Top Band 3: Live Auditions

On October 3rd the third season of KBS2 band survival show Top Band kicked off. Much like with Top Band 2 I’ll have a commentary series running to make watching just a little bit more fun. The panel members shared their expectations ahead of the season back in August and now it’s time to have a look at the live auditions covered in the first couple of episodes, where 111 bands tried their luck in front of the coaches. In addition to myself, Lightinthemind of Korean Rock is Real, Kevin, and Youngmi have all contributed their opinions. If you want to watch it yourself all episodes can be streamed from the official site.


Anna: The first episode of Top Band 3 started with a 5 minute long Rose Motel special. Didn’t quite see the point or the entertainment value, but at least it was better than the cringeworthy Toxic intro of the previous season. May I also say I don’t really understand why they have been appointed as coaches this season. For sure they may say a thing or two about how to succeed in Top Band, but to actually help the bands grow musically?

Kevin: I think the Rose Motel special was pretty fun. It sets a good mood and grabs your attention right from the start. Makes me look forward to the upcoming episodes. That street performance at the beginning was really enjoyable as it reminded me of when I visited Seoul last year. I agree that the Toxic intro was much inferior.

Youngmi: I, too, was a bit confused on the Rose Motel special and thought it went on a bit too long. I know a lot of people (myself included) on social media had some strong feelings about Rose Motel being coaches especially when word got out about which bands would be on the show.

Lightinthemind: Think Rose Motel special was a bit long for the audition show. And for sure it wasn’t true about Rose Motel to become famous only after Top Band 2. I remember how the audience was crazy about “봉숙이” as soon as it was out. So I’m totally against showing a fake story.


Anna: Who’s the MC this time around? 정지원? Had to google her. Turns out she’s a KBS announcer with an interest in art & music.

Kevin: 정지원 really gives off the aura of a news presenter. At least they didn’t pick someone who’s not interested in music. I’m sure she’ll do a good job.


Coach Meetup

Anna: While I might be somewhat sceptical towards Rose Motel, I’m all the more excited to see Yoon Il Sang as a coach this year. Granted he’s been doing more pure pop stuff than band music, but he’s a brilliant songwriter and managed to get an interesting direction for his 21st anniversary tribute album some years back. I’m even happier to see Shin Dae Chul return for the third time. I remember him as a good coach, and he’s such a character on screen.

Kevin: Ah, so Yoon Il Sang has worked with COOL and Insooni? This man has my respect then. It’s nice to have him here. Songwriters usually don’t get the credit they deserve, that’s for sure. Shin Dae Chul has had such a legendary career with Sinawe, I’m sure it’s an honor for them to have him return as a coach once again. Actually, this reminds that Shin Hae Chul passed away this month last year. Such a shame.

Youngmi: When I first saw that Yoon Il Sang was going to be a coach I instantly said to myself “Isn’t that the guy who made that one Kim Bum Soo song?” I really think the selection of coaches this year is awkward and it’s funny that they addressed amongst themselves in the beginning. More of Shin Dae Chul cursing please!


Streetguns – Rock is Black

Anna: StreetgunsTop Band audition was the talk of the town even before the first episode aired. I’m not big on rockabilly myself, but they’ve been playing together long enough to anyway impress. And the move with standing on the standing bass while playing it is something I find a lot cooler than I should. Yoon Il Sang declares that really “rock is back”.

Kevin: Though this song was quite catchy and groovy, it feels like most rockabilly bands take too much inspiration from Elvis. Like here, even right down to the singer’s appearance and dance moves. The song itself felt very similar to “Jailhouse Rock” with the chord progression and melody. It was still a great performance nonetheless – that standing bass player was quite impressive. I just wish they would bring their own twist to the rockabilly style.

Lightinthemind: To let our readers know – Streetguns were formed by members of The RockTigers who split up last year and found new young vocalist. The sound to my mind remained the same but male vocalist adds a feeling of manliness to overall impression. I consider of becoming a fan)


MiMi Sisters – 내 말이 그 말이었잖아요

Anna: “DJ DJ Sisters” — that’s a funny way to misread their name. I still haven’t gotten around to listening to MiMi Sisters’ second album (which I’m told is vastly different from their first), so this sound was quite the surprise to me. I like it! Looks like they have Achime’s old bassist in the band. Jokes about MiMi Motel as they finish, that’d be something!

