Category Archives: Random crap

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.

Rocking Apgujeong

Hello, Korea Gig Guide readers. It’s been a heck of a long time since I posted here. But it is definitely good to be back. I started the KGG way back in early 2008, but after moving to Europe, I thought it did not make much sense for me to write about live music in Korea. Fortunately, Shawn was doing such a great job* here, it was the easiest thing in the world to give him the reins.

*And by “job,” I mean toiling away endlessly for free.

Anyhow, after a few years in Barcelona**, I’m back in Korea again, at least for a while, and I am getting back into the local music scene. So far, it does seem like things have been getting better since I’ve been gone. There are a lot more buskers out on the streets these days, in various parts of town (especially in Insa-dong). And there are more indie-music shows on Korean TV, which is pretty important for exposure. Plus there are so many more music festivals now, it’s kind of amazing.

**Barcelona was pretty dire for music — it has some decent bands and a surprisingly fun bluegrass scene, but there’s just very little grassroots interest in indie music there. Big festivals do great, like Primavera and Sonar, but not so much the clubs.

Last Sunday, Shawn and I traveled down to Apgujeong, of all places, to catch some shows at a relatively new venue called Keu Keu (aka Club Kklvsht, aka “Live Shit Keu Keu”). In the past, Apgujeong was better known for trendy clubs and discos than for live music, but I am happy to see live music escaping from Hongdae as often as possible. Plus, with the new subway line finally open, it is much easier to get to that part of town.

Keu Keu is one of the more interesting locations I’ve seen in Korea, with two large rooms and four smaller room, full of funky art and low, beanbag chairs. Booze was really pricy, but that’s what you get in Apgujeong, I guess.

The day had a pretty full lineup of performers, artists, and music, but we were mostly there for Modsdive, Jambinai, and Kumca. Modsdive was pretty typical postrock — pleasant enough, but a lot of the chord progressions and structures typical to the genre.

Jambinai is one of my favorite Korean groups, however, as soon as the show started, Kim Bo-mi’s haegeum broke, leaving the group rather incapacitated. They tried gamely to keep going, but the haegeum is such an integral part to their sound, they had to call it quits early.

Jambinai

Kumca gets a prize for one of the weirder names I’ve come across in Korean music. That’s short for “Kkume Kamerareul Gajyeoolgeol” (“I Should Have Brought a Camera to My Dream”). Despite having a singer, Kumca was also very postrock, but in a dreamier, more psychedelic style.

Like many of the bands on Sunday, Kumca played with a variety of videos playing in the background, adding to the eerie ambiance (although doing little to add to my lousy photography skills).

But it looks like Keu Keu is getting some pretty good usage. Exit Six held a fundraising concert for their Rockdo festival there the night before. 360 Sounds has also had shows there.  Young, Gifted, and Wack is doing a concert to celebrate their first anniversary there this Friday.  And Super Color Super is putting on an 11-band gig at the space on Saturday night.  More info about both of this weekend’s shows can be found in our “Coming Events” section.

So if you are in that part of Seoul, Keu Keu is worth supporting.

KGG Staff 2012 Live Faves

This is being posted a bit later than usual, but here’s Korea Gig Guide’s annual “Staff Live Faves” list sharing the 10 shows from the past year that we each enjoyed the most.

If anyone is interested, our 2009 picks are here, our 2010 picks are here, and you can see our 2011 picks here.

Shawn Despres
1. Fucked Up @ Fuji Rock Festival (Japan) on July 29

2. Hellivison (with Myung-soo Hwang) @ Strange Fruit on March 30

3. Mono with The Holy Ground Orchestra @ Fuji Rock Festival (Japan) on July 28

4. Apollo 18 @ Salon Badabie on November 17

5. Moja @ Salon Badabie on May 19

6. Morrissey @ Uniqlo AX on May 6

7. Rux @ Rolling Hall on June 10

8. Underwears Band @ Sangsang Madang (Label Market) on February 17

9. Summit Beatbox @ Yogiga Expression Gallery on October 28

10. (Tie between two concerts) Romantiqua @ Club Freebird on November 16
Toyshop @ Salon Badabie on November 17

