Very early in the morning we head to a Christmas-themed coffee shop (very Meta) and over holly brews, I learn that Japan has apologized for colonization. I am amongst the many citizens of the country lifting up the Korea Herald in shared enthusiasm. My delight may be less earned but I share a nod with an older gentleman in American fatigue pants who notices the news simultaneously.
Dan has been eager to try samgyetangjip ginseng chicken soup; having heard of its healing properties we both think our long stretches of hard-living tour life could afford us a few bowls. Seu-gi is delighted by our interest in Korean cuisine and chooses one of the city’s oldest establishments to take us. There is a formal process that I delicately but awkwardly attempt when doing things in Korea – I fumble and try to take business cards with two hands, I try to pour drinks for others while holding back an imaginary long sleeve – and, in this scenario, I take off my shoes, put on slippers and await Seu-gi’s instructions. Seated on the ground at low tables, hot stone pots arrive with small metal buckets, metal chopsticks and spoons, and bowls of rice and herbs and kimchi. I watch as Seu-gi tears the chicken flesh from it’s bones with her chopsticks then restuffs the meat with dates and nuts and ginseng. She takes the glutinous rice cooked inside the chicken and spreads it through out the soup but also adds the crisper rice from the side bowls. In each spoonful, from there on, she manages a balance of flavours: garlic shoot, chicken breast and broth then kimchi, chicken skin and nut, then ginseng, hard rice and dates. She gingerly laughs at my best attempts when she notices me watching her and says, “There’s no good order!” but I have a feeling she’s just trying to be kind to me.
Interested in all gadgetry with the stamp of Korean design, we ask Seu-gi to take us to Yongsan Electronics market. On the way to the gigantic mall, seemingly never-ending corridor street shops deal car seat covers and calculators and Buddhist rosaries and snakes embalmed in Soju alcohol and custom-made cables and the brightest LED signage shops compete like neighbouring homeowners at Christmas time in Canada. Inside Yongsan, hawkers politely shout out bargains on camera batteries and converters, before we settle on the purchase of a DI box needed for an upcoming show. Dan searches for a microphone while I peruse a record shop and once we are both tuckered from whizzing screens and motorized toys, we share watermelon popsicles with chocolate seeds.
We return to Hotel Rainbow to gather our overnight belongings and gear before taxiing to Seoul Central station. There we meet Christina, Sean’s partner in production and promotion, who recently abandoned her family’s Korean restaurant chain in Canada to try to inspire an indie scene on her native soil. She is breathtakingly elegant, fashionable in ways I’d like to be, and I sheepishly bumble something about how difficult it is to dress well on tour while she effortlessly picks up my hard case and struts toward the train in stilettos. I promise Dan that one day I’ll be a total babe. He musses up my unwashed hair, raises both eyebrows and assures me he likes me “As is.”
With Teen Girl Fantasy, we take the bullet through lush terrain and candy coloured factories to Daegu. Jimmy greets us and laughs as we all try to peg his nationality before he coughs himself up as a “black Korean part-time American.”
Posters for the show literally litter the bustling pedestrian streets. If Daegu is a “half-attempted city” or an “overgrown village,” as it is frequently coined, it makes up for these reductions in this district’s glitz alone. The club is decked with techno gear and lazers and the sound men are gracious and kind but willing to make the speakers sizzle. It feels like heaven despite, yet again, Korea’s problematic sewage problem of slippery floors.
After soundcheck, superfriend and fan Jesse Feutz joins us at a smoke-billowing bulgogi house where we eat the Korean delicacy of beondegi silkworm larvae. I wash down the less-than-delicious grubs with bottomless makgeolli creamy rice booze and kiwi soju.
We wide-eyed wander the neon streets before returning to the packed club in time to watch Teen Girl Fantasy get the crowd thumping. Jimmy expresses his happiness in this being their best show turn-out and we feel the general encouragement to put on a riotous performance. Everyone, especially us, is ecstatic. If Daegu lacks the polish of Seoul club-goers, we feel lucky to have never met more effusive fans.
We check into a hotel with an oversize television and finish our bottle of vodka watching K-pop stars 2 P.M, and wondering what differentiates them from their K-pop rivals 2 A.M. Meta.