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.
I’m a little jealous. For some reason, I get only eight stations, all of them Korean. In the morning, I watch a few minutes of what seems to be a continuous infomercial for a product called Lil’ Critters Gummy Vites. These are multi-vitamins for kids, which offer a full array of nutrients counteracted by the teeth decaying sugar of gummy bears. The infomercial is hosted by a man and woman who are probably in their thirties, both of them seated behind a desk. He is dressed in a yellow shirt and a white cardigan, and has lots of gel in his hair. She is wearing what looks to be a silky robe. They are both extremely happy and animated. I don’t understand Korean, but I know they are singing the praises of Gummy Vites. Behind the couple there’s a screen upon which is projected a grainy clip of American blond-headed children, circa 1970. They look like the Brady kids, and they’re washing down vitamins with tall glasses of orange juice. They show this clip over and over while the couple smile and talk about Gummy Vites.
Finally, I have to switch it off.
Our hotel pickup is at 10am. The taxi driver’s nametag says Jum Bo. I can’t figure out if that’s his name or the taxi company’s. We load in at the Apgujeong Club, then go for lunch at Freshness Burger. Their slogan is “Hello, we’re slow! Everything is homemade.” We have chicken sandwiches and raspberry lemonade. Afterwards, we walk over to Caribou Coffee for coffee. We have an hour before soundcheck, so we browse around the shops . It’s a very stylish, hip neighborhood, with lots of interesting clothing boutiques. We find a stationery store called MMMG that sells all kinds of cool notebooks, pens, stickers and magnets. I buy myself a notebook for songwriting. On the front is says, “Winner Forever: Owl and Wrestler.” The idea of the design, I think, is a match between a masked Mexican wrestler and a barn owl. The wrestler is in position. The owl says, “I will fly to the moon.” It’s so wonderfully absurd, in that Asian way, that I have to have it. I think it’ll be a lucky notebook for songwriting.
Coming soon: soundcheck and the first gig
A big thanks to all our wonderful fans in Korea for coming out to our shows last weekend! We love you!!
Bill & Molly