Back in early October, I put together a mammoth list of upcoming concerts, and it ended up taking me two days to compile, research, and edit due to all the festivals. Festival season is over now, so this should be considerably easier.
Korea has some of the most hardworking, but underappreciated independent bands in the world. In a country dominated by pop music, independent bands struggle in the underground to make a name for themselves. Every band listed here is someone's labour of love, honed over years of practice, often with no reward other than playing great music to a few dozen people in a dingy basement.
If you ever wanted to see live music in Korea, or find out what the music scene's like, you've come to the right place. This is a listing of major shows scheduled in December - festivals, touring bands, album releases, and anything else worth noting that I could find. This is what's going on in underground and indie music for the month of December.
…Whatever That Means 2011 US Tour
Friday 2 December: Billy O's (Ventura, CA)
Saturday 3 December: Double Down Saloon (Las Vegas, NV)
Sunday 4 December: Cobalt Cafe (Canoga Park, CA)
Monday 5 December: The Olde Town Pub (Pasadena, CA)
Tuesday 6 December: The Z (San Luis Obispo, CA)
Wednesday 7 December: The Bel-Tower (Fresno, CA)
Thursday 8 December: La Copacabana (Salinas, CA)
Friday 9 December: 924 Gilman (Berkeley, CA)
Saturday 10 December: The Plea For Peace Center (Stockton, CA)
The Korean punk band ...Whatever That Means is taking a year-long break as husband-and-wife members Jeff and Trash spend 2012 in the US. For their finale they're bringing along their bandmates Hong9 and Oh Baeng for 15 tour dates over three weeks up and down the west coast.
…Whatever That Means plays melodic punk music based heavily on pop punk with a fixation on Social Distortion. They've been one of the flagship bands of Korean underground music for the last couple years, helping to run the Purge Movement series of outdoor concerts in Hongdae Playground, and World Domination, Inc which recently put out a compilation CD of the Korean punk scene. They've previously toured Malaysia, where this video was shot.
Korea's hardcore comprises some of the most hardworking musicians in Korea. Despite relatively little domestic success, they continue to turn the world upside-down. Especially the Geeks, who recently wrapped up a tour of the Philippines and were described by Think Fast Records as "one of the most sincere hardcore acts in the world today". They're joined by six other local bands to welcome two familiar bands back to Korea.
As We Let Go (Japan) have been here at least once before, coming to Korea in 2008. No Turning Back (Netherlands) were here more recently in 2009, when I got to see them perform three times: once in Ssamzie Space, once in Spot, and once in the noraebang. As much as it is good to be exposed to new bands, it's also reassuring to see bands wanting to return to Korea.
Ever since the success of Club Day, Hongdae clubs have been willing to band together to offer multi-venue festivals. This one, however, is for a charity. For the fourth year, six Hongdae clubs come together to mark World AIDS Day. Profits will be donated to the Hillcrest AIDS Center in South Africa in an area with one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world.
At the shows you can spend 5000 won on one of the "Little Traveller" dolls, made by women from the center affected by HIV/AIDS.
The event offers a variety of bands both Korean and foreign, big and small, loud and soft. At Club FF, No.1 Korean should put on a good performance. They've been going in new directions lately, maturing from their origins as a goofy party band.
Deerhoof is an experimental indie rock quartet from San Francisco. Perhaps less well known than the impressive array of bands they've influenced, including Of Montreal, the Flaming Lips, and Xiu Xiu. They have a reputation for unpredictable live performances, with improvisations, members switching onstage roles, and generally confusing audiences. Once in Austria they joined Xiu Xiu to perform the entire album Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division.
They're playing two shows in Korea, and I'm a little unsure why their bigger show in a bigger venue with a higher door price is on Friday, while they're playing in the much smaller Cafe Bbang on Saturday with a larger number of opening bands. Their second night features the liks of 3rd Line Butterfly, Bulssazo, (almost) all-girl band Look and Listen, and grind band Bamseom Pirates who are one of Korea's most entertaining live bands. Anyway, let's hear what the headliners sound like.
There are a lot of local bands playing expensive shows this week, from Guckkasten and Peppertones on December 11 to the 16th when Winterplay is at AX-Korea and Epitone Project is in Blue Square. However, I'm most curious about Winterplay, a jazz quartet who will be playing new songs and a few Christmas songs. Hopefully though, they play their remarkably sincere cover of "Billie Jean".
French Horn Rebellion Korea Tour
Friday, 16 December 2011
Club Fabric, Busan
15 000 won advance / 20 000 won at the door
Bands: French Horn Rebellion
Saturday, 17 December 2011
18 000 won advance / 24 000 won at the door
Bands: French Horn Rebellion, Telepathy, Trampauline
French Horn Rebellion are a synth-pop duo from Brooklyn. They already played in Korea earlier this year on tour with MGMT to a sold-out show in Rolling Hall. While they were here, they even managed to record a music video. Now they're back for two shows in Korea, one in Busan and one in Seoul.
Save the Children:Korea Fundraiser in Daejeon
Saturday, 17 December 2011
Day Stage: 12 000 won in advance / 15 000 won at the door; Night Stagge: 15 000 won in advance / 20 000 won at the door; Full Day: 25 000 won in advance / 30 000 won at the door
The booking agency Picture Our Face has been able to lure a lot of bands down to Cheonan and Daejeon recently, and this looks like their biggest show since the Cheonan After Dark Indie Fest. All in one night, there will be a wide variety of acts from metal band Mahatma to garage band Galaxy Express, and from blues duo Billy Carter to Cramps tribute band Black Leather Lagoon, all MCed by members of Korea's only roller derby league. Set to go all night, this show should be a lot of fun, and for a good cause as well, as funds are being donated to Save the Children:Korea.
One of the highlights of the Day Stage is sure to be Midnight Smokin' Drive, a relatively new band who's rising quickly among the Korean live music circuit. Having only just released their first EP, they're too new for a music video, but here's one of those cheap YouTube videos that's just an album cover with the song.
Although the details haven't been completely confirmed yet, Club Spot will probably be a reliable place to go. The list of bands is a schizophrenic combination between Korea's harshest hardcore, d-beat, and miscellaneous bands, and more easily digestible sounds like skate-punk and vintage rock, as well as the blues duo of Billy Carter.
Friday Bands: Dear Cloud, Monni, Lee Seung Yeol, Toxic, Han Heejung, 10cm
If Ax-Korea's too far for you, and you can't handle hardcore music, Rolling Hall also has a good line-up put together, with some of the underground music scene's more dependable bands. One such band that'll be worth seeing is the impossible-to-translate Goonamguayeoridingstella, whose name...just...somebody get me a coffee.
Okay, that's all for now. Of course there will be a million more shows, as a lot of them don't get planned more than a week in advance. Not many of the Christmas shows have been announced yet, despite the fact Christmas usually has a lot of shows. Several shows have been announced for New Year's, which is surprising because usually New Year's Eve seems a bit quieter following Christmas.
I've narrowed this list down to just the larger shows, but remember that almost all these domestic bands play shows all the time that are less advertised, more affordable, and more intimate. You can get more inclusive information at Korea Gig Guide.
*For more details, links, and video visit the The Korea Blog's original article here.
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