Destination: Haebangchon Fest (fall 2010)

Gil, at the HBC Cafe.

The good news about the Haebangchon Fest: if you've gone once, you know exactly what to expect. The bad news about the Haebangchon Fest: if you've gone once, you know exactly what to expect. Excellent local musicians - both expat and Korean alike. More than adequate supplies of beverages, both caffeinated and alcoholic. More foreigners in one place than anywhere else in Korea, save perhaps for the Boryeong Mud Festival. These are all the reasons to check out this wonderful event. With nine venues spanning Itaewon and Haebangchon, there were more than enough chances to check out the music scene - and all for free.

The scheduled acts weren't all that was going on. With no warning, the streets were filled with this quartets' enjoyable jazz improv. I'm afraid I didn't catch their names, however.

The Lady in Red and I enjoyed an excellent hamburger over at Le Verte while listening to Yvon Malenfant (on guitar) and Mississippi Dave singing and on the harmonica. The intimate venue was definitely ideal, and the standing-room only crowd kept the vibe going.

It's worth noting that Haebangchon-gil became the prime hangout spot. While not quite as crowded as it was the last time around, that's probably because more people were enjoying the shows inside than drinking draft beer outside.

One thing I didn't much of, however, were tourists. This is easily the best chance for anyone not from Seoul would have to see a flourishing expat community, thriving in its own right. You'd have to head to Hyehwa for the Filipino market to see a more vibrant group of foreigners. Perhaps the emphasis of the festival has always been to market inward, towards the thousands of HBC'ers and Itaewonites, but there's an even larger market out there.

Next up, Josh Roy over at the Orange Tree. Nothing like some reggae music to keep the energy going.

The angry bears at the Angry Bears. They covered up a gaping hole in the bass drum, which definitely needed replacing by the end of the night.

One unique highlight at the VFW: Solitare Love Affair - usually a much louder band, they were dared to go acoustic for tonight's show. The show was an unqualified success - easily something they need to do again.

Now down in the Phillies basement, the Lady in Red and I enjoyed Sticky Fingers - a Rolling Stones tribute band with Ripley as the frontman. This otherwise mild-mannered gentlemen also drums for the band Mirrorhouse. He definitely kept the crammed room jumping, although the other members of the band virtually blended into the background. I would've loved to see them share the spotlight.

After an unfortunate encounter with Seoul City Suicides' drummer, the bass drum was removed from duty and Ripley stepped in to keep up the sound.

Just. Straight. Rock. The Seoul City Suicides deliver the sound - I'm not entirely convinced my hearing has returned even days later. The party continued in Itaewon until the wee hours of the morning, though the Lady in Red and I left in time to catch the subway home.

HBC has a lot to be proud of - thousands of foreigners calling the area home, many of which have found a place in the creative community. The festival has plenty to be proud of as well - dozens of bands and musicians performing, promoting, and enjoying. The occasional setup issues were around, and I still wish there was more assistance to people not part of the HBC crowd. Some signs supporting the website's directions would be nice, as would some information about the bands themselves (what genre are they? maybe a little blurb about the members?).

Ratings (out of 5 taeguks):
Ease to arrive:


Convenience facilities:

Worth the visit:

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