Last night Manchester’s Northern Quarter played host to an impressive showcase of Korean indie talent. Night & Day Cafe on Oldham Street was the venue for Superheroes of Korean Rock, a showcase presented by Manchester-based record label Splitting the Atom.
LayBricks were a late addition to the night’s line up, but a worthy one. It can’t be easy taking to the stage first in a venue that has two dozen people in at most, and half of those make up the acts that will follow you; but that didn’t phase this duo.
LayBricks bring an interesting energy with their performance. The musical skill of both Kwangmin and Hyejin seems to cast a spell over those who watch, and you can’t help but be drawn in and captured in the moment.
Finishing their set with Make You Silly and Let’s Dance you see there is a fun and carefree feel to the music this duo play; but alongside that there’s an almost juxtaposing depth as Kwangmin’s lyrics reveal the true affectivity of LayBricks. These lyrics, the energy of Hyejin’s drumming, and the intensity of Kwangmin’s vocal delivery will have you lost in their music.
Another duo on their first tour across the UK, 57 brought an intensity to their performance from the first note of opening track Get Away. There is a haunting quality to the vocals of Junhong, and when teamed with his guitar playing and the powerful drumming of Seol Kim, the sound of 57 is compelling. Junhong could boast the best vocal ability of any Korean indie group to have played in the UK (it’s something of an unwritten rule that you don’t necessarily have to be able to sing to be in an indie band) but his off-stage personality would probably never see him attest to such a claim.
Yet on stage 57 play completely convincing roles as the cool, nonchalant rockers; yet the depth of their music betrays that image, they’re anything but indifferent.
On their third UK tour Sumin and Hyukjang certainly have no trouble interacting with an English language crowd. This year they have a new drummer, and he doesn’t disappoint. Soowon Choi is impressive, he’s neither overpowering or lost in the background, and his skill is more than suited to the hybrid sound of PATiENTS.
Though Soowon isn’t the only noticeable difference to the punks’ performance. The trio played both new tracks during their set but it was Space Call Girl that particularly stood out. Although it embodies everything about the group that we’ve seen previously it also feels, different. The track sees keyboardist Hyukjang Kwon flourish, showing off an even greater level of skill. Since we last saw PATiENTS vocalist and bass player Sumin Jo has too improved. In three years we’ve seen Sumin go from delivering an impressive, yet mostly static performance; to a performance that proves his worth as a vocalist, and displays his true power as a showman.
Dead Buttons ended the night with a raucous display of their music. Jihyun Hong and Kanghee [Daniel] Lee showed off why they’re now a Baltic Records signing as they delivered a set that epitomised the roots of garage rock. To say Dead Buttons are loud may be an understatement; at times Daniel’s drumming is overpowering, though he is an impressive drummer.
Though the UK has seen more technically impressive performances by the duo, Dead Buttons were well received by the crowd. Showcasing English language tracks such as Witch and 16-22 they easily show why they’ve been picked up as one of the more internationally appealing of previous Korean acts playing in the UK – and why they’ve found themselves playing the main stage at this year’s Liverpool Sound City.
You can see all four of these groups (as well as We Are The Night and DTSQ) at Liverpool Sound City this weekend. Dead Buttons will play the Atlantic Stage at 1pm on Saturday. All other Korean acts will play the Cargo Stage on Sunday from 6pm through to 8:45pm.