Monthly Archives: May 2010

“With a Little Help from My Friends”

By Shawn Despres

On Saturday, May 29 Ilsan trio Apollo 18 will play their largest headlining gig to date at Sangsang Madang in Hongdae. The show will be filmed for a live DVD that will surface this coming fall or winter. The group plan to perform two hours worth of post-rock and post-hardcore cuts from their fantastic “Red,” “Blue,” and “Violet” trilogy of discs. To make the concert extra special, some pals will join them during the show to add some new textures to Apollo 18’s songs. Bomb&Tree’s Lee Seong Rock, Donawhale’s Yoon Sung Hoon, 13 Steps‘ Dokyo13, and No. 1 Korean’s Kwon Woo You and Mr. Ddooru are all scheduled to collaborate live with the group.

Apollo 18 will also have new merch for sale at Sangsang Madang including a t-shirt designed by Vassline bassist Bluce666 and mugs depicting all three of the characters from “Red,” “Blue,” and “Violet.” Saturday’s gig starts at 7:30 p.m. National Pigeon Unity will open the show and tickets are 25,000 won at the door. As far as I’m concerned, Apollo 18 are the best rock band in Seoul right now so this should definitely be a very cool night.

Apollo 18 and National Pigeon Unity will team up again in June for a seven-city South Korean tour. Check out our calendar for more information about the jaunt.

Here’s Apollo 18’s recently released music video for “Iridescent Clouds”

Galaxy Express Getting International Exposure

By Mark

Some fun news for one of the biggest bands in Hongdae, Galaxy Express — their new album Wild Days is getting launched at the big Music Matters conference (the biggest music industry event in Asia) in Hong Kong this week.

Galaxy’s international sales agent, DFSB Kollective, just issued a press release about the big Hong Kong shows. It says, in part:

According to DFSB Kollective President, Bernie Cho, “With the who’s who of music industry influencers from across the region and around the world attending Music Matters, we could not think of a more perfect time and place to launch the international premiere of Galaxy Express’s amazing new album.”

The recipient of Best Rock Album of the Year accolades at the 2009 Korean Music Awards, Galaxy Express will be showcasing the latest tracks from their sensational sophomore release, ‘Wild Days’. After producing, mixing, and recording the entire album in a blistering 30 days, the band will be performing for 3 straight nights at Music Matters Live (5/27 Hotel LKF, 5/28 Backstage, 5/29 Beer Bar).


The press release also says that Galaxy Express will have a North American tour this fall, so even if you are not in Korea or Music Matters, you could have the chance to see Galaxy Express soon.

Wild Days will also be available internationally on iTunes, beginning May 25. And, of course, there is always Youtube and Facebook and Soundcloud. Big congratulations to Galaxy Express.

Bane Ceremony

By Jon Dunbar

If you think bringing a band to Korea is hard work, try bringing two at once. With US hardcore bands Bane and Ceremony landing in Incheon Airport tonight, Korea’s hardcore promoter collective Open Your Eyes is prepared to go all-in on this round.

The two visiting bands will be playing in Daegu (Friday) and Seoul (Saturday), following dates in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Unfortunately Bane had serious issues with a promoter and got screwed out of a lot of money in Medan, Indonesia so getting as many people out to support is more important than ever.

This tour is 100% DIY paid for in full out of the pockets of Open Your Eyes and the people who were kind enough to donate to them. Everyone working at OYE puts their jobs and lives on hold for a few weeks when a show rolls through to try and make these as seamless and epic as possible. So please do your best to come out and support some genuinely honest hardcore from Bane, Ceremony, and numerous other unforgettable local acts.

For fans of hardcore, DIY music, and supporting the scene, this tour is a don’t-miss event.

Click here to RSVP and get up-to-date information.

Well Worth The Wait

By Shawn Despres

Formed in 2000, the awesome instrumental math-rock band Toe will  play their first concert in Seoul at Live Club Ssam (Ssamzie Space) in Hongdae on Saturday night. Unfortunately, if you don’t already have tickets you’re not going to be able to see them because the gig is completely sold out.


While it’s taken the Tokyo quartet a decade to get to South Korea to perform, fans will only have a short wait for their next visit. Although it has not been officially announced by promoter Nine Factory yet, according to guitarist Hirokazu Yamazaki Toe will return in late July for an appearance at the second Jisan Valley Rock Festival.

The band are currently touring in support of their sophomore full-length, “For Long Tomorrow.” Issued in Japan through their own Machupicchu Industrias in December, the album was released in South Korea in February by BGBG Records. The music company is responsible for organizing Toe’s Live Club Ssam appearance as well.

“I don’t know why it has taken us so long to come to Seoul,” says Yamazaki with a laugh. “We always think that we want to go and play overseas more. This time BGBG Records invited us to come. They release a South Korean edition of our new CD. It is a big honour for us that they chose work with us and our helping us to play in Seoul.”

