It’s been a while since I last go to writing one of these randomness posts. I had a special topic in mind, but great tragedy struck in the world of K-pop and I couldn’t find a way to write around it. Since then I’ve spent a couple of weeks in Korea with some of my favorite colleagues–that with their openness towards food and everything else there was to show made me not only feel fortunate to be working with such good people, but also made me appreciate what Korea has to offer even more. Unfortunately that meant I didn’t have as much time as usual (which anyway is never enough time…) to meet up with all the people I would’ve wanted to see, but hopefully that just means I can find an excuse to come back sooner.
We started off with a weekend in Gangnam, then 5 days on Jeju-do (though most of them very rainy because of a typhoon on the way over from China), and finally one full week, two weekends, in Hongdae. With one exception I hadn’t planned any musical excursions, but we anyway ended up extremely lucky and got to see some of the very best bands Korea has to offer.
September 26: Gwanghwamun
Our first evening back in Seoul we headed over to Gwanghwamun Plaza. My friends wanted to pick up some books at Kyobo, and I was lucky enough to find 3rd Line Butterfly‘s Dreamtalk on vinyl at Hot Tracks even though I thought it had sold out already when it came out in May. It was way overpriced, but since the next day was my birthday I figured why not. As soon as we were done we headed out to the actual plaza to see Jambinai. There was some sort of cultural event to highlight Gwanghwamun as a candidate for UNESCO’s World Heritage List where Jambinai had been invited to play 2 songs. After half an hour delay the 3 members of the band took to the stage and following some initial troubles performed magically. The audience, with a high degree of old men in costumes, was interesting to watch even though to the reaction I had anticipated from most when Jambinai got loud never came. My friends were all into it, though one commented that it’d been better to have all the instruments on stage to better see which sound comes from where when there are so many new sounds. I assured him that if we ever get to see Jambinai in Sweden (which hopefully won’t be too long) everything should be in its place.
September 27: Birthday Bash
The next day our only plan was to just eat a lot and stay out in Hongdae all night. As we were walking down the parking street, headed for our first dinner of the evening at Reggae Chicken (which remains my favorite fried chicken place anywhere), we passed a Maxwellhouse Guesthose event decorated with posters advertising a Kiha & The Faces guerilla concert 2 hours later. We came back just on time and the street–as well as the windows of the surrounding buildings–was crowded. Kiha & The Faces once again proved to be a fantastic live band and while they were at it announced the release of a 3rd full-length album, out last week. To my great joy my colleagues were eating it all up as well. I had thought that the main appeal of Kiha & The Faces came from the lyrics and a familiarity with Korean 70-80’s sound, but to my surprise at the end of the trip this was the band that my colleagues said to have enjoyed the most.
When Kiha & The Faces had finished we went for our second dinner, at Flying Chicken this time (another favorite chicken place), after which we hit some baseballs. When we finished the night was still early and the free cocktail hour at Club FF had just started. Recalling that the there would also be some interesting bands playing that evening we swiftly headed over. We got lucky (again) as we made it there just before Eastern Sidekick‘s set was about to start. This was my first time seeing them and it was thoroughly enjoyable. The Lads followed–another first for me. With both bands it was great to see that they had so many engaged fans and I was very happy for my friends to be able to experience the great energy of a small, Korean basement club. My friends were into both of these bands as well, with voices in favor of both Eastern Sidekick (skilled musicians) and The Lads (catchy songs).
September 28: Firestorm One Time Reunion
Come Sunday September 28th an evening I had anticipated for months finally arrived: the big Firestorm reunion! Although, really it was an evening at Yogiga for European hardcore band Nasty with several Korean bands supporting. We arrived a bit later than I had hoped but just in time for me to finally get to see All I Have. When the time came for Firestorm everybody headed inside. Firestorm’s bassist had to stay home to celebrate his daughter’s birthday, so Bluce of Vassline came to the rescue and filled his part. As usual Firestorm also had a featured vocalist to do more of the screaming part and for the first time Geon of All I Have had the honor. It was such a joy to see them! My husband never looks happier than when he’s on stage, even if this time technically it was just the floor. Unfortunately one of the mics wasn’t working properly, but that didn’t stop anybody and the audience anyway eagerly shouted along. The atmosphere was just what it should’ve been. And Bluce was amazing, as always. Even though he didn’t start practicing the songs until the day before.
