non-fiction rock from Aotearoa New Zealand

Posts tagged “HAroo Spacebus

Hongdae Homerun

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.

Hondae Haroo

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.

Bong gyo and i

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.

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.

Last day.

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.

Temple dog

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

The Han Joo-Slingshot-Nosebleed Drumroll

We crashed straight from work into a delightfully intense three days in Tokyo. It’s full on and little off. So what happens next is rest, food, and discovering the local Mangwon-dong area of inner city Seoul.

We decided to come to South Korea after we met folk from Bulgasari, a bunch of local experimental musicians and performers who toured Aotearoa New Zealand last year. Among them was NZ born Ian-John, who has been living in Korea for many years now. He’s the key organiser for our tour: He’s organised all the shows, the accommodation, met us at the airport and introduced us to fantastic vegetarian fare [which is not essentially easy given the massive prevalence of meat in the local diet].

We arrive on a Tuesday, early afternoon, after battling through the early morning Tokyo rush hour, us with baggage with pointy corners onboard extremely packed commuter trains. The first show in South Korea is on Thursday evening. We reach our backpackers, decant of possessions and head off for a meal, which is exceptionally delicious. A mixture of fermented condiments, kimchi pancakes and a deliciously yummy alcohol called Makgeolli, a fermented rice wine. It has a deeply cloudy, almost milky appearance. Makgeolli makes you sleep great and leaves you with the head of a teetotaler – win/win.

On Thursday evening we go out to the venue HaroO SpaceBus. We play here on Saturday but today we come to watch the band Kopjanggonggol [Beef Tripe Hotpot], local psychedelic legends of 20 plus years. The guitarist, Yukie Sato, is one of the crew who toured to NZ with Bulgasari. The group is a three-piece, and is classic psych rock and roll but closer to the highly enthusiastic styles that came from south-east Asia countries rather than the trad UK or USA styles. Highly enjoyable, and massive fun. There seems to be a lot of jokes and humour involved that connects with the locals, accompanied by an expressive fuzzy fox tail worn by the guitarist. Yukie is playing at the show on Saturday with us.

42289119_548911965545673_6994219508411924480_nOur first show is at the Yogiga.Pal gallery, ground zero and heartland for the Bulgasari experimental community. Venues like this are precious and scattered finely across the face of the earth, small community run venues that encourage experimenting in sound and tolerance of the ears. It’s the energy of individuals involved in venues such as Yogiga that is often a pivot-point to a surviving and flourishing exploratory musical and performance practice in these communal spaces. Places like this are gold. This first performance is an evening of improvised music, four musicians – two sets of duos and then a foursome to end the evening.

Chrissie performs first with French born Remi Klemensiewicz. Chrissie plays prepared bass and acoustically affected vocals. Remi plays a combination of effects pedals including live-looping of signals and sounds.

Following that is Kieran, on prepared and junked up kit, and Shi-Ne on Piri, a double reeded wind instrument. A slightly shorter set than Chrissie and Remi’s, but with enough tension. Venue Proprietor, Han Joo, offered a tension spring for musical effect to the drum kit, culminating in an instrument briefly named the HanJoo Slingshot. This spring was attached to the hi-hat at one end, and a drumstick taped to the other. When stretched out and released it produced a great random recoil that complimented the already random playing. At one point it was being stretched to capacity, under tension as the name would suggest, with various sounds being extracted until the moment it slipped free. Springing swiftly back with considerable force it rode across Kieran’s face. Somewhat surprised but without hesitation the playing continued. However looking up it was obvious there was blood pissing from a wound on the bridge of the nose. All very dramatic.

The third and final piece contained less bodily fluids. More space and play between the four. Less blood. More laughs. This show is part of Ian-John’s series called Ddakji (improvised music series), so hopefully these recording will find their way to release.

We go for food at a eatery close by for pancakes, one green with vegetable, and the other full of kimchi. And more Makgoelli. Thus ends the day.

Friday: On Wednesday, when at Haroo, we made plans with Yukie to met at his and his partners house for breakfast on Friday morning We also got invited to meet Han Joo for food after the evening show. Delicious bookends to what was going to be a long day.