Jon Dunbar
1. Heimlich County Gun Club, Mixed Blood, Veggers, Dead Buttons (Punk Rock Toy Drive) @ Alternative Space [Moon] on December 8 (live photos here)

2. Suck Stuff (with Paul Brickey), Skasucks, Captain Bootbois @ DGBD on June 16 (live photos here)

3. Attacking Forces, Chanter’s Alley, Samchung, Captain Bootbois @ Club Spot on July 28 (live photos here)

4. Babylove and the Van Dangos, The Essence, Josh Roy, Kingston Rudieska, Funkafric & Boostdah @ Club Ta on October 11 (live photos here)

5. Find the Spot, Smoking Barrels, Kitsches, Burn My Bridges, Pariah, Last of the Diehards, Seoul Mothers, No Excuse, Animal Anthem, 13 Steps, Things We Say, The Geeks (Townhall Benefit for Hwang Kyusuck) @ Powwow on November 24 (live photos here)

6. Tyler Brown and Sato Yukie, Brothers of the Hole, Mixed Blood, No Control, Something Fierce, Chadburger, Scumraid @ Lowrise on August 4 (live photos here)

7. Shin Jung-hyun at Olympic Park Gymnasium on December 2

8. Mukimukimanmansu, Pavlov, Paryumchiakdan, Bamseom Pirates (Rhee Sung-woong Exhibition) @ Artsonje Center on April 13 (live photos here)

9. Paul Brickey and Al Dunbar @ Danginri Theater on June 23 (live photos here)

10. Shinchonji National Olympiad @ Jamsil Olympic Stadium on September 16 (live photos here)

Dain Leathem
(shows listed by date)
1. Yellow Monsters and Galaxy Express @ Rolling Hall on February 5

2. Crystal Rain @ Club Evans on March 10

3. Harry Big Button @ Strange Fruit on April 6

4. Radiohead @ Jisan Valley Rock Festival on July 27

5. Skrillex @ UMF Festival on August 3

6. T-Bone Ska and Kingston Rudieska @ Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival on August 11

7. Maroon 5 @ Jamsil Sports Complex on September 15

8. Glen Check @ Let’s Rock Festival on September 22

9. Babylove and the Van Dangos @ Club Ta on October 11

10. Apollo 18 @ Club FF on November 16

We hope all of you see countless great gigs in 2013!

All Juck Juck Grunzie Want For Christmas … Is A New Drummer

In November, Juck Juck Grunzie and drummer Bookja decided to part ways.  Since then, Vidulgi Ooyoo’s Lee Yong-jun has been helping out on drums at gigs.  And while he’s been doing a very good job, the Juck Juck ladies are currently searching for a permanent replacement.

To help them find someone, earlier this week the band posted a Korean and English message on their Facebook page to let folks know about the opening.  Here’s the English text for any drummers out there who’d like to play with the act:

“Seoul band Juck Juck Grunzie is looking for a new drummer. Please help spread the word. Everyone is welcome to apply. We want to find someone who is a good fit for Juck Juck Grunzie. If you’re interested in being a part of Juck Juck Grunzie, please email yeahyeah123@hanmail.net and we’ll email you some MP3 files and YouTube clips of the band. Thank you!”

Here’s a live video of Juck Juck Grunzie putting their own spin on “Too Drunk to Fuck” by the Dead Kennedys.

Juck Juck Grunzie will be spreading some Christmas cheer tonight (December 23) with SmackSoft, Apollo 18, 99 Anger, and Jambinai at the newly opened Evan’s Lounge in Hongdae (there’s a Korean map on the venue’s website).  The show starts at 8 pm and tickets are 20,000 won.  Word has it that Juck Juck Grunzie will be revisiting their schoolgirl days with special attire at the show.

Guess we’ll find out soon enough if the outfits earn them a spot on Santa’s naughty or nice list!

To learn more about Juck Juck Grunzie, check out an article about the band that ran in The Jeju Weekly newspaper last month here.