September 30: Hollow Jan Save The Children
A couple of days later, it was evening before I met up with my colleagues. Checking Facebook on my way over I was reminded that Hollow Jan would have a gig in favor of Save The Children just an hour later. Fortunately my friends were up for it and we all went to Prism Hall together. It was a wonderful, wonderful show lasting a total of 80 minutes. Fantastic, dramatic, beautiful music, of course, and also some extremely entertaining talk between songs, among other things revealing that Skasucks has a US date coming up. My colleagues were all new to screamo, and a common opinion was that while the post-rock style music was great, the screaming on top of it was a bit heavy to digest.
October 3: Congratulations, DoIndie!
Another couple of days passed with other things than music on the schedule. By the Friday I headed out to the DoIndie 1st anniversary show on my own. First out was MAN, and though not quite as convincing as on the demo I remain convinced that this is one band that can go far. Guten Birds came next and surprised me a great deal by being better than I recalled from Top Band 2. At some times I was reminded of early Nastyona, others it was just grungy awesomeness. I ended up buying both CDs and a tote bag.
That Friday was the last evening out for 2 of my colleagues so I couldn’t stay for the whole evening, but I certainly couldn’t leave before seeing No Respect For Beauty. It’d been more than 2 years, but it was so super nice to see them again. Stunningly beautiful. All of it.
October 4: La Grande Finale
With only 2 colleagues remaining, our last full day in Seoul we went to Yeouido to check out the Seoul International Fireworks Festival. The Han River Park on the island was extremely crowded already in the afternoon. As we strolled through it we suddenly heard some EDM coming from a stage on the grass and as we got closer saw a band all dressed in white suites. It turned out to be Newton, that seemed to be doing a good job keeping a very varied audience entertained. Fun as it was, we only stuck around for a couple of songs before continuing our walk as I had another schedule shortly thereafter.
The actual fireworks I watched with my husband and a group of his friends from a rooftop helicopter pad on Yeouido. Very beautiful, and very, very chilly. As soon as it was over we took to the subway towards Itaewon where our Swedish friend Emma Stillman was about to sing together with Haze Moon at a Canadian pub. Although not my usual kind of place, Emma and Haze Moon definitely made going there worthwhile with a cozy performance. (I really need to get to writing the post on them I’ve had planned since July…) When it was done I took my colleagues to a nearby 90’s k-pop club, which was a somewhat different experience from what I’ve tried before (that’s another post) but very awesome in that it also played both Cherry Filter‘s “오리날다” and Shin Hae Chul‘s “그대에게“. Around 4am somebody recognized that we had to get on the plane(s) back to Sweden in just a few hours, so we all headed to our respective homes to pack before heading to the airport. I’ve known I’ve been very lucky to have such good colleagues for quite a while, but even so I never imagined going on a long vacation together would be so much fun.
Although I spent most of my time with my colleagues this time, I did get around to meeting up with a few friends (special thanks to Genie for coming out so many days!) and in the meantime got a few updates regarding activities for some of my favorite musicians.
Already in March I learned that Choi Hyunseok of Apollo 18 had recently begun playing together with a couple of the guys from The Plastic Day and now I was told they’re still going strong–it’s always great to learn of great musicians making new music in new constellations and I’m so curious to actually hear what they sound like. Kim Daeinn, also of Apollo 18 shared that he’d be reviving his old Jelly Boy music style, but this time make a band out of it. The band’s name is Atmo and the first show on Friday this week. Apollo 18 still exists though, and will likely continue to do so.
Additionally I’ve been worrying about the future of Modsdive since learning that Kim Yoonki would be heading to Australia. I very much regretted not being able to make it to what I thought would be their last show, in spite of the “first performance” tagline that went with the Agravic Sound Pressure show mid-September. Turns out it’s just my lacking Korean skills that had me confused as I was relieved to be informed that Modsdive will continue as a trio. Very, very good news as I would love to hear much, much more of their new songs.