Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hongdae Nights

This Saturday I decided to make the long overdue trip to Hongdae, one of the "hipper"parts of Seoul.  The term Hongdae is actually a conflation of the University's full name, Hongik Daehakgyo.    The district is located on the Hongik University subway stop on the green line or "outer circle" as it is affectionately called (why it is called the outer circle I'm not sure, as the line makes a concentric circle directly around the middle of downtown).  The University has comprehensive course offerings in a number of varied disciplines, but is best known for it's Fine Arts program, universally regarded as the best in Korea.  The neighborhood certainly reflects the universities commitment to high aesthetic and cultural standards.  It is teeming with amazing little boutiques, often only about the size of a small bedroom, but always packed with wonderful garments.  There are also an innumerable amount of small restaurants, bars, and coffee shops which exhibit promise.  The area is also known for it's clubs, which typically occupy multiple floors and are jammed into every building in the area.  It was also in Hongdae that I had my first successful encounter shopping for music in Korea.  I stopped into Purple Record to scavenge for Korea's psychadelic rock treasures.

The dude working the record store was most helpful and assisted me in locating some fine, fine psychadelic albums.  I will offer a full review of my purchased items in the next blog entry, but first allow me to discuss some of the store's unique color.  The store was being run by a man in his 40's with thick, short black hair combed to the side.  He was initially very quiet and did not pay much attention to me upon arriving.  After a quick, cursory examination of the store, I got down to brass tax and asked homeboy where the good shit was.  This of course took some negotiating of the cultural divide.  I initially began by asking the clerk for experimental, progressive, and even specified 60s-70s psych rock.  No such luck.  I then resorted to pulling out my ipod and showing him a couple of the Korean psych albums I already had, mostly Shin Jung Hyun and the Men stuff and then reaffirmed "psyhadelic rock."  This put a gleam, a twinkle into his eye and he proudly exclaimed, "ohhhhhh shykadeleek rock!"  Pay dirt.  He started pulling albums out left and right, probably about 9 right off the bat.  Most of the stuff was of course by Korea's patron saint of Psych, the aforementioned Shin Jung Hyun and The Men (or as they are domestically referred to as, Shin Jung Hyun & Yup Juns), but there were also a couple of other bands, all in Korean of course, so I can't give you their english names...yet.  Some of the stuff that the guy suggested looked pretty rad, I would have bought all of it, but my newly established debit card wasn't working, so I just bought 5 albums in cash.  Speaking of which, the albums were all priced to sell.  I bought one for 4800 won, about 4 bucks and the rest for 7800, about 6.90 US.  Fucking radical.  Anyway, I digress.

One of the albums that I passed on, but will surely purchase on my next visit was suggested in a rather humorous and byzantine manner by the clerk.  He picked up the album and said, "very good psychadelic rock (read with above pronunciation), from 70's movie."  Always curious I said,"Oh very cool, what movie is it from?"  The clerk hesitated as if carefully choosing his words, "Uhh, sexy movie, like porn."  Uh, Hmmm, "You mean a porno?"  Quick to correct me the clerk jumped in without hesitation, "uhh no... like porno."  And then he paused and waved his hands up and down as if weighing to see which were heavier, "mmmm, more...Semi Porno."  Of course... a psychadelic soundtrack from a semi porno from the 1970's...Totally far out.  Rest assured, there will be a review for that one in the near future.

As I was leaving I noticed that there were several records from bands who were from Portland that were faced to direct the attention of perusing customers.  One of these bands was my friend Dan's previous band.  I quickly picked up the record and said, "My friend is in this band, they are from Portland, Oregon in the United States.  That is also where I am from."  The clerk again became very excited and I said, "yeah, his name is Dan ******."  the Clerk became very intrigued and proclaimed, "Ahhhhh, Dan ******!!"  Not quite knowing what to make of this I simply said, "Yeah, thank you very much for your help." and left.

Overall my experience at Purple Record was great, the clerk was friendly, knowledgeable, and humored my english.  I will definitely be going back to check out more albums.  I mean scope the bag, they carry all of the latest trends in music...Indie, folk, post rock,  I'm not sure what this was a reference to.  Black Metal? Maybe.  Black people music....maybe?  Not really sure what to make of that one.

After I left Purple Record I strolled a bit more and headed into an art supply store.  The place was pretty run of the mill, a nice supply store for college students.  Pretty forgettable until I checked out and paid my bill.  I bought all this great shit for the equivalent of about 17$.  Not too bad.

Later that evening I headed down one of the many back alley roads to check out some more of the hood.  Whereas an alley in the US is typically lined with trash, peeling paint, and shit, this alley was lined with cute coffee shops and very fashionable boutiques.  The sign on one of these read, "Vintage Japanese Fashion."  How could I resist?  The store was only about the size of a small bedroom, probably 7x7 meters, tops, and that includes backstock.  Having said that, it was still crammed with awesome shit.  I would have purchased one of these, but my pesky debit card was on the fritz:
Which color do you like?  I thought I liked the black the best, but now I'm having second thoughts and veering towards maroon. Maybe the debit card fiasco was and excuse for prudent consideration.  Where do you guys fall on the issue?

Enough with my indecision, here is the website for the store in case you guys want to check out more of their awesome shit: 

Google also offers the free service of translating web sites in foreign languages into english.  Check it out under "more services" and "translate a web page."

The final shop I ventured into had a beautiful fixed gear bike in the window, it was the first I had seen while in the country.  There were two obviously fashionable men in the store, which seemed to cater to the "street" culture.  The fashion was probably most akin to something you would find at the B-complex in Old Town... expensive designer t-shirts, baseball caps... basically graffiti couture shit.  Check them out at  The guys were super friendly and spoke really good and relevant english.  I think one of the guys was the first person who spoke in a more colloquial manner using terms like "man" and "dude."  Anyhow, I came in to see if they knew anything about fixed gear biking in Seoul and if there was any type of scene there.  Apparently there is.  There is a shop in town that manufactures frames and a few components called LSD (  The store owner mentioned that he knew the guy who owned the company and that I should send them an email mentioning that I knew him and hook up with them.   Anyhow, the guys were really nice and gave me their info and told me to email or call them if I had any questions about anything.  Will do.  I told them about the macaframa guys in SF and we parted ways.  Here is a video that they are shooting for Uniqulo:

The rest of the evening I simply spent wandering around the streets and taking pictures of graffiti and weird stores.  Here are some of my favs:

This Dude, NANA was everywhere, even the girls bathroom I mistakenly went into:
Here are some other assorted people I thought had some cool art:

I can see some similarities to Paladino's fine art in this one.

This next one is a little gnarly.  I heard there were still some Koreans who are upset and resentful about the Japanese atrocities committed against their people.  I can understand that, but seeing it spray painted on a wall is still pretty disconcerting.

And I leave you with a couple of my favorite stores Hongdae has to offer:


Lily said...

Totally cool. Want to hear more.

John said...

I'd probably go for the white one but I'm kind of grimy like that

karl said...

dude, me want me some of them crazy korean markers and white out pens and such