By Stuart Wainstock
Happening twice a year, the Hae Bang Chon or HBC Festival is set to take place May 29th. This year’s HBC will feature musicians from around the world including countries such as Italy, Japan, Korea, Canada, and the United States. With over 50 artists and bands spread out across 10 different locations, narrowing down who to see and where to go at this year’s HBC Festival might feel like an overwhelming task, but it shouldn’t. For one thing all the venues are on the HBC boulevard and you can easily bounce back and forth with friends and a drink—and keep in mind that all the music is free.
The festival itself kicks off at the HBC Café for a High Noon BBQ party. Along with food and drinks, the band Spontaneous Combustion will help to get the festival started.
At 2 P.M. you have two musical choices. Playing upstairs at Phillies is The Two Guitars and at the VFW is Jonathan’s Band. I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing either The Two Guitars or Jonathan’s Band, so spending a bit of time with both might be an awesome idea.
The 3 P.M. slot is jam packed with music. There are a total of five different bands performing, so you might have to move quickly to catch more than one. My pick of the five is Kachisan. Kachisan is a rock band that does exactly that. The three member band, met while living in Korea, and have been making music ever since. Their music is a great mix of guitar and drums. Look for them at the VFW.
As the clock strikes 4 P.M. you have another decision to make. That decision is, do I head to the Orange Tree for Kimchi Cowboys or stick around the VFW for Namji Slaps Chichi. Kimchi Cowboys know how to hit that heavy bass line, and do it well. They have a very rock/jazz feel to them and look to be a solid variety act. Namji Slaps Chichi plays a head bobbing, toe tapping kind of rock. Their music is swift and they hit the stop. I’ve had their YouTube clips on repeat since I found them.
The 5 P.M. slot has a fantastic variety of things to choose from, so it really depends on your own taste. At Jacoby’s is folk rock/country artist Darren Mullins. Mullins music has been gaining world recognition with the song The Days Of You And Me, that hit the European charts this month. He is currently sitting at the top of the Swedish and Belgian music charts. On the outdoor stage at Pita Time is Yakoba, who a plays a stellar style of acoustic indie rock that makes me want to hangout with a group of friends; have a barbeque and a few beers. It’s really strange that he’s still an unsigned artist. You can check him out on iTunes also. If you are ready to shift gears from music for a bit, then check out Actors Without Bard’ers at the Orange Tree. Actors Without Bard’ers is Seoul’s premier Shakespearian troupe. Stop by to checkout what size stiletto they have up their sleeves.
At 6 P.M. you have to choose whether you want to listen to music or be the performer. If your choice is listen to music then head to Phillies Upstairs for T. C. McManus. McManus is a spaztastic delight to watch play the accordion. Yes I said the accordion. His energy reminds me of the gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello. If you are interested in something upbeat, quick, and awesome then check him out. Also playing the 6pm slot is Matthew Dewey over at the HBC Café. Dewey’s music is a blend of blues and rock. He features some great guitar and big drum beats. Downstairs at Phillies is Seoul City Suicides, who are coming off of a record release show and should be in fine form. The power trio combines some rocking bass lines and heavy beats to create their sound. They are definitely worth checking out. If on the other hand, your choice is to be the performer, then head down to Orange Tree for the Guitar Hero Contest. Pit your Guitar Hero skills against other festival goers and see where you rank. It will cost a few bucks to enter, with prizes for the winner.
Your 7 P.M. artist to check out should be Yukihiro Hayashi. Yukihiro will be in Seoul for the festival, all the way from Japan. Yukihiro Hayashi is from Yokohama, Japan and works with Free the Tone to develop musical equipment that “Free’s the Tone” from noise, interference, and other impediments to help enhance musical performances. Hayashi will be doing a solo acoustic set starting at 7pm at Jacoby’s. He has been in the music world for a long time now and is going to be performing a special solo set at Jacoby’s. After spend time watching Yukihiro, wander down to Pita Time and catch Jennifer Waescher with her indie folk fusion. Her acoustic tones might be just what you need. Also at 7pm at the Orange Tree is a special comedy set. Check that out if you are in need of some laughs, and live comedy is your thing.
