Posted on April 17, 2015
Many times, I have heard people say that they don’t think there is a music scene to speak of outside of Hongdae in Seoul. ‘No live clubs’, ‘no decent bands’, and ‘not worth the trip’, they say. Well, I, for one, disagree wholeheartedly. Small as the scenes may be, there are bands aplenty to be found all over the country. Sure, you might not have heard of many of them, but then, that’s more than likely because you didn’t know where to look for them and because, for various reasons, lots of those bands don’t get to play in Seoul very often. I’m not just talking about Busan, which we all know has a thriving live scene; but what about Cheonan, Daegu, Ulsan, Daejeon, Jeonju and other cities south of Seoul: nothing there? No way! I can’t say that I know everything about each of these cities, but every time I’ve been to any of them and caught a show I’ve been met with awesome bands playing for energetic fans in live venues with electric atmospheres. The shows are set up and promoted by passionate music lovers, both Korean and foreign. Don’t try and tell them that there is not a scene outside of Seoul! Sure, the musicians may not be as famous as those in the well-trodden Hongdae scene, but they do, for sure, create their own vibrant scenes full of talent and variety.
Two people whom I know will be agreeing with me on this point are Philip Brett, creator of the Ulsan-based Angle Magazine (a bilingual audio-visual webzine which covers the southern regions of South Korea) and Ali Safavi, a long time music promoter as well as a bassist in many Daegu-based bands. After a few years of championing the arts in their respective cities, the two of them got together and decided to combine their efforts and the brilliance of those around them into one big event that would hopefully show that one does not always need to go to Seoul to see interesting things, or leave the south to get recognition. That event is The Big Day South Festival. Big Day South is an annual audio-visual festival showcasing creativity from the south of the peninsula. They strive to be a multilingual festival aimed at both Koreans and foreigners.
“We believe that enjoying and appreciating great creativity should not be hampered by mother tongue or nationality." Ali Safavi
The very first Big Day South Festival (a great success by all accounts) was held last year in the city of Daegu. A one-day festival spread over several different venues, it helped to showcase the talents of not only musicians but also artists, poets, wordsmiths and more from Busan, Daegu and Ulsan. After the success of that day, Big Day South has gotten bigger and better for 2015! This year it will be held over a whole weekend, running from Friday until Sunday, and this time the organizers have cast their net further afield and invited talent from Gwangju, Jeonju, Daejeon and beyond, as well as the original three cities. Besides live music there will be also exhibitions of works by local artists and photographers held around the city, a performing arts stage for spoken word, poetry, interactive art and theatrical performances, as well as a movie & wine night to top it all off.
“The past year has been another one full of fantastic creative and exciting works by people operating in the south of South Korea, from music and art, poetry and spoken word to movie making, theatre and photography. The talent and passion of those, both Korean and not, who live and work outside of Seoul, has shone through again, providing us with beauty, excitement and joy.” Ali Safavi
While the festival showcases talent based solely in the south, it is open to people from all over the country to come and see what life is like outside of the big smoke. It has been my opinion for a while now that shows like this, in cities outside of Seoul, hold the key to the future of indie music here in Korea. Hongdae is too saturated these days. Every weekend sees the same bands playing together in the same venues. In some respects, that is fantastic. There are great bands playing almost every night of the week. It’s no problem to miss a show if you feel a little tired or sick, because you can always catch the band the very next day, or at worst, next week. But the flip side of this is, in my opinion, detrimental to the scene not just here in Seoul, but in the other cities as well. In the case of Seoul, it is almost impossible to make one particular show stand out from the rest. Audience numbers are on the slide and clubs are struggling. Bands are tired of playing the same places over and over again. People outside of Seoul, who love music just as much, rarely get to see Seoul bands, because they rarely travel. Bands from elsewhere struggle to fight against the notion that there is no scene outside of Seoul.
What if bands from Seoul played in other cities every other weekend (or more often)? Sure, at first people might not know who you are, and the shows might not be well attended. But go there anyway (because it’s cheap, easy to travel there, and bars outside Seoul often cover your expenses), and show them who you are and what you’re about. Knock them dead with a live performance they won’t forget, and over time more and more people are going to come. With the Internet and SNS, word of mouth has never been a stronger tool. Put on a good show or two, and next time, people are going to bring their friends. More people to buy your merch, listen to your music and help spread the word. It wouldn’t just be helping yourself either; more bands playing in the smaller cities would help generate interest in the local scene too which is good for everyone. But what of Seoul? If all the bands fuck off elsewhere, what happens to the scene here? Well, it will grow stronger and bigger too. Firstly, it would open up shows for more bands to come to from out of Seoul, increasing the diversity and making the shows more interesting. Secondly, when the bands who go on tour do came back to play in Seoul, it is going to be more of a special event. You wouldn’t want to miss your favorite band if you thought you might not get to see them again for a while. Perhaps that slight cold isn’t so bad after all. That stuff you have to do, it can probably wait till tomorrow. It’s only a bit of rain ;)
It is not just bands that should consider going on tour. Fans too shouldn’t be thinking twice about heading off to catch a show in another city. For one, it’s a great excuse for a weekend away. Who knows, you might even find your new favorite musician. Just because you have never heard of them before, doesn’t mean they won’t be great. Whatever your interests, there will be something great to enjoy at this year’s Big Day South festival. Supporting local creativity and culture, whatever form it may take, will in turn foster more great local culture and enrich everyone’s lives! If you live in Seoul, use this as the excuse you have been looking for to get out of here and take a trip. See what else Korea has to offer. If you live elsewhere, don’t come to Seoul on this particular weekend. Head to Ulsan instead. That is where it is all happening.
The Elsewheres : https://theelsewheres.bandcamp.com
Drinking Boys & Girls Choir (드링킹소년소녀합창단) : https://youtu.be/Y4SDioxOdOI
Barbie Dolls : http://babodools.bandcamp.com
Swanny : https://vimeo.com/111968606
Monica Nickolai : http://monicanickolai.com/home.html
김문기 (Kim Moon-ki)
Katelyn Douglas : http://www.katelyndouglass.com
Carlos Williams : www.facebook.com/groups/678973078800697
Cindi L’Abbe : http://bit.ly/18r2GPk
Tengger : https://vimeo.com/98202783
MESH Printing – Live Screen Printing : www.facebook.com/MeshPrinting
TPY Graffiti Crew : https://youtu.be/ZyyLjb1RJ0U
Genius : https://youtu.be/qQY994OP_l4
Illap : https://youtu.be/MKQX3XNmIGw
마치킹스 (The March Kings) : https://youtu.be/6HEltHKxxYo
그레이 (Graye) : https://youtu.be/4DL9newuW-0
Say Sue Me : https://youtu.be/QzcvyVA2vWQ
Mountains : https://vimeo.com/115540476
Blutt Kosmos :
57 : https://soundcloud.com/rockduo57/2how-can-i
플라스틱키즈 (The PlasticKiz) : https://youtu.be/bbIxticMDjQ
The Industrial Theatre Troupe : www.facebook.com/TheIndustrialTheatreTroupe
Busan English Theatre Association : www.facebook.com/groups/busantheatre
Gwangju Performance Project : www.gwangjutheatre.com
Article : Patrick Connor
Korean Translation : 이윤지 (Yoonji Lee)
Editing: Rock N Rose
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