By Summer Walker
The past several years, Korea has seen a vast increase in the number of big-name acts coming to the peninsula. But if you don’t want to spend 100,000 won or more on a ticket, there is no shortage of cheap and convenient clubs that feature Korean and expat bands. If you don’t love the act that’s playing when you get into the venue, just wait twenty minutes for the next one.
Where to go: Although there are several areas in and around Seoul where live music can be found, there are two specific locations that will no doubt satisfy any of your music tastes. Hongdae is the obvious choice if you are looking for pure variety and shear numbers of bands and venues. From an expat perspective, Club FF, Freebird, Soundholic and Club Spot are great walk-in bars that will always have guitars going. DGBD and Ta are also popular for special events. Itaewon venues almost never have a cover charge, so it’s easy to hop around from Stompers to Rocky Mountain Tavern to Woodstock and back again.
If you are into music of the live type, it is the personal opinion of this writer that you probably don’t spend enough time at Club Spot. It has been the premiere punk venue in town ever since Skunk Hell closed. Its English-speaking staff welcomes customers of all types, but you generally see more locals in attendance. Spot features the top acts in like The Geeks and #1 Korean. They often bring bands in from overseas, mostly Japan. The club owner books all kinds of bands, from the super-popular to the just-starting.
You can head over there pretty much any night of the week, but they have a few big events coming up. Let’s Rock Vol. 11 features a national indie favorite, NoBrain, whom you might have heard on the radio. It’s on April 17 with Galaxy Express. Rebel Army Vol. 2 looks like an awesome show on May 8, with Rock Tigers, Strikers and a bunch of others that will keep you rockin’ from 5:30 to midnight. You can find Club Spot in the playground across from Hongik University next to Smoothie King.
If you are looking for a band to follow around with dead-head-type devotion, allow me to recommend Ska Sucks. This is a rock/punk band with a hint of ska. Lead Singer, Jin Seok, only gets his sax out on special occasions these days, but he has so much energy on stage that you will have just as much fun watching him as you will listening to the very moshable music. They are releasing their brand new album at Stompers in Itaewon on May 15. The last time there was a party like this, fans dressed up in black suits emulating their favorite band. This time, there was talk of letting anyone with a black bowler hat in free, but then it was decided to let everyone in free. The party starts at 10 p.m. Bowler hats are encouraged.
There are so many shows coming up that anyone who’s anyone will be at. A Night of Blue Dolphins IV is at Stompers in Itaewon this time and might be the most eclectic mix of music you will find in any single show in Seoul. It starts at 9 p.m. on April 17 and goes most of the night with folk, country, metal, jazz and punk. The Rock Tigers’ album release party is April 24 at Indifan Live Hall in Hongdae, which happens to be the same night as the Stay Posi Fest at DGBD, but no worries, because the fest is also on the 25th. Yogiga Gallery hosts its monthly series, Bulgasari on April 25. If you head there, you can hear the best of the best in experimental and noise.
Expat Living could fill this whole newspaper with music events in Seoul in the coming months, but if you want to know more, there are plenty of resources our there. Seoulgigguide.com is probably the most complete, and comes with a handy map of Hongdae and links to bands and clubs. Spring is the perfect time to go to shows, the weather is nice and everything stays cheap before the summertime festival season.
Get out of your apartment, march to your nearest live venue and support local music. To comment e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; to contact the author, e-mail email@example.com – Ed.