For the past month, my friend JI has been trying to organize a group of us to go to his favorite "live club" at Hongdae to hear some bands perform. Finally 2 weeks ago he set the date as last night (Friday). I've been with JI and some of his friends a few times to this place over my time in Korea. Once in Feb 2006 I posted some photos in this blog entry. As usual we all had a great time, the music was great, although my ears were ringing for awhile since our seats were right by the speaker!
First, we went for dinner to a new restaurant that JI had recently discovered. It serves the usual BBQ meats, which were particularly fresh I might add. But, the main reason he chose this place was that it had a "new" style of 된장찌개, duenjang chigae, which is translated into the mouth-watering English name "Fermented Bean Paste Stew". What made this variey special was two-fold: first, the stew included the rice inside the soup, rather than being served in a separate bowl. JI told me that he immediately thought of me when he first ate this dish, because I always mix my rice into the soup. Secondly, the soup itself has a slightly different flavor than normal. I have no idea what they did to change it, but the resulting taste is really good. CH reported that he recently ate some of this stew (normal varitey, not with the rice), and it too had a new flavor. He searched carefully in the bowl, and determined that they had added some special meat to the mixture to change the taste. Anyway, whatever the reason, this new dish called 된장말이, duenjang mari, was well worth trying. I know that whenever JI invites me to dinner in Hongdae, I will certainly request this restaurant again.
Here are a few blurry, low-light photos taken with my cell phone of the three bands which performed at the club last night. Having played the electric bass in my long distant past, I'll give a few technical comments.
This first band featured a lead guitarist who played a Gibson Les Paul guitar. His skill was really good, although I wished for only one soft song so I could focus on hearing his playing and the sound of the Gibson. This band also seemed to have the longest hair of all three groups performing, and took advantage of it in their performance. I'm not sure I can describe it, but several times after shaking his head the lead guitarist looked like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family.
The next band featured a bass player who used a Fender Jazz, which was the same bass I played in High School and College. This band was overall a little better than the first band.
The final band seemed to be the best. In hindsight I think they must schedule the bands according to skill. These guys had the right combination of skill, talent, and showmanship (is that a Konglish term I've picked up?). They were really working the crowd, getting everyone involved by clapping and singing along on some songs.
We finished the night by stopping at a Hof nearby and having what is called a Soju Cocktail. Basically it is soju mixed with a fruit juice, in this place it was plum juice I believe. The side dish I chose had such a funny name. In the section of the menu which featured the Korean-style "pizzas", they had one fusion item which translated roughly to "cheese vs. potato", or maybe "mr. cheese meets mr. potato". The name was so intriguing I had to try it, and indeed it was delicious (probably not very healthy).
Let me wrap up this post with a taxi driver story. I have had some agressive taxi drivers in the past, but none of them comes close to the fellow who drove me recently. He was driving like a mad man. Whenever someone would cut him off, he would start shouting a long string of Korean words. I don't recognize Korean cussing, except maybe 1 or 2 words I have been warned not to say, but I can only imagine this guy was cussing like a sailor. He was whipping in and out, cutting off folks, yelling, honking, etc. At one point, it seemed to me he was yelling at another car for cutting in front of the line of traffic waiting at a red light, which was EXACTLY what this taxi driver himself was doing. He came to a busy intersection and decided to "avoid" the delays of the traffic and take a side street instead. I can't say the shortcut resulted in less time, but it certainly raised my anxiety level even futher as we sped down the very narrow street with people, cars, bicycles, only inches, uhm, excuse me, centimeters, away from both sides of the taxi. I was very happy when the ride was over. I hope not to have this guy again as a driver.
Edit: One last photo of the third group, a little better than the ones I took.