【Taipei Times】Fire! Fire!

Taiwan’s top absurdist rockers LTK Commune celebrate their 20th anniversary with a concert that relives some of the notorious skits and stunts that cemented their place as underground rock legends.

by David Chen/ Staff Reporter

Loh Tsui Kweh Commune (濁水溪公社), also known as LTK, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an outdoor concert in Taipei tomorrow evening.

The pioneering underground rock band,which performs at the Sanjiaodu Ferry Port(三腳渡擺渡口) near Jiantan MRT Station (劍潭捷運站) in Taipei County, is carrying out tomorrow’s festivities with a literal bang.

Expect plenty of fireworks, as well as otherhallmarks that have made LTK’s live shows the stuff of notorious legend: zany costumes, twisted versions of traditional temple ceremonies,smashing and burning guitars or whatever spare furniture is around, and a sing-a-long about masturbation with a giant inflatable penis as a stage prop (a first for the band).

“Oh yes, it’s a big production,” said bandleader and founder Ko Ren-chien (柯仁堅),who says he’s been working on the concert’s logistics for the past two months. “It will be very lively, like participating in a temple fair or a carnival, that kind of feeling.”

LTK has just released a new album, but Ko says the idea behind the anniversary concert(which was actually planned for last year, LTK’s true 20th anniversary — the band formed in 1989) is also to give newer fans a taste of “our classic performances from the past.”

The band polled long-time fans on its blog,asking them about to write about their favorite past performances, many of which will be reenacted tomorrow.

Some of LTK’s most storied shows took place at the annual indie music festival Spring Scream. The band often put on elaborate skits that ended in chaos. One year, bandmembers sprayed fire extinguishers at each other and into the audience. Another year, they almost burned down the stage after lighting a pile of smashed guitars on fire.

At another Spring Scream, LTK’s show lasted only five minutes. As soon as they stepped on stage, the audience started throwing bottles,empty lunchboxes and other bits of trash at the bandmembers. Things got so out of control,organizers had to cancel their set.

In many ways, LTK is Taiwan’s first true punk band, and their music today — a mixture of punk,British new wave and working-class karaoke pop mixed with lyrics that serve as a biting, absurdist commentary on politics and society — remains unique in Taiwan’s indie scene.

The band was among the first to embrace taike (台客), which used to be a derogatory term referring to “uncultured” Taiwanese. Its classic album, Taik’s Eye for an Eye (台客的復仇, literally“Revenge of the Taike”) melded nakashi melodies and punk with Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) lyrics. The record came out in 1999,well before taike became hip.

Ko, now 40, says it’s “unbelievable” that LTK has lasted as long as it has.“How could we have done this for so long?” he laughed.

“The last thing I would have thought when we started was that this group would last 20 years.

Because at that time, Taiwan had just lifted martial law, in 1989.”

Back then, Ko was a student at National Taiwan University, and along with classmate and LTK co-founder Tsai Hai-en (蔡海恩), he took part in student-led democracy protests. The pair often came up with skits and created props for protests, which paved the way for LTK’s theatrical tendencies.

LTK’s recent work has a bit more polish —their last album Sapphire is more straightforward rock and pop, while their latest, Loh Tsui Kweh Commune 20 Years Project, is all electronica music — but their subversive spirit and desire to“shock” remains the same, says Ko.

“The things we want to say, the ideas we want to express, that hasn’t changed at all,” he said.

Ko says tomorrow’s show, which will last almost three hours, is also a chance for fans“to blow off some steam” after frustration with recent events. The band is planning a spoof on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).

And for the record, Ko, who happens to spend his days as a mild-mannered employee at the National Tax Administration, offered an updated inventory of items destroyed during LTK concerts over the past 20 years: 30 guitars, 12 chairs, five basses, three televisions, five tables, two bicycles,two hospital beds and two mannequins.

Expect those numbers to go up tomorrow.

Performance notes
What: LTK Commune’s 20th Anniversary Concert
Where: Sanjiaodu Ferry Port(三腳渡擺渡口), near Jiantan MRT Station (劍潭捷運站) in Taipei County. For a map,visit The Wall’s (這牆) Web site:http://www.indievox.com/a/thewall/event-post/5530
When: Tomorrow at 7pm
On the Net: http://ltkcommune.blogspot.com
Admission: NT$900 at the door, NT$700 in advance. Advance tickets available only through 7-Eleven ibon kiosks

Bring your helmet and safety glasses. Photo courtesy of LTK Commune