Monthly Archives: August 2013

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Okay, so I’ve been wanting to update the look of the Korea Gig Guide for a while. However, I found it strangely difficult to find a look that I liked and that functioned properly with the calendar, sidebar, etc.

And this is the template I chose. What do you all think? Does this look right on your computer? (or phone or tablet, or whatever you use to read the KGG).

Stupid WordPress…

Hi all.

So, do any WordPress-savvy readers out there know why the right column of the Gig Guide is suddenly appearing below the main column? (Or at least it is on my computer, in Chrome and Firefox).

I don’t see any code in the columns that should be screwing up the alignment… but maybe I’m overlooking something incredibly obvious.

UPDATE: Hey, after a bit of fiddling, things seem to be working again. Huzzah.

Bellydancing to Yukari, Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio, and Toyshop

Seoul indie acts Yukari, Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio, and Toyshop will collaborate with bellydancers Eshe and Navah on Friday night (August 23) at Club Freebird as part of the Shake Shop concert series.  As always, the monthly event is co-presented by Mangwon’s Dream Dance Studio and Korea Gig Guide.

Having never seen live bellydancing before, dream pop artist Yukari is looking forward to being a part of Shake Shop.

“I’ve seen bellydancing on TV, but I haven’t actually seen a bellydance performance yet so I’m excited about being able to watch a real show,” she says.  “I think our collaboration is going to be a lot of fun because my music is very different from traditional bellydance music.”

Currently gigging behind her excellent 2012 “Echo” EP, Yukari plans to continue doing shows until October.  In November, she will begin crafting music for her debut full-length album.  She hopes to issue the finished recording next summer.

Seoul post-punk quartet Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio are definitely one of Hongdae’s most promising up-and-comers right now.  The band played at the Green Plugged festival in May and also appeared at the Jisan World Rock Festival a few weeks back.  They were recently added to the lineup for this fall’s Grand Mint Festival as well.  Their best known cut is the catchy, playful “Shut Up and Dance.”  The members usually showcase a bit of their two-stepping skills while performing the song.  Perhaps we’ll see them dancing together with the bellydancers at Shake Shop?

Instrumental post-rock quintet Toyshop performed at the inaugural Shake Shop event back in February.  The group’s fantastic, cinematic compositions fit wonderfully with bellydancing and the band and the dancers have wanted to work together again ever since.

And while we’re thrilled to have them on the bill for volume 7 of the Shake Shop we’re also a bit sad as well.  Guitarist Joseph Lee and drummer Hyunjin Cho will both be starting their mandatory military service soon so this will be their final concert with the band.  But on the positive side, at least they’ll be ending things with a very cool collaborative performance.  The video below is of Toyshop and Eshe at Shake Shop Vol. 1.

The Shake Shop Vol. 7 takes place on Friday, August 23 at Club Freebird. The show starts at 11:00 pm and the cover charge is 10,000 won with one free drink. Eshe and Navah will perform alongside Yukari, Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio, and Toyhshop. For more information, check out the show’s Facebook event page here.

Korean Festivals, Then and Now

On Sunday, I spent the day at the City Break rock festival (or “CITYBREAK,” as the organizers prefer to write it), from just after the gates opened at 11am until … well, not that late. I stayed until Shin Joong-hyun, but skipped out on the headliners, Metallica.

It was a fun day, but it really made me think about how far festival culture has come in Korea since the Triport festival of 1999. Even since the first Pentaport in 2006. To be fair, both of those festivals were hit by typhoons. But in pretty much every way, it’s amazing how much better organized and pleasant today’s festivals are in Korea.

(Warning: This is an old man review of festivals. If you are young, you may not give a crap about many of these things I mention).

(Warning II: These photos were all taken with a camera phone. Don’t expect amazing, high-res close-ups).

Citybreak was held at the old Jamsil Sports Complex, in the southeast of Seoul. It had three stages, each well laid out and convenient. The smallest stage, the Music Stage, had the best restaurants and shade, with a big arching shell covering most of the sitting area. There was also a cooling dome thing, where fine mist constantly sprayed to help cool you down — a very nice idea.