Kevin: Not a big fan of the clapping in this song, it gets sort of annoying. I do however really like the raw yet powerful vocals they make use of. Quite different from their earlier 50’s swing pop inspired style, but it’s still good. The song was short, sweet and now it’s stuck in my head. It starts out slow but gradually progresses into catchy chaos. Love that drumming.

Youngmi: I haven’t seen or listened to the MiMi Sisters in forever!

Lightinthemind: DJDJ? Brilliant! I adore MiMi Sisters since they released their first record and looks like they still have their flirting energy of performance. Wish them good luck at the show. But why I think they would sound better without that drummer?


Dead Buttons – I Need A Million

Anna: I still haven’t seen Dead Buttons live, but from what I’ve heard they do an extremely good job–impressing even seasoned music business people looking for the hottest new acts to invite to their festivals. Their sound is a bit too bluesy for my tastes, but I can sort of see their appeal anyway. Yoon Il Sang mentions Led Zeppelin before declaring himself a fan, also complementing their vocal color and riff.

Kevin: The blues is strong in this one. This song felt lacking to me though. I guess I would have to be in the right mood to really appreciate it, but it’s not leaving a big impact on me at the moment. Not much going on in this slow song. The riffs and vocals, to me, weren’t that impressive. I think a bass would have given the song more character, but they still did a good job, all things considered.

Youngmi: I just recently got turned on to Dead Buttons! I’m a bit sad that it was such a short clip because they are much better than what they showed here.

Lightinthemind: Think they should have chose another song for the performance. “I need a million” works as resemblance of foreign bands more then shows their uniqueness.


Random Audition Clips

Anna: !!! 57 auditioned and weren’t even shown on TV for more than a few seconds?! We didn’t even get to hear which song they auditioned with! What a travesty.

Kevin: Agreed, I would have liked to see more of them. The first band looked familiar for some reason. A tiny glimpse of screaming vocals, hmm.

Youngmi: I saw Wasted Johnny’s Nils for three seconds! It seems a lot of well known bands auditioned but got no air time which is extremely unfortunate.


Oriental Showcus – Showcus

Anna: This is the first time I hear of Oriental Showcus. The vocalist is kind of charming though, especially as she instructs the coaches how to move their hands while enjoying the performance. I’m usually not much for ska, but this was all very enjoyable. Even though I’m generally not big on brass instruments I really like the trombone here.

Kevin: Personally, I found the brass instruments to be refreshing and made the song quite memorable. The saxophone stood out to me especially, not to mention the silly keyboard “breakdown” later on. Overall, it was a lot of fun. Seems like a band I would enjoy seeing live if not just for their simple yet cute dancing. The singer has a lot of energy and her voice is charming, indeed. It’s great when bands interact with their audience, that makes them connect more easily and the show gets even more enjoyable.

Lightinthemind: I do like the voice of vocalist. It’s so rare to hear voice like that on South Korean music scene. I’m always scared when I see a new band and female vocals. But if to talk about the performance of the band – think they lack energy that ska bands are famous of.


What A Circus – 야 너 나 좋아하지마

Anna: Named as the biggest competition by Oriental Showcus, if I got things right. Though with much more of a funk sound if judging from this song. Not a fan of the music myself, but a few terribly unappealing groin movements aside their stage performance was quite entertaining.

Kevin: It’s catchy but nothing special. The saxophone solo felt too abrupt coupled with the awkward thrusting. Speaking of the saxophone solo, early on it sounded really similar to the Mission Impossible theme song. Not sure if that was intentional or not, but I was okay with it. Again, nothing special, but I enjoyed it for what it was. Though I prefer Oriental Showcus since we’re on the topic of rivalry.

Lightinthemind: Probably not fair comment but watching that I was able to think only smth like ‘gosh! where did they find all those unhandsome men?’


