Welcome to the Underground part 2: December

Written by on December 1, 2011 in Arts, Travel

Back in early October, I put together a mammoth list of upcoming concerts, and it ended up taking me two days to compile, research, and edit due to all the festivals. Festival season is over now, so this should be considerably easier.

Korea has some of the most hardworking, but underappreciated independent bands in the world. In a country dominated by pop music, independent bands struggle in the underground to make a name for themselves. Every band listed here is someone’s labour of love, honed over years of practice, often with no reward other than playing great music to a few dozen people in a dingy basement.

If you ever wanted to see live music in Korea, or find out what the music scene’s like, you’ve come to the right place. This is a listing of major shows scheduled in December — festivals, touring bands, album releases, and anything else worth noting that I could find. This is what’s going on in underground and indie music for the month of December.

…Whatever That Means 2011 US Tour

  • Friday 2 December: Billy O’s (Ventura, CA)
  • Saturday 3 December: Double Down Saloon (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Sunday 4 December: Cobalt Cafe (Canoga Park, CA)
  • Monday 5 December: The Olde Town Pub (Pasadena, CA)
  • Tuesday 6 December: The Z (San Luis Obispo, CA)
  • Wednesday 7 December: The Bel-Tower (Fresno, CA)
  • Thursday 8 December: La Copacabana (Salinas, CA)
  • Friday 9 December: 924 Gilman (Berkeley, CA)
  • Saturday 10 December: The Plea For Peace Center (Stockton, CA)
  • Monday 14 December: TBD (Eugene, OR)
  • Tuesday 13 December: Interzone Cafe (Corvallis, OR)
  • Wednesday 14 December: The Know (Portland, OR)
  • Thursday 15 December: TBD (Longview, WA)
  • Friday 16 December: Nemesis House (Tacoma, WA)
  • Saturday 17 December: Galway Arms (Seattle, WA)
  • Sunday 18 December: The Funhouse (Seattle, WA)
  • Wednesday 21 December: Characters (Pomona, CA)The Korean punk band …Whatever That Means is taking a year-long break as husband-and-wife members Jeff and Trash spend 2012 in the US. For their finale they’re bringing along their bandmates Hong9 and Oh Baeng for 15 tour dates over three weeks up and down the west coast.

    …Whatever That Means plays melodic punk music based heavily on pop punk with a fixation on Social Distortion. They’ve been one of the flagship bands of Korean underground music for the last couple years, helping to run the Purge Movement series of outdoor concerts in Hongdae Playground, and World Domination, Inc which recently put out a compilation CD of the Korean punk scene. They’ve previously toured Malaysia, where this video was shot.

    Townhall Winter Fest 2011


  • Saturday, 3 December 2011
  • 5pm
  • Club Crack
  • 22 000 won in advance/ 25 000 won at the doors
  • Bands: No Turning Back (Netherlands), As We Let Go (Japan), Geeks, Things We Say, No Excuse, Find the Spot, Combative Post, Pariah, All I Have, Last of the Diehards, Seoul Mothers
  • RSVPKorea’s hardcore comprises some of the most hardworking musicians in Korea. Despite relatively little domestic success, they continue to turn the world upside-down. Especially the Geeks, who recently wrapped up a tour of the Philippines and were described by Think Fast Records as “one of the most sincere hardcore acts in the world today.” They’re joined by six other local bands to welcome two familiar bands back to Korea.

    As We Let Go (Japan) have been here at least once before, coming to Korea in 2008. No Turning Back (Netherlands) were here more recently in 2009, when I got to see them perform three times: once in Ssamzie Space, once in Spot, and once in the noraebang. As much as it is good to be exposed to new bands, it’s also reassuring to see bands wanting to return to Korea.

