Cheongju Music Festival

Before I delve into this weekend’s excitement, I actually keep forgetting to post about last weekend’s excitement. A music festival came to my very own town!

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And what’s more, my very own friends were in one of the bands playing!

It was a festival just of foreigner music, so don’t anticipate this to be a revelatory cultural piece, but it was so good to revel in, well, Westerner reveling.

The band with my friends was actually from Andrea’s Wonju crowd so everyone from that circle came down for that Saturday night. It was somewhat surreal to see them treading my familiar Cheongju streets – and even more so to have them suddenly wave down at us from second floor bars to get us to come see the band playing inside.

This very scenario of being beckoned from the balcony was actually the reason we saw the first band that we did – The Language of Shapes.

I should probably mention that when Andrea had told me about our friend’s band – Mangyupsal – playing at Soundgarden, Cheongju’s most popular live music bar, both she and I thought it was a one-bar thing. A few openers, a headliner, and maybe some extra closer bands for the night owls staying on past 3am, but nothing too big or fancy.

Well it wasn’t fancy, but it was quite big (that’s what she said).

When AD waved us (Andrea, S, JY, and AX) into Road King from the bar’s balcony, we were handed the night’s schedule.

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Three bars and at least 4 bands playing at each. And the paper even came with a cute little map.

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We plunged deeper into the thick jungle of beat-bouncing bodies and ended up with both drinks and a decent view. (We had to buy tickets for the festival but you got one free beer!)

First things our ears picked up on were the lilting alt-rock electric mandolins (two of them!) – followed shortly by the frenzied percussionist whose fingertips were responsible for the trance-inducing rhythm as they worked atop a tall skin drum.

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After nearly eight months of K-Pop, this music was heaven. I’ve never appreciated the term “alternative” so much before. Outside hipster cities like Montreal where alternative is pop (because it’s so popular), it’s so nice to have an alternative to Whatever’s-On-The-Radio music.

S and I were way too full from dinner (we’d gone to Pearl Jam to indulge in their wondrous foreigner food menu and dropped a generous amount of cash on a burrito, burger, chimichanga, and a plate of poutine to split – not to mention we’d finished off JY’s quesadillas…), so we bobbed in the standing crowd and nursed our beers while tenderly massaging our distended rock-like stomachs. Andrea, however, braved the dance floor.

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She did say she regretted the vigorous movement later.

AX then turned out to be behind me (we’d temporarily lost track of him and JY).

“Have you seen this video that’s playing behind them?”

Indeed I’d just been looking at it. Psychedelic cartoons were going on acid adventures stylistically between Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Salvador Dali, and India’s Hindu epic the Ramayana.

We laughed in a bemused yet transfixed state. After the show we asked where they’d got it from – I think (we got two different answers though) a friend made it for them and let them use it. All I know is I’d love to get my hands on the whole thing.

But yes: Language of Shapes. An awesome band. Also from Wonju incidetally so there was a lot of Gangwon-do support in Cheongju that night! Go check out their music here.

After that (and a few more drinks), we headed out to get a few more drinks. We regrouped with our friends in the band Mangyupsal (they’d only be playing around 1am) and chilled on the steps of the 711 drinking beer for a while.

We stayed long enough that a drunk guy came over with a rubber chicken that he started to play like a bagpipe/guitar hybrid. He was soon joined by his friend, the tin whistle player. Lots of saliva was dripped from the end of the flute before they were through entertaining us.

More conveniently, a couple of the festival workers walked by with two big boxes full of festival T-Shirts. They were so cool Andrea and I couldn’t resist.

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It says Cheongju on it! With a giant space squid! Best souvenir ever.

After that, we meandered over to Soundgarden. There was a slight detour at the entrance in the form of distracting squid tank for the adjacent restaurant.

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JY tried to – and succeeded at – drunkenly catching the squids bare-handed. Needless to say the servers of the restaurant weren’t happy that their food was getting traumatized before reaching their customers’ plates, but I caught the whole thing on video before they stopped us ^ ^

Upon being chastised and apologizing profusely between giggle fits, we descended into the bowels of Soudgarden to a raucous hard rock gig called Magna Fall. Haven’t actually checked to see if their music is online, but they had a very dedicated following. Headbangers and sweaty dancers thrashed in the crowd. (EDIT: I just googled them and they have their own website – check them out here! They’re a progressive rock band from Seoul.)

I can’t give an adequate description of the scene more than this because around then I ran into my regional coordinator and had a straight shot of whiskey with her for her birthday. In addition to all the beer and white russians I’d had previously, this made me rather hazy on any circumstantial details except for the sure fact to report that it was effing loud. (But very enjoyable).

Then came Mangyupsal – whose name, I should mention, comes from a play on words of “samgyeopsal”, which is tasty Korean BBQ that you should remember from Word Wednesday #9. They’re a rock n’ roll/heavy metal screamo, though you’d never expect it til they slam into their instruments and start singing.

Most of my pictures are pretty blurry from this point on, but here are a couple that are passable.

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(This last picture is the singer’s near-to-bursting pregnant wife, AN, who guest-sang one of the songs. As a quick congratulatory sidenote, their baby was born on May the 4th – so May the fourth be with you, MT + AN, and many felicitations!!).

For Mangyupsal, even more headbanging was in order. Andrea got a few compliments from fellow spectators for her enthusiasm – although she woke up with a stiff, immovable neck the next day.

Mngyeopsal doesn’t have an album out yet, nor a website to link y’all to, but they’re  recording so let’s keep our fingers crossed they get it out soon so I can put a link up here! They had a great song about getting deported in Korea.

The last musicians to come up were just free-jamming. It was pretty good til a guy broke out his saxophone for some jazzy times, which the guitarist didn’t care for. The result was a dissonant rhythmic mess.

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But we were exhausted anyway so we decided to call it a night (it was close to 4am) and get some rest so we could get up early for BLT’s.

Of course “early” ended up being 2pm but shhhhh, the BLT’s were delicious anyway…


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