More Music at Koreanindie.com

By Mark

I guess the title of this post pretty much gets to the point. If you want to learn more about Korean indie music, you should check out the very imaginatively titled website Korean Indie, recently started by myself, Anna Lindgren of IndiefulROK fame and Chris Park of the review site Wakesidevision. Together, we are hoping to create one big site, full of news, reviews, and other information about Korea’s music scene.

The plan is eventually to have a pretty good database about a good chunk of the Korean scene, all in one place. So if you are thinking about going to a show, you can easily find out about the bands playing. If you like what you hear one night, you can learn about a band’s releases (and maybe buy someone from Hyang or Purple or some online site). And we’ll have plenty of news, too.

I guess the motivation, at least for me, is how frustrating it is that there is not more information available about this music. If you want to know about K-pop, there are endless sites about that sort of music. If you want to know about Korean movies, you have Darcy Paquet’s excellent Koreanfilm.org and other sites. Even TV dramas have some decent resources. But for indie and non-pop music? There is not a lot out there.

None of which should slow down the Korea Gig Guide. In the three years since I started this site, I’ve been pleased to see it grow steadily, thanks to the interest from all of you. I will not be so active here in the future, but Shawn, Jon, and Dain have been doing most of the work here for some time anyways. So thanks to everyone who has frequented the Korea Gig Guide over last few years, and thanks to Shawn, Jon, and Dain. And I hope to see you at Koreanindie.com soon.

Byul Has a New Album, and a Concert

By Mark

The laid-back electronica group Byul has a new album coming out — with the great title Secret Stories Heard From a Girl in an Opium Den — and to promote that release, they are holding a release concert-performance-party this Saturday (Oct. 22). Along with Byul, there will be Baik Hyunjhin and Kuang Program playing, and the deejays Sulki & Min, Sticky Monster Lab, Work Room, Lowrise, and Jang Woochul. That’s a fairly impressive lineup for 25,000 won.

Byul, of course, first rose to fame with the soundtrack to the quirky and wonderful film Take Care of My Cat. But since then, the group has added members and grown, and put out a whole series of abstract design magazines called Monthly Vampire, and done plenty of other funky stuff. You can get a great overview of the band at The Creators Project.

It’s an early show, though, beginning at 5pm (doors open at 4:30) at Theater Zero in Hongdae. Theater Zero is a bit hard to find these days, and the old URL does not seem to be working anymore, so I linked to a Google map for it. But the theater is on a tiny, winding backstreet in the heart of Hongdae, not far from the bustling Hongdae Park.

Oh, and I linked to Byul’s “Pacific” once before, but I quite like it, so here it is again:

모임 별 – 태평양 PACIFIC by BYUL.ORG / OFFICIAL VIDEO from CLUB BIDANBAEM & BYUL.ORG on Vimeo.

Btw, this is looking like a great weekend for music in Korea. In addition to Byul, we have shows by traditional-postrock Jambinai (at Sangsang Madang on Thursday), the Grand Mint Festival in Olympic Park, Evergreen Festival at Hangang Park, the second Seoul Night concert series at clubs all over Hongdae on Friday, and a screening of the old film Nosferatu with a live orchestra playing the score (at Platoon Kunsthalle at 7pm on Saturday). So many fun choices….

Rally to Save Badabie

By Mark

Badabie is a long-running live club in Hongdae, putting on shows regularly since 2004. Honestly, I cannot remember the first time I crept down those dingy steps to check out a show… Maybe it was for a Bulgasari experimental showcase on a Sunday afternoon? Or perhaps it was to meet a friend who was confident he had found the next hot band in Hongdae. But I do remember that feeling of curiosity, walking past the front door and seeing cheap posters plastered on and around the door, hearing the clanging and noise bubbling up from below.

Badabie was located by the bridge over the train tracks (well, the former train tracks now), in a quiet part of Donggyo-dong. Although the gentrification and coffee-ification of Hongdae has now spread pretty much all the way to Shinchon, back in 2004 Badabi’s location was a real dead zone, and it was to overlook. It is not the nicest venue in town or the biggest, but over the years a lot of great bands passed through there.

