Hyundai Card’s ‘Korea Rocks!’ UK tour came to an end and the bands have all returned to South Korea. Earlier on this year, the Korea Rocks tour was announced, causing great excitement amongst the UK indie and rock fans. The four bands participating in the tour were Apollo 18, Gate Flowers, Galaxy Express and Goonam aka Goonamguayeoridingstella. Although many Korean performers have visited the UK before, this is the first time the UK was being treated to some live performances from the Korean indie and rock scene. This tour was a unique opportunity for UK audiences to experience the atmosphere of a live Korean rock gig up close and personal.
Before the London stop in the tour, which took place in Camden, we sent a few questions over to the bands to answer pre-gig. Asking about the bands themselves, their influences and music, as well as what they were looking forward to on the tour, we got some fun and honest answers from the band members.
Korean Class MASSIVE went to the London leg of the tour which took place in the very cool Camden town, the perfect setting for the band’s first London gig. Their venue Barfly, situated next to the trendy Camden Lock Market, has seen the likes of The Strokes, Muse and Kasabian grace the same stage previously, making this the perfect London debut stage for Gate Flowers, Apollo 18, Galaxy Express and Goonam.
Opening the night was Apollo 18 with an explosive performance to a packed out audience. They got the crowds screaming and moshing with their songs. Packed full of energy, they showed the audience just what Korean rock music was about. As the first act up, they did an amazing job getting the crowd fired up and wanting more. Their energy was infectious and this fire quickly spread into the crowds. They had so much presence on stage, rock star hair was flailing everywhere and they were even rolling on the floor at one point! Their music filled up the venue to the rafters as they showed off their skills, talents and lived up to their LOUD reputation.
After Apollo 18, it was Galaxy Express‘ turn to rock the crowd. Before the gig started, we had the chance to have a quick “street interview” with the super cool and laid back Galaxy Express. We asked them how they normally prepare before going on stage to which they answered with a simple: “Smoking cigarettes or…you know. We’re always ready to rock anyway.” So Rock and Roll. It’s not everyday you get to chat to rock stars so we asked them if they could teach us some cool slang and so the KCM word of the day is: kkarihata/까리하다 ~ “It means cool, like’s ‘it’s cool’. It’s a kind of Busan slang, kkarihane/까리하네!”. During this quick whirlwind interview and before they went off to get £1 pizza, we also asked them how they chose their songs for the night and they left us with some reassuring words: “I don’t know…we have come up with a set list…anyway, it’s gonna explode!” And their set certainly did! Galaxy Express took full advantage of every second on stage, putting their everything into every beat. The previously laid back trio really came alive on stage and they were dripping with sweat before the first song even ended. They drove the crowds wild with their electrifying performances.
Following Galaxy Express and providing a change in pace and style to the evening was Goonam, possibly the most successful band of the tour as their style was so unique and refreshing to UK audiences. Their chilled out and funky vibe was both fun to see and hear. Their stage presence was energetic; each member looked like they were having so much fun performing, and this was felt by the crowd as the whole audience was lit up with happy smiles.
Before they went on stage we got the chance to have a little chat with them. Goonam were extremely warm, welcoming and eager to interact and bond with the UK audience. Goonam lived up to their hippy image as they talked about swapping music between countries, making friends and generally bringing the world together with music. You can read our full interview with Goonam in Camden HERE.
Eem Byung-hak, Goonam’s bassist - “If we meet with other people and local bands in the UK we can invite them to Korea so we can interchange music and performances and exchange culture”.
Their performance was amazing. We were really appreciating the amazing fashions of Goonam, particularly the British school uniform vibe of the awesome drummer! This band had some awesome audience interaction, and there was one point where the bassist, Eem Byung-hak, even rocked out in the midst of the audience. Goonam left the crowd with a super happy high and we’re pretty sure we have enough positive and sunny vibes to last a month!
Last up was Gate Flowers to finish off the night, who even treated us to a special Rolling Stones cover in honour of the 50th anniversary of the legendary band. Gate Flowers were the only band to have a sole vocalist but Keun-hong worked that stage like a pro with his emotionally charged performance. The bassist Yoo Jae-in also earned himself a bunch of very enthusiastic fanboys that night, he was a chilled dude in sweat pants but when he started playing, his guitar skills had everyone mesmerised and kowtowing. With epic guitar skills, manic drumming and intense vocals, Gate Flowers rounded off the Korea Rocks gig nicely with their dramatic stage. Even after being constantly plagued with mic issues, everyone rocked on, full of gusto and verve, it was a dynamic and bold end to the night by Gate Flowers. It was pretty hard to find the right words to describe this epic night, but you can find our more detailed review of the Camden gig HERE.
Before the gig, we also got the chance to have a little heart to heart with Gate Flowers. We have to admit that before the Korea Rocks tour, we weren’t totally clued up on the Korean rock and indie music scene and it was a real eye opener to be able to talk to Gate Flowers about their struggles as a band in South Korea. Even though the UK has tonnes of struggling musicians, we’ve always had the luxury of having a nation that appreciates band music as we’ve had so many successful bands such as the Beatles, Radiohead and Oasis to pave the way. But in South Korea, bands such as Gate Flowers are still trying to get people to just acknowledge their style of music. While Gate Flowers obviously have realistic views on how hard it is to be successful in the Korean rock scene, it’s good to see that their love of music and performing drives them onward leading them to amazing opportunities such as taking part in this UK tour. You can read our full interview with Gate Flowers in Camden HERE.
Yeom Seung-sik, Gate Flowers’ guitarist - “Just do what you want to do. But if you don’t like what you do, do different things. You learn from every experience with people musically, but if you have to move on, move on”.
At the end of the Korea Rocks tour, all the bands did one last gig at Paper Dress Vintage in London as a closing party. It was a great experience and everyone had an amazing time. The bands have obviously gotten very close during the tour as they rocked out to each other’s sets. They even all piled on stage towards the end for one big jam session. There were even some topless moments from Galaxy Express, always a bonus!
A truly great finale to the tour, and everyone in the UK was sad to see it all end. However, as we all know, good things must come to an end. It would be great to see Korean rock and indie music getting the recognition it deserves, both inside South Korea and internationally. We have heard nothing but good things from this Korea Rocks tour and it’s certainly gained many new fans for Korean indie and rock music; hopefully this success will persuade South Korean’s to take a look at the amazing talent they have on their own home soil and more investment is made into the Korean rock music scene. If the success of this Korea Rocks tour is anything to go by, Korea should definitely look at helping bands to develop as it’s obviously very popular with international audiences – rock will always be cool. This tour has managed to get a lot more people to take Korean music more seriously as it’s proven to the British public that South Korea is not all about pretty pop bands. And in turn this will hopefully get more people to discover Korea and its other cultural assets. Hopefully the success of this tour means that Korea Rocks will come back to the UK in the not to distant future, we know that Gate Flowers already misses the UK – we’ll be waiting!
If you’d like to see more pictures from the tour you can find out photos here: