Author’s note: A version of this article appears in the March 2010 issue of the Groove. Pictures in this post are my own, and are different from those in the Groove.
Between a club’s light show, a 32-channel mixer, and perhaps a bit of makeup, most bands can put a show together. But Soundbox does a show inHongdae Park with little more than some guitars, a few drums, and tap dancing. Yes, tap dancing – the kind you tried in third grade, only faster and far more rhythmic.
If you’ve been near Hongdae Park on a weekend in the last two years, there’s a good chance you’ve heard them perform. Between covers of popular English songs (“Knocking on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan and “No Women No Cry” by Bob Marley are two of their favorites) and a few Korean songs, their high energy sound can be felt anywhere you hear them. It’s almost impossible to pass by if you hear the crowd or the tap-tap! of dancing. On an average night, several dozen passersby form a semi-circle around the band’s preferred place – near the covered pavilion, opposite from the main road, not far from the park’s bathrooms, and just up the stairs from the mixed-drink-in-a-bag lady.
The band gets started every weekend around 8pm after some setup. It’s an impressive collection of mikes, a few light stands, and a heater during the colder nights for their dedicated fans. After warming up while the crowd is still forming, they get right into their first song – usually covering a popular English song that brings the crowds in. Before long, the band finds its groove as the lead guitarist calls out ‘one, two, three, four!‘ to cue in the next jam soloist. Not every band can make “Rollin’ on the River” last ten minutes, but it’s a fun ten minutes.
The variety of covers is impressive – “I Feel Good”, “Stand By Me”, and “I’m Yours” were just a few of the songs heard during one recent show. Their show changes each time – no set list to steal here, folks – and even if you’ve heard them cover a song before, they change it. Feeling the energy of the players is one unique facet that makes Soundbox stand out. If a beatboxer, a tap dancer, or a jam soloist isn’t already making a song come alive, someone from the crowd might get up and start playing their flute or dancing on stage. Both happened during the same show not too long ago.
One highlight of this jam band is watching the ‘battles’ – before you know it, the drummer battles the guitarist, the tap dancer battles the beatboxer, and so on. The call of ‘one more time!’ rings out to give an excellent soloist some more time to show off. You never know what’s going to happen next.
Although no admission is charged, the tip boxes near the audience is the most obvious way to show your appreciation. They’ve also been talking about producing some CD’s, so stay tuned for that. For more information, check out their official website at http://club.cyworld.com/soundbox(Korean only) or check them out in person.
Soundbox usually plays every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening starting around 8pm and going until 10:30 or later. To get to Hongdae Park, go to Hongik University station (line 2, exit 5), then turn left. Walk until the T in the road, then turn right. When you get to the tourist information center, turn left and walk up to the streetlight. Turn right, then go up the hill with the street vendors – the park is on your left.