Sadly, though, Badabie’s owner was recently diagnosed with some kind of brain tumor and needed some expensive surgery — not the sort of thing a Hongdae club owner usually budgets for. The surgery appears to have gone well, but now there are a lot of bills to pay, not to mention having to deal with the continual rent hikes of Hongdae these days (I think he hasn’t paid his rent in quite a few months).

So in a great show of solidarity, 137 indie bands and eight clubs are getting together for 10 days of shows to help out Badabie, in a series called “Badabie Will Never Die“. Most of the top indie bands in Korea will be playing, often in venues much smaller than you would ordinarily find them, so it is a great chance to catch a lot of music … not to mention help out a good guy and Hongdae institution.

Tickets go on sale Sept. 8 and cost 20,000 won (I don’t know if that’s per show, per day, or what exactly… but I’m trying to find out).

Thurs., Sept. 15
Badabie – 7:30

Juck Juck Haeseo Grunzie, Bunabi, Poe, Hwang Boryung Band, Crying Nut
V Hall – 7:30
Goodbye Sea, Savina and Drones, 10cm, Icy Cider, Galaxy Express

Fri., Sept. 16
Badabie – 7pm
Flat Out, Electric Eel, Bamseom Pirates, 99 Anger, National Pigeon Unity, Ankle Attack, Apollo 18
C Cloud – 7pm
Becks And Josh, Seokjoon, Green Face, The Finn, The Freaks, Nabimat, Rubin

Sat., Sept. 17
C Cloud – 4pm

Jang Folk, Hado, Timirho, Beautiful Days, 9 and the Numbers
C Cloud – 7pm
Line 9 Interchange, Kim Mok-in, Jeff Park, Victor View, Sogyumo Acacia Band, 3rd Line Butterfly

Sun., Sept. 18
Yri Cafe – 5pm
Yang Chang-geun, Solsolbuneun Bombaram, Hajji and Seoul Seagull, Sohee, Manggakhwa
AOR – 6pm
Swimming Doll, Murmur’s Loom, Tenderlign, The Quip, Daydream, Vidulgi Ooyoo

Mon., Sept. 19
Badabie – 7:30pm

Erang, Boochoolaamaa, Broken Money, Yamagata Tweakster, Ash Gray, Dear Cloud

Tues., Sept. 20
Rolling Hall – 7pm

Midnight Smoking Drive, Oh Ji-eun, Joaseohaneun Band, Kafka, Huckleberry Finn, Telepathy, Gate Flowers
Badabie – 8pm
Hawaii, Modeun Gayageum Jeong Mina, Hi Mr. Memory, Jang Jaein

Wed., Sept. 21
Club Ta – 7pm

Black Bag, YNot, Kim Master, Choi Go Eun, Que Bosta, Jokkareul Rose, Chang Kiha and the Faces
Badabie – 7:30pm
Kim Sujin, Surisurimahasuri, Mujeungryeok Sonyeon, Yozoh, Uju Hippy, Son Ji-yeon

Thurs., Sept. 22
Badabie – 7pm

Devil E So Marco, Baekja, Nangman Yurang Akdan, Jo Taejoon, Big Baby Driver, Selli Selli Sellinneu, Jeong Mina and Haegeum
Yogiga – 7pm
Dorin, Namu Band, Hoegidong Danpeonseon, Anakin Project, Sai, Sato Yukie, Taehiyeon

Fri., Sept 23
Badabie – 7:30pm
Number Nine, Javo Island, Siberian Husky, The Moon, Tacapi, Ally Spears
C Cloud – 7pm
Raccoon, Shin Jae Jin, Scarfish, Neutbom, Oh Soyoung, Lee Janghyuk

Sat., Sept. 24
C-Cloud – 7pm

Tumyeong, Morrison Hotel, Park Hyeri, Jeong Yeong-geun, Party Story, Ravie Nuage
Badabie – 6pm
Spiky Brats, Couch, Dokkaebi Assault, Style Live, Combative Post, Vicious Glare, 13 Steps, Kicks