BGBG label mates Achime will open for Toe on Saturday. The local indie rock quartet definitely earned the spot as one of their members is directly responsible for Toe signing with BGBG.

“Sunwook Kwon from Achime contacted us,” shares Yamazaki. “He works at BGBG. I liked his band and he sent me some other CDs that BGBG had put out. We talked for a long time with him about releasing ‘For Long Tomorrow’ and then decided that BGBG would be a good fit for us in South Korea.”

Filled with wonderfully complex arrangements, “For Long Tomorrow” is a fantastic listen and further solidifies Toe’s reputation as one of the finest math-rock bands in Asia. It can be purchased in Seoul at Sinchon’s Hyang Music and at Purple Record in Hongdae.

Toe will have a new live DVD out in July and a remix album out before the end of the year. There’s no word yet on whether either will be available in South Korea. The group are considering recording an EP in the late fall and want to do an Asian tour in October that will hopefully include another stop here.

“We are very surprised that our first concert in Seoul is already sold out,” Yamazaki says. “We were so glad to hear this. We want to come back for more shows soon if there are people who want to see us again.”

Here’s a live clip of Toe’s “I Dance Alone” from 2006’s “RGBDVD”

If you are interested in reading more about Toe, please check out my January Japan Times feature on the group here.


Summer Festival Preview

By Dain

[UPDATE: Jisan and Pentaport lineups updated]

With two multi-day music events happening over the two previous weekends (last weekend’s Seoul World DJ Festival and Beautiful Mint Life before that), it seems that the summer music festival season has already kicked off. I wanted to give a brief overview of what to expect over the coming six months, with what has been confirmed and also rumours on other events. With so many festivals ranging in size and focus, it will be a very busy few months in Korea.


What: Greenplugged
When: Friday, May 21- Saturday, 22, from noon to 10pm
Where: Noeul Park, inside World Cup Park in Mapo-gu (western Seoul)
Who: Over 100 acts, including YB, Crying Nut, Clazziquai, and Windy City
Details: 5 zones, on a pubic holiday, should be awesome. Tickets from the usual sites, 55,000 won for one day, 85,000 for both

What: Time to Rock Festival, 2 day Rock Festival
When: June 4-June 5
Where: Namji Camping Ground, Hangang Park
Who: YB, No Brain, Dr. Core 911, NEXT, Galaxy Express, Cherry Filter, Windy City and many more
Details: Expanded from one day last year to two days this year, and moved from Jamsil to Nanji Camp Ground (west of Hongdae, beside the Han River). Just 33,000 for a 2-day ticket if you buy ahead of time; otherwise, 33,000 won for 1-day and 44,000 won for 2-day at the door.

What: Pentaport Rock Festival
When: July 23-25
new location, Incheon Dream Park
Who: LCD Soundsystem, Hoobastank, Air Traffic, Gangsane, Kim Chang Wan Band, Daybreak, Hot Potato, Dir en Grey, Biuret, 10cm, Lee Han Cheol and Run Run Runaway, Kishidan, Jo Deok Hwan, Kap 10 Kurt, Kingston Rudieska, Pia. And more to be announced later.
Details: One day – 88,000 won. Two days – 132,000 won. Three days – 165,000 won. Tickets go on sale June 1. There is supposed to be an English-language (and Japanese) ticketing site opening soon.

What: Jisan Valley Rock Festival
When: July 30-August 1,
Where: Jisan Ski Resort, Icheon, Gyeonggi-do
Who: Friday: Belle & Sebastion, Vampire Weekend, Massive Attack, Martina Topley-Bird, Diane Birch, O&B, 3rd Line Butterfly, Seoul Electric Band, Broccoli You Too?, Vesper MJ, Yi Sung Yol, Guckkasten
Saturday: Pet Shop Boys, Makoto & MC Deeizm, Apollo 18, Soulscape, Smood, Mute Math, Art of Parties, Mate
Sunday: Muse, Third Eye Blind, Toe, Kula Shaker, The Hiatus, Risque Rhythm Machine, Corinne Bailey Rae, Galaxy Express, Achime, Moonshiners, Schizo, Sin, Taru, Jeju Sonyeo, Neons
Details: Now in their 2nd year, after last years successful launch, Jisan should be the biggest festival of the year in Korea. More details to come. Really handy Facebook page to keep people informed. Tickets from 99,000 won for one day to 176,000 won for all three. You can buy tickets in English here.

What: Busan International Rock Festival
When: August 6-8
Dadaepo Beach, Busan
Who: TBA
Details: TBA

Not confirmed but likely

Donducheon Rock Festival – Since 1999, Dongducheon has rocked out every summer with international and local acts, usually leaning toward the metal genre. Website is not working at the moment, though (perhaps being updated???).

