Just Another Random Night in Hongdae

It started out as another show put on by Seoul’s underground indie electronic music support group We Are The Music Makers (WATMM) at the Lost Continent of Mu, aka Club Mudaeruk. This was Volume 17, and it was a flipped out mix of youth, middle age, garage, EDM, IDM, scream, rap, hip-hop and disco, all in the grungy basement home of Kim Chang-Hee, mastermind of WATMM, and promoter of many events and aspiring, super-talented artists circulating below the high profile radar of the power clubs throughout the city. Check out FESTIVAL MORPH at Club Freebird 2 in Hongdae on August 15 and 16 for more WATMM indie artists and their Japanese counterparts. ELECTROW will be in the house for this one.

The youngster GRAYE started it off, and kept his head in the boards and his fingers happy on the knobs while he laid the base beat at @ 80 bpm, but threw all kinds of stutter 16th and 32nd notes into the mix for a pretty eclectic and edgy first set. Cool, this was a great start.

Then a real surprise in the form of YAMAGATA TWEAKSTER, a techno disco daddy dressed in a pair of red jeans, pink button-down collared shirt and a banana yellow sports coat, with pink shades and a rainbow-reflective fishing hat. Attached his ear mic, set the iMac on ‘play’ and he was out front grinding and sliding with the disco ball and rainbow light bouncing off his head. He peeled off his top layer to reveal a silver fishnet form-fitting long-sleeved top and a pair of silver full length tights. It was Liberace on Korean syntho-steroids, and it was contagious, especially when he led a can-can line up the stairs and all over the upstairs restaurant, leaving the rest of us non-followers looking around and keeping the empty stage company. He took off carrying a big, black sombrero…I could only imagine…

Then the full reversal of S5INE, who played a solo set of industrial clash and grind ‘music’. And although there was a lot of smash, crash, bang, pop, clap, snap, buzz, thump, clump and crump going on, I kind of got the flow and found a klunky-funky rhythm and got into it. Not what I expected, but I ditched my pre-conceived notions and let his energy flow. I got the buzz, and felt the power.

Finally, a 23 year-old duo from Busan named 일랍(ILLAP) who kicked everyone in the face with a blast of high intensity rap and hip-hop. One powerhouse singer who was totally symbiotic to his deck beatmaker; the volume exploded, the cyphers screamed, the crowd pumped, and the walls shook. For only being two years in the mix, they have 40-50 shows under their belt, and currently rock Club REALIZE in Busan and are a fixture at the monthly concert ‘OVERMAN’S GRAVEYARD’.

So then we headed up ‘Parking Street’ and wandered into a British Pub for some Korean fish and chips and gin. All was mellow until I spotted a swarm of jimbe-toting drummers coming down the alley. I pounced on the window sill and shouted, “play, PLAY!” And so they did, right there on the porch – all nine of them, each one sporting an African jimbe drum. Yours truly led things off with a small but tidy flurry, and then it was get in or get the hell out of the way! The pub emptied onto the porch, the street swarmed to the drums, and the next 10 minutes we all shared the music and magic only a live street show can produce. Girls were dancing, drummers were pounding, the crowd was clapping and bouncing – yeah, just another night in Hongdae.

The drummers took off, and we wandered more alleyways. We stepped carefully around the girl lying flat out on the street somewhere between Go-Go’s and Club Mint, being tended to by 5-6 friends. No blood or gore, so we just slid on by carefully.

Then a little blues caught my ear, and I followed it down some stairs to Sally Guitar’s cellar blues club. The drums, piano and string bass were done for the night, but Sally told us a short story of her days with the famous Korean jazz group SHINCHON BLUES, and invited us back for her Friday night live show. We told her we’d love to come and listen, especially if her singing was as sultry as her gold lame full-length cocktail dress with the low-cut neck and back. She smiled, winked, and pouted. All the simple things a guy like me needs to slide right back to Sally’s for a little slow hand, if you know what I mean.