Few things get me more excited than a Seoul live music show and typically those shows take place in one of my favorite areas of the city: Hongdae. Hongdae is the epicenter of youth and alternative culture due to its proximity to various colleges. In the Seoul underground is where you’ll escape the candy coated K-Pop that blasts your eardrums almost everywhere you turn in this city. Last weekend I ventured out to the Second Saturdays show series put on by Jeff Moses, lead singer and guitarist of local pop punk favorites …Whatever That Means. After the closure of Club Spot where Second Saturday used to be held, it was on hold for awhile before being reborn in a live music club called Club Ruailrock (롸일락/순결). After taking advantage of On the Border’s cheap margaritas and endless chips and salsa(don’t judge me), I headed over to the club and met Jeff out front. I let him fill me in on the Seoul punk scene and listened to his stories about punk rock and underground music in Seoul. As a relative newcomer to the scene I appreciated a bit of backstory and history. I heard the sounds of a band warming up careening out of the narrow stairwell leading to the basement club. That was my cue to go downstairs and catch the first band.
Dead Buttons were the first band to play and this duo is one of the more well known up and coming bands in Korea so they had brought a crowd with them. Packed shoulder to shoulder, beer in hand, I watched this two-piece band tear through an amazing set of garage rock/blues influenced punk rock. Someone described them as the Korean Black Keys to me once but I think of them as being a bit more varied than the Black Keys with more punk rock influence woven into their fuzzy garagey blues sounds. They tore through their set including all the songs from their debut EP as well as others I hadn’t heard before. For only two people these guys create a lot of noise while being incredibly talented at playing their instruments. The guitarist shreds dirty distorted blues licks on his hollow bodied Gretsch(or Gretsch knockoff) while his imperfect blues voice echoes through the club while the drummer keeps a steady driving beat, heavy where he needs to be, soft and quiet when appropriate. They capped off a blistering 35 minute set with a cover of The Sonics Have Love, Will Travel and validated my comparisons I made between The Sonics and Dead Buttons. Dead Buttons are the real deal and they proved it with their live set. It was beer time so I headed out to the street to grab a tall can at the 7-11 before the next band hit the stage.
Apollo 18 was already into their set as I came back down the stairs and was immediately assaulted with a wall of sound so heavy and so clean at the same time. I didn’t know anything about this band except Koreans knew them and were out in force to watch them play. Later I would find out they had played at SXSW in 2011 and were winners of some Korean music awards. Apollo 18 are
After Apollo 18 finished their set most of their crowd cleared out and left the club to its usual denizens. I always hated when that happened when I was in a band but at least I now know that its a universal reality of live music. Sucks to be them though because …Whatever That Means was about to kick some ass
With a smile on my face and a pretty good buzz, I wrapped up my night with a Hongdae tradition of grabbing a slice of Monster Pizza, a can of beer, and jumped in a cab for the trip home. I’ve found a home in the Seoul punk scene.