Monthly Archives: January 2011

No. 1 Korean Album Release Concert

By Dain

Whew, it’s a big week for music lovers, with so many Korean musicians uniting for the Lee Jinwon tribute Thursday, and the last Club Day today. But there are also a host of other gigs going on this weekend, including an album release party on Saturday for the popular ska band No. 1 Korean.

The band wrote and recorded this album in late 2010, a year in which they also graced such stages as the Pentaport Rock Festival, Time to Rock Festival, and Green Plugged. Indeed, in 2010 No. 1 Korean showed that they could convert their energy and charisma onto some of Korea’s larger stages, and managed to win over many new fans in the process.

The No. 1 Korean team wrote the songs for their new third album, 외롭지 말아요 (“Oerobji Malayo,” or “Don’t Be Lonely”), over the last two years, shooting for a general concept of “what things can we get from a natural life”. They recorded it at Studio 801 from October to December. For the first time they recorded the songs altogether in one room, trying to capture their live energy in the studio.

To help launch the new album, they have even made a new music video for their song “Korean Alphabet”, featuring Lee Seok-yul from Kingston Rudieska and rapper Koonta. The video was shot around Seoul with the help of friends and new production company Dada Productions. Having previously worked on a video for the solo album by the lead singer of Kwon Milk, the team put together a video that captures the charm and enthusiasm that this six-piece band possesses.

For their new album showcase, they will be joined by several special guests, including No Brain, Sugar Donut, Koonta, Lee Seuk-yul (from Kingston Rudieska), and Poppin Han Jun.

Tickets are 20,000 won in advance, and 25,000 at the door. The show starts at 7pm at Sangsang Madang, so go check out the band, who are always working hard to live up to their name.

Annyeong, Club Day

By Mark

If you have the time to check out Club Day this Friday in Hongdae, you might want to go — because it looks like this is going to be the last Club Day. At least for a while.

Yes, after nearly 10 years and 117 editions, Club Day — the last Friday of the month, when you can get into a whole pile of Hongdae clubs for just 20,000 won — is no more. Citing increased competition from Itaewon, Gangnam, and other areas*, the clubs behind the monthly party have decided that Club Day has outlived its usefulness and will begin looking for some other ways to promote the area.

Over the years, Club Day has helped define Hongdae and develop its identity. It has also come under periodic criticism, for being noisy, dirty, corrupting the morals of youth, and generally being fun. Certainly some of the criticism has been warranted, but overall, Club Day helped the area a lot more than it hurt.

Heck, I can still remember when the Hongdae police would make periodic sweeps, shutting down oodles of joints for violating antiquated cabaret laws, or rounding up dozens of kids on drug-related witch hunts. There was always a push-pull between the energy and inspiration that made Hongdae different and creative, and the wet blankets who hate anything and everything different and creative. Club Day and the club owner association helped to give Hongdae a kind of form and formality, the sort of thing you need to get respect from the authorities in Korea.

Maybe Club Day will become something else. Maybe it will continue, but not be called Club Day anymore. But for now, this Friday night is it. **

*Call me crazy, but I would think increasing competition would also increase the need for something like Club Day, to help the neighborhood stand out more. But what do I know?

** Of course, Thursday night is the tribute to Lee Jinwon, which is taking some of the energy out of the last Club Day. But the Lee Jinwon Tribute is a pretty cool night, too, and well worth checking out.

26 Hongdae Clubs Unite to Remember Lee Jinwon

By Mark

This Thursday, Hongdae is uniting like I have never seen before, to remember the singer Lee Jinwon. Lee was a retired baseball player who formed the band Moonlight Nymph (known in Korean as 달빛요정역전만루홈런, or “Dalbityojeongyeokjeonmanruhomreon”). He passed away in November after suffering a heart attack. I never met the man, so I cannot claim any special connection to him, but I am nevertheless impressed to see such a show of support from so many people. People who knew him tell me he was a joyful guy and was much loved.

