What happens when you take three great indie bands from Korea and bring them together on a single stage in downtown San Diego? That’s what anyone would call a rockin’ good time.
The smell of great hamburgers permeated the air as I entered the Tin Can in downtown San Diego. The place was nearly full before the show even began and people seemed to be excited. Most guests appeared to know what is store for them. A few innocent bystanders were there for the food and drinks.
At 9:30pm the first act hit the stage and lyrical, soulful music filled the air. I was a bit taken aback, as I was expecting something a little more hard-core, but just as I was getting comfortable with the sound, Lowdown 30 quickly changed the beat to thumping, up-tempo, rock-and-roll rhythms. With Yoon ByeongJoo on guitar, Kim TaeHyun on drums and Kim RockGun on bass, Lowdown 30 has a unique style combining Blues and Rock. The heavy, thrumming beat mixed with hard rock set listeners on the tips of their toes.
Goonam was on stage next creating a study in contrasting styles that was as refreshing as it was amusing. One song sounded like the type of music you’d expect to see halmoni (grandma) and haloboji (grandpa) singing and swaying along to, and suddenly – whoops – beat drop – grandma just had a heart attack because the music now had a funky, rocking beat. At this point the crowd was hopping up and down and chanting in rhythm to the – dare I say it? – almost disco beat. The variety of musical rhythms and textures seemed endless. It is difficult to classify or quantify this band! This is a group that defies being put in a box. Goonam is Joh Ung on guitar, Eem ByungHak on bass, Park TaeSik on drums and the lone female of the entire Seoulsonic Troupe, Kim Naun on keyboard.
One would think these two bands would be difficult to follow, but No Brain was certainly up to the task. Penultimate showman, Lee SungWoo on vocals kept the crowd charged up through the entire performance. Fist-pumping and foot-stomping until the ground literally shook, the audience soaked in the hard punk and shouted it back with great gusto. Head-banging Jung WooYong on bass laid down awesome lines that held the rhythm together with drummer Hwang HyunSung. Jung MinJoon’s guitar licks rocked the house. The audience was completely engaged. The funky punk sound was so addictive that virtually no one remained seated during the act.
One can only hope that Korean indie bands continue to become more popular in the U.S. As word gets out and their visibility increases through venues like SXSW, these acts are going to be harder to see at small, fun venues like the Tin Can. Enjoy it while you can, while their popularity is still growing. And hopefully, we’ll see you next year?