Monthly Archives: June 2011

B-Boy Bash at This Year’s R16


By Mark

We probably don’t talk enough about Korea’s hiphop and b-boy scene at the Gig Guide, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like their stuff. In fact, the incredible, grassroots way that scene built itself up over the years is a great example to everyone who complains that the indie scene does not get enough support. I can remember when the dance scene consisted of young kids hanging out in parks, trying out moves that were more like a P.Diddy backdance team than real breaking. But today, as I’m sure you know, Korean dancers are among the best anywhere.

The R16 Korea is one of the top b-boy competitions in the world, and this year looks to be their biggest yet, with 200 performers from all over the world coming for two days of competition in Olympic Park this weekend. Saturday’s competition will features a performance by Jay Park (formerly of 2pm) and his dance crew Art of Movement. And Sunday will feature two of Korea’s best rappers, Tiger JK and Yoonmirae (aka T, aka Tasha, aka one of my favorite female vocalists period).

The area around Olympic Hall will also feature an all-day R16 Urban Arts Festival, with street artists, graffiti teams, and oodles of other stuff going on.

China’s Re-TROS Make Their Korean Debut

By Shawn Despres

Beijing’s Re-TROS (Rebuilding the Rights of Statues) are gigging in South Korea this weekend.  Inspired by the likes of Gang of Four and Joy Division, the post-punk trio will play in Busan on Friday (June 24) and Seoul on Saturday (June 25) as part of local promoter Super Color Super’s new SEA Change concert series.

Re-TROS have toured in Australia, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam.  This will be their first time to perform in South Korea.

“We are excited to play in any country we’ve never been to before,” says guitarist Hua Dong.   “We love to meet different people, see different views, and experience different cultures.   We really want to show our music to the people in our neighboring countries and we hope that Korean audiences will enjoy our music.

“We have no idea about Korean bands, but I believe there are some amazing artists and acts there that we should know about.  This is also a reason why we are excited for this tour in Korea.”

Formed in 2003, Re-TROS’ profile got a major boost early on when Brian Eno collaborated with them on their 2005 debut EP, “Cut Off!”

“That was just a coincidence,” says Hua. “He was in Beijing to make his own sound project.  We were both at the same studio mixing music, so I asked him about ideas for the keyboard parts of our songs.  He said, ‘I can play some keyboard riffs for you.’  We were shocked.  It was incredible.”

The band got another lucky break earlier this year when they were invited to open for Gang of Four in Australia.  Re-TROS spent a week playing throughout Australia with the British post-rock pioneers and even joined them onstage in Melbourne to sing the track “Damaged Goods” together.

“Their Australian tour manager got our demo by chance and sent an MP3 to Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill,” says Hua.  “Andy thought that our music was good enough for us to play with them.

“That wonderful tour was like a dream come true.  I was so excited to say ‘hello’ when we first met them in Brisbane.  Can you imagine how did a young kid would feel if he met Superman? That is what I felt like when we met Gang Of Four.”

Re-TROS will record the follow-up to their 2009 “Watch out! Climate has Changed, Fat Mum Rises…” full-length this winter.  The plan is to release the album sometime in 2012.  Look for the group to play new material during their Busan and Seoul appearances.

According to Hua, acts are required to show their lyrics to the Chinese Culture Ministry before releasing an album or playing festivals in China.  Re-TROS have found a way to write political, anti-establishment music and still keep the culture ministry off their backs.

“The culture ministry only examines Chinese lyrics and our lyrics are in English,” he says.  “We must translate them into Chinese, but when we do this we change the meaning to avoid problems.  Sometimes the process is very funny.  It’s kind of like a game between us and them.

Re-TROS play Friday night at Interplay in Busan.  Doors open at 10 pm and Genius will open.  The group will also play Saturday night at Rolling Hall in Seoul.  Doors open at 11 pm and Yours and 3rd Line Butterfly will open.  Tickets for both gigs are 20,000 won at the door.  For more information, visit

Dooriban Reaches Settlement

By Jon

Good news, everybody! One of Hongdae’s most active live clubs is shutting down! Wait…isn’t that a bad thing?

“It’s regrettable that we’re losing this venue and cultural place,” says Hwang Kyungha of No Control, “but we came out victorious.”

Dooriban is a kalguksu restaurant next to Hongdae Station that has been involved in a struggle with GS Construction, who have plans to raze the area and build overtop. But finally, an agreement has been reached.

