It’s been five months since we concluded our last commentary series, but with Mnet announced a new band survival show I saw a new chance to get invested in a Korean TV. Participants from previous panels here on the site were invited to once again share their opinion publicly and for the first episode of Era Of The Band Youngmi of Dream, Girl, Dahee of Dahee’s Plastic Castle and Xtian aka drowningn00b stepped up to the task.
Starting next week these posts will be published on Mondays, but first we need to catch up on the first couple of episodes so here’s what we had to say about the show’s debut on May 21st. Watch the episode yourself through Mnet’s free VOD service, not requiring any sign-up.
For the first episode of this special summer version of Yoon Do Hyun’s Must, Yoon Do Hyun has taken the help from all the YB members to pick participating bands. The first episode hosts Pia, Deli Spice, Windy City, J Rabbit, Daybreak and Crying Nut and all will be performing covers of songs from Mnet’s Legend 100 Artists.
Anna: Even after the disaster that was Top Band 2 I have sort of waited for a new season, but then came the announcement that MUST would get a special format for the summer showcasing a bunch of indie bands and I was much happier. Before it was launched word in the scene was far more positive than towards any of the Top Band seasons, so it seems bands and fans alike all have decent hopes for the show’s success. I was quite surprised to find J Rabbit in the list of participants, but am more than a bit fond of all but Daybreak so this should be fun!
Youngmi: I could tell just from the format of the show that it was going to be better than Top Band for audiences and bands alike. To have such a powerful and diverse lineup in the first episode seems hopeful to me! I’m so glad that it’s not an audition program and even though it is a competition there’s more effort in making the bands look/sound good. (p.s. It is important to mention before I go on that I, too, dislike Daybreak)
Dahee: I had no idea this show even existed until I happened to run across a news article on it at Naver. It’s not the world’s most creative premise, but it’s clear that another season of Top Band isn’t happening, and I guess the people behind this wanted to create a new vehicle for bands to perform on TV. I’m also glad that it’s not an audition program, and while I wish it wasn’t a competition, I’m gladdened by the diversity in the bands. And yeah, I dislike Daybreak too…
Xtian: Haters, all of you. But I’m glad Top Band isn’t returning this year. The people behind it need to refocus on what’s important, which is showcasing new talent. Is Must the answer? No, but it is necessary. As much shit as Top Band gets, and deserves, it did give time to a bunch of bands that, unless you’re plugged into the Hongdae club scene, you would never had heard of. I’m happy to see YB take this on to continue that vision.
1Round: Windy City vs J Rabbit
Anna: The Windy City people seem to have this nice collective thing going. I imagine that’d be a pretty chill place to live. The J Rabbit girls are cute not being able to figure out which style to go with. Not sure whether the visit from YB would be of much help to them, though.
Youngmi: My favorite thing about Windy City is how laid back and confident they are, no matter the circumstance. They all live together outside of Seoul and I think that influences their music greatly. I’ve been a fan of J Rabbit’s youtube videos for quite some time and it’s cool to see them participate in a program like this. They look so nervous and it’s making me nervous!
Dahee: Oooh, I was hoping Windy City and J Rabbit would go up against each other! Both teams are rather adorable. Windy City are such hippies, haha. I’d like to visit their house. I admit I’m rooting a little more for J Rabbit in this instance, since I’m not the biggest fan of reggae, and I like J Rabbit’s cute sound. I like YB’s advice for them to go simple, since I think J Rabbit’s strength lies in their simplicity. In contrast, it looks like Windy City has decided to go for something a lot more complicated…
Windy City – “오늘 밤” (Kim Wan Sun cover)
Anna: Windy City is introduced as a “kimchi soul reggae band”. I like Windy City and have enjoyed what I’ve seen of their covers on Immortal Song 2, but this doesn’t quite cut it.. The vocals are just weird, the arrangement is more like elevator music than anything engaging. The only highlights as far as I’m concerned are when members of Creative Group NONI join them on stage, looking like they’d belong to some Korean shamanistic mythology. There is still a bit of groove going on there, but far from the usual excitement of Windy City.
Youngmi: I really like their visual approach towards the song. Having Creative Group NONI with them on stage makes it really cool and sets the tone of the song which is completely different from the original. However, I do agree that they are lacking the usual energy I get from their performances. They do pick things up in the end, which makes it better.
Xtian: I liked it. It made me smile the entire time, dance in my chair a bit, and just have a nice, chill time. The NONI bit I couldn’t get behind. It was distracting! At first I thought it was cute to have one, maybe two, but an entire clan featuring a senior citizen? Took away from the song and Windy City.
J Rabbit – “세가지 소원” (Lee Seung Hwan cover)
Anna: It’s a very pretty opening with just the grand piano and the pretty voice of Jung hye sung. Nothing too elaborate, but already far more pleasant to my ears than Windy City before them. I love the cloud videos on the screen behind them. A bit cliché, but very fitting to this performance. I’m sure this won’t be my favorite performance of the evening, at least I hope so, but they did very well. Afterward Windy City say they made night music whereas J Rabbit made morning music. I suppose they’re right.