Twenty-six clubs are participating, along with more than 100 indie acts, beginning at 7pm. 10,000 won gets you entry into all the venues and a CD of Lee’s music. There are way too many shows going on to describe them all (you can see them listed on the calendar, of course), but a few highlights:
– Chang Kiha and Faces at V-Hall
– Jambinai and Apollo 18 at Spot
– Hwang Boryung and Bamseom Pirates at Ssamzie
– Lee’s old band, Moonlight Nymph, playing at Bbang

As you may recall, the Hankyoreh used the tragedy of Lee’s passing to address the issue of indie music and copyrights in Korea in a very interesting article. However, the article never address Lee Jinwon the man, and how much he was loved by so many people. If I can find something good, I will try to link to it, or maybe translate a bit.

Click on the following map to embiggen and see all the venues that will be participating (sorry it is a little small, but this is the biggest version I could find).

Random Notes

By Mark

Just a few random notes about a few Korean music things:

– Moonglow, my favorite jazz bar in Korea, looks like it will be closing in February. But not without a fight. Fans of the bar have started a “Moonglow Lovers” club, to try to raise the funds needed to keep the bar going.

Moonglow is most notable for its owner, Shin Kwan-woong, 65, who has been playing for around 50 years, and was one of the early pioneers of jazz in Korea. On Thursdays, Moonglow would feature an amazing line-up of Korean jazz greats in their 60s and 70s, kind of like Buena Vista Social Club.

Moonglow is in Hongdae, close to Hapjeong Station. It is not on the KGG map, sadly, but is located just behind the Bobo Hotel, by Gallery King.

– If you are a fan of Korean music but cannot get to Korea, there is some good news for you — Galaxy Express, Vidulgi Ooyoo and Idiotape are going on a small tour of North America in March. Organizer DFSB Kollective is calling the tour Seoulsonic, and it will be going to Canadian Music Week in Toronto (March 9-12), SXSW in Austin (March 16-20), New York, and Los Angeles. Exact dates and other info all to be announced. Apollo 18 will also be at SXSW.

To kick things off, though, there will be a Seoulsonic concert and events at the Welcomm Theater in Jongno on Jan. 20-21. On Thursday will be a free photo exhibit (3-8pm) and screening of the indie rockumentary TURN IT UP TO 11 (5pm). On Friday will be a concert featuring Galaxy Express, Vidulgi Ooyoo, Idiotape and Apollo 18, along with the Korean-American Big Phony opening. Show starts at 7:40pm and costs 20,000 in advance (25,000 at the door).

– With the new subway station opening in Hongdae (the Airport Line), the exit numbers of Hongdae station are being changed. The old exit No. 5 (by the KFC, the closest to Hongik University) is now exit No. 9.
(Btw, pictures of the new station here and here).

KGG 2010 Album Faves

By Mark

Since we listed our top concerts of 2010, I thought it might be interesting to also talk about our favorite Korean albums of the year. Personally, I thought 2010 was a really strong year for Korean albums, maybe one of the best ever. In fact, I would say that Korean groups are generally better in the studio than they are live these days. Which is strange, because when I first got into the scene, back in the 1990s, it was definitely the opposite.

That said, the live scene is also really strong these days. Hopefully these lists will inspire people to check out some new and different bands. There is plenty of great stuff worth exploring.

Shawn Despres
Apollo 18 – Red (expanded reissue)
Kwon Woo Yoo – The Greatest Voyage
Sunkyeol – EP
Glittering Blackness, Fall – Untitled EP
Ninaian – For a Little Cruise
(I should point out that, unlike me, Shawn thinks that most Korean acts are better live than on disc).

Art of Parties – Ophelia
I & I Djangdan – Guidance
Galaxy Express – Wild Days
Verandah Project – Day Off
Phonebooth – By Me for Me of Me

Mark Russell
1. DJ Soulscape – More Sound of Seoul – Actually released in late 2009, but I don’t care. This was such a great release, featuring a treasure trove of hard-to-find tunes from the 1970s, that it gets my top pick for the year.
After that, my other choices are in no particular order:
Apollo 18 – Red
Apollo 18 – Violet
Glittering Blackness, Fall – EP
Jambinai – EP
Lee Sang-eun – We Are Made of Stardust
Lowdown 30 – Another Side of Jaira EP
Oriental Lucy – Midnight Hotel
Sunkyeol – EP
Swimmingdoll – 8winningdoll
For a more complete discussion of my picks, you can check out my post over at the Korean Content blog.