At 8 P.M. playing at the VFW is Kenji Onizuka from Tokyo, Japan. According to festival organizer Lance Reegan-Diehl, Onizuka is a large musical distributor from Japan. He owns several musical outlets around Japan, including AmpStation in Shibuya and Ikebe Musical Instruments in Tokyo. Not only does Onizuka sell and distribute the instruments, he plays some great guitar and will be doing a special performance for HBC fest-goers. Over at the Orange Tree is Space Rhyme Continuum, doing some hilarious freestyle hip hop comedy improv. I saw Space Rhyme Continuum a few months back doing a benefit show. These guys do an awesome improv, with lots of audience participation. They really know how to work the crowd, helping to create a unique experience each night. Down the street at Phillies downstairs is Solitaire Love Affair. SLA has also been hitting the Itaewon and Hongdae music circuit with their rock and roll sound, for some time now. Solitaire Love Affair mixes a heavy guitar sound and solid vocals; this makes them an awesome pick after Kenji.
The main act for the 9 P.M. slot will be downstairs at Phillies. Andrea Quartarone will be making the trip all the way from Catania, Italy. Quartarone is a world renowned guitar player, who recorded his second demo tape when he was only 16 years old. Not only does Quartarone have 3 albums out as a solo artist; he’s performed around the world, and has taught music courses across the globe, at some of the largest music institutes. Quartarone is an absolute delight to watch and listen to on the guitar. There are a ton of YouTube videos of him in his element. If you want to get a taste for Andrea before you make your way to Phillies check out some of his work here (Video #1, Video #2). His last album was released in 2008 and you can catch it on his website or watch him totally shred live at Phillies.
As the 10 P.M. slot rolls around, a few more venues open their doors to the party. Rocky Mountain Tavern, Roofers, and Ole Stompers all open their doors to the HBC fest and host some of the bands for an encore performance. If you didn’t catch Kachisan at the 3pm slot now is the time to do it, they’ll be performing at Rocky Mountain Tavern. Over at the VFW is an expat favorite, We Need Surgery. We Need Surgery are an electro indie band that has been moving up the rankings of the Korean music scene. We Need Surgery remind me of the American band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, whom I really enjoy. We Need Surgery are one of the bands at the top of my HBC list. For a more grown-up sound head over to Roofers as they will be hosting The International Goat Breeders.
Back at the VFW the band Short Bus goes on at 11 P.M. With a mix of funk and jazz, Short Bus describes themselves as the funkiest bus in Seoul. These guys put on an awesome funky dance party. If you’ve made your way into Itaewon already, then head over to Rocky Mountain Tavern and check out Mirrorhouse. Mirrorhouse is a four piece band that has been playing indie music in Seoul since 2009. They’re loud, they’re abrasive and they’re unpredictable, and their live show looks to be just that.
At 11:30pm Los Diablos blancos is playing over at Ole Stompers. Los Diablos Blancos is an awesome rock cover band. They are high energy and worth checking out.
Wrapping up the festival at midnight downstairs at Phillies is the Lance Reegan-Diehl Band collaborating with Andrea Quartarone and Kenji Onizuka to put on an All Star Show. Lance Reegan-Diehl has been the organizer of the HBC festival since day 1and also runs the LRD Studio in Seoul. He’s a performer and producer. Lance has 8 studio albums under his belt and knows how to rock. The collaboration of the Lance Reegan-Diehl Band, Andrea Quartarone, and Kenji Onizuka is something you won’t want to miss.
So the HBC fest: COME EARLY—STAY LATE—listen well—drink hard—GO THE DISTANCE! Friends, music, food and drink in Seoul’s true expat neighborhood.
Stuart Wainstock was born and raised in Los Angeles, He is currently biding his time teaching English in Seoul, discovering new and awesome music, and blogging. When he’s not teaching English, he’s usually out and about with his Nikon D300 taking shots of whatever he can. You can contact him at his website Glasses and Hat.