Tour Diary: Two Gallants in Asia: Seoul, Korea, November 12By Two Gallants
Nature strives through every direction and distance of sight as we travel by train through carefully tilled landscapes: red temples at the feet of low lying mountains, persimmon trees, cotton, farms with wicker-like baskets combing the fields, rivers keeping them company as un-intrusive clouds frame pending winter on the calm faces peering upon the slipping landscape outside. Huge factories stand tall between the natural chapters of the countryside, jarring us back to reality: concrete apartment buildings, monochrome and cellular, each numbered. Such simplicity in it all, architecture only in the trees, in the profiles of mountains against the sky. They begin to stack up as we enter the suburbs of Seoul, threatening the calm and quiet of the countryside.
Leaving the train station is an orgy of humanity. Well-dressed Koreans rush in every direction, casual suits, combed hair, long legs and high heels. A Peruvian fife band plays loudly to new age pre-recorded tracks. The rugged, drunken homeless stave off attention and the cold from urine-soaked corners. Monotonous buildings reflect the cries and cheers of a large protest based in the square and entrance of the station. We reach the hotel to then quickly delve into the city, Sean lives in this vast place, and through the short afternoon tries to give us a taste of the city, from a 37th floor helicopter pad rooftop displaying a unique view of Seoul from the shamanic hills to North to the ultra urban and ascending sprawl in every other direction, gigantic malls, a traditional spa, the technology center of the city, to the crumbled remains of what used to be the red light district, now being destroyed.
Someone tells us that the show is sold out, which is again a surprise for us. We arrive to the club, which we are told is in the more bohemian part of the city. Dropping off the gear we pick up more Makali and Soju and comb the area on foot; it throbs with people in a Saturday night fervor. Open air markets, plastic masks, food carts bars, clubs pumping bubbles into the air with lines around the block, karaoke buildings with private rooms with glass walls facing the street so as the satisfy the voyeuristic tendency we all can lean on, a park populated by young people gathered in throngs around different events: kids on play structures trying to get an ear and eye upon a round robin, spoken word battle, another crowding around a rock band, next to another large group surrounding some sort of sexy outdoor pole dancing contest, drinks and smoke everywhere. We wander to a “cat bar”, where we could sit in an enclosed room and have some drinks with a harem of 30 cats in their own controlled chaos.
For our last show we are joined by two bands, both made of a mix of foreigners and Koreans, and both represented the refreshingly creative, un-self conscious , and raw nature of all the bands we were exposed to while in traveling through the country. Table People were a 4 piece that had a very melodic, bedroom based rock’n roll sensibility, with gang vocals and a leaning of noise…reminded me of a great band from the bay area called Tommy Lasorda. The second band, On Sparrow Hills was a quintet that had a multi-faceted sound, intertwining melodies through melodic but distorted guitars backed by a keyboard, and wafting around a lilting vocal delivered much like a more innocent and bedroom based Peter Murphy. When we went on at 1am, the club was very full with people, hanging from rafters, shifting around below, drunk and puffing smokes.
Everything around the shows in Korea reminded me of a more innocent, a more youthful time where music, and its followers, had a little more innocence and conviction. A time when the perspective of both sides is a bit more open, more DIY, less pampered in approach and support. When someone jumps into the crowd, it’s met with comradery, not the egoism that stiffens a room and the flow of energy. The true exchange is easier to achieve, and a sense of accomplishment and community can start.
As we shuffled out to try to sleep before our 5 AM ride to the airport, I grabbed a last glimpse at the room now empty, a tinge of grime and smoke on everything, and hearing the roar of the street upstairs, took a last breath in appreciation and stepped out.
Previously – Daegu, Korea