“After 531 days of struggle, we won,” says Jo Yakgol, another member of the sit-in, who joined after he was evicted from his own home in Yongsan.

On 8 June, the owners of Dooriban, Ahn Jong-yuh and her husband Yoo Cherim reached a compensation agreement with GS. The deal was signed at a public ceremony attended by Mapo police and government officials, which guarantees that GS will honour the agreement or face a fine.

“This is victory and we feel sad,” says Jang Pyha of Bamseom Pirates.

The fate of Dooriban has been set. “We gathered for the urban renewal but we got what we want, the owners got what they want,” says Pyha. Pyha has been heavily involved in Dooriban’s struggle, creating Independent Musician Cooperation to support the sit-in, and give bands an affordable place to practice and have shows.

“We have been trying to create a commune-like atmosphere where everyone is welcome,” explains Jo. “The commune-like atmosphere gave us strength to maintain the struggle. And the enemies, the construction company, knew about it, and so they had to close the deal with us, otherwise you know, they know and we know and everyone knows, that the sit-in struggle will continue until we get what we want.”

“We fought against something to get what we want,” says Pyha, “but now we achieved it, so there’s no reason to gather anymore in this place.”

“The money’s not important,” admits Jo, “but they paid enough money to open a new Korean food restaurant in this neighbourhood.”

With a reasonable resettlement package, Dooriban can afford to move into a new building. The new location is going to be near Hongdae main gate.

“But that’s just a noodle store,” says Pyha.

“I don’t expect to see its current cultural role continue,” says Hwang, “but it was a beautiful combination of art and social issues that will be stamped in our memories forever.”
“We can’t gather like now,” says Pyha, who has made much use of the third floor event room and the second floor sleeping room. ”We can’t do that, so that’s sad.”

“I want to continue doing public performances with Dooriban,” says Vad Hahn of Amature Amplifier and Yamagata Tweakster, “but the land price and housing price and monthly rent are too large, and it is impossible. Dooriban is a kalguksu restaurant first. If it is possible to get a building with a performance space, it would be good.”

According to Jo, Yoo Cherim (though I really couldn’t tell who he was gesturing at) plans to open a new club to maintain the momentum Dooriban has built up. Also, the Independent Musician Cooperation has begun managing a new club, DGBS, at the Korea National University of Arts campus.

This small victory for Dooriban is a major victory for all people in Korea who face eviction with unfair compensation. It’s also the end of a short but golden era in Korean underground music.

Dooriban’s final show will be held over two days, from Saturday to Sunday this weekend. The band list is long, so look it up in the listings or visit their Daum page.

(reprinted from Broke in Korea #12)

Broke in Korea #12 Launch @ Club Spot

By Jon

Broke in Korea is Korea’s longest-running English-language zine (as well as a defunct, related message board). With a couple issues coming out every year, it showcases what’s going on in the underground music scene.

This issue features interviews with long-lost all-girl punk band Nonstop Body, as well as Bamseom Pirates, Tremors, Christfuck, Dokkaebi Assault, and Mr Headbutt (Daegu). Also interviewed are Dr Stephen Epstein, the man behind the 1999 Korean punk documentary Our Nation, as well as Patrick Rodgers, a pranic vampire, about his visit to North Korea last year. There’s also an article on the closing of Dooriban at the end of this month.

The zine also covers urban exploration, with articles on Yeonpyeongdo, the abandoned amusement park Okpo Land, and the bitter rivalry between Korean urban explorers Yangbantal and Seonbital.

As well, there are music reviews, crosswords, comics, and top ten lists.

The zine will be released at 11pm on Saturday night at Club Spot. Entry is 7000 won, and you can see live performances No Control, Midnight Smokin Drive, Tremors, and Spiky Brats.  Stop by, pick up a zine, listen to the bands, and drink until the subways open.

Dream a Little Dream


By Shawn Despres

Last month Mark wrote a post about bellydancer Eshe gracing the cover of May’s Groove Korea and starting her own bellydance studio in Hongdae.  This weekend Eshe is holding a two-day party at Hodge Podge in Hongdae to celebrate the opening of her Dream Dance Studio.


Eshe and her student troupes Navah and Mahadevi will perform on Friday (June 17) and Saturday (June 18).  Both bashes will see the stunning sirens sharing completely different dance routines and tunes.

