Posted on November 03, 2015

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Zandari Festa may be all about the music (and, with 260 acts this year, a whole lot of it), but for me it’s always about the people - the community of free-spirited Hongdae musicians and their supporters, welcoming and wooing artists and delegates from abroad while celebrating the growth and diversity of the local independent scene. I’ll leave it to others more qualified than myself to report on new discoveries and musical highlights, but as a layperson who enjoys observing the close-knit Hongdae “family”, I would like to share with you some of the more human moments, both madcap and moving, that made those two days memorable for this reporter.

1) On Saturday afternoon when I arrived at the label booth/ticketing area, a base of operations at which to meet up with friends and stock up on albums, the Tripper Sound booth immediately stood out because Phonebooth were standing in front of it doing an impromptu unplugged mini-concert for curious passers-by, to advertise their gig later that day. DIY promotion at its best!

2) As someone who tends to stick to the same familiar concert venues most weekends, Sunday afternoon brought the unexpected joy of attending my first show at Cosmos @ Gopchangjeongeol. Walking into this little antique cabaret-style theatre tucked away behind a secret door is rather like falling down a bohemian rabbit hole. The picture was made more perfect by what greeted me onstage - Beach Ball Trio, a project fronted by Big Mimi of the Mimi Sisters (whom I believe may have had a hand in setting up this private space for musicians to enjoy) and two members of Oh! Brothers, paying respect to early 60s pop both Korean and American, in sound as well as in costume.

3) My third gig was Green Flame Boys performing on the Steelface Rooftop - always an impressive venue just because of its sunset views of Hongdae. It was my first taste of this high-energy, deliciously fun punk rock band, and I got an immediate feel for their character on seeing guitarist Yoon Donghyun playing Dave Grohl-style with a broken leg in full cast and a big grin - which apparently wasn’t hampered by a visit from the police (checking on noise levels) shortly thereafter.

4) There’s not much that could make Dead Buttons a better band for me-unless it’s Crying Nut’s Kim Insoo, who, after having been sitting in the hallowed zone behind the counter in Strange Fruit polishing up his harmonica, suddenly leapt up and over said counter and played said harmonica to death during the crowd-pleasing cover of “Got My Mojo Working”.

5) Any fan of Galaxy Express will know of Max Reynolds, who appeared in the documentary about their tour to the US in 2012. This year marked Max’s third appearance at Zandari, and a very different one, as he and his wife had recently moved to Korea from Texas. A poignant moment during his set at Bbang was watching Galaxy Express’ bassist Juhyun watching Max pay tribute to them by singing the riff from 호롱불 [Horongbul] and raising a chair high above his head.

6) Local legend “Oazzang”, owner of a well-known Hongdae guest house whose visitors he routinely takes to punk shows, earned his stripes by being present at Crying Nut’s very first show 20 years ago, / and at most of them ever since. Hence, at their headlining set at AMP on Saturday night, no one but he could have had the balls to jump shirtless on stage during the encore, embrace vocalist Park Yoonsik warmly and sing into the mic alongside him.

7) Both Sons of Tiger and Lay Bricks had played Zandari sets on Saturday afternoon, but for the post-official late-night line up at FF they played a very special collaboration stage - known as either 레이브랑이 [Layger] or 호랑이브릭스 [Tiger Bricks] depending on whose side you’re on. It was the second time and hopefully not the last because the energy, danceability and crowd appeal of these two very different young bands was doubled. By the time they started their encore, a pumped up cover of “Johnny B Goode”, the infectious joy on the fan girls’ faces was matched by that of the five musicians - but my own was quickly replaced with shock, as Lay Bricks’ drummer carried her drum pad machine down off the stage, handed me the drumstick and instructed me to take over for the rest of the song as she sat down with her bottle of water….

8) Sunday night ended where my journey into Korean indie music began, with Kingston Rudieska, who had their loyal family of fans in Freebird skanking and samba-dancing. Just before ducking out of the way of vocalist Sugar Suk-Yuel jumping off the stage barrier to dance with the audience I was greeted by name by a lady I had never met before - Rebecca, a music journalist who had come from Texas to report on the festival. What a proud moment to hear a complete stranger say that she is a big fan of DoIndie and follows us from abroad!

9) Zandari Festa ended, inevitably, with an epic after party which was forced to end long before anyone wanted it to, with legendary results. There was so much beer left over from the sponsors (I’m talking case after case of large cans), that as musicians and delegates started walking out of the venue, the organizers told everyone to take beer with them - rather stunned, people grabbed six-packs and headed off to continue outdoors at the Playground, which likely hasn’t seen that many black leather jackets since the birth of Chosun Punk… I will never forget band 57(oh-chill)’s guitarist handing out full cases of beer at the door, yelling “one plus one!”, nor walking down the street with Liverpool’s Tea Street Band handing out cans to random pedestrians…and I am told there are still cans to be found in practice rooms and one-room apartments across Hongdae.

10) Postscript…. 5am on Zandari Monday, eating cold noodles at a 24 hour traditional restaurant with Sultan of the Disco’s front man, Nahzam Sue. Trying nervously to make conversation, I conduct DoIndie’s first and shortest interview with him: “So, how do you think up all those dance moves? I guess you have to train every day?” Deadpan and far more bright-eyed than me at this stage, he replies, “No! It’s my natural born talent-maybe my only one.”

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Article  : Rock N Rose
Korean Translation : 김은지 (Eunji Kim)
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