The afternoon starts with a snooze. Late show last night, later eating and drinking, early rising to the DMZ then hit the pillow.
Rested, rise and walk to Haroo Spacebus. We saw Kopjanggonggol the other night here and borrowed bits of their drums for the Yogiga show. Now we return here to eat after the StrangeFruits show and tonight it’s our show here. These two venues have been our key visiting points in this area called Hongdae.
All our shows have been in this area. There’s a large Arts University nearby, and the place is cool, a real place to be, fashion central, with us mixed up inside it.
Tonight there’s four acts on the bill. Opening is the spectacular Yukie Sato playing a solo guitar improvisation, all the ‘F’ words, fast, frenetic, funny, furious, full-on then finished. The set started with a hint of a song that asked where the Police were in the room, that then shifted gear to guitar solo played with fingers and then a serving spoon. Switching guitar midway to play one in the shape of an AK47 Yukie added electronic toys in to the mix, a device that instructed NO, a siren that wound into a warning call. Instantly the energy in the room was uplifted. Fabulous!
Next in the left corner is Bong Gyo Lee, master drummer of the Korean hourglass shaped drum called the Changgo. In the right corner on the kit is Kieran locked into a conversational spar. Shifting gear, Bong Gyo moves from Changgo to a gong called a Kkwaenggwari 꽹가리 – the dialogue turns metallic as cymbals dominate, hoots call out from the floor and then the spontaneous piece ends with a tense anticipation.
Third is Mustang Sally, our host Ian-John on harmonica, and Sally on guitar and vocals playing original blues/jug band-styled tunes. Virtuosity from both through the set, and buoyant songs keep the energy up. I’s really nice seeing these in a different context as both played the previous night in a improvised set.
We round the evening off with a full sonic range. Midway through we get sounds coming from the floor as Bong Gyo accompanies us to the sound of the Kkwaenggwari, and Yukie ramps up the siren sounds. We figure our music always sounds better when its full of grins, hooting and hollering along.
Photo by Ian-John Hutchison
Photo by Ian-John Hutchison
We reach wipe-the-paint-off-the-face time of the evening, sitting back and chilling with Makgoelli, Han Joo prepares more food, and a couple more hours slip past before another light night ramble to the backpackers.
We meet up with Ian-John, pack out of Haroo, put the gear back into Yogiga before the show tonight at Bbang. Then it’s onto the trains to some part of town where the most extraordinary street markets are held. Stalls full to the brim with electronics, clothes, repair shops, second hand instruments, stacks and stacks of karaoke equipments, streets on streets of Korean bric a brac.
Lunch, hunt for coffee then more walking to the old emperor’s temple which was nearby where the bus drivers strike was held the other day. We’re told that this area is where a lot of political action happened, passion demonstrations that have changed the political nature of the country. There’s a permanent tent city that’s protesting the way the government has investigated the sinking of the Sewol ferry several years ago in which many school kids died by drowning. There are tents full of photos of the faces of those lost.
Show time. And this one was a bit of a bonus, as Ian-John contacted the bar to see if they could accommodate another act, and yes was the answer. But it’s a scene/crowd Ian-John’s not familiar of so it’s a chance for all of us to see new acts, make new connections perhaps.
Bbang is a the largest bar we’ll play in. It also underground, and about 500 metres up the road from StrangeFruits. Walking around, the area has several other bars and the sound of indie-rock bands sound checking can be heard along the stroll.
First up is Oh Hijung, a solo performer playing atmospheric grooves from a laptop and accompanying equipment.
Next is Pinan, a local four-piece pop group with lead singer on acoustic guitar. Competent songs with a range of dynamics.
We’re on third and possibly are the loudest, and most assertive act of the evening. We see the bar manager/sound guy at the back grooving away. It’s a swift 30 minute set and then it’s over. It’s a lean crowd, one of those shows that’s mostly other bands in the audience, but you should never let that distract you, it’s no reason to perform with any less intensity than if it’s was a completely full room. Its a good thing to learn to respect the efforts others had made to be there. It’s fun.
Fourth is the guitar duo Desert flower, playing to loops and some processing. Large delayed washings of sound reminiscent of Spaceman 3 or guitar shoe-gaze of that era.
The final act Gangnam Songrim play. There’s only three of us left now in the audience. The band plays to us. A MOR rock band, at times with the funkiness of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, at others times hearing grunge influences. It’s a nice set, they speak to us directly, introducing their songs and then delivering with precision.
We catch a train back to the backpackers – spend an hour or so packing for the plane. It’s late when we get to sleep, and it’s not long after when we wake up. Its a long day and night from Seoul to our small home in a valley.
Something we posted to Facebook once we got home:
“Well, we made it back to our tiny house on a hill and unpacked. We’re massively weary, mostly intact and immensely satisfied with our recent jaunt to Tokyo and Seoul. We met many good people along the way, and it’s a privilege to be wrapped up in your warmth and enthusiasm.
Huge shout out to the venues: Aja bar, Rinen and Jam in Tokyo, and Yogiga, Haroo SpaceBus, Strangefruits and Bbang in Seoul.
10/10 for Ian-John who was the lynchpin in making this happen. He was instrumental in hooking us up with Kaori in Tokyo which facilitated those shows happening. Willing networks, based on integrity and interest like interesting music, are a precious thing – to find folk who will help organise shows, accommodation, tolerate dietary requirements and step in at any other needed time is a wonderful thing to behold.
Cheers to all the bands who came and played, all the folk who came to the shows, the people who hung around and ate and drank, and the people who welcomed us in on more quiet times. It was brilliant.
We hope to catch you all again soon, hopefully next August!
till then, take care and thanks again