The Korea Rocks tour – good for Hyundai Card, and good for the audience

by Philip Gowman on 25 April, 2013

in Apollo 18 | Event reports and reviews | Galaxy Express | Gate Flowers | Goonam | K-pop rock and indie

If you’re in London and a fan of quality rock music, this Sunday at the Barfly in Camden is a must for you. For fans of Korean culture in London, it is of course an unmissable opportunity to see some of the best indie rock bands that dominate the Hongdae music scene. And for their sponsors too, it’s also a great opportunity.

The Tunbridge Wells Forum

The Tunbridge Wells Forum

The opening gig of the Korea Rocks UK Tour was in Tunbridge Wells on Wednesday 24 April. Not a premier league rock venue you might think, but the Tunbridge Wells Forum, an intimate venue with a nice barbeque terrace at the back and less than 10 minutes walk from the railway station, was voted Britain’s Best Small Venue in May 2012 by the New Musical Express – a great place for indie and jazz gigs. According to the Independent, the unassuming building was once a public toilet, but has hosted acts such as Oasis, Coldplay and Adele.

Galaxy Express

Galaxy Express during the sound check before the gig started

Because the venue won that award, it features on the Hyundai Card Korea Rocks Tour, along with the Barfly in Camden (it was a toss-up between the Barfly and the 100 Club in Oxford Street for the headline London gig, and availability won out).

Goonam

Goonam lark around before the gig

As Anna over at koreanindie.com reported, Hyundai Card have been active in the Hongdae music scene for a while with their pop-up music store. This is as part of an ongoing market strategy to appeal to a particular young, music-loving demographic in Korea. And this UK tour builds on that strategy. The four bands are accompanied by a documentary film crew and no fewer than eight Korean bloggers who won their place on the tour by winning a competition. So Hyundai will get publicity via the bloggers’ network of readership as well as having a documentary which follows these bands to some of the best rock venues in England and Wales.

Apollo 18

Jelly Boy and the rest of Apollo 18 get interviewed by HelloKpop.com before the gig. Not in the picture are the official documentary crew and the bloggers from Korea

All this media coverage can result in some surreal moments. During the sound-check before the debut gig, LKL witnessed a Korea-based music blogger take a photo of the documentary crew filming a US-based K-pop blog interviewing Apollo 18. We decided not to add a further meta to the occasion by snapping it on our smartphone. Instead, we’re writing about it.

Anna Lindgren Lee

Anna Lindgren Lee of www.koreanindie.com gets interviewed by the official documentary crew

While in the UK, the bands are being made to work hard for their tour. As well as being constantly on camera, this coming Sunday, immediately before the Camden gig, they are each being asked to do back-to-back interviews with around five different K-culture blogs, most of them London based. Not for them the timesaving solution the KCC has adopted for actors and film directors, in which all the bloggers participate in the same interview: Apollo 18 and the other three bands have to give each blogger their undivided attention. But all this should provide more diverse coverage for the tour.

Gate Flowers

Gate Flowers were the first act on stage

Yes, the tour is to provide Hyundai Card some publicity. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a great tour musically. What’s not to like? Whether or not you have any of the bands’ albums, these are musicians who have to be heard live. The pounding of the bass, the energy of the movement, the interaction with the audience… none of this can be replicated on an iPod.

T-shirts

Plenty of souvenirs were for sale: T-shirts (£15), CDs (£10) and towels (£5)

The opening event of the tour was wholly exhilerating. All four bands provide enjoyment and entertainment, and all are very different. We’re sure that other K-blogs will provide their own perspective on the Barfly gig, and I’m hoping for a guest contribution on this site. But even though I’m predominantly a classical and jazz listener, I was totally bowled over by the energy (and volume) of the performance in Tunbridge Wells, and will certainly return to see these bands again in Camden.

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