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‘Live Club Day’ pumps new energy into Hongdae indie music scene

New promotion hopes to reestablish district’s identity as breeding ground for independent music

Friday night, one ticket, 10 live music clubs and 30 indie bands covering genres from alternative rock to acoustic, electronic and jazzy soul: This is what the newly launched music festival “Live Club Day” entails.

On the last Friday of every month, the purchase of one 20,000 won ($18) ticket will allow entry into 10 live music clubs and concert halls in the Hongdae area.
Crowds fill Hongdae’s Sangsang Madang concert hall at the first “Live Club Day” event on Friday. (Yonhap)
Crowds fill Hongdae’s Sangsang Madang concert hall at the first “Live Club Day” event on Friday. (Yonhap)

As the promotion kicked off on Feb. 27, an excited throng of music lovers and club goers lined up to receive tickets and maps of the venue locations.

Live performances began at 8 p.m. in six music lounges (Gogos2, Evans Lounge, Club Evans, Club Ta, Freebird and Club FF) and four concert halls (Lezhin Comics V Hall, KT&G Sangsang Madang, Veloso and PRISM Live Hall) scattered around the Hongdae area and continued well past midnight, featuring a handful of artists and bands beloved in the Korean indie music scene.

Guckkasten, widely recognized as one of Korea’s most skilled bands, shook up Sangsang Madang Hall with trademark explosive vocals and psychedelic rock sounds. Over at Gogos2, alternative rock band Mintgray swayed the audience with moody guitar riffs. Urban jazz trio Jim & Friends graced the stage at Club Evans while concert watchers enjoyed cocktails in the candlelight, bobbing their heads to the rhythm.

Other artists included Bonam & Musizs Cholars, Galaxy Express, Yellow Monsters, and Clazziquai’s Horan, making for a remarkable lineup worthy of a larger-scale music festival.

The event received a warm welcome from the public.

“It’s a great opportunity to experience a wide variety of music and get to know bands I haven’t heard of before,” said Kim Yu-ah, a 22-year-old student and frequent visitor to the neighborhood. “To see live performances in a small, friendly atmosphere, to interact with the musicians and feel the youth and energy of fellow audience members ― I think that’s what Hongdae is all about.”

A history of Hongdae’s identity

The original “Sound Day,” from which the current “Live Club Day” is derived, was held from 2001 to 2007. It was discontinued, however, with the arrival of “Club Day,” the event largely seen to have cemented Hongdae’s reputation as a vibrant nightlife spot.

“‘Club Day’ became the symbol of Hongdae,” said Lee Eun-sil, director of Company F, the marketing agency organizing the recent event. “It was what started and led Korea’s clubbing culture.”

With this promotion, on the last Friday of every month, many dance clubs in the area could be entered with the purchase of a single wristband ― an unprecedented marketing tactic that attracted swarms of mostly under-30 clubbers.

It was during this period that now-famous hip-hop clubs like YG Entertainment-owned Noise Basement (NB) and Hongdae techno dance houses gained popularity as the “trendiest” places to be.

However, the “Club Day” tradition broke off in 2011.

“With increased popularity came increased incidences of crime and accidents along with a negative image of the area,” Lee commented. “Hongdae came to be seen as a place of dissipation and commercialization.”

The area’s artsy ambience waned as brand shops and franchise restaurants came to replace Hongdae’s grungier venues. Hipsters, musicians, artists and other visitors seeking a less mainstream, more creative atmosphere began to move to adjacent neighborhoods such as Yeonnam-dong.

In addition, clubbers migrated to competing nightlife hotspots ― such as Gangnam and Itaewon ― which many felt offered a more diverse array of music and age groups.

Now, with the purpose of reestablishing Hongdae’s identity as the breeding ground for niche culture and independent music, a number of music clubs have come together to form the Live Club Cooperative Association and launch the “Live Club Day.”

“Hongdae is more than just a place to shop and eat; it has a unique culture,” Lee said. “In no other area can you see a cluster of live music clubs like here. We want to foster new artists and invigorate the indie scene.”

The monthly event may also contribute to introducing a wider genre of music, apart from the already famous K-pop, to foreign visitors.

“We are planning on holding special events for foreigners,” Lee added. “We hope to spread Korean indie music to foreign audiences both in and outside of Korea.”

The next “Live Club Day” will be held on March 27.

By Rumy Doo (