Poet Ujungdokbohaeng runs Salon Badabie to support indie musicians. He is recovering from brain tumor surgery now. / Courtesy of Salon Badabie
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Underground musicians and their fans have joined together to save Salon Badabie, a place that has spawned many indie bands.
The "Badabie Never Die" project was planned by musicians to help the live venue undergoing financial difficulties and its owner who is suffering from illness.
Salon Badabie was opened in December 2004 in Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul by a poet pen-named Ujungdokbohaeng. He established Badabie to provide a venue for underground musicians who were pushed out by the commercialism of the Hongdae area, which was the home of the indie music in Korea.
The place might look shabby with narrow staircases and a worn-out wooden stage. However, many indie musicians have made their debut there, and some of them have become popular.
The strength of Badabie is that musicians can just ask to play there. The motto is "Anyone who wants to be onstage can be onstage" and Thursday is saved for no-name musicians. There is no screening and anyone who wants to perform at Badabie can do so without being auditioned. This is the reason the venue became a breeding ground for indie musicians.
Ujungdokbohaeng paid the rent at his own expense, but since he was not interested in making money, the situation became difficult. The monthly rent soared from 500,000 won to 1.4 million won and the entrance fee of around 15,000 won is not enough to cover it.
The first crisis came in 2006 due to rising rent and some 70 underground musicians held a benefit performance, using the proceeds for Badabie.
However, misfortunes never come singly. In this August, the poet-owner was months behind in rent and underwent surgery for a brain tumor.
Musicians again got together to hold a charity concert. Many underground musicians voluntarily joined the movement. The planners even had to apologize to those who wanted to join in but could not due to the limited time and space. They also held a charity market and street performances.
As a result, a total of 137 bands participated in the 11-day concert to save the home of indie musicians. Eight other venues including Club Ta, Rolling Hall, C Cloud and V Hall, gave stage space for free and fans applied to do volunteer work. The profits of the project will primarily be used to pay the back-rent.
Several noted underground musicians, such as 10cm, Chang Ki-ha and the Faces and Superstar K2 finalist Jang Jae-in, joined the move to save Badabie. Jang and 10cm knocked on the venue's door when they were unknown.
Jang performed at Salon Badabie on Tuesday with Hawaii, Modern Gayageum Jung Mina and Hi, Mr. Memory. She said she first visited Badabie in summer 2008.
"At that time, my dream was to perform in a small club in the Hongdae area and I saw a concert here. I was so happy on my way home after seeing the performance", Jang said.
She was an audience member at first, but she soon became a performer at Salon Badabie. "I introduced myself as singer-songwriter Jae-in then", she said. "I will sing in the way I did in Badabie, so it might be a bit gloomy".
She sang several songs including "Twinkle Twinkle", "All the Lies" and "I'll Fly".
"I am so sorry that the owner of this club came down with a brain tumor and hope he gets well soon and am glad to help him", she added. "Everyone should visit Badabie at least once, because they will come back to experience the unique atmosphere again".
Ujungdokbohaeng's surgery was successful and he is in convalescence for six months. Though he was in despair when he went into the operating room, he now feels grateful to the support for the venue, the event's organizing team said.
Park Gi-hyuk of band Hi, Mr. Memory, one of the organizers, said it is almost a "Miracle" that so many people lent a hand to save Badabie.
"I think this project will set a good precedent in the underground music scene. We gave hope that we can defend and save something when we stand together", Park said.
The series of concerts runs through Sunday. Tickets cost 20,000 won.
For more information, visit www.badabie.com.
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