I’ve put up three of our song videos on YouTube. Enjoy!
If there’s a downside to Seoul, it’s the traffic. New York City, London, Los Angeles – these cities all have major traffic problems, but nothing like what I’ve seen in Seoul. The difference is that the drivers seem kind of resigned to being stuck in bumper to bumper hell. No one’s laying on their horn or giving you the finger. It’s just sit, wait, talk on your cell, creep along.
On Saturday morning, we drove from Seoul to Jeonju, a city approximately 150 miles to the south. You’d think that would take about a two and a half hours. It took us over six hours. Most of that time was spent just getting out of the Seoul city limits. I asked the driver if there was something going on – an accident or a sports event. He said no, it was like this most weekends. And this was a holiday weekend, apparently. Everyone was trying to get away.
On the highway, vendors were weaving their way through the stopped cars, selling snacks and drinks. One guy was selling dried octopus. It was completely flattened, like a Looney Tunes cartoon character after being hit by an anvil. It was a pretty hot day and man, you could smell the octopus. I was secretly glad no one in our car wanted one of those.
At one point, we stopped at a truck stop kind of place to use the bathrooms and get something to drink. Outside, there were these glass bubble vending machines, the kind where you put in a quarter (or Korean equivalent) and get some little toy. Molly and I were taken by this one machine, which was selling these “Tofu Superheroes.” Little guys with white blockheads, like cubes of tofu, in different heroic poses. I wish I’d had some change with me.
The Film Festival was in its second day when we arrived. I wish we’d had time to see some of the movies. The program looked really interesting, with directors from all over Asia and Europe premiering their latest work. But since we were late in arriving, we had to soundcheck, grab dinner, then wait to play. At one point, we went into one of the movie theaters to get some popcorn. As we sat in the lobby, these really cute girls recognized us and said how much they loved Swan Dive and asked if we would we pose for pictures with them? Another parallel universe moment.
We played outdoors and by 10:30 pm, the time we went on, it was chilly. I don’t like to play guitar when it’s cold. Years ago, I lived in London and busked in the underground sidewalks during the winter. The icy winds would whistle through and freeze my fingers. I even tried wearing those Fagin-style fingerless gloves, but it didn’t help. The weather in Jeonju wasn’t quite that cold, but it was a challenge to fingerpick.
None of that mattered though, because the audience was competely over the top, probably the wildest we’ve ever played for. There must’ve been a thousand people there, cheering and whistling from the moment we walked on stage. They were shouting out, “We love you!” and waving and giving us the peace sign. As soon as we started in our first song, “Breezeway,” there was a whoop of recognition. It was like that for every song. And when our friends from the Melody joined us, things reached Madison Square Garden proportions. On “Saturday, Sunday, Monday,” we let the audience take over on vocals. Molly and I were smiling at each other, laughing at how weird and wonderful this all was. During one song, when she started to dance, the crowd went nuts. Someone yelled, “Will you marry me, Molly?” Of course, she accepted.
Afterwards, we did another signing, with lots of posing for photos. It was wonderful, but by the end we were feeling exhausted. Remember too that Seoul is fifteen hours ahead of Nashville, so our body clocks were all kablooey.
Back to the hotel. And the next morning, back to Nashville.
Ninety-eight percent of the gigs we play begin the same way. We walk on stage without fanfare, plug in, check the mics and start our first song. Sometimes there’s a smattering of applause beforehand, but usually, it’s the typical thing of trying to win the audience’s attention away from their conversation and drinks.
So imagine how bracing and exciting it feels for Molly and I to step into a parallel universe where we walk on stage and hear screaming and applauding, as if we’re pop stars. That’s what happened in Seoul. After two short sets by Korean bands, we came on to a kind of heroes’ welcome. It certainly puts you in a relaxed and confident state of mind to play.
A quick word about the Apgujeong Club, where we did our first show. It was a clean, comfortable room. Not a black wall beer and piss kind of place. What a welcome change. Speaking of drinks, we were told that everyone coming to our show would be receiving a free cup of coffee. How civilized is that?
We had a luxurious soundcheck (another thing we’re not accustomed to), so everything was clear and well-mixed. The soundmen (and soundwomen) were all courteous and helpful. The equipment was new, with those nice Shure Beta mics.
A Korean band called The Melody backed us up on six songs in our set. They were a little nervous during that afternoon rehearsal, as we were, but we worked out a few snags and it all came together by showtime. They were sweet and funny young guys. We called them by their English nicknames, which were basically letters – J on keyboards, JK on drums, H.E. on guitar and Goo on bass.
Our set consisted mostly of older songs, as the new album won’t be released until June, and almost every one we played got a whoop of recognition. I learned to introduce songs in Korean, and also to say a few random phrases. I apologized for my pronunciation, but the audience seemed to love it whenever I spoke their native language. Afterwards, several people told me my pronunciation was great. I think they were being polite.
Maybe our most popular song in Korea is one we never play back home. It’s called “Saturday, Sunday, Monday.” I wrote it as a little homage to Italian movie soundtracks of the ‘60s. It’s a fun ba-da–da kind of tune. But as soon as we started it, the whole audience was singing along. We even did that stadium rock thing of letting the crowd take over on vocals. To hear a melody I wrote coming back at me from hundreds of voices is overwhelming. Ba-da–da is a kind of esperanto, I guess.
During our closer, “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” I did some E Street Band style moves with H.E. and Goo. More wild cheering. We encored with “Circle” and “Gentle Rain,” which I wrote with a cool Korean band called Clazziquai.
Afterwards, we signed autographs and posed for photos for about two hours. Our fans are the best – sweet, funny and enthusiastic about music. Someone from the label told me that I was “too nice,” because I spent too long with each fan, chatting and drawing them a picture. But I don’t know. It means so much to me that these kids are coming to see us, I want to let them know that I appreciate them.
To view some photos of us on stage, check out these links:
After you view the first three pics at each link, make sure you click on the “u wanna more” button at the bottom of the page. It brings up about ten more photos.