All posts by mark

Radio blah-blah

Former heresiarch Grand Poobah at the Korea Gig Guide Shawn Despres has been back in Canada for about a year and a half now, and for much of that time he has been hosting a weekly radio program on CFMU called “Sounds From the Korean Underground.” Definitely one of the best ways people not living in Korea have to learn about the Korean indie scene.

On last Sunday’s show, because I happened to be back in Canada visiting family, Shawn was nice enough to invite me to join in. The result was an hour of us blathering and playing some of my favorite Korean music — mostly from the 1970s and 1990s. It was a lot of fun.


You can listen here on Mixcloud. And for people who like to listen to music online, I recommend you check in regularly on “Sounds From the Korean Underground.”

Music history keeps moving on

A couple of events recently have made me all too aware of how everything is constantly changing in Korea, including the music scene. The biggest news of late (imho) is that the best music store in Korea, Hyang Music, is finally shutting down, closing its doors on March 12.

Hyang opened in 1991 and was going strong when I first arrived in Seoul back in the late 1990s. Back then, Korea was full of music stores (around 5,000 is the most common number I’ve seen), with several huge Tower Records around Seoul, a huge Hot Trax at Kyobo Books, and countless small shops seemingly on every corner. But most of them died out when the music market collapsed in Korea more than a decade ago. Even Hongdae’s great Purple Records closed last year, and now Hyang has fallen, too.

Even in the heyday of the music industry, Hyang was still the shop to go to, especially for local indie music. Back then, it felt like you could keep up with most of the CDs being released by the local indie scene, and if I could find a release, I usually bought a copy. Hyang was a tiny store, but it was in such a convenient location for me, on the road connecting the Shinchon Subway Station and the Yonsei main gate (being around the corner from Voodoo Bar, my favorite hangout way back then, helped, too). I couldn’t begin to guess all the CDs I bought there.

Clubs, too, are always opening and closing in Korea. Ruail Rock recently shut its doors, for instance. One of the first clubs in Seoul that I used to go to was Master Plan, which was located in Nogosan-dong, about halfway between Shinchon and Donggyo-dong. I used to go for the indie rock music, but soon after it turned into a hiphop club, and for quite a while it was at the heart of the Korean indie hiphop scene.

Now the fine young music writer Emma Kalka has published a fine history of Master Plan in the latest Groove Magazine. It’s an excellent and informative read, totally worth your time.

I’m old and boring now, so don’t go out very music. But I don’t want to be one of those boring old fossils who complains about how much better things used to be. I’m sad to be losing Hyang Music, just as I’m sad to have lost the other music stores and clubs. But change isn’t all negative, and the music scene today is probably bigger and more interesting than it’s been since I’ve been in Korea. So cheers to Hyang and Master Plan and everyone else who has gone before. And I’m looking forward to hearing all the music that comes next.

(Cross-posted to my personal website).

Love X Stereo is asking for a little help

Annie and Toby, the very nice people behind the excellent group Love X Stereo, are looking for a little help funding their latest EP, We Love, We Leave, Part 2. So they’ve set up a PledgeMusic page asking for pre-orders, which will go to creating the new music.

There are three levels of support offered, so it’s an easy way to buy some good music and help a band out. And they’ve set up a couple of previews, so you can check out if it’s your sort of music — but if you like catchy electropop, it probably is.

Love X Stereo is going to be playing at SXSW again this year, and will play in San Francisco as well, so if you’re in the neighborhood, you should check them out.




Summer Festivals Ramping Up Again

Hard to believe that the summer festival season is starting up already, but it is. We have the return of the Valley Rock Festival to Jisan. It runs July 22-24 and its first lineup gets announced in a few hours, but it looks like Radiohead is going to be on the bill.

(UPDATE: Well, no Radiohead in the first announcement. So far, just two bands: Kula Shaker and Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Valleyrock tease

Beautiful Mint Life runs May 14-15, and its first lineup gets announced early next week.

Green Plugged Seoul is May 21-22, and will have Crying Nut, 3rd Line Butterfly, Galaxy Express, Winterplay, Pavlov and more.

The Seoul Jazz Festival is May 28-29, and it actually has announced a lot of artists: Corinne Bailey Rae, Pat Metheny, Terence Blanchard, Rufus Wainright, Nat King Cole Tribute Band, and plenty more to come.

UMF Korea is June 10-12.

Some of the shows have English ticketing on Interpark, but I’ll try to have better links as they turn up.


2 of the biggest Korean acts together on Tuesday

Sorry for the last-minute notice, but I just saw that 3rd Line Butterfly and Pipi Band (aka Ppippi Band, aka PPPB) are going to be playing tomorrow, Dec. 29 at West Bridge in Hongdae. Such a good lineup. If you’re looking for a good gig over the holidays, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything better.


PpiPpi Band was the indie band back when I first arrived in Korea in the late 1990s, totally mesmerizing but also the anti-K-pop group. I think I bought and mailed off pirated versions of their second album to more than a dozen friends.

PpiPpiBand2 copy

3rd Line Butterfly is also a favorite group. I really enjoyed them in earlier bands (Huckleberry Finn for Nahm Sang-ah, 99 and other groups for Sung Kiwan). They’ve been doing smart, fun alt-rock for around 15 years now.

3rd line butterfly

The show starts at 8pm on Dec. 29 at West Bridge Hall, the new concert hall across the street from Seogyo-dong Cathedral. Tickets are 35,000 won at the door.

Help Juck Juck Grunzie get to Glastonbury

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Juck Juck Grunzie — heck, they were the first group I ever covered on this website. Well, things have been going well with the group, and now they’ve gotten an invitation to play at this year’s Glastonbury festival at the end of June (and at Berghain in Berlin on July 1).

However, traveling to Europe isn’t cheap, so the group will be holding a fundraising concert this Saturday evening at DGBD in Hongdae at 11pm. The show is just 10,000 won, and includes Table People, Baekma, and Cranfield.

It should be a lot of fun, and you’d be helping one of the best bands in Korea, so check it out!

JuckJuck Fundraiser

Chuseok Fun

Chuseok day is over, but much of the country is still a bit slow and quiet and not everything is over. However, there are quite a few shows going on tonight (Friday) and this weekend. If you are looking for something to do, you should check one or two out.

The biggest show is a two-venue team-up Saturday night at FF and Gogos 2. 20,000 won gets you into both shows, starting around 6pm, with a solid lineup of Hongdae veteran bands like Gogo Boys, Phone Booth, Gogo Star, and Used Cassettes.

Another fascinating show is actually a freebie, an acoustic show with Whang Bo Ryung (Smacksoft) at one of my favorite venues, Mudaeruk. The show starts at 4pm, and there will also be a couple of guests. I think that Whang is using these shows to work on some new songs and get her 2014 album ready.

Vocal-Bo-8-1024x682Anyhow, we’ve added a bunch of gigs, so check out the calendar to see all that’s going on.



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).