With a long history of rock music and live bands, it was only natural for Hyundai Card to pick a venue in Camden town when the ‘Korea Rocks!‘ tour hit London. Last Sunday, Camden’s Barfly was visited by four of South Korea’s coolest bands around and they were welcomed by a heaving crowd. The ‘Korea Rocks’ UK tour had been on the road for a week, playing in Kent and Wrexham before arriving at London. Their venue, Barfly situated next to the trendy Camden Lock Market, has seen the likes of The Strokes, Muse and Kasabian grace the same stage previously, making this the perfect setting for Gate Flowers, Apollo 18, Galaxy Express and Goonam’s performance in the capital.
Before the gig the atmosphere was already buzzing: people running around, interviews happening everywhere, rock stars smoking, drinking and disappearing to feed their empty stomachs. But like true professionals, the gig started bang smack on time with Apollo 18 opening the night with an explosive performance to a packed out audience. Greeting the audience with a “We are not Kpop star, we are f****** Korean Indie band!” they got the crowds screaming and moshing with their songs. Packed full of energy, they showed the audience just what Korean rock music was about. Their set list for the night was Magnolia, Iridescent Clouds, Discusting, Corpse Flower, Trampoline, Warm, End, High Stepper with Orbis finishing off their highly charged stage. As the first act up, they did an amazing job getting the crowd fired up and wanting more. Their energy was infectious and this fire quickly spread into the crowds. They had so much presence on stage, rock star hair was flailing everywhere and they were even rolling on the floor at one point! Their music filled up the venue to the rafters as they showed off their skills, talents and lived up to their LOUD reputation.
After Apollo 18, it was Galaxy Express‘ turn to rock the crowd. Before the gig started, we had the chance to have a quick “street interview” with the super cool and laid back Galaxy Express. We asked them how they normally prepare before going on stage to which they answered with a simple: “Smoking cigarettes or…you know. We’re always ready to rock anyway.” So Rock and Roll. It’s not everyday you get to chat to rock stars so we asked them if they could teach us some cool slang and so the KCM word of the day is: kkarihata/까리하다 ~ “It means cool, like’s ‘it’s cool’. It’s a kind of Busan slang, kkarihane/까리하네!”. During this quick whirlwind interview and before they went off to get £1 pizza, we also asked them how they chose their songs for the night and they left us with some reassuring words: “I don’t know…we have come up with a set list…anyway, it’s gonna explode!” And their set certainly did just this!
Performing You Want It Real, Tonight with You, Where am I Going?, Soldier, Daybreak Snowfield, Horongbul, Dawn, Jungle the Black and Bye Bye Planet, Galaxy Express took full advantage of every second on stage, putting their everything into every beat. The previously laid back trio really came alive on stage and they were dripping with sweat before the first song even ended. They drove the crowds wild with their electrifying performances. They also had great crowd interaction and taught us more slang, they said it meant awesome, but we’re pretty sure it meant something else and not as family friendly as 까리하다… Galaxy Express were great live, involving the audience, getting the crowds jumping and they really knew how to work that guitar with all parts of their body.
Following Galaxy Express and providing a change in pace and style to the evening was Goonam. Their chilled out and funky vibe was both fun to see and hear. This fabulously unique and groovy group performed Long and Healthy Life, Shadow Dance, Go South, Jang Dan, City Life, Light of Dawn and Apologize. Their stage presence was energetic and a joy to watch; each member looked like they were having so much fun performing, and this was felt by the crowd as the whole audience was lit up with happy smiles. We were also really appreciating the amazing fashions of Goonam, particularly the British school uniform vibe of the awesome drummer! Again, this band had some awesome audience interaction, and there was one point where the bassist, Eem Byung-hak, even rocked out in the midst of the audience. Goonam left the crowd with a super happy high and we’re pretty sure we have enough positive and sunny vibes to last a month!
Last up was Gate Flowers, whose set list was made up of We Are One, F.M., Misapprehension, Paint It Black, Inconvenient Truth, Regret and Ghost. Gate Flowers finished off the night with performances that truly rocked in every sense of the word. We were treated to a special Rolling Stones cover in honour of the 50th anniversary of the legendary band. Gate Flowers were the only band to have a sole vocalist but Keun-hong worked that stage like a pro with his emotionally charged performance. The bassist Yoo Jae-in also earned himself a bunch of very enthusiastic fanboys that night, he was a chilled dude in sweat pants but when he started playing, his guitar skills had everyone mesmerised and kowtowing. With epic guitar skills, manic drumming and intense vocals, Gate Flowers rounded off the Korea Rocks gig nicely with their dramatic stage. Even after being constantly plagued with mic issues, everyone rocked on, full of gusto and verve, it was a dynamic and bold end to the night by Gate Flowers.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and did not want the night to end! The ‘Korea Rocks’ tour has been an amazing opportunity for the British to be exposed to some live Korean indie and rock; the way this music should be experienced. These four bands really en-captured everything that you’d expect from the spirit of Korean rock and more. The London audience loved every moment of the blasting music, and no doubt they were left craving for more from the Korean rock and indie scene. Many thanks to Hyundai Card for doing their bit to spread the love of this genre of music. There are still a few dates up north left so don’t miss the chance to see Korea Rocks and we hope Hyundai will continue to bring more bands to international audiences everywhere!
It was an amazing night. We tried really hard with this review but no amount of words can justify the awesomeness of a live gig. So we’ll end with some words we learnt from Galaxy Express which seems like a pretty good sum up: ㅆㅂ! 까리하네!!!
If you’d like to see more pictures of the night, check out our FaceBook page here for a gallery.