Youngmi: This is a great song choice for J Rabbit and it fits Hye Sung’s voice extremely well. She sings with such hope and sincerity it’s hard not to smile while watching them. I think J Rabbit’s performance was able to engage the audience more so than Windy City. It was more straightforward and easier to take in because there weren’t other distractions on stage.
Xtian: Oh, how wonderful! Clear voice, spectacular piano playing. I’m a sucker for simple execution, and this one by J Rabbit hit the right spot for me. So pretty :D I just wish Hye Sung would open her eyes more. She has a nice wide eyes and if she would use them to connect to the audience, it might have done better, who knows.
Windy City: 233
J Rabbit: 243
Anna: 500 people allowed to vote means 24 people either couldn’t make up their mind or couldn’t figure out how to use the voting device. To be honest I had expected J Rabbit to win by more, but perhaps the audience that made it there is more rock oriented.
Youngmi: Oh, I didn’t even notice that! Hahaha! Maybe people just weren’t paying attention. It’s the first episode so giving everybody the benefit of the doubt!
Xtian: Ten points apart? Slim margin, don’t you think?
2Round: Pia vs. Daybreak
Anna: Interesting to see the two bands facing each other again outside of Top Band. Who will come out winning should depend completely on which of the two bands has more fans in the audience.
Youngmi: My biases are coming out strong in round two. I’d choose PIA over Daybreak without even listening to the performances, BUT alas can’t let my fandom get in the way of honest commentary! Right?!
Xtian: Ugh! I could not be more different to Youngmi’s POV. Since appearing on TB and subsequent releases after the show, PIA has completely underwhelmed me. I do like Daybreak, but I want PIA to lose more than Daybreak to win, if that makes any sense.
Pia – “Hello” (Cho Yong Pil cover)
Anna: Why go with such a recent song? Seems like they didn’t even have to do much to re-arrange it with the original synth line of the song. Yohan’s “Hello Everybody” in the beginning makes myself a bitmfortably, as does SinZ’s robotic “Hello”. As you might all remember from last year’s Top Band 2 commentary I much prefer Pia’s old nu-metal style over their current synth based sound so I can’t say I’m enjoying it much, but it’s still far from bad. And then that stick with “단발머리”? Such a playing to the gallery! Overall impression is pretty ok though. I’d rather listen to Cho Yong Pil, but have a hard time seeing how Daybreak could top this.
Youngmi: I too was irked when I saw that they would be covering such a recent song. (I obviously want them to beat Daybreak.) However, I’m going to take that as wanting to be original! I feel like Yohan’s vocals isn’t the best here, but they have such great energy right off the bat. As soon as they go into “단발머리” I felt like the place was going to erupt! I liked how the camera showed the YB members jumping along with the audience. PIA certainly knows how to hype the crowd and I think that can put them over the edge!
Xtian: Crowd certainly loved this. I don’t mind the recent-ness of the song, but I agree that this cover is too similar to it’s original. The energy was there, but because of the similarity, I wonder if it came from PIA or from Cho Yong Pil.
Daybreak – “슬픈 마네킹” (Hyun Jin Young cover)
Anna: Very stylish opening. Extremely stylish in both arrangement and performance. I really like the retro synth feel of it. What is this? Do I all of a sudden find myself liking Daybreak? No, there comes the refrain and I hear this is still the Daybreak I can’t really stand. But once the chorus is over there are cute synchronized movement and back to the far more enjoyable verse. And after the second refrain they even make a small rock break! I’ll have to retract my previous statement. Daybreak was able to top Pia even in my eyes & ears.
Youngmi: Daybreak members enter with white suits and chic black sunglasses and I can hear the squealing fangirls all ready! I may dislike Daybreak, but their arrangements are always top notch. How annoying is that? Solid performance!
Xtian: That performance was so cool! If you’re gonna steal from the 80’s, go full blown cheese, and that’s what Daybreak did here. Synth-disco with a key-tar and a stylish piano solo? Yay, and how they open and close the performance was rad. Killer. m/
Anna: That big win for Daybreak? I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised considering even I preferred Daybreak this round…
Youngmi: Boo! I’m just kidding. Daybreak not only looked the part, but gave an entertaining performance as well.
Xtian: BOOM! *drops the mic*
3Round: Crying Nut vs. Deli Spice
Anna: This is gonna be so exciting! I’ve loved Deli Spice since when I first got into Korean indie music and Crying Nut is such a fun treat even after all this time. I never knew Kim Min Kyu and Yoon Jun Ho met online! Yoon Jun Ho goes out biking and meets up with a couple of Crying Nut members by the Mapo stream, friends as they are outside the competition.