All the restaurants operated on T-Money cards (the thing you use for buses and subways in Korea), and I’m told that all the festivals in Korea use those cards now. That is such a simple and convenient idea. Having to line up to buy coupons (like at a lot of foreign festivals), and redeem those coupons for food and drink — so lame.

But the best food booth of the festival was also the hardest to find. Deep in the main stadium, far away from the stages and people (and decent signage) was a restaurant selling whole roast boar! So good. I really like how they roast boar in Korea.

All the bathrooms I went to were clean and relatively lineup-free. The portable toilet trucks were air-conditioned. So much nicer than most festivals I’ve been to.

Oh, right, the music. I checked out a mix of Korean and international groups. Juck Juck Grunzie opened with a solid set, but they were the first group of the day, so things were pretty quiet. It was my first time seeing them since Ahreum switched to keyboards and they changed their sound, but I quite liked it.

Apollo 18 played on the Super Stage, but also early — they also brought in a couple of guest singers, giving their show more of a hardcore vibe. It was okay, but I thought the crowd was grooving more on the pure A18 experience.

Japandroids were great to see again. Although, to be honest, the sound mix wasn’t great, which hurt their show. Japandroids are at their best when they hit you with a wall of sound, but this show sounded more like it was coming from the next room.

By the time Ash took to the stage, things were getting a bit busier:

And here’s a pic of the main stage around 6pm, when Rise Against was playing:

As for Shin Joong-hyun … well, the guy is a legend, but he is getting up in age. Plus, he (along with the crowd) seems rather enamored by his material from the 1980s. But I prefer his earlier songs and earlier styles. But it was great to see him, regardless.

Anyhow, the crowd was in good spirits and well behaved. I didn’t see anyone making an ass of himself. Everything worked. Maybe it helped that it wasn’t a huge concert — maybe 10,000 people at the peak for Metallica — but I was more than happy with how the day went.

Japandroids — Ready to Rock City Break

Canadian two-man rock duo Japandroids are definitely one of my favorite groups these days. I caught them at Primavera in Barcelona about three years ago and, despite having no idea who they were at the time, absolutely loved their set. Since then, their second album, Celebration Rock, took off, turning them into one of the hottest groups around.

I missed Japandroids on their first trip to Korea, earlier this year, but was very happy to see them on the bill of this weekend’s City Break festival, over in Jamsil Sports Complex.  In fact, Sunday’s line-up at City Break looks pretty amazing, imho. It starts out with two of my favorite Korean indie groups, Juck Juck Grunzie and Apollo 18, then has Japandroids, followed by two of the most important Korean rockers of the 1970s, Kim Chang Wan and Shin Joong-hyun. So I’ll definitely be there for that show.

Drummer David Prowse of Japandroids was nice enough to answer a few questions over email. I used a couple of his comments in my column about the festival over in the Korea JoongAng Daily today. But I thought Korea Gig Guide readers might be interested in the whole thing:

Q. After coming so close to breaking up at one point a few years ago, did you guys have a “Holy shit, this is actually going to succeed!” moment?

Prowse: When we decided to stop doing the Japandroids thing, we had been a band for a number of years and didn’t really feel like we were any closer to success than we had been when we started. I don’t think we had particularly lofty goals — I just wanted to be a band that was able to tour a little bit and have a label that would put our records. I wasn’t interested in being rich or famous. I just wanted more people to hear our music, and be able to tour without playing empty rooms every night. So I would say that by the time we went on our first tour of the US and Canada, in June 2008, we had already experienced about 10 “Holy Shit” type moments. “Holy Shit – Pitchfork wrote about us!” “Holy Shit – Unfamiliar Records wants to put out Post-Nothing” and so on and so forth. Looking back, that first tour was the real turning point for us where we transitioned from being two guys who love playing music in their spare time to being (I hate this term but can’t think of a better way of putting it) “professional musicians.”

Q. Now that you’ve been promoting this album for more than a year, have you seen many changes in how audiences respond to it? Their favourite songs? Or how you approach the songs?

