Music fills the night at Hongdae clubsThe night is always young and lively in Hongdae, the Hongik University area. But tonight it will be even younger and hotter as the area greets a festival of music dubbed Sound Day.
Held on the second Friday of every month, Sound Day takes place at six live music clubs in the Hongdae area. Today marks the eighth Sound Day since the event debuted in March. Its name derives from the popular Club Day, which takes place on the final Friday of each month and has now become one of the best known events in the area since its inception in 2001.
Among the many reputations of the expatriate-friendly area in northwestern Seoul, one it has had since the late 1990s is as a spawning ground of the independent music scene, giving birth to such bands as the punk rock band Crying Nut and the modern rock group Jaurim that later gained mainstream popularity.
While it has added color and flavor to the Hongdae cultural scene for a long time, this underground music scene has been dying recently, according to area cognoscenti like Lee Soo-hyun. “Sound Day aims to bring back the spirit of the independent music scene by giving a boost to every genre of music,” Ms. Lee, a member of the Club Culture Association and organizer of the festival, says.
The efforts are being repaid with a hearty welcome from music lovers. One good part of this festival is the ticket price: 15,000 won ($13.50), including one beverage ― either beer or soda. It’s almost a steal when you consider the skyrocketing ticket prices for music concerts these days.
The ticket ― a piece of paper that you wear on your wrist ― gets you access to all six clubs, which are within walking distance of one another. You can move on from one club to the next whenever you wish. The best part, however, is that the ticket provides entry to a variety of music genres ― jazz, electronic, techno, rock, lounge, you name it.
The six participating live music clubs are Bass Room, Evans, Tool, Funky Funky, Watercock and Free Bird. Each club has its own charm and style, so it wouldn’t hurt to get club-savvy for a quality Sound Day.
If you don’t have a specific genre of music that you prefer, or if you’re just getting know the basic atmosphere of the festival, you can check out Bass Room first. A club that presents all types of music, Bass Room this week features a band called Kingston RudieSka.
The band opens the long journey into a night of music at 10 p.m. with its uplifting ska rock sound, which finds its roots in Jamaican music yet is blended with other styles such as jazz. The show goes on with reggae, featuring Dub’s Pain at 11 p.m., and electronic sound from Cosmic Ally at midnight, followed by a DJ parade until dawn.
If you’re more of a jazz person, Watercock is the right place, presenting the Seong Gi-mun Trio at 9 p.m. with a bluesy jazz sound. The highlight of the evening follows, with Woongsan Project performing from midnight, featuring the female jazz vocalist Woongsan, who has also actively performed in Japan.
For something more than a standard jazz sound, you can check out Evans, which offers fusion jazz. Starting with the jazz bassist Seo Yeong-do, who is performing with a drummer and guitarist at 9 p.m., the club also presents Mhoida, another fusion jazz band.
Looking for a dose of electronically charged-up sound? Then go on to Tool. Tonight’s opening band is Groove Yard, with a house dance style at 10 p.m., but the action moves on to avant garde performances of a mixture of tap dance, percussion and a touch of hip hop. From midnight, electronic lounge bands like Humming Urban Stereo and EON play until dawn.
By now, you might ask, “Isn’t any celebrity, mainstream artist performing?” There is one local pop singer, named Lee Gi-chan, who is performing as a special guest with Mogi at the club Funky Funky. Mr. Lee remade one of the underground band’s songs in the mixed style of electronic and acid pop, which he’s performing at 1 a.m. The club also welcomes an acclaimed acid soul band, Common Ground, starting at 9 p.m., and a groovy jazzy performance by GnB at 11 p.m.
Free Bird, a club nestled in a back alley, has long been the right place to appreciate live music, and tonight it lives up to its reputation by featuring rock bands like Runner’s High at 8 p.m. and Liar Band at 9 p.m.
From 10 p.m., the club moves on to a funky style offered by Windy City, fronted by a member of both popular and acclaimed soul music band Asoto Union. The club wraps up the night with a blues sound performed by Anyway, a rarity of a band in Korea in that it pursues 1970s-style blues.
Having a hard time choosing which clubs to go to? Fear not, because you can’t go wrong tonight, especially since you have that ticket on your wrist. Soaking up the sound of music from dusk till dawn that rattles your body is one decisive way to clear away the stress after a long week. So ladies and gentlemen, don your best clothes today and get ready for a night of music.
by Chun Su-jin
To reach the Sound Day clubs, take subway line No. 2 to Hongik University station and use exit No. 6. For more information, visit www.soundday.co.kr.