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Partying in Itaewon is easy as HBC

It’s Haebangchon’s first big weekend of the summer.

Sixty-seven acts will converge on this corner of Itaewon for the twice-yearly HBC Fest this Friday and Saturday at seven venues starting at 1 p.m.

The festival, which takes place in May and October, is in now in its sixth year.

“It has become the kick-off to the summer.” said Lance Reegan-Diehl the man behind the event.

Starting out as a folk-indie festival, the event has steadily grown to the point where it now attracts an eclectic bill and a healthy crowd.

“You see people who are on the street, but they are only on there because the venues are full or because they’re waiting for their turn to get some food,” said Reegan-Diehl, who estimates that the festival attracts about 2,000 revelers. 
The 2 Guitars play at a previous HBC Fest. (Lance Reegan-Diehl)
The 2 Guitars play at a previous HBC Fest. (Lance Reegan-Diehl)

HBC Fest this year will include an outdoor stage during the afternoon which will feature, among other acts, a vaudeville dance show.

The other stages include VFW, The Local, Le Verte, and two stages at Phillies ― rock and blues downstairs and singer-songwriters upstairs.

The Orange Tree has perhaps the most unusual mix of acts. Damon DA Green will host a bill of acoustic, Hip hop and stand up comedy there.

Reegan-Diehl said he started the festival to give bands an opportunity to play. After persuading the three bars that were in Haebangchon at the time to put up some funding for equipment, he organized some acts and put on a small festival. It’s now grown to accommodate more styles of music and become part of the expat calendar.

“Support from the neighborhood has gone up, especially from the foreigners,” said Reegan-Diehl “They see it as a rejuvenation every spring. Every spring people get familiar with that neighborhood as being a very relaxing place to hang out in.

“Even after we have finished there are still people hanging out in the neighborhood,” he said.

This leads to the symbiosis that allows the festival to do well without charging money. Greater awareness of the area benefit companies in the area, including Reegan Diehl’s own DEELEEBOB, which organizes events including this festival and provides other music services.

For their part, bands get to play to a healthy crowd.

“It’s a promotion. You’re on our bill, you are going to get places to play. So its that benefit I think. For the musicians to be able to network with each other and maybe somebody will get a gig with a different band playing R&B if somebody likes them,” he said.

“You can end up with amateur players that have never played before playing for 100 people.”

More experienced artists simply look to the festival to kick off a summer of music, or say goodbye before leaving the country.

“A lot of people have their last show at the festival because they are on their way back home,” said Reegan-Diehl. “So they use the festival as their farewell party.”

This mutual benefit allows the festival to run without huge costs, although some money is recouped from selling T-shirts.

“We’ve made some CDs of some artists to sell,” he adds. “All of the musicians basically play because they want to play. They want to be part of something that is bigger.”

For a complete line-up and schedule visit http://www.deeleebob.com/HBCArtists.htm.

By Paul Kerry (paulkerry@heraldcorp.com)
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