Weiv is the probably the best Korean website for indie and alternative music. Each year, they poll their writers and come up with a list of their favorite Korean albums. Here is this year’s list:
1. 9 and the Numbers – Vol. 1 (78 votes)
2. Garion – Garion 2 (41 votes)
3. TV Yellow – Strange Ear (38 votes)
4. Achime – Hunch (36 votes)
5. Siwa – Siwa Vol. 1, Soyo (29 votes)
5. Broccoli You Too – Joleob (Graduation) (29 votes)
7. Epitone Project – Yusilmun Bogwanso (Lost and Found) (26 votes)
8. Hwang Boryung (SmackSoft) – Mana Wind (17 votes)
9. Deez – Get Real (16 votes)
10. Frenzy – Nein Songs (15 votes)
10. Autumn Vacation – Autumn Vacation Vol. 1 (15 votes)

(Weiv’s top international albums were Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Janelle Monae’s The ArchAndroid).

UPDATE: Scatterbrain
Kim Jongyoun is the founder of Scatterbrain, another very popular indie music site (he’s also a contributor to Weiv). Despite being crazy busy, he was nice enough to send in a list of his top choices for 2010, along with some very interesting comments about each album. Thanks!

1. 9 and the Numbers – 9 and the Numbers (9와 숫자들 – 9와 숫자들): One of the things that I was disappointed in music of 2010 was that there were not many melodies stuck in my head. But this album has many great choruses throughout the album.
2. Autumn Vacation – Autumn Vacation (가을방학 – 가을방학): Gyepi(vocal, former vocal of Broccoli, You too) sucked the soul out of Broccoli, You too and put it in the debut album of her new band.
3. Supersession – Supersession (슈퍼세션 – 슈퍼세션): The title of the album tells it all.
4. Bamseom Pirates – Seoul Bulbada (밤섬해적단 – 서울불바다): They are the funniest band in entire Korean history by far. Their sense of satire is amazing. Although you should understand both their lyrics and the politics of South Korea to enjoy their sense of humor. The album recorded poorly but you should check their fantastic gig.
5. Thorn Apple – I started to stutter and forgot how to sleep (쏜 애플 – 나는 자꾸 말을 더듬고 잠드는 법도 잊었네): Very energetic.
6. Broccoli, You too – Graduation (브로콜리너마저 – 졸업): Strangely, this album is disappointing and not so disappointing at the same time.
7. Kim Jang Hoon – Letter to Kim Hyun Sik (김장훈 – Letter to 김현식): Sincere and moving tribute album.
8. 2ne1 – To Anyone: K-pop acts are not really interested in releasing album these days. They are more into releasing ‘mini album’ which is a mutant between EP and Single. This album is one of few album that any of K-pop act released in 2010, and proved they are strong enough to make an album.
9. Achime – Hunch (아침 – Hunch): They’ve got some indicators of brighter future on this debut album.
10. Epitone Project – Yousilmool Bogwanso (에피톤 프로젝트 – 유실물 보관소): Epitone Project are good at making Korean-style mellow melodies which can be extremely boring when used poorly but quite enjoyable when used well. This album is the latter.

KGG Staff 2010 Live Faves

By Shawn Despres

We at Korea Gig Guide are obviously big fans of live music and do our best to get out to as many shows as we possibly can.  Although we all saw many great performances over the last year, we’ve each compiled lists of the ones that stood out the most.  Here are our favourite concerts from 2010.  If anyone is interested, our 2009 picks are here.

Happy gigging in 2011!

Mark Russell
1. Japandroids @ Primavera Sound (Barcelona, Spain) on May 28
By far the most fun show I saw all year.
2. Caribou @ V-Hall on July 9
3. Mineri @ Cafe Bbang on July 16
4. LCD Soundsystem @ Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival on July 24
5. Martina Topley-Bird @ Jisan Valley Rock Festival on July 31
6. 3rd Line Butterfly @ V-Hall on July 9
7. Belle & Sebastian @ Jisan Valley Rock Festival on July 31
8. OK Go @ Merce Festival (Barcelona, Spain) on Sept. 24
9. Vamps @ Sala Apolo (Barcelona, Spian) on Oct. 12
10. Pixies @ Primavera Sound (Barcelona, Spain) on May 28
Actually, not so good, but for someone in my age group, I was happy I finally saw them live.

Dishonorable Mention:
The King Khan & BBQ Show @ Rolling Hall on June 19
Sure it was canceled, but how often do you get to be around for a band breaking up? Quality drama, and it did not cost a thing (except for Super Color Super, the poor promoter).

Shawn Despres
1. Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO @ Rusty Spurs (SXSW, Texas, USA) on March 17
2. Matt & Kim @ White Stage (Fuji Rock Festival, Japan) on August 1
3. Caribou @ V-Hall on July 9
4. →Pia-no-jaC←, 8otto @ Sangsang Madang on December 4
5. Apollo 18 & friends (members of National Pigeon Unity, Donawhale, and Slow Fuzz) @ Live Club Ssam (Ssamzie Space) on December 31
6. Vampilla @ The Toff in Town (Melbourne, Australia) on January 3
7. The Flaming Lips @ AX-Korea on November 20
8. Ego-Wrappin’ and The Gossip of Jaxx @ Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival on July 25
9. Galaxy Express @ Green Plugged Festival on May 21
10. (Tie between two concerts) Toe @ Live Club Ssam (Ssamzie Space) on May 22
Vidulgi Ooyoo, Jambinai @ Live Club Ssam (Ssamzie Space) on November 27

Jon Dunbar
1. “2007 Punk Rock Flashback (Jesse’s Welcome Back Show)”: SkaSucks, Suck Stuff, Attacking Forces, The Geeks, Shorty Cat, … Whatever That Means @ Club Spot on December 11
2. Return Bois, Brothers of the Hole, 100 Blossom Club, Paryumchiakdan, Captain Bootbois @ Hair Flower (formerly Skunk Hell) on December 18
3. I&I Djangdan, Kingston Rudieska, plus others @ Bibim Festival in Jeonju on May 21
4. Bane, Ceremony, Shellback, Banran, No Excuse, Things We Say, Geeks @ DGBD on May 22
5. “Stay Posi Festival”: Chadburger, …Whatever That Means, Banran, Vicious Nerds, 13 steps, Chokeslammer/Veteran, Things We Say, FC Five @ DGBD on April 25
6. SkaSucks, 99Anger, … Whatever That Means, No.1 Korean, Kickscotch, Attacking Forces, Black Leather Lagoon @ Club Spot on October 30
7. All the Purge Movemement shows @ Hongdae Playground
8. 51+ Party @ Dooriban on May 1
9. Bamseom Pirates, Vicious Nerds, Banran @ Dooriban on December 4
10. Chadburger, Shellback, Banran @ Queen Practice Studio on March 13

Dain Leathem

1. Green Day @ Olympic Gymnasium on January 18
Electric atmosphere, over two-and-a-half hour set, a tight band, a charismatic front man, and great songs – this is what all rock ‘n’ roll shows should be like.
2. Muse @ Jisan Valley Rock Festival on August 1
3. Galaxy Express @ Ssangsang Madang on October 10
4. Serengeti @ Rolling Hall on September 4
5. Crying Nut @ Green Plugged Festival on May 22
6. “Crazy for Crash”: Crash, Art of Parties, Apollo 18, Pia @ Jisan Valley Rock Festival on July 31
7. No Brain, YB, Kim Chang Wan Band @ Time to Rock Festival on June 4 – 5
8. Cocore @ Soundholic on April 25
9. Windy City @ Time to Rock on June 5
10. Kingston Rudieska, Re-Ska @ DGDB on December 24