Editor’s Note: The Fall edition of The HBC Fest is Saturday Oct 9th. This is an up updated guide to the venues and the Fest street.To get to the Hae Bang Chon Fest get out of exit 2 in Noksapyeong Station (Line 6—next to Itaewon). Walk along the wall of the army base and turn left in front of the gate past the Kimchi Pots and up the hill with Seoul Tower as the Maypole in the distance.
It’s here again—maybe for you the first time but not for us. I have in one way or another been to every Hae Bang Chon festival so far and on Saturday Oct 9, it will be six fests and counting. I used to feel about the HBC fest like I did about the St. Patrick’s Day or Puerto Rican Day parades in New York. Get the hell out of town because on Patty’s it would be an all day happy hour for the Kelly Green Goofballs from affluent suburbs who were generations away from the real Irish. And on Puerto Rican day, well, every day is Puerto Rican day in New York but that’s a different story.
I am not sure what turned me towards and looking forward to the HBC fest. It does happen on the main drag of Haebangchon which is just 50 feet away from my front door and it could be just as simple as taking time to notice the change in the seasons. And the once in the Fall and once in the Spring HBC fests help mark the turning calendar with a flick-of-the-wrist gesture which in its turn becomes an understanding that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
There are seven main venues along the fest’s strip that will host the assorted music and art that is largely home grown. And around here better to have a taste of something home grown than just a hunger for something that’s very far away. But my mind is changing on that. On the right side of the street up the HBC hill about half way is Jacoby’s. Home of the 48-minute hamburger. That is about how long it will take from when you sit down to the first bite of a “gourmet burger”. Eating here has to be the ultimate suburban dinning experience. Theme- park burgers for theme-park clients who simply don’t have a clue. Koreans actually que-up for this place to open and take pictures of the food and the interior. It is the faultless example on how everything that is crass and candy-stripped about America is what the rest of the world grooves on. There is a nice front porch for the 708’ers to be seen. On non-fest days try to avoid the inside for the combination of K-Pop blaring out and the blown to hell proportion of Americana figures on the wall like: The Babe and Sinatra and Marilyn and “Satchmo” Armstrong, creates anabsolutely queasy eating experience. Of course I have never eaten there because waiting forty minutes for a hamburger is not in line with the “9 to 5 is not the new busy,” nor the o-bla-di-o-bla-da-life-goes-on-my-cell-phone personality that the servers there are glued to. Actually, on fest day absolotutly no one seems to give a shit about the music being played everyone acts really pretentious and actually think that are making the scene. Who knows perhaps they actually are but this place treats the music like a side attraction that helps you wait for your 48 minute burger, actually.
Next an Inside Tip: Get up the street and sit outside at the Pinoy Mart. Beers from the P.I. and a friendly manana manana staff love to see foreigners groove on their porch. In the spring there was really nice P.I food and just because I can’t remember the name of it means nothing. This is a good spot.
There is not much to gain by heading up the strip on the same right hand side, but if you cross to the left and keep moving up the higher grade, there is Deeleebob Music Shop (Where the fest is organized from and local studio time is available). A Paris Baguette and a PC Bang follow and across at the top of the first part of the road is a well stacked pharmacy. All could be necessary for any dozen reasons.
Now coming up the left side—that’s the right side from coming down—you will see the Club FM—which is a Family Mart. You can get bank card cash, different beers, a variety of ready-processed foods and, again, if you can get a seat outside, this is pole-position to people watch, fest or no-fest. Broken or glued up noses, fuck you eyes, mouth breathing, knuckle-dragging, an assortment of actions on body parts can be experienced here and that’s just because some but not all of the local Korean Kids think that they are living on the wrong side of the tracks. Everyone here in the hood will tell you that the police presence has been increasing during the last two weeks and part of that might be from the Nigerian contingency always holding court on the patios outside of Club Fm. What can I tell ya up to now it’s a free country.
Continuing down the right side of the inferno there is a small Korean restaurant and a smaller café (Le café). Both of these places are great because they are cheap, offer quality fuel, and at least friendly service to foreigners and Koreans alike. And there is new bar just opened last week called “The Local”. It’s small and inside looks like a Czech pub called a Hospoda but around here who is going to know what a small Czech pub looks like? Maybe 1 out of 183…
Next (down from FM Club) is Phillies, the drawing point or kingpin for foreigners in Hae Bang Chon. It carries A Wurlitzer jukebox and Cd’s are taken from regulars to develop a local play list. An ample menu of food and drinks is here. They will be serving food all fest day. The bathrooms are the worst in Seoul. The foosball table is a huge draw. They are cleaning their beer taps for the fest. It’s also a Britty sports hobbits hole. They serve San Miguel on Tap. You can come here to eat or drink or be seen.