Youngmi: As a fan of both teams, I can’t wait to see these veteran bands go against each other. I think it’s cute that the Deli Spice members were so awkward around the cameras. So much so that the staff gave them personal cameras to use during the day. I also liked how Yoon Jun Ho bought the Crying Nut twins kalgooksoo in order to figure out their song choice. Strategic!
Xtian: OOOH! I love both of them! Can’t wait.
Crying Nut – “정신차려” (Kim Soo Chul cover)
Anna: “Korea’s punk symbol”. Ah, opening with accordion and a picture of the eiffel tower while Captain makes a Chaplin imitation. Can’t help but like their charming entry before moving onto something that sounds more like the Crying Nut we know. They remain fun and have made a good arrangement yet I’m not completely satisfied.Towards the end they let the parts of the audience run up on stage, as it seems with more foreigners than Koreans seizing the opportunity.
Youngmi: This song choice is perfectly ironic because it’s hard for the uncontrollably wild Crying Nut members to ever wake up or pay attention! I was smiling all throughout the performance and thoroughly enjoyed Captain’s introduction skit! With the audience coming up on stage and Yoon Sik’s crowd surfing, this performance was 100% entertaining.
Xtian: The United Punk Colors of Benetton, ladies and germs! That opening was soo weird, and exactly them, so that was fun. Like Anna, I was left wanting. All the elements were there, but I felt the performance was flat, and ran too long. I like my punk to hit hard, fast and run away just as quickly.
Deli Spice – “초생달” (어떤날 cover)
Anna: I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the original, so I could easily be fooled into thinking that this was a new Deli Spice song. After a toned down opening the band can be heard more towards the audience and I have to think no more about which performance is my favorite this episode. There’s just something about Kim Min Kyu’s voice that I can never resist. Perhaps helped by a sense of nostalgia as well as not being able to tell if the original song was not made justice, but to me it’s obvious that Deli Spice must come winning out of this round.
Youngmi: Something tells me that Deli Spice was very worried and nervous about their performance. However, I fully enjoyed it and truly understood what they were trying to portray. I like how Deli Spice stuck to their sound and it resulted in a genuine performance that moved the audience (it moved me at least!). The ending was pretty powerful and a perfect way to end the show! So proud of Deli Spice!
Xtian: Whoa. Now that’s a performance! That opening had me worried, but as the song progressed and the intensity ramped up, I was on board to the fullest. Such a great performance, and the best one so far. Wait, are we in agreeance?
Crying Nut: 234
Deli Spice: 244
Anna: Close call, but a fair outcome that does not put either band to shame. Now I want a Deli Spice cover album!
Youngmi: Do people just forget to vote? Hmm weird. Anyways, yeah Deli Spice!
Xtian: Another slim margin. But yay, Deli!
J Rabbit vs. Daybreak vs. Deli Spice
Anna: Although my favorite picks made it from each round, I would’ve liked to see at least one of Pia and Crying Nut in the final just for balance…
Youngmi: I hope Deli Spice wins!
Xtian: Oh god, I can’t watch!
Anna: Not entirely unexpected, even though I’d prefer to see any of the other bands take this home. But on the other hand they did even manage to appeal to me this time
Youngmi: Congrats to Daybreak!
Xtian: No! I thought Deli and J were much better performances. But it was a strong showing for all of them, so rock on, Deli and J!
Thoughts after first episode
Anna: I had been hoping for more of a tournament style competition, but by now I’ve had to realize there’ll be different bands battling it out every episode. But I did see something about a prize of 100,000,000 won before the competition started, so either was confused in that money’s connection to the competition or we have some sort of final coming up at the end of it. Did anybody else notice that there were mostly just girls in the audience? I wonder if that is a conscious choice to get more ‘pleasant’ fan screams, or if its just that girls in general care more for this kind of music? And as usual when there are foreigners in the audience, the camera zooms in on them as often as possible. Seemed to be far more foreigners there for this than we ever saw for Top Band. A matter of preference, popularity or simply that Yoon Do Hyun’s MUST is easier to get in to?
Youngmi: I like the format because it allows different bands to participate and some can even come on the show more than once. I don’t think there is a certain kind of bias towards the more popular bands too which is nice. I’m pretty sure that the winner of each episode gets a cash prize, and a LP release? And the final winner gets a camera and an even bigger cash prize. I too noticed that there were a lot of lady fans in the audience. Maybe because PIA and Daybreak have a lot of female fans? I know that you can apply to get tickets through the homepage and through twitter. I’m pretty sure it’s the luck of the draw though.
Xtian: I’m liking this so far. No bs about judges, or mentors. Just bands being bands and trying to make a good performance for the audience. Korean cameramen love ladies, so I’m not surprised that much of the audience shots were female-oriented, and many of those shots were of the same girls! But did anyone notice that the bigger bands get 5 minutes, while J Rabbit and Windy City only got 3.5? I don’t like this one bit and I hope it isn’t a pattern that repeats in subsequent episodes.