Some of the first shows we played after we finished recording Celebration Rock was SXSW in March of 2012.  It was a scary thing playing those new songs for people initially. We were happy with the songs, but it was so hard to gauge how they would be received, especially considering how attached some people had become to Post-Nothing. It was hard to believe we could make something that people who like as much as that record.

When the new record actually came out, in June of 2012 , it was crystal clear that Celebration Rock was going to be a lot bigger than Post-Nothing. You could see it at the shows pretty much instantaneously – all of a sudden people knew all the words to the new songs, and were just as excited about the new stuff as the old stuff.

At this point,  so many more people know Celebration Rock compared to Post-Nothing, let alone anything older than that. I think we both assumed that “Young Hearts Spark Fire” would be our “hit”, or whatever you want to call it, for the duration of our time as Japandroids, and now I would say that there are at least three songs from Celebration Rock that get more of a response from the audience on any given night. It’s been pretty amazing to see this record keep growing as we continue to tour on it…

Q. Anything particularly memorable of your last show in Korea? Or your swing through Asia?

The last Asian tour was incredibly exciting for us. It’s such a surreal experience to travel somewhere as foreign as South Korea, for example, and get to play for several hundred people who actually know your songs. I remember one of the stranger moments of that tour was being in Seoul and seeing the news reports about North Korea’s underground missile tests. We were pretty freaked out by that, but to everybody in Seoul it just seemed like business as usual to hear about the potential threat of nuclear war. People watched the news, talked about it for a little while, and then went on with their day. I suppose there’s not much else you can do, but it was a pretty surreal scene for me to witness.

Q. Two Asian tours in a year? Is this a sign of your getting more popular in this part of the world, or do you see the Asia market in general getting better for tours for groups like yours? Or are you too wrapped up in the day-to-day of touring to get a sense of where your fans are and what’s going on?

It seems like the world is opening up to “indie rock” in a pretty amazing way right now. I think a lot of that has to do with how accessible music has become because of music review websites and digital file sharing. It’s interesting to me how bands are able to share their music so much more easily while at the same time they have a harder and harder time actually being able to sell their music and be able to make a living from record sales. I think we’ve been able to take advantage of this new musical landscape in a lot of really cool ways, because we can tour pretty cheaply since we’re a two piece, and because we enjoy touring and are interested in going to as many places as possible. Before we’ve actually gone and played a show somewhere, it can be very hard to gauge how popular we are in certain countries and certain cities, so the first tour of Asia was just to see if there was any interest in our band.  It went really well so we wanted to make sure to come back as soon as possible, and luckily we managed to sneak in one more tour of Asia and Australia before our record cycle was done!

Q. With all these summer shows, have you gotten a chance to check out many local acts in other parts of the world? Have you come across any local music scenes that really impressed you?

For the most part, we usually just tour with one other band for an entire tour, and don’t have local support acts most nights. That touring strategy has some big upsides — for example, it’s really great to get to know a band over the course of a tour and you usually form a pretty lasting bond when you get to play with the same band night after night. Plus you can really streamline the schedule and it just makes touring way easier logistically.  The downside, of course, is you miss the chance to randomly see a band who genuinely surprise you and inspire you that you knew nothing about previously. It’s a really amazing thing when that happens. The last time it happened for me actually was when we were in Busan and Genius opened for us. That band just made me really, really happy. They’re great.

Q. And, of course, what’s next for Japandroids? Touring for the next five years? Sick of each other and ready to commit dual homicides? Time to start work on a new album?

Well, we haven’t killed each other yet, so that’s good! But it’s certainly time for us to have break for a while. Once the excitement of touring wears off and we’re home for a minute, I think we’re both going to pass out for a while. Then once we’ve recovered we can figure out what we’re doing next…

Japandroids play at Jamsil Sports Complex on Sunday, August 18 as part of City Break.  The show starts at 11 a.m., and Japandroids will perform from 3:30 – 4:10 pm.  One-day tickets for City Break are 165,000 won and a two-day pass costs 250,000 won.  For more information on buying tickets, visit here.