Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock landed in South Korea to perform at the Peace Train Music Festival right below the border of North Korea in the heavily militarized demilitarized zone (DMZ) in late June. “I wanted to help them to build a bridge and I wanted to meet up with some cool Koreans,” he says. “I wanted to show my solidarity with them and see how the other half lives.”
Matlock took a train from Seoul up to the DMZ with many other artists from the show. The “peace train” took acts only meters from the DMZ. “It’s one of the most untouched places in the world,” he told Rolling Stone. “Right on the border there’s a bird sanctuary where this species of crane migrates to. The vibe of everything was really quite positive.”
This is the first festival of its kind, with Glastonbury Festival promoter Martin Elbourne helping to organize it with the purpose of promoting messages of peace on the Korean peninsula. Elbourne was inspired by the thawing relations between North and South Korea, and a trip he took to the DMZ last year.“I was, frankly, getting bored on this coach tour. Then we got to the railway station and I thought ‘this would make a great festival site,” he said.
Matlock arrived to the concert with these optimistic goals of reunification in mind, but learned the Koreans themselves did not feel the same way. “It seemed like that unification is the last thing most people there want,” he said. “They don’t want to take the North Korean standard of living up to their own, which is quite high. They just want to get on with their neighbors and they don’t want nuclear bombs falling on them.”
34 different artists from seven different countries/performed across three different venues over the weekend, with Matlock being the most famous Western performer on a set list that also included Korean acts like Say Sue Me, Seunghwan Lee and Sanae Kang alongside groups from Scotland (Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5), France (Joyce Jonathan) and Japan (Mitsume).
The artists performed outside the military controlled area on the main, free festival stages for an audience that was chosen by lottery.
Matlock played a set mixing in Sex Pistols songs like “Pretty Vacant” and “Anarchy In The U.K.” The festival was also an opportunity for Matlock to see performances he’d normally never experience in person. “At one point a dance crew went on and I thought I wouldn’t really like it,” he says, “but it was very moving.”
For further information, watch the BBC video about the Peace Train Music Festival below.