. The options were endless, from Jamaican jerk chicken to loaded fries to salmon burgers.
The sounds of Tritonal drew me into the pentagon at last, and the duo did not disappoint. The crowd was high energy from start to finish, as they soaked in the sun and music. A hard set to follow, but Markus Schultz was more than capable of stepping up to the challenge. Schultz’s signature style of trance had me immersed in a trance of my own — I didn’t realize the sun had gone down until the set ended.
Before the final set of the night, 5tardium set the sky ablaze with fireworks, further amping up the anticipation. I had made my way up to the rail by this point, and looking behind me, I saw an endless sea of people who had all gathered for Illenium. The opening notes drifted into the crowd, his classic throwback songs intertwining into a beautiful melody as it slowly built up to raging Excision collab. As the first drop of “Gold” approached, the excitement soared and everyone absolutely lost it. For the next hour and a half, I alternated between head banging whiplash and swaying in my feels. 5tardium ended in more fireworks that left me in awe (the Fourth of July could never), ending the first day with glittering rain.
The following day, I was ready to get down and dirty with Sullivan King and Zomboy. I was especially eager to catch artists I haven’t had the opportunity to see before, like i_o and Said The Sky. Sullivan King rocked his set and was met with deafening cheers whenever he jammed out on his guitar. Said The Sky made my dreams come true by playing his newly released “Potions” and bringing out Illenium. Darren Styles kept the crowd bouncing with his energetic, albeit repetitive, drops.
When R3HAB took the main stage, the party was in full force and he knew exactly how to keep it going. His worldwide hits had everyone’s hands in the air, with his fans going wild after every beat he dropped. He peppered his set with snippets of Korean, thanking the crowd and reveling in the intensity they brought.
Once Zomboy came on to close out the night, the mood shifted to something more wonky. It seemed as if all the headbangers in Korea came together to get rowdy with Zomboy and his wubs. This set was just what I needed, providing the precise dosage of dubstep to complete me. The crowd brought an entirely new meaning to “rage”, and I was pleasantly surprised at how hard everyone went from the first drop to the very last second.
Those magical fireworks lit up the sky for a final time as giant glowing inflatable balls bounced around the pentagon. The feeling of pure happiness I felt in that moment is so vivid – as shining faces smiled upwards, I could see expressions of joy everywhere. Fireworks burst as “Rush Over Me” played, the song perfectly encapsulating the love in the atmosphere. Even after the celebrations ended, many lingered, unwilling to part with the incredible weekend.
My first 5tardium experience is one I’ll never forget. It’s interesting to see how different festivals in Korea are compared to those in the US. The culture of this country shines through in every little factor. Staff members stood at trash stations to ensure everything was being disposed of properly and following the recycling laws. Instead of porta potties, there were bathroom stations set alongside the edges of the festival with toilets that required less water to flush. Even after the festival ended, 5tardium posted lost and found items available for pickup (with proof of ownership), even including items such as lipstick.
I feel lucky to have attended such an amazing event in my home country, surrounded by those who all came together to celebrate our shared love of music. I learned a very important lesson of how hard Koreans can go and can’t wait for more experiences like this. Thank you 5tardium for an unforgettable weekend, and I’ll see you next year!
All photos by Sohee Yu.