Haebangchon is a district in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, and it holds a music event called Haebangchon Festival every year. The name of the area translates to Freedom Village, and it is quite an old part of Seoul.
From the area, you can get a very clear view of the Namsan Tower. Connected to Itaewon and the Yongsan Garrison US Army Facility, the area often attracts expatriates from multiple places. Recently, I began to frequent some bars around that area since I found out about some open microphone events taking place there. While you can find a great many foreigners in Haebangchon, it does give off a distinctly North American vibe. Perhaps because the area predominantly has many Americans living there. The open microphone events always attract me since they play music I grew up listening to. A lot of live bands and solo performances take place here.
Once you get off the subway at Noksapyeong station, Haebangchon shows up if you walk straight from Exit 2. Most of the bars and restaurants in the main alley are owned by expatriates. Since there are music events held regularly, and most of the performers live around that neighbourhood, there seems to be a sense of community among them. The area is welcoming to foreigners and is a good place for entertainment. All people are received with warmth and it’s a friendly atmosphere. Haebangchon Festival is like a culmination of a great many open microphone nights, where people come out to play music in the afternoon and the performances continue into the night.
Haebangchon festival venues
Bars involved in the Haebangchon Festival this time around included places like Hair of the Dog, Linus, Re.Pub.Lic, Phillies, Bonny’s Cave, The Workshop, and Hidden Cellar. There was a lineup of performers at every venue and the audience swelled into throngs of people, both young and old. While catching glimpses of the happenings in most of the bars, for the most part, I stayed towards Phillies and The Workshop. At The Workshop, to commemorate the Haebangchon Festival, barbeque was on the menu all day, and dare I say it was an awfully satisfying meal. The rosemary and garlic lamb and barbeque Cajun chicken was quite a good accompaniment with all the live music throughout the evening. The food and drink started in the afternoon and continued on into the night as more performers and a larger audience started pouring into all of the bars.
At the Haebangchon Festival, there was a performance by a singer from New Zealand at Phillies, called Pounamu. Since she was taking requests, she was suggested to sing in Maori. The performance was magical, as was her rendition of Elton John’s Circle of Life from The Lion King, singing the Zulu parts of the song with ease.
Another performer around the areas of Haebangchon and Itaewon is Christian Whelan. A finger style guitar player, he usually plays a lot of his own compositions. His compositions vary between both instrumentals and those with lyrics. Hailing from Canada, his self-composed music has an echo to it that one can imagine reverberating through the valleys of some far off land around the Atlantic. However, for this performance, he played covers varying from Radiohead to Pearl Jam. The music was an ode to much of the international popular culture that pervaded through the 80s or 90s.
Another performer later in the evening was Kalina Miletic, also from Canada. This was a performance that most of the crowd growing up in the early 2000s could enjoy. With her ukulele in tow, she sang songs by Weezer and The Killers among others. Her strong vocals truly energized the audience.
The Haebangchon Festival is definitely a good event for music lovers, in particular those who enjoy western music. It’s like a whole little world in the middle of Seoul and a great place to meet new people. Those looking for live music venues should definitely visit the area and check social media for performance updates if interested!