Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Okkyung lee (이옥경), Banran (반란), Bamseom Pirates (밤섬해적단), 404 - Sunday, January 9 at Club Ssam in Seoul (Hongdae)

I don't go out to shows much in Seoul. Mostly because I live an hour and a half away from where the shows usually happen. But also because it's hard for Korea to get many out of the country bands, and I'm not that impressed with most local bands because they have foreigners in the bands. And I hate foreigners. And they're usually terrible and somehow they always get top billing over better Korean bands because foreigners are arrogant like that. Maybe.

But enough of that. There were two out of town shows this past Sunday: Ryuichi Sakamoto (which I was about to go to but found out it was sold out) and this show starring Okkyung Lee. Okkyung Lee lives in New York these days, and I imagine she was playing here because the holidays brought her over. I have one of her discs called "Nihm" from 2005. It's on John Zorn's Tzadik label, but it's damn good. Not too noisy or experimental with just enough melody to enjoy it. Worth checking out. The other bands I knew nothing about, but they are all Korean.

The show was at a place called Club Ssam in an area called Hongdae. It's pretty much THE area for bands to play. Ssam was a little hard to find, and was tucked away on a side street. It was surprisingly crowded for a Sunday night. Mostly Koreans (thank god) with a few foreigners scattered about. This is definitely the "artistic" crowd. The venue itself seemed more like an art space, and there were about 3 or 4 long ass built in stadium style seating that wasn't really necessary. No smoking too, and apparently no drinking because although there was no bar, there definitely wasn't many people drinking. Koreans get hammered all week long, but I rarely see them drinking in obvious drinking situations like pool halls, bowling alleys and shows. Anyway, my companion and I held out until just before Okkyung before we went to the convience store and got some beers. Why did it take us so long? Shows are way better when you're drinking.

First band is 404. A two piece - a guy on guitar and effects and a girl drummer - they played...I don't know melodic indie rock, let's say. Not bad. Not too rocking. They are probably fairly new and had some kinks to work out. They could definitely use a bass player.

Next was Bamseom Pirates. Another two piece, but instead of guitar, there was bass, and I think that works to their favor. Parts of it was like grindcore, parts were like militant punk, but it was definitely heavy, and unique. The only thing that slowed down the momentum was slides they kept putting up between songs which, I was told, was political stuff. Everyone was laughing, but their songs are all about a minute long, and after a while, I was checking the time. A set like that could have been 10 minutes and ruled. Fun fact: the bass player was the dude in Pyha, the one man black metal band that Tumult Records released an album by a while back. I didn't know that at the time, or would have tried to talk to him after their set.

Banran is a four piece that play brutal super fast hardcore/grindcore much like Dropdead. Koreans (and Japanese for that matter) like their uniforms no matter how much they hate them. They wear uniforms to school, and they were uniforms in the military. Even when they form a punk band, they still all wear the same thing. Banran all were wearing their favorite punk band t-shirts: the singer (Dropdead), guitarist (MDC), bassist (Black Flag), drummer (Bad Brains). But they were a fierce bunch, and inspired some enthusiasm from the crowd. One white dude was going bananas during it. He was wearing shorts even though it was like 25 degrees outside. Dipshit.

Like I said before, we finally went out to get beers before Okkyung Lee (though we didn't know she was next), and as we returned, she was tuning up her cello. Two other tables were set up with electronics and gadgets set up on 'em. Turns out she was joined by two local electronic/noise "heroes" Park Daham (박다함) and Dydsu. This was not going to feature her more melodic works. This was hair-raising noise, and, mercifully, only last about 15 minutes. Okkyung flailing, and twisting about her cello, trying to squeeze any ungodly screech and squawl from its 4 thick strings. The others bent over the machines laying down a bedrock of gut rattling low end and headache inducing highs. More than 15 minutes and I would have had to leave. I'm just too old (or too impatient) to go through stuff like that for too long anymore.

After the show, we met up with a couple of other Korean friends (who couldn't handle it at all and left early) and ventured out for some food before heading back to our homes. This was, I think, the best show I've been to in Korea, and I hope that there will be more. Actually, apparently there is. Look up those names above (they're linked) and it will lead you to some sites about these artists. Keep rockin'.

I forgot my camera, but I found a video clip on Vimeo featuring the Bamseom Pirates from this show:

09 Jan 2011, Ssam, Bamseom Pirates (Okkyung Lee / Noise+Others) from August Lee on Vimeo.

And here's her whole damn set from youtube:

And finally Banran: