Coming much quicker than I expected, Punk Day III came into Gwangju right on the heels of Punk Day II. Just the way I like it: one flyer posted everywhere about one week before the show. I call it guerilla advertising.
Walking into the Bu-jik Club in 전남대 this time made it clear that the word was out. The club was with a mix of Koreans and foreigners that collectively packed the small venue with still enough room to move around, circle dancing for the local bands and skanking at the end. It was crowded, hot (one chant for “aircon” did not do the trick) and it was everything I liked about local music.
The good thing about Korea is that it is such a small place, so local is everywhere. Punk Day III brought in two acts from Daejeon. The female fronted power trio Smoking Goose and the headliner of the night, the six piece ska band Burning Hepburn. The rest of the night was rounded out by local Gwangju acts Betty Ass, Monkey Pee Quartet and Match Point.
What Punk Day does right is that it keeps things concise. Punk rock is not the most diverse music, so putting five bands on the bill may seem like a daunting number, but Punk Day consistently keeps the sets short and sweet leaving the crowd more anxious than burnt out for each new band.
The evening warmed up with a solid set from the Gwangju band Match Point, a band with a complete set of sweat towels. I would place them squarely in the pop-punk category. They were an energetic opening act that had the venue full, which is a rarity for an opening act. The only chorus I caught was asking for a cigarette, but they were catchy and they had a strong front-man combo between the bass and lead vocalist.
For Punk Day, the fans make the show. The crowd that shows up for the local bands is loyal and the Punk Days have been a success because of them. It is really awesome to see a homegrown local indie music scene with fans who love their bands and bands who love their fans. It’s the way it should be.
Betty Ass and Monkey Pee Quartet rounded out Punk Day III with tighter sets and tighter vocals on the part of Monkey Pee Quartet. Betty Ass played some good, straight-up skate-punk in the vein of NOFX and Millencolin and they definitely got the biggest crowd reaction and the biggest mosh pit of the evening. Monkey Pee Quartet sings almost exclusively in English which is good for me. To go off on a quick tangent, I will never understand how everybody sounds the same when they sing in English no matter where they come from; Just a quick digression.
Smoking Goose came down with Burning Hepburn (at least I assume they came together, they might not have) from Daejeon. Smoking Goose played the second slot of the night and they played through a solid pop-punk set with a great sing-along towards the end about not having money (very timely).
Enter Burning Hepburn. For me, this band made my night (even though it was already made by this point).
Flashback to 2000; it was the summer before I started the seventh grade and the Gravity Games were being held in Providence, Rhode Island. Smash Mouth was playing a free show on the weekend and I wanted in. So, my dad took me into the city to see the show, it was my first concert. I watch Andy MacDonald do a practice run and then the show started. Unwritten Law was finishing up (Who are they? Bring on Smash Mouth!) then BAM Five guys took to the stage. A trombone, a saxophone, bass, guitar and drums and they completely changed everything for me.
Turns out Smash Mouth cancelled and Less Than Jake filled in. It was and still is one of the best concerts I have ever seen. Single-handed Less Than Jake changed the music I listened to and the course of my life in general. I can’t thank them enough.
We’re back now in the present: Burning Hepburn brings the Ska.
Skanking, a trumpet player/dancer in dress cloths, a girl on keys, two guitars and a tight drum/bass combo: it was all there. You can check out Burning Hepburn’s Myspace to see that they have played some big venues and some big crowds all over Korea, so it was awesome to see a band still bring an all-out, everything they got set to such a small venue and a fraction of the crowd they have played to in the past.
They even did an encore.
This is what’s great about punk, it’s all for the people. Punk Day III was a night of great music where no band pretended to be above another. It was just good bands coming together to play good music for people who want to hear it.