We stroll to Yukie’s through the backstreets avoiding traffic from any direction. Yukie lives with partner Eunhi, and her mother … as well as a massively huge vinyl collection stacking into the thousands. We eat a noodle soup called Kong Guksu, it looks like a cheese sauce but is made entirely of soya bean. It’s consistency is incredibly cheese-like as well. Beer also accompanies breakfast and makes for much laughing. After this more kimchi pancake found their way to the table first, then into bellies. Delicious, nutritious, and sleep inducing. It’s a real privilege to have this opportunity to be invited into the family home, we’re very appreciative of this.

41570847_1809108149209126_1604082465859698688_nThe afternoon is a digestive rest before heading of for the first rock show at Strangefruit. It’s located only a few doors down from where we had the pancakes last night. A decent sized bar underground, and where, if you loiter to long out on the street, a staff member from the restaurant upstairs would come down to shoo you off for scaring the locals…

This is our first rock show in Seoul. Playing as well are 4 other acts:

Moon and Bouncers: Bass, drums and piano – very chill, maybe trip-hop styles, but certainly a full and grooving celestial funk infused tunes, imagine an astronaut on the dance floor dressed in a spacesuit of sequins.

sOo Jung Kae X Rui Inaba: These two plus an accompanying saxophonist. Soo Jung visited NZ with Bulgasari, and has an extraordinary free yet skilled piano technique. The trio play a free jazz that is both playful and entwined with itself. Remi, born in Japan then lived in NZ for many years before recently moving to Korea, introduces the set with a very kiwi referencing summery barbecue-reggae groove before the group slides into a soporific Arabic-inspired motif. One part sandy and sleepiness, the other suggestive and sultry.

Gong Gong Consent: Guitarist Sally, Ian-John on harmonic, springs, and feedback, Leighton on Electric guitar, and Kim Hyosook on a local stringed instrument called a Gayageum all playing together in an improvised and free-sound piece. It’s very beautiful and not a hint of K-Pop in earshot.

Maluihan: Two-piece – guitar and drums, deeply emotive music with strong references between rock and local folk traditions, a moody and brooding series of tunes full of space that ascends into accents like mountain peaks rising high above valley fog. It’s really beautiful.

Then we get to our turn, our first rock performance. And for a country that doesn’t like to dance much we find gleeful flailing falling about in-front of us. We blurt out our set in a gleeful explosion, the hi-viz does the biz. It’s a blast.

A lot of enthusiastic chatting and meeting while we pack-up, satisfied at this first success. A couple of beers then it’s back to Haroo for a midnight vegetarian feast cooked by Han Joo, more Makgoelli and then a late night ramble back to the backpackers for 4 hours sleep before a journey to the DMZ the next morning.


HELLo Tokyo, HELLo Seoul [archive]

Tokyo Korea draft2 poster.jpg

Huge thanks to Stefanus Endry Pragusta for the image for the poster… Awesome!

Tour Diary

Part 1: Nakano Rock n Roll
Part 2: First we take Waseda, then we take Nishie-Fuku
Part 3: The Han Joo-Slingshot-Nosebleed Drumroll
Intermission: Walk! This! Way! – Run DMZ
Part 4: Hongdae Homerun

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So incredibly excited about the pending excursion into Tokyo and Seoul. Both will be new experiences for the sterile roadshow. Years ago when we returned home from our first central European tour we stopped off for a weekend and Ditzy Squall played couple of shows in Osaka and Kyoto, the sterile band at that time had found itself in a reorganizing phase. So super stoked that now its happening for real.

So firstly, MASSIVE thanks to Kaori, bass player for Goofy 18 [who we are playing with twice] from Tokyo, and Ian-John Hutchinson from Seoul for all the help and assistance in support us to make this adventure possible.

We met Ian-John when the South Korean experimental music collective Bulgasari recently toured New Zealand Aotearoa. We are looking forward to reconnecting with them on their home soil.

Tour Dates