For starters, if you’re with someone else or with a group of people, you have to go at the speed of the most vocal or you probably end up staying in one place all evening because everyone’s too polite to say they’re bored stiff.
Soundday is a 9-to-5 opportunity (9pm to 5am, that is) to get in as much live music as you can take, all for 15,000 Won. 10 clubs to choose from (you can go to all if the mood takes you), and a free beer is thrown in. All that for less than a tenner isn’t bad. And the music wasn’t bad either. I went to six clubs in the space of two hours (yes I know that’s ridiculous, but I still haven’t adjusted to the time zone and I’ve been getting about four hours sleep a night, so I feel the need not to overdo it prior to my weekend in the galleries) and had a great time. When I didn’t particularly like a band I could feel free to move to the next club; and when I did like them I could linger.
There was a surprising variety. A couple of retro 1950’s rock and roll bands; some hip-hop; some funk/soul, some funk/groove, and a rather loud rock band whose lead singer had to disguise the fact that he sang flat by shouting.
Arirang TV were covering the event, and trying to interview as many foreigners as they could find. The difficulty was that the interviewer couldn’t speak English, so he had written down the questions he wanted you to answer. He showed them to you for a couple of seconds, and then suddenly you were expected to extemporise on camera. Question #1 was: how did you like the band? Seeing as they were interviewing people on the way in to the club I don’t think they were getting much sensible footage. They certainly didn’t from me.
But the real entertainment of the evening was the taxi ride there. OK, we’re spoilt in London because taxi drivers in general know what they’re doing and generally carry an A to Z with them. I wasn’t on best form and foolishly had rather too great expectations of the Korean equivalent. So I took the laughable excuse for a map from the Soundday website, and told the driver to take me to Drug near Hongik underground.
There are times when you can’t tell whether a driver’s just sucking his teeth or whether it’s the traffic that sucks, or that he’s having to go west when he wants to go south that sucks, or whether that he’s got a stupid foreigner in the back of the car that sucks. It soon became clear to me that he wasn’t just sucking his teeth. He was thumping the gear shift, the steering wheel and the seat beside him. He was cursing the stupid drivers who got in his way when he was erratically changing lanes. He was cursing the lights. And all this was way before he realised he didn’t have a clue where he was going.
He took a brief look at the map and drove on. But as we got closer to the destination the tone of his cursing changed. He looked at the map more frequently, holding it every which way. Then he was pointing at the clock: he was out far too late and he didn’t know where he was going and it was all my fault and why hadn’t I brought the phone number of the club with me so that he could ring them and find out where the hell they were.
He stopped the car and ranted for a while gesticulating wildly, and calmed down a little – but only a little – when I thrust a 10,000 note into his hand and made as if to get out. That shamed him into asking a pedestrian, but soon he warmed to his theme again. I was playing the dumb sheepish foreigner but by this time the guy was getting on my nerves. I was torn between (a) feeling uncomfortable and (b) objectively savouring the experience of being in the car with a lunatic. But I could tell that we were getting close to our destination as pedestrians were increasingly confident that we were in the right area. So I thought I’d change tactic. I asked him if he was going to continue ranting like this and if he was I was going to get out right now. In fact, stop the car, you’re a laughable excuse for a taxi driver and you should be effing ashamed of yourself.
The effect was like when a teacher catches a schoolboy drawing a beetle on his desk. The blush, the guilty, sheepish look. He didn’t understand what I was saying, but he caught the general drift. As I slammed the car door, grinning to myself but doing my best Korean “aaaaiissssshhhhhh”1 he was bowing in his seat saying thank you. It set me up for the evening.
A brief stroll around the lively streets, and I found someone who could escort me to Drug, where a crazy 50s tribute band with Butlins suits and tasteless wigs were performing to an enthusiastic crowd. The night was yet young, I forgot my jet lag and entered into the spirit.
Even without the taxi driver, it was a great evening.
In the SoundDay brochure which was handed out at the entrance to the clubs there is a much more useful map (right). Why couldn’t the organisers put this one on the website? That would be far too helpful.
- I don’t know what it means but everyone says it in the movies