    Rubber Soul 2011


  • Saturday, 3 December 2011
  • 10pm
  • Admission: 10 000 won for access to every venue
  • Club DGBD: 13 Steps, 49 Morphines, Harry Big Button, Rock Tigers
  • Club FF: Black Bag, Pavlov, Apollo 18, No. 1 Korean
  • Club Freebird: Wagwak, Demian the Band, Achtung, Yamagata Tweakster
  • Club Gogos2: Telepathy, National Pigeon Unity, Angry Bear, Sotto Gamba
  • Club Hodge Podge: Tiger Summer, Justin Patrick, Jennifer Waescher, Wadada Sound System
  • Club Ta: Romantiqua, Googolplex, Juck Juck Grunzie, Brick Slipper
  • RSVPEver since the success of Club Day, Hongdae clubs have been willing to band together to offer multi-venue festivals. This one, however, is for a charity. For the fourth year, six Hongdae clubs come together to mark World AIDS Day. Profits will be donated to the Hillcrest AIDS Center in South Africa in an area with one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world.

    At the shows you can spend 5000 won on one of the “Little Traveller” dolls, made by women from the center affected by HIV/AIDS.

    The event offers a variety of bands both Korean and foreign, big and small, loud and soft. At Club FF, No.1 Korean should put on a good performance. They’ve been going in new directions lately, maturing from their origins as a goofy party band.

    Deerhoof Korea Tour


  • Friday, 9 December 2011
  • 7:30pm
  • Sangsang Madang
  • 38 000 won in advance/ 43 000 won at the door
  • Bands: Deerhoof, Electric Sheep, Oorutaichi 
  • Saturday 10 December, 2011
  • 6:30pm
  • Cafe Bbang
  • 30 000 won in advance/ 35 000 won at the door
  • Bands: Deerhoof, 3rd Line Butterfly, Bamseom Pirates, Bulssazo, Look and Listen
  • RSVPDeerhoof is an experimental indie rock quartet from San Francisco. Perhaps less well known than the impressive array of bands they’ve influenced, including Of Montreal, the Flaming Lips, and Xiu Xiu. They have a reputation for unpredictable live performances, with improvisations, members switching onstage roles, and generally confusing audiences. Once in Austria they joined Xiu Xiu to perform the entire album Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division.

    They’re playing two shows in Korea, and I’m a little unsure why their bigger show in a bigger venue with a higher door price is on Friday, while they’re playing in the much smaller Cafe Bbang on Saturday with a larger number of opening bands. Their second night features the liks of 3rd Line Butterfly, Bulssazo, (almost) all-girl band Look and Listen, and grind band Bamseom Pirates who are one of Korea’s most entertaining live bands. Anyway, let’s hear what the headliners sound like.



  • 8pm
  • AX-Korea
  • 8pm
  • Band: just WinterplayThere are a lot of local bands playing expensive shows this week, from Guckkasten and Peppertones on December 11 to the 16th when Winterplay is at AX-Korea and Epitone Project is in Blue Square. However, I’m most curious about Winterplay, a jazz quartet who will be playing new songs and a few Christmas songs. Hopefully though, they play their remarkably sincere cover of “Billie Jean.”

    French Horn Rebellion Korea Tour


  • Friday, 16 December 2011
  • 10:30pm
  • Club Fabric, Busan
  • 15 000 won advance / 20 000 won at the door
  • Bands: French Horn Rebellion 
  • Saturday, 17 December 2011
  • 11:30pm
  • Rolling Hall
  • 18 000 won advance / 24 000 won at the door
  • Bands: French Horn Rebellion, Telepathy, Trampauline
  • RSVPFrench Horn Rebellion are a synth-pop duo from Brooklyn. They already played in Korea earlier this year on tour with MGMT to a sold-out show in Rolling Hall. While they were here, they even managed to record a music video. Now they’re back for two shows in Korea, one in Busan and one in Seoul.