Wow, you see when I am in Phillies everything seems to move sideways or out and the in and then out of order again. I think this happens because on the weekends here I look around and get the predilection that the only reading that most of the patrons here ever do is the reading off the menu on the wall. In truth, most regulars prefer the older Phillies when it was proprietored by Todd. Yet still, Phillies will be a place to at least see if you can get in for a drink or a gut-busting nacho platter. Acoustic single and duet performers will set up in the corner.
Downstairs Phillies. Lots of loud music, same drinks as upstairs plus jello shots and absolutely no talking politics! This venue will have a good feel for the fest. We’d all be luckier though if it kept its nihilistic Ass-Clown, oops I mean Insane-Clown-Posse-fun-house-and-we’re-in-pre production-for-a-Bang Bros.-movie-here vibe. This place has yet to equal the last-chance-for-love fire zone that the Ssen bar across the street offered, but today’s crowd who goes down there, whether it is one or twenty, always seems most comfortable with anything that is obscene and the truth is the debauched dizziness of the place is unforced and that’s not always easy to find in South Korea. Hopefully early in the night before it gets crowded a local bar buzzard will drop his pants for all to admire his cock ring. Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
Almost directly across from the upstairs and downstairs of Phillies’ is a place that is crowded on the weekends but the crowd seems a little too pretentious for me to check out, Le Vert. It’s mostly foreign food, but it seems like diners in there are more concerned on being seen or perhaps, like, come out of the closet and then get discovered in Hae Bang Chon. They don’t seem to luxuriate or even enjoy anything that is in front of themselves besides the aura of themselves of course: This is what I mean by pretentious. But La Vert has just joined the fest and 3wm drinking buddy Alex Lowry will be playing there sometime mid-afternoon. It’s funny he is the only person playing at the fest who I know by name –I think– because whoever actually plays the music, well, it really doesn’t matter does it? it’s more about just getting on the street and filling up the beer belly and see what sort of local mischief happens that the newspapers won’t run. SEE HERE.
Just down from there and adjoined to the HBC is Pita Time.Somehow it’s running a solo and outdoor stage. Expect to see hundreds of pitas being eaten on the dirty boulevard of fest day. A falafel for my thoughts: They paid the money and now they’re in the fest. UPDATE: Pita Time will be open and be serving for the fest but because last time so many 708ers just bought 3 cans of cheap beer and stood outside across from P.Time with their knuckles draggin’ and their elongated fourth toe tappin’ ; Pita Time is sans music this fest.
Right across from Pita Time is The VFW. When Lou Reed said, “That sometimes to be hip you have to be square,” he had The VFW in mind. Well of course the-fuck-not but with older well mannered Gi’s, Young Philipina bar maids, popcorn, a pool table and the best stage and sound system of the fest this is the turn up place for those who can understand Lou or those who want to play loud like The Velvets. NOT TO MISS! IF THERE WAS A VENUE TO GLUE YOUR ASS AT AND CHECK YOUR HIPSTER BOURGEOIS AT THE DOOR… THIS IS THE PLACE.
The first venue at the fest will be the Variety Venue of the Orange Tree. UPDATE ON THE ORANGE TREE. The previous owner Kenny Lee has moved back to L.A., California to raise his daughters as “Christians”. The new owner “Mike” is familiar to the local booze hounds at HBC and proved he is worth his mettle as a bar owner when on the night of his official opening he particpated in a knock down drag em out fight that left his bar with the front doors completely smashed open. My guess is the doors will be fixed by fest time. It’s on the right hand side and is a two story: restaurant at the bottom and bar on top edifice. This building is actually underestimated. The food at the restaurant is fairly priced and consistently good. It does feel a little claustrophobic when every other sentence out of any patron’s mouth begins with either, “I” or “It’s like.” But these are dribble on yourself times we live in. Here the food is good and the service attentive—ask for James or Max. UPDATE: Actually James has moved over to the trendy makolli spot directly across the street from The HBC bar. I forget the name of the place but is the first restaurant bar open and when you come out of the corner of Mr. Lee’s supermarket. And now, the level of English language mastery in this place is so interesting that you can walk through here with a blindfold on and not know if the English being spoken is a from a foreigner or a Korean. Now that means the Koreans speaking English are fluent and urban OR the foreigners who go here are complete hipster dolts… place your bets on that.
Last venue: The HBC. This place has lost some of it’s expectation for a bright vibe as the manager and owner often do not want to be there (as it can get so damn busy) and the locals there seem to be a little too easily satisfied talking about the NFL and winning strategies for obscure quiz night categories. Talk of good novelists, strategies for the Middle East or convo. about the empty stingers in the bee hive of facebook is noticeably lacking round here but wait, just like for the Mets and the HBC Fest, there is always next year.