Author’s note: A version of this article was published in April 2010’s Groove Magazine. Photos in the printed copy may or may not be the same as those below.
It’s not everyday you see a slap bass in the hands of a Korean. Or see a Korean that might be confused for Elvis in the right light. Few other bands can entertain both a mosh pit and swing dancing on the same floor – at the same time. Throw out your old rules – these are rockabilly rules.
What exactly is rockabilly, you ask? At its simplest, it’s a blend of rock and hillbilly with blues, bluegrass, and country. A rockabilly band typically features a slap (or upright) guitar, drums, and at least one other guitar (electric, bass, or acoustic), but may include other instruments as well. Popular artists include Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, while the genre influenced artists from the Beatles to the Stray Cats (the precursor to the Brian Setzer Orchestra). It’s an established genre, albeit one like punk, barbershop or blues in its less-than-mainstream popularity.
Since 2001, the Rock Tigers have been the self-proclaimed ‘pioneers of Korean rockabilly’. After releasing a first album in 2003, gigging across Asia, and releasing a second album in 2007, they’ve more recently finished a tour of Korea with performances in Gyeongju, Busan, Daegu, and Bucheon to name a few. Their monthly rockabilly show at DGBD has shared the stage with several other Korean and Japanese bands, most notably including the Tennessee Cats, the Soul of Liberty, Stay Gold, and Sunday Losers.
So what makes the Rock Tigers worth seeing? They’re fun to watch. They’re full of energy. They start one song right after finishing another song. They don’t waste time fiddling with their instruments or set lists. At a couple of their concerts I’ve seen, Velvet Geena is watching the opening performers and interacting with the crowd – how often do you see that happening?
Although each member of the quintet has an opportunity for solos, the vocals (and occasional acoustic guitar playing) of Velvet Geena has the biggest chance to shine. Roy capably handles the slap / upright bass while keeping his hair in line; Tiger plays a mean electric guitar and assists Roy in the backup vocals department; Eddie Tarantular on electric guitar and Jack ‘the Knife’ on drums complete the band.
Their third and newest CD, ‘Rock’n’Roll License’, was produced by Cavare Records earlier this year. While you probably won’t find it in every music store or competing with K-pop ubiquity on the radio, the 13 professionally-produced songs comprise an excellent mix of high energy, rock, roll, and of course rockabilly. Like most K-pop, there’s enough English sprinkled throughout the concert to keep the foreigners from getting bored. Their live performances stick to the songs they know well, so you won’t hear many covers. That doesn’t mean the unpredictable never happens – it’s still a live show, and it’s still Korea.
This post was originally published on my blog, Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.