ETP FEST – Usually mid-August. Last year changed from two days to one. Good crowd, despite the 196,000-won ticket price. Often brings over acts from Summer Sonic in Japan. With Seo Taiji performing, it always draws a big audience.

Global Gathering – The huge worldwide dance festival made it to Seoul last year after teasing us the year before. Was in September along the Han River, awesome line up. Website says information coming soon.

Spris Lets Rock Festival – Held in September for the past three years running. Last year moved from Olympic Park to the War Memorial Museum … please move back.

Ssamzzie Sound Festival – Held in October. Moved up to Munsan Park last year. Awesome line-up, for 10 years now and still going strong.

Grand Mint Festival – Last year went for two days in late October. A great mix of international and local performers, of predominantly mellow genres.

The Wild Card

Woodstock Korea – Hard to say, as there has been little word, and there are many fake line-ups circulating around. Scheduled to take place in the DMZ on Aug. 6-8, apparently with the original Woodstock organiser Artie Kornfeld running things. (Note from Mark: Woodstock’s Facebook page claims Keane will be playing, despite Keane having prior commitments in New York and Philadelphia that weekend. So take that for what it is worth).

And there are always other festivals, big and small, popping up, so keep checking the KGG and when we know, you will know.

Kicking the Music Biz in the Butt — The Man Behind Jisan Valley Rock Festival

By Mark

Steven Kim, the founder of the Jisan Valley Rock Festival, has lived in the middle of Korea’s live music scene since 1997. He attempted to launch the first summer music festival way back in 1999 with the Triport Rock Festival, but unfortunately a typhoon rained out the fun that year (well, I had fun anyway, but the rain did not help the concert). Seven years later, he tried again with Pentaport (same location, but two more ports, apparently), and once again he was met by torrential rains, but this time the festival survived.

Over the next couple of years, Pentaport flourished, but a conflict with his partners last year led Steven and his company Nine Factory to create the Jisan Valley Rock Festival instead. Despite being crazy-busy, Steven took the time to answer a few questions about Jisan Valley and the local music scene for the Gig Guide. Enjoy.

* * *

Mark: How has the Korean music scene changed the most since Triport?

Steven Kim: Yes, I think the music scene changed quite a lot after Triport and the late-90s, and changed further in the early and mid 2000s. I think the changes are now going on every year.

The biggest change in Korea is that the retail music market has downsized drastically. For example, [a few years ago] there were over 1,000 music record retails shops in Korea, but now there are only about 50 stores around the whole of Korea, waiting to be closed.

Younger Koreans are the most advanced users in getting and downloading digital music online. Although many do purchase those downloads, the overall market is not very significant.

The concert market has increased over the last 10 years, but it has been a very slow and gradual increase. However, the markets have become diversified, with many different genres of music and concerts, which is a good thing and it shows some potential for growth in the future.

Any increase in the market share of concerts is probably due to the growing number of female audiences and their ever-growing purchasing power. Whether it be rock or pop or pop idols or musicals, nowadays most of the tickets sold are snatched up by female fans, who represent about 80% of the market. Similar female dominance in the market share is happening throughout the entertainment industry, like for movies, art galleries and even some sports like baseball.


Continue reading Kicking the Music Biz in the Butt — The Man Behind Jisan Valley Rock Festival

Xiu Xiu: Apologies To The Follically Challenged

By Shawn Despres

After appearances at Austria’s Donaufestival (where they teamed up with Deerhoof to perform Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” in its entirety) and China’s Strawberry Festival, American art pop act Xiu Xiu are visiting South Korea for a trio of concerts in Busan, Daegu, and Seoul this week.


At every show on their current tour Xiu Xiu will be giving a special gift to the first attendee who brings them a lock of hair taped to a card with the person’s name scrawled on it. The present will fittingly include a Xiu Xiu comb and stickers. When the group finishes their current batch of dates in mid-June they plan to light each lock of hair on fire, say its owner’s name, and inhale the smoke. All of this will be filmed and released as a future video.

Xiu Xiu are gigging in supports of their seventh studio full-length effort, “Dear God, I Hate Myself.” Issued in February by renowned American indie imprint Kill Rock Stars, the album has received solid reviews from the likes of Pitchfork and Spin. Here’s the video for the lead track from “Dear God, I Hate Myself,” “Gray Death.”

Xiu Xiu live in South Korea:
May 6 Busan @ Basement with 10, Lhasa (10:30 p.m. start; tickets 20,000 won in advance and 24,000 won at the door)

May 7 Daegu @ Club Guess with 10, Sssighborggg (10:30 p.m. start; tickets 13,000 won in advance and 20,000 won at the door)

May 8 Seoul @ Rolling Hall with 10, Sssighborggg (10:30 p.m. start; tickets 35,000 won in advance and 40,000 won at the door)

For more information, visit