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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Book the Barfly gig (Sunday 28 April) here
- All the tour dates here
The Gallery – click on any image to launch a slideshow