Category Archives: Random crap

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.




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.


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 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

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 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 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:


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….