HBC Fest 2014 (Saturday the 17th)
The gap was 39 years. The age gap, that is, between my young gun son and me. But that wasn’t going to stop your intrepid music and culture hunter, the good Doctor Dave, and my trusty, rowdy, and hyper-hormoned and only offspring David Junior, also known as DJ, from hitting the Haebongchun district and diving into the semi-annual jam session.
In what should have been a closed-off and insulated party district but instead was a moving, grinding, bumping and sometimes humping crowd of band-buzzed groupies lining the main streets who were gnashing at the polite but obviously perturbed traffic police, the HBC fest poured along the main streets of Gyongridan and Haebongchun, which, in the Doctor’s opinion, was a perfect mix of bottled booze, perky babes, beautiful weather, and enough live bands to choke John Phillip Souza.
DJ and I met up with good friend and previous HBC party hound Alex near a pizza joint along the HBC main drag, but not until we had stopped a roving fiddle player named Ryan who was wondering where his next gig was. I showed him my list of likely places, which he promptly recognized as the mark of a rookie who needs to WRITE SHIT DOWN in order to remember it – but never mind about that for now – and he told us where to go for the loud noise, which DJ insisted we check out so he could get his pop, lock, and dubstep game on.
Phillies, basement side, was first up, and it was poppin’. As I tried to put a few notes on my cell, a cute lassie was having none of it and insisted on either grabbing my hand to make me put the phone away, or grabbing my hand to make me do something else, hopefully perverted and in her general erotic zones…as DJ said, “less texting, more partying!”But I persevered, made a note of the time and band name, and got back to the live show. It was NO YEAH, and with a female hottie out front on keyboards backed up by lead and bass guitars and drums, this group was in a great groove and had the crowd in their pocket. We caught a smooth cover of ‘Sunny’, originally by Bobby Hebb (1966), and also a bestselling movie of the same name in Korea in 2011, with the lady singing the lead and keepin’ it just below the tear-jerker level. We stayed to party through another cover song, this time ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’, a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover of the original Marvin Gaye hit (19680, Gaye, 1976, CCR) hit. Lead guitar lit up for some solo licks on this one and overall a nice, tight rendition. Crowd stayed, and no doubt boogied on, but we went onward to more fest fun, with the sounds of a Mobius cover winding up in the background. So we walked 50 feet across the street.
Secondstop was Orange Tree, and we stumbled and crammed our way up to a loft of acoustic tunes and the end of a set by RACHELHARVEY HILL (.com), and her tagalong entourage of cheering lady groupies, which is not a bad idea; that is, to bring your own clapping clan, and also provide the bar owner with more suds per head, pun not intended. Being Rachel’s first time @ HBC, I told her I would give her a nod in my write-up, and so there it is. Cheers, Rachel, come back again, and best of luck to you, and can I have a date with each of your friends? We stayed for the changeover to SO LONG BUFFALO, and any band that has a female drummer is going to draw a crowd, right? This bar was supposed to be where the loud music was, according to Ryan the fiddler, and so what was all this plucking and string-ing and soft-ness, eh? Well, the Buffalo crew kicked it into a higher gear, mainly because they plugged themselves into some amps and used some volts to jam with. But the music was kind of typical SoCal hard rock, with gutter vocals and Miss Drummer Girl was definitely keeping too low a profile way back there in the shadows. Time to move on…so we walked along the police line and enjoyed the (smart) entrepreneurs (cheaters) selling beer on the sidewalks using cute (overly-sexually animated) girls to pimp the beer. Maybe that’s why the entrance to the VFW was so crammed that we made close friends with fourteen nationalities in fifteen feet of crawl space. Just think if the entire street were blocked off, how many more chances to share the spirit of community, communal love and whatever else communal-type stuff might get underway without a stream of party-pooping taxis and drive-by posers.
Using the underpass to Gyongridan, which is now nicely decorated with ELECTROW stickers, we hit DOJO on the main corner for our third stop. Even though this club was not on the HBC list, which was confirmed by the owner and four attending Korean ladies with kind but annoyed sneers on their faces, we stayed long enough in the laser light and house music, which was a Korea University student working his boards into a new beat every 2 minutes (WTF?) for DJ to lock and pop, and get a few hotties to give him the look. But being young and impulsive, and also having a body temperature that ranges from 80 to 110 degrees F, he bolted for the door and fresh air. Even though we met two Americans who told us they would start their sets at midnight, we split and went back out into the Fest.
Fourth up was either Southside Parlor or Thunderhorse, just because they sit one on top of the other. We could hear the Parlor tunes above from the sidewalk below, and that’s just what they sounded like, parlor tunes. And if you know what that means, you know why we were less than inspired to go up there. But ever intrepid, and still searching for the hottest female drummer in HBC, we started up the stairs. But that’s when wet met a random couple who told us about the David Bowie cover band in Thunderhorse, which was the opposite direction. I immediately made an executive, and fatherly, decision. Good thing I did, because the sweltering mass of humanity and sound bouncing and fuming up the stairs leading down to T-horse was like a magnet of sweat-soaked perfume, skinny-pretty shadows, and the tumble of Ziggy himself through the air-space. It took ten minutes of holding up the doorway with our mouths watering, but I finally managed to order two beers from none other than the cool couple from the previous stairway, and Susan, thank you very much for the Killians! The music was from KITE FLYING ROBOT, and David Bowie was in residence, red hair flaming and makeup to the nines. Couldn’t see much other than the female lead beside him, but they brought the underground temp up above 95 degrees F with a dynamite Suffragette City, followed by Major Tom. Outside and a mere three steps away but unable to reach over for his free beer, DJ was shouting to ‘get this f’in party going, f’yeah, paaarrrt-aaayyyy!’ At least two or three other stairway party animals were diggin’ his swag, which I blame on the awesomely hot atmosphere and equally hot steambath temps down there. Remember, this is the kid who bolted from an EDM club with a bevy of beauties checking him out. But hey, youth? Think of what you used to do…’nuf said. The generation gap was closed, and we pondered our next bonding location. Back through the underpass, and up into the HBC main drag.
We mashed our way up to the Rabbit Hole, but the band change-out was not happening due to tech problems, so we went to CMC hoping to catch JENI WAI BAND. These guys were due at 11:00, but were still waiting on their lead guitar and doing sound checks at 11:30. We never got to hear them – play, a full song.
We asked some nearby friendlies about the subway hours, because we needed to get back to Uijeongbu and were typically expecting to be able to hop on and go home. Best case, they said, you can ride until 12:30. Yeah, right. At exactly midnight, a uniformed Metro staffer politely but persistently blocked the stairs to the number 4 line, and we dug out our leftover party allowance and hailed a taxi. My Korean was still smooth enough to bargain for a decent and discounted fare instead of using the meter, and the short walk home in the cool evening air was good for the eye sockets and the eardrums.