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Music festival springs into life

FANS braved rain and cool temperatures yesterday to stream into Taiwan's southernmost spot for the island's longest-running music festival.

"Spring Scream" has morphed into an annual celebration of pop culture and laid-back living since it began 14 years ago - an unusual counterpoint to the normally staid and reserved style that characterizes the Chinese-speaking world.

The three-day festival's official opening kicked off with laughing groups of twentysomethings dressed in floral print beach pants and flip-flops congregating in the coastal resort of Kenting. Dance music streamed from cars whooshing through the town's main street.

The festival is still run by its American founders, Seattle natives Jimi Moe and Wade Davis. Moe said the first festival in 1995 featured a handful of bands who liked to go to Kenting "for a weekend of beach, sun and music," and drew only 200 to 300 people.

By contrast, this year's event boosts 200 acts, including local pop divas A-mei and Joanna Wang, and should pull in crowds of close to 10,000.

Spring Scream has been dogged by substance-abuse issues, as its success has spawned raves that attract drug users.

But Moe said the drug problems are confined to the festival fringes and have nothing to do with its original spirit.

"We never had a drug or crime problem," he said. The drug-users "are harming our reputation."


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