|A poster for the 2023 Kyungrockjeol Mapo Renaissance, an annual festival in the Hongdae area of Seoul that started as a birthday party for punk band Crying Nut's bassist Han Kyung-rock / Screenshot from CaptainRock Company's Instagram|
Indie band Crying Nut's bassist hopes to bring renaissance to Hongdae's music scene
By Kim Rahn
An annual festival marking the birthday of one of Korea's leading indie musicians will be held in February, with a wide range of offline concerts and events planned around the Hongik University area, known as Hongdae, after three years of scaled-down editions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Han Kyung-rock, a member of the legendary 1995-formed punk rock band Crying Nut, will hold the 2023 Kyungrockjeol Mapo Renaissance at various venues around Hongdae and other places in Seoul's Mapo District from Feb. 8 to 12.
Kyungrockjeol, literally meaning Kyung-rock Day, started as a small birthday party for Han, at a fried chicken restaurant on Feb. 11, 2005, after Han, nicknamed "Captain Rock," returned from his mandatory military service. As most of the party participants were musicians, they jammed on their instruments throughout the night, with all the food and alcohol being paid for by Han.
The birthday party later gained the name of Kyungrockjeol and has been getting bigger and bigger with more and more musicians and fans participating. Now it's considered one of Hongdae's three major occasions, with the other two being Christmas Eve and Halloween.
But the pandemic hit the annual event hard, and the Hongdae music scene was devastated. However, Han carried on by streaming the performances through online channels, providing fellow musicians with a chance to perform and fans with a chance to enjoy the performances. His efforts and passion were recognized, leading him to receive a special award at the 2022 Korean Music Awards.
|Indie band Crying Nut's bassist Han Kyung-rock / Courtesy of CaptainRock Company|
Now amid eased pandemic restrictions, Kyungrockjeol has returned in full force ― even expanded in scale, as the 120 participants for the five-day run will include not only musicians but also figures from art, literature, architecture and science.
The first announced lineup of musical performers includes Crying Nut, veteran singer Kim Soo-chul, band Jannabi, male duo MeloMance, indie singer Jungwoo and band Far East Asian Tigers.
On the first day of Kyungrockjeol on Feb. 8, the opening concert will be held at Watcha Hall, which was known as MUV Hall until April 2022. Craft beer is offered to adult audience members. The concert will be broadcast live via Crying Nut's YouTube channel, and those who can't make it to the venue can still gather at several other venues, including Jebi Dabang, Alive Hall and Wusicgoong, to watch the performances.
On the second and third days, performances by rookies and established artists alike will be presented online with both pre-recorded videos and live shows. On the fourth day, concerts by various musicians will be held at multiple Hongdae clubs under the title "Rock n' Roll City Tour." On the last day, lectures and performances will be held at several places including Art Hall Mac in Mapo Art Center.
Art exhibitions will be held at Gallery Mac in the art center for the entire five days, with art by eight people including musicians-cum-artists such as Kim Chang-wan of the legendary band Sanullim, Bek Hyun-jin of the now-defunct band Uhuhboo Project, Crying Nut guitarist Lee Sang-myun and punk band No Brain's guitarist VOVO.
|A poster for the 2023 Kyungrockjeol Mapo Renaissance / Screenshot from CaptainRock Company's Instagram|
Han has said this is the time for a new renaissance in the music scene and Hongdae is the place for it.
"After the plague in Europe in medieval times, culture and art revived with the Renaissance. After COVID-19, I hope we will be able to say, 'we didn't stop music during the pandemic.' I think Hongdae is like Firenze, the hub of Italy's Renaissance," Han said earlier on a talk show.
"All of us are artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, and I believe we'll support and cheer for each other as the Medici family did."
Despite the increased size, the party is still free ― audiences don't pay for the concerts and drinks and the participating musicians are not paid. However, unlike the fried chicken place back in 2005, Han alone cannot afford the expenses now, so he gets sponsorship from breweries and collects money via crowdfunding campaigns.