Apnea – Dirty Veins

Anna: Somehow I had missed all about Apnea until now, but this is something I can support. The trend of the last few years to mix “fx” with rock generally doesn’t work for me, but the way Apnea integrates sampler and synth with a sort of progressive rock sound has a different appeal. The looks on Shin Dae Chul’s and Yoon Il Sang’s faces at the sight of the female vocalist, however…

Kevin: The sampler and synth used here sounded pretty good, but they felt a bit out of place at times. It was like they had a problem keeping it synced for some reason. The singer has an interesting voice and it fits well here. The drums near the end felt a bit lacking though. However, the song as a whole was quite different which I can appreciate. Right away it made me think “ah yes, this is probably something Shin Dae Chul will enjoy.”

Lightinthemind: Please! Please! Throw away sampler! Just imagine how great this voice could be within dark scene! Imagine it in synth-pop arrangement or gothic metal arrangement. That would be much better!


ChoMoonGeun Band – l.i.l

Anna: I had missed all about Cho Moon Geun previously, but apparently he was the runner-up for Superstar K1. There are even fangirls waiting outside asking for signatures when he’s shown entering the building. I’m liking this a lot! Great, catchy song that should have some mainstream appeal. Apparently he got tired of doing acoustic stuff and decided to do more band stuff. Judges don’t seem very impressed, Yoon Il Sang saying the band itself isn’t playing all that well together.

Kevin: For some reason, the guitars sounded sloppy, especially near the beginning and end. Cho Moon Geun’s voice has potential, but I think it’s too raw for a song like this. I was also a bit underwhelmed by his scream near the end. It’s nice though how he had fangirls waiting for him outside. Hopefully he and the other members can continue to improve. I mean, the song wasn’t bad by any means, and I like when people try out new things, but this could have been a lot more. Not that impressed by it.


2nd Moon – 두개의 길

Anna: Here’s one band I had never ever expected to see in Top Band, even though they made a comeback sort of recently. Again, not something I would commonly listen to but I do recognize their skills. Standing ovation from Shin Dae Chul, but most of all I’m surprised that the coaches seems so surprised about the band–I had them down as Korea’s best known instrumental band since their 2005 debut album, which earned them Album & Rookie of the Year as well as BestJazz & Crossover Album at the 3rd KMAs. Yoon Il Sang references French band Deep Forest.

Kevin: For some bands, the vocals can make or break a song. I guess you can say 2nd Moon and other instrumental bands play in the safe zone by not relying on a vocalist but rather the instruments themselves. The violin sounded really good here, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear a bagpipe. Unusual choice of instrument, but it worked out greatly. Honestly, this is a song that I would listen to on a regular basis. Very pretty and downright relaxing. I’m a big fan of folk music (especially folk metal) and this does not disappoint. Great performance.

Lightinthemind: Just one question. How can they compete with other bands remaining in this style?


Random Audition Clips with Foreigners

Kevin: This reminds me of the struggles Brad Moore of Busker Busker went through as a foreigner. It makes me wonder how these people ended up in South Korea.


Pentasonic – Sunshine

Anna: One of those expat bands whose name I’m very familiar with without having ever heard their music. Glad to finally learn what they sound like, but unfortunately a bit too much on the funk side for me to really be into it. Very cute when Rose Motel try prac. Shin Dae Chul calls them a pro band, making a comparison with Jamiroquai.

Kevin: I can definitely see where the Jamiroquai comparison comes from. I think my only major complaint here would be the vocals and lyrics. If those were slightly improved, I could imagine hearing this song on the radio. It has great appeal even for people not invested in korean music. Though it seems like their singer is better at korean than Rose Motel is at english, funny enough.


InPlace – Break The Ice

Anna: Son Seung Yeon is back in Top Band! Although it seems just to support the band members with which she competed as WMA during the first season. Those vocals were quite surprising, but I’m liking this a lot more than I would’ve expected. I feel like this is something I should’ve been listening to when I was in highschool.

Kevin: I’m really liking the lyrics here. I think the singing could have been a bit better, but it has a certain color to it which still fits this song because of the attitude it’s going for. My favorite part was the breakdown, if you can call it that. It takes a more aggressive approach but it doesn’t feel out of place. I quite enjoyed this, though it would have been interesting to see Son Seung Yeon compete as well.


leeSA – I Want You Back

Anna: Another of the contestants whose participation gained quite the attention before the first episode was broadcast. I generally like leeSA, but didn’t particularly like this Jackson 5 cover. Yoon Il Sang tries calling her Hongdae Goddess, but she modestly declines.