    Save the Children:Korea Fundraiser in Daejeon


  • Saturday, 17 December 2011
  • 5pm
  • Daejeon Cantina
  • Day Stage: 12 000 won in advance / 15 000 won at the door; Night Stagge: 15 000 won in advance / 20 000 won at the door; Full Day: 25 000 won in advance / 30 000 won at the door
  • Day Stage Bands: Mahatma, Vidulgi Ooyoo, Midnight Smoking Drive, Genius, Paryumchiakdan, the Primary, Billy Carter, Tiger Summer
  • Night Stage Bands: Galaxy Express, One Drop East, Skasucks, Seoul City Suicides, Levine, Black Leather Lagoon, The Essence
  • RSVPThe booking agency Picture Our Face has been able to lure a lot of bands down to Cheonan and Daejeon recently, and this looks like their biggest show since the Cheonan After Dark Indie Fest. All in one night, there will be a wide variety of acts from metal band Mahatma to garage band Galaxy Express, and from blues duo Billy Carter to Cramps tribute band Black Leather Lagoon, all MCed by members of Korea’s only roller derby league. Set to go all night, this show should be a lot of fun, and for a good cause as well, as funds are being donated to Save the Children:Korea.

    One of the highlights of the Day Stage is sure to be Midnight Smokin’ Drive, a relatively new band who’s rising quickly among the Korean live music circuit. Having only just released their first EP, they’re too new for a music video, but here’s one of those cheap YouTube videos that’s just an album cover with the song.



  • 23 December at 8pm
  • 24 December at 7pm
  • 25 December at 6pm
  • AX-Korea
  • Price: 66 000 to 88 000 won
  • Band: just JaurimJaurim is back with a bang this month, as they have five shows lined up, starting on 3 December in Daegu, then the 17th in Daejeon, and over Christmas in Seoul.

    Club Spot Year-End Show


  • 9:30pm
  • Club Spot
  • 15 000 won
  • Bands: Billy Carter, Captain Bootbois, Paryumchiakdan, Chanter’s Alley, Skrew Attack, Gukdo, Calbones, Vicious Nerds, Same Old Story, Cuttlefish, Pariah, Pornotarium, and moreAlthough the details haven’t been completely confirmed yet, Club Spot will probably be a reliable place to go. The list of bands is a schizophrenic combination between Korea’s harshest hardcore, d-beat, and miscellaneous bands, and more easily digestible sounds like skate-punk and vintage rock, as well as the blues duo of Billy Carter.

    Countdown 2012


  • 6pm
  • Ax-Korea
  • Friday Bands: Dear Cloud, Monni, Lee Seung Yeol, Toxic, Han Heejung, 10cm
  • Saturday Bands: Gate Flowers, Moonshiners, Achime, Yozoh, The Koxx, Peterpan Complex, Clazziquai, and more.

    This seems to be the most official year-end show, apparently in its 30th year, though I’m not sure why it’s on two separate nights.

    It would definitely be fun celebrating the New Year to the Moonshiners, a rock band heavily inspired by vintage rock music.

    Rolling Hall Year-End Show


  • 7:30pm
  • Rolling Hall
  • 44 000 won
  • Bands: Dalmoon, Goonamguayeoridingstella, GoGo Star, Romantic Punch, Vanilla Unity, Eastern Sidekick, J Rabbit, Broken Valentine, Transfixion, Wiretap In My EarIf Ax-Korea’s too far for you, and you can’t handle hardcore music, Rolling Hall also has a good line-up put together, with some of the underground music scene’s more dependable bands. One such band that’ll be worth seeing is the impossible-to-translate Goonamguayeoridingstella, whose name…just…somebody get me a coffee.

    Okay, that’s all for now. Of course there will be a million more shows, as a lot of them don’t get planned more than a week in advance. Not many of the Christmas shows have been announced yet, despite the fact Christmas usually has a lot of shows. Several shows have been announced for New Year’s, which is surprising because usually New Year’s Eve seems a bit quieter following Christmas.

    I’ve narrowed this list down to just the larger shows, but remember that almost all these domestic bands play shows all the time that are less advertised, more affordable, and more intimate. You can get more inclusive information at Korea Gig Guide.

About the Author

Jon Dunbar

Jon Dunbar is a former editor and staff writer for Korea.net. His first visit to Korea was in summer 1996 when he was a teenager, and he returned permanently in December 2003. He is involved in the Korean underground music scene and has supported local musicians through writing, photography, and occasionally planning events. He has been blogging for more than a decade, mainly on music, urban exploration, and his cats