Each night will include some very cool special guest performers as well.  Friday will have urban freestyle dancer Thomaz C and live percussion from former Orgeltanz djembe player Gwangil Bae.  Starry-Eyed, 9 and the Numbers, and Sunkyeol drummer Duck will do a DJ set.  Kingston Rudieska vocalist Sukyuel will DJ, too.  Duck is currently recording with indie rock bands Starry-Eyed and Sunkyeol and he’ll play at July’s Rainbow Festival with 9 and the Numbers.  Ska act Kingston Rudieska are also scheduled to appear at Rainbow Festival and they’ll play at the Jisan Valley Rock Festival and the Busan International Rock Festival this summer.


The lineup for Saturday is equally strong.  Gwangil Bae will be jamming with bouzouki player Yannis. Aly Kate Mewse will bellydance. J-Path, DJ Jun, and Apollo 18 bassist Jellyboy will all take turns spinning tracks.  J-Path has opened for the likes of Goldie and Roni Size and has performed at the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival, the Jisan Valley Rock Festival, the World DJ Festival, and Global Gathering.  DJ Jun has appeared at the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival, the Jisan Valley Rock Festival, and the World DJ Festival, too.  Post-hardcore act Apollo 18 will release a new album this July through highly regarded Tokyo indie label Zankyo Record.  Next month they’ll also play at the Jisan Valley Rock Festival and Japan’s famed Fuji Rock Festival.

Tickets for each night are 10,000 won with one free drink.  Friday’s show begins at 8:45 pm and things get started at 7:45 pm on Saturday.

Hodge Podge is located on the same street at FF and Club Ta.  The closest subway station is Sangsu Station.  Go out exit 1 and walk towards Hongik University.  Turn left at 7-11.  Hodge Podge is in the first building on the right.  It’s on the third floor, above Club Evans.

Gift Ideas for Toro Y Moi

By Shawn Despres

Following an appearance at Japan’s Taico Club festival last weekend, highly touted chillwave act Toro Y Moi will play shows this Wednesday in Busan and Thursday in Seoul.  For anyone wishing to bring presents to thank Toro Y Moi for coming to South Korea, band leader Chaz Bundick offers the following helpful suggestion.

“I collect socks,” Bundick says. “I’d love it if people gave me weird socks. That would be a tight gift — but new socks only, please!”

The brainchild of Bundick, Toro Y Moi’s debut full-length, 2010’s “Causers of This,” was universally acclaimed by mainstream and indie media making the American musician one of the more prominent names in underground music. MTV Iggy placed Toro Y Moi on their “25 Best New Bands In The World” list (alongside Korean dance music group Mad Soul Child).  His success has helped Toro Y Moi tour North America and Europe a few times.  What’s taken so long to get to Asia?

“Time and money have been the biggest obstacles,” explains Bundick.  “But I’m so excited to be playing in Korea now.”

Bundick will be backed in Busan and Seoul by his three-piece touring band.  Toro Y Moi was originally conceived as a solo act when Bundick was 15 (he’s now in his mid-20s).  Around a year ago he recruited extra musicians to help him flesh out his songs live.

“We’re all friends from school,” Bundick says.  “Having them play with me makes the show a lot more engaging and entertaining.  Touring with a band is also good because you can share experiences with them and it’s always nice to travel with friends.”

Toro Y Moi is currently gigging in support of February’s “Underneath the Pine.”  The album was recorded throughout 2010 at Bundick’s home in South Carolina.  Like “Causers of This,” Bundick played all of the instruments on the disc.

“It’s not that I didn’t want the band to record on it, that’s just how I’ve always done Toro Y Moi,” he says.

An excellent listen, the soulful, funky orchestral pop on “Underneath the Pine” has rightfully collected more accolades for Toro Y Moi.  Pitchfork tagged the album with their “best new music” stamp of approval.  Check out the review here.

When asked what kind of reaction he hopes Asian audiences will have to his music, Bundick replies, “Hopefully they cheer or sing or do both!”  I’m certain there will be plenty of people who fall into the latter category at Toro Y Moi’s Busan and Seoul performances.

Toro Y Moi plays in Busan on June 8, 2011 at Interplay in Busan.  Tickets are 28,000 won in advance and 34,000 won at the door. Better Magic Music Company will open the concert.  Toro Y Moi plays on June 9 at V-Hall in Seoul.  Tickets are 50,000 won in advance and 55,000 won at the door. Googolplex will open the concert.  For more information on both gigs, visit Super Color Super’s website here.