Kevin: Yeah, even for a Jackson 5 cover, this wasn’t anything special. Her voice overall felt weak and didn’t hit the notes well. A song like “I Want You Back” usually requires a backup singer or more, otherwise it feels too hectic with just one person doing all the work. She doesn’t deserve a title like Hongdae Goddess, to be honest.

Youngmi: She’s a Hongdae Goddess to me!!! Err I’m sorry that’s the fangirl in me trying to escape here. I’m a huge fan of LeeSa and had no idea she would be on the show. She has an incredible following on her youtube channel although they are mostly covers.


Lunafly – Falling

Anna: Idol band! If any I had expected to see Day6, but Lunafly has a similar brand of authenticity to them so this should be fun to see. Sounds agreeable enough so far. I do have one very serious objection: it doesn’t seem all that fair to have them competing with Yoon Il Sang as one of the coaches when they’re signed with his entertainment company.

Kevin: I’m not the biggest fan of Lunafly, but it’s impressive that they make songs in Spanish. Recently, they also had a Europe tour which is awesome. I highly approve this growing trend of idol groups playing instruments. As for this song, there’s not much to complain about. Great vocals, catchy melody and it’s emotionally powerful. This is something I would listen to again with great enjoyment.

Lightinthemind: I’m sorry, no comments here. I strongly disagree with idol band appearing at this kind of competition. And excuse me! Idol BAND? Most like a group of people combined by entertainment agency to please females.


CANDI – 비밀친구

Anna: A school band with 4 cute girls. Top Band never had good editing, but this may be some of the worst yet showing middle-aged men lusting after girls not even half their age as if it was a sweet thing. They’ll need some time to grow as a band.

Kevin: I’m not sure how old the members of CANDI are, but they seem very talented and cute. I think their vocals still need a bit of time to improve, but until then, I hope they can gain more popularity. They have potential, that’s for sure. The song was simple, not exactly unique, but very cute and happy. A feel-good tune, if you may.


The Hysterics – Boost Power

Anna: Kim Se Hun! EVE was one of the first bands I really got into when I began my venture into Korean rock music so I will always support Kim Se Hun. Even so I’ll have to admit I’m not really that into The Hysterics’ glam metal revival. This song unfortunately doesn’t do much to change that. Happy to see that the Oriental Showcus vocalist is fangirling over Kim Se Hun too.

Kevin: These screaming vocals don’t really mix well with the glam style. Vocals aside, the song is okay, but it just feels really straightforward and cliché, especially the lyrics. Easily forgettable but at least the members are good-looking. The bass player reminds me of Kim Jong-seo which is a plus.


Band 그래서 – Move Over

Anna: I’m usually more negatively inclined towards any band that auditions with a cover rather than original material, but it seems So Eun Joo created this band just to be able to audition for Top Band. Janis Joplin does seem to suit her well, but it’s anyway not working for me.

Kevin: It would be interesting to hear the singer cover a disco song like “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. That’s what her voice makes me think of. For a song like this, it almost comes off as overwhelming. So in short, this isn’t my cup of tea. Props to that keyboard player with the Gorillaz shirt though.


Asian Chairshot – 뱃노래

Anna: Asian Chairshot!!! This is by far the band I’m most excited to see in Top Band. Might as well come clean and admit my bias right away. These guys are awesome on record and even more awesome live. I’d thought they’d go with another song, but they’re killing it regardless and get standing ovations from all coaches. Shin Dae Chul calls them Korea’s Motorhead upon which they declare that they also do trot rock. Please let them go far!

Kevin: Now THIS is more like it. One of my favorite performances so far. I was headbanging throughout the entire song and all of the coaches seemed to dig it as well. Really catchy and hard-hitting stuff. The vocals go together nicely and they have a lot of raw energy. They’re getting a standing ovation from me too. I wish them the best of luck for this season.