Sun., Sept. 25
Club Auteur – 4pm

Unique Shadow, Citi M, DK, Soul, Lee Han-choul
Club Auteur – 7pm
Seo Yeong-do Band, Ha Hyeon-yong Band, Renata Suicide, Jae, New York Fish
Badabie – 6pm
Dringe Augh, Desert Dolphin, Ironic Hue, Brocolli You Too, and more
Yogiga – 6pm
Slow Baby, FE, Guten Birds, Pavlov, The United 93, No Control, Pigbit5

You can learn more about the shows at Badabie’s website. And if you understand Korean, there is this video to explain more:

SuperColorSuper and Korean Indie in New York Times

By Mark

I was happily surprised this morning to find an extended Q&A in the New York Times‘ T Magazine blog with Sean Maylone, founder of indie concert promoter SuperColorSuper. Who knew that Sean and Korea’s indie scene was on the radar of the NYT? Says the article’s introduction:

Is there a Korean underground? According to Sean Patrick Maylone, the answer is yes. His Seoul-based booking and promotion agency, SuperColorSuper, has helped to create a South Korean tour circuit for indie bands like Caribou, Das Racist and CocoRosie, blazing a trail not just to Seoul, but also to Busan and Daegu, places the 30-year-old native Californian knew nothing about when he arrived in Korea to teach English four years ago. Here, Maylone discusses South Korea’s burgeoning underground music scene.

And a couple of key parts from the interview:

What do you see happening in Korea’s music world?

I think Korea’s coming into what we in America experienced in the 1950s and ’60s, socially and artistically, and that we’re going to see the rise of more anti-heroes. Something like “Rebel Without a Cause” is going to come out here, or their own hippie movement. Maybe K-pop is going to go through stages like the Beatles did, from straight-up bubblegum to more tripped-out, experimental open-mindedness. It’s related to economics. Korea was having problems in the ’90s. People were having trouble just putting food on their plates. They had a militant government. Now people have all this money to spend. You have the rise of an artist class, and creative explosions are going to follow. People in various industries are sort of betting on it. Vice magazine has gotten involved with music here. Nylon now does a Korean version. I’m hoping we’ll start to feel the development of a Korean signature, a Korean approach to things.

What are some Korean bands people should check out?

A noise-pop duo called (((10))), comprised of a girl and a guy that have a sort of early Animal Collective sound. Wagwak, a catchy, Bright Eyes-type indie folk duo. Vidulgi Ooyoo, a shoe-gaze band reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive whose name translates to “Pigeon Milk.” Bamseom Pirates, a funny grind-core band who play 30-second songs. A chill-wave band called Googolplex. Yamagata Tweakster is a tongue-in-cheek solo artist who dresses in slacks and a tie and sings and dances with his laptop. There’s not a lot of Korean irony, but there are a few bands that have just come out that are using irony pretty well. The band Ninano Nanda combines Korean pansori operatic singing with really ’90s techno-beats and Mortal Kombat soundtrack-type sounds.

All in all, very good for Sean and great for the Korean music scene to get that kind of coverage. Between that article and all those Korean bands playing SXSW (and Apollo 18 playing just about everywhere), this is turning into a great year for Korean indie music.

Rocking in Jeonju

By Mark

While we at the Korea Gig Guide try to be as informative as we can about the nation’s whole music scene, I know we tend to focus on Seoul. Part of that is because Seoul has the largest indie scene in Korea, and part of that is because of where our writers are based. But there is definitely a lot of good music being made elsewhere around Korea, with more good stuff emerging all the time.

So I was happy to see this month’s Groove magazine looking at the live scene in Jeonju. And while not exactly encyclopedic, it is certainly interesting and a good place to start. Included in the special are:
- Some of the main clubs of Jeonju
- The band ATLAT
- Orange Planet
- The Dillytangs

Jeonju has long punched above its weight culturally. The Jeonju International Film Festival at the end of each April is a favorite with many movie fans (not with me so much, but who cares what I think?). There are numerous writers and poets from Jeonju. And there is the champion b-boy crew Last for One. Oh, there is this online guide to Jeonju, too. Anyhow, if you get the chance, you should check out Jeonju and some of its bands — they’re a lot more interesting than bibimbap.