Monthly Archives: October 2008

Musical Notes II

Swedish singer Jens Lekman is coming to Seoul for a couple of gigs at the end of November. Nov. 29 and 30 at Freebird in Hongdae to be precise. Thanks to John for organizing that. If you do not know Lekman, you can read about him in the New York Times and Pitchfork Media.

After taking a bit of a break, it looks like Vidulgi Ooyoo has a big November planned, with at least four concerts.

  • Nov. 1 at 7:30 at Bowie
  • Nov. 1 at 10 at Freebird
  • Nov. 15 at 7:30 at Badabie
  • Nov. 21 at 7:30 at Bbang

Fabulous Pleasures has a link to some Stephen Malkmus stuff, including a Youtube of his concert in Korea a couple of years ago. Also features Stephen’s work with Crust Brothers, back in the 1990s (for you Malkmus completists).

Don’t forgot that the Battle of the Bands will be going on throughout November at Stompers in Itaewon. Some solid bands are lined up.

Finally, don’t forget that the end of the year is the biggest time of year for concerts in Korea, so we should have a pretty full line-up of events being announced soon. Crying Nut has a couple of shows (already on the calendar). Even Lee Hyori will have a big bash over in Jamsil. I will be announcing those events as I know more.

Requiem for a Skunk

As many of you know, Seoul’s main punk venue, Skunk Hell, recently shut its doors. Jon Dunbar, the very cool blogger and punk enthusiast (not to mention urban explorer), recently wrote an essay about the club and what its demise means to the local scene, an essay he graciously has allowed me to post here.

—-

ESCAPE FROM HELL
by Jon Dunbar

It’s unthinkable to those of us who’ve called Skunk a second home over these last four and a half years. Skunk Hell has been a symbol of punk in Korea since it opened in January 2004 in the old location of Drug. And now that it’s gone, the punk scene is without a home.

“I think it should have been closed earlier,” says Yoo Chulhwan, former manager of Skunk Hell and lead singer of Suck Stuff. “Running Skunk Hell wasn’t a profit-making business and there wasn’t much chance that it was going to make a profit, so I think it doesn’t make any sense running it losing money.”

“I feel free,” says Won Jonghee, owner of Skunk Hell and Skunk Label and lead singer of label flagship band Rux. “As time passed by, the pressure became harder and harder.”

Anyone who’s been to Skunk Hell recently has probably noticed the poor attendance rates. Sometimes there will be less than ten paying customers at a Saturday show. According to Chulhwan, Skunk Hell remained open thanks to support from friends. And though there’s no other club in Hongdae that gets the same amount of support, it wasn’t doing the job–it wasn’t bringing in more people, just delaying the inevitable. “I’ve never seen any other club getting as much support as Skunk Hell,” says Chulhwan. “It wasn’t enough compared to the amount of time we devoted.”

Now without Skunk Hell, where will we go for punk shows? Well, there’s always DGBD, for starters. And Spot. Oh yeah, and Minor League. And of course there are plenty of shows at SSAM, Sangsang Madang, and Freebird, to name a few. All within one district of Seoul.

“I really think there are too many clubs for bands in Hongdae,” says Chulhwan. “The scene is getting bigger,” explains Jonghee. “There’s more bands, but there are many more clubs right now, so the clubs have no bands. Some clubs have to close down and some clubs have to do other music. I can say Skunk Hell is the original punk club, but now there are more, so I don’t wanna fight them. Skunk won’t compete with other clubs ‘cause we just wanted the punk bands to be free to play.”

When Skunk Hell opened in January 2004, there were no other venues for punk bands to play (unless they wanted to spend a ton of money on hall rental). But now, there are too many clubs, and not enough bands—and not enough fans—to go around.

And, of course, both Jonghee and Chulhwan had to look at the scene as both promoters and musicians. “I wanted my label to be fun for me but after a while it was more pressure,” admits Jonghee. “One other reason I quit Skunk Label is for Rux.” And Rux, along with Chulhwan’s band Suck Stuff, recently signed onto Dope Records where they will be exposed to a larger audience beyond Skunk’s walls, with far less effort on their part.

“If the punk bands were soldiers, Skunk Hell was the bunker,” says Jonghee. “The bunker protected the soldiers. Now we don’t need a bunker. I’ve been a label owner and club owner for a long time. I want to go out and fight. To run the bunker, it’s very hard to be a soldier. The punk bands have been in the bunker for too long, so it’s time to go out and fight with all the trendy bands.”

Jonghee is also in school right now, studying filming so he can make music videos. “My musical goal?” says Chulhwan. “I never had one when I started a band, just enjoying the moment.” You can see a review of his latest album, “New Classic,” in Broke in Korea #7, available online.

“I think working for Skunk made me grow up,” says Chulhwan. “I learned a lot in the last three years working as Skunk Hell’s manager. I am now interested in starting a few businesses based on what I learned. I’m enjoying this situation because I’m the kind of guy who thinks I’m the happiest when I’m pursuing money.”

“For me, punk is not a business,” Jonghee says, “so we’re gonna go out and fight.”

Musical Notes

  • Okay, this has got to be the strangest party I have ever come across. Especially if it really is under the Sogang Bridge.

sogang-bridge-concert.jpg

  • New rule — if you have a Cyworld page and a Myspace page, I will only link your Myspace page. I mean, I hate Myspace, but at least it is marginally more useful than Cyworld. Cyworld is the worst interface ever. Shamefully user-unfriendly.
  • This show has some serious potential, too. Foundation Records is the home of EE and a bunch of odd and interesting bands, and it is putting on Visual Art Jam Performance at Kookmin University on Oct. 22.

foundation.jpg

  •  Don’t forget, Saturday is the album release party for Pink Elephant. Party is at Club FF, and plenty of good bands will be backing them up.

It is 1am and Apparently Someone Is Filming a Horror Movie or Thriller or Something Outside My Window Because an Actress Keeps Screaming Every Few Minutes

Wow, I cannot believe we are nearly halfway through October already. And I have not written anything on this blog since Sept. 30.I suppose I should say something, to keep things fresh around here…

So far, October has been a bit of an odd month for live music in Korea. I cannot recall ever seeing so many music festivals before, certainly not at this time of year. Usually, that seems like more of a summer thing. And there were plenty of big music festivals in Korea last summer (the most ever, that I can recall).

I think the large number of festivals in October has contributed to a slower month than usual over in Hongdae. Look at this coming weekend — 57 bands playing at the Grand Mint Festival (including Yo La Tengo!), down in Olympic Park. And there was the annual Ssamzie Sound Festival, the Let’s Rock Festival, and others.

Note: I am not saying this is a bad thing, just a different thing.

Anyhow, as usual, if you hear about any interesting shows coming that are not on the concert calendar, please write in and tell me to add them. I always appreciate the feedback… plus, there are too many bands for me to follow by myself and it is good to know what you think is interesting and worth seeing.