Lightinthemind: I still remember the time when nobody knew about Asian Chairshot and I was the one to publish their videos. It took them a year or so to become quite popular and somehow I was proud of them to do that as if they were my children) I will cheer for them in this competition.


Band Selection


15 bands were selected out of the 111 that made the live audition: What A Circus, Dead Buttons, Streetguns, Four Brothers, Pentasonic, Oriental Showcus, Notension, Lunafly, leeSA, InPlace, Band 그래서, AZ’bus, Asian Chairshot, Apnea, Wasted Johnny’s.

Anna: After noticing that 57 had auditioned I’m bummed that they didn’t make it further. I also saw photos on the official Top Band 3 twitter of Electron Sheep auditioning, but no trace of him in the actual TV show. At least I’ll have Asian Chairshot to root for. And of course I’m looking forward to seeing also what the other bands will be up to, especially Apnea, AZ’bus, Dead Buttons, Wasted Johnny’s and Lunafly.

Kevin: I feel like some people might be watching the show just because Lunafly are included. Even if that’s the case, at least they’re getting introduced to lots of other great bands. I’ve got my fingers crossed for Asian Chairshot and Oriental Showcus especially. But it would have made sense for them to show the auditions of every band they would be selecting. Maybe that would take too much time, but still, I would appreciate it.


Solo Musician Auditions

Kevin: Interesting idea to have all of the auditioners’ polaroid pictures on a table like that.

Anna:  Kim Joon Wook offered some really impressive guitar play in spite of his young age. Seems he’s already gotten a bit of exposure.

Kevin: Kim Joon Wook reminds me of Jung Sungha. Both very talented guitar players at a young age. I’m sure this kid will continue to improve even more if he keeps at it. So far though, I’m really impressed.

Anna: What I can’t stop thinking while watching the solo auditions is that there must be a reason why these obviously talented people don’t already have bands of their own. I’ll accept young age as a valid excuse, but for the others? Are they so good they haven’t been able to find other musicians to match their talent, or have they just failed terribly in convincing others of their vision? This was on my mind particularly while watching the first couple of vocalist auditions.

Anna: Again with the editing when Soyon appears, all the way from Moscow. Very cool keyboard play from her, covering Gain’s “Paradise Lost”, and impressive vocals on top of that. Apparently she’s classically trained on piano.

Kevin: The staff really needs to take it easy with this editing when females are performing. Gets really silly, honestly. Anyway, I really liked the performance, but I would have liked to hear more of it. The piano playing was top-notch along with her vocals. Doesn’t surpass the original by any means, but that’s to be expected.

Anna: 11-year old Jo Yoon Sik plays Dream Theater’s “Panic Attack” and from what I can tell does a very impressive job with the double pedals. Great choice of a song, too. This kid deserves to become a YouTube phenomenon.

Kevin: Nice to see someone at such a young age appreciating progressive metal. I’ll bet that next year someone will cover a Gojira song – that would be epic. He puts a lot of effort and emotion into this, with the highlight being his great double pedalling. Very good rhythm and feel to it all, I highly approve. He might grow up to play in a band like that one day.

Anna: Jina Lee of K-pop Star 4 fame shows up to support her guitarist friend Ahn Joong Jae. Another very talented guitarist, but Shin Dae Chul confirms what I had suspected: some of these auditioners are better of as solo musicians than band members.

Kevin: Nice to see that Ahn Joong Jae played with Sistar at Sketchbook. I don’t watch K-pop Star that much, but Jina Lee has a very sweet voice. I agree that some of the people here should go solo instead. That’s not a bad thing though, at least they got exposure thanks to this show.


3 bands are formed from the solo musicians and included in the Top 18:

The 2080 이플 3POP
Jang Yoo Seok (keyboard)
Kim Joon Wook (guitar)
Lee Seok Cheol (drums)
Lee Min Joo (bass)
Soyon (vocals)
Jo Eun Joo (guitar)
Lee Chang Kyu (guitar)
Song Chang Seok (vocals)
Shin Sung Gwang (bass)
Jung Kwang Hyun (drums)
Ahn Joong Jae (guitar)
Bae Ji Yeon (vocals/bass)
Kim Tae Hyun (drums)


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