Event Review | Superheroes of Korean Rock at Night & Day Cafe (MusiCube)

By Adam Riley 02.06.2016

2015 was a fantastic year for Korean content in the UK, with five bands at the dedicated Korean Stage at Liverpool Sound City back in May, plus stunning showcases by Gonne Choi, Juck Juck Grunzie, and Idiotape at the Glastonbury Festival, as well as the headline performance of f(x) in London, as well as the entire London Korean Festival itself, as well as even more goodness during the entire month of September when the K-Music 2015 event took place, in association with the Korean Cultural Centre UK and Serious, where [su:m], The Barberettes, No Brain, and Jambinai stunned visitors. MusiCube's Adam Riley simply could not resist getting back onto the scene when Splitting the Atom announced it was bringing four of the planned Sound City 2016 artists to the Northern Quarter's Night & Day Café in his hometown of Manchester. On behalf of sister radio show, K-Pop Korner, then, he donned his musical cap and moseyed on over to find out what all the hype was about...

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Thursday. A school night. University students cramming for exams. A pleasant afternoon. Everyone else finishing work and grabbing a quick drink or two outside. Splitting the Atom was taking a risk putting a niche show on at the somewhat out of the way Night & Day Café on Oldham Street in the heart of Manchester. However, the thing with 'niche' events is that dedicated fans will turn up no matter the day, time, or venue, and turn up they did…maybe not in time to catch all of Laybricks' set, but as the night wore on the numbers increased considerably, no doubt with the cavalcade of great music pouring out of the doors catching the attention of any passers-by.

Joining the line-up at the last minute, the exciting Laybricks duo of Kwangmin (vocals, guitar) and Hyejin (backing vocals, drums) certainly did not just make a mere run-of-the-mill appearance, instead leaving a strong lasting impression on the early birds entering Manchester's venerable Night & Day Café early in the evening of the pleasant Thursday. Sure, numbers were low at the start, but it certainly did not stop Kwangmin from giving it some oomph on the sweltering stage. "Are you ready to rock?" *silence* "Well, I don't care!" …and off Laybricks went with a rousing set that included the likes of Don't Worry, with its catchy retro vibe and synth beats, Make You Silly, with the sing-a-long feel of its "Whoa-ohh-oh oh-oh" chanting, and the absolutely phenomenal Let's Dance, which not just lives up to its name, but gets itself lodged in the memory long after the lights go down, getting that foot a-tapping like crazy. Laybricks is one of those bands that lift its studio songs to a whole new level when performing live.

Image for Event Review | Superheroes of Korean Rock at Night & Day Cafe (MusiCube)

From one male-female duo to another, up stepped the originally planned show opener, 57, and as Junhong (vocals, guitar) and Seol (backing vocals, drums) came on stage it looked like it would be Laybricks Pt.2…but that would be doing this heavier sounding rock group a total disservice, as it is considerably different in style, which is testament to the quality offered up. Whilst Laybricks brought along a backing track that added an almost dance element to proceedings, 57 - pronounced in Korean as "Oh Chill," something that seems ironic in English, since the hard rock style is not exactly the ideal chill out soundtrack, by any means - is pure gravelly vocals, rocking guitar riffs, and intense drumming that belies Seol's diminutive stature. Songs like U&I and Get Away really give off an old school rock aura, whilst June changes pace several times during the song, taking listeners on a roller coaster ride of emotions. The whole set had those watching on holding their breath at times in anticipation of what would come next. Sublime!

Image for Event Review | Superheroes of Korean Rock at Night & Day Cafe (MusiCube)

Now, anyone that had not heard of PATiENTS before this event were in for a shocking surprise, because although classed as a Punk Rock band in the past, mainly focusing on guitars throughout the band, now Sumin Jo's project has transformed into more of a 'hybrid' group, with Sumin's trademark vocals and infectious guitar work joined by talented newcomer, Soowon, on drums, and the genius pianist, Hyuck Jang Kwon, on the organ-sounding keyboard (seriously, it is almost reminiscent of a Blackpool arcade…but in a good way, of course - in a fond memories of days gone by feel, rather than a sticky carpets and pungent odour manner!). Hit after hit after hit. PATiENTS can do no wrong, bringing everything to the table - bouncy, catchy anthems that cause involuntary dancing in even the more stiff of sorts, memorable lyrics during choruses, high energy on stage, and…well…the piano work cannot be praised enough. From the likes of Spanking Jenny and Bad Fingers, to the unforgettable Sipalsegi (18th Century) and Idiot vs. Psycho (everyone was singing along to this - truly mesmerising stuff), PATiENTS proved once more why they deserve to have massive success here in the UK.

Image for Event Review | Superheroes of Korean Rock at Night & Day Cafe (MusiCube)

Finally, after attempting to get some breath back, it was on to the headliner for the evening, LoveRock's Dead Buttons. Jihyun (lead vocals, guitar) and Daniel (vocals, drums) were snapped up last year by Baltic Records, home of Johnny Sands and The Tea Street Band, and after blitzing last year's Korean Stage at Liverpool Sound City, it was time for the guys to show Manchester who the real Superheroes of Korean Rock were…and boy did they do a fantastic job. Latest single, Desire, is a slow-burner to start with, but has all the ingredients of a rock 'n' roll classic, building up over the first two minutes or so before developing into a raucous beast that was followed up by the contrasting, fast-paced Witch, going all the way through to the finale, 16-22, the addictive debut single from recent album release, Some Kind of Youth. The only disappointing aspect was that Strangers missed out on a place in the set-list…but there can be no quibbles after such a strong six-song-set.

Image for Event Review | Superheroes of Korean Rock at Night & Day Cafe (MusiCube)
It was indeed a spectacular night overall, with Splitting the Atom putting on a fantastic event at Night & Day Café, and the various bands on show not letting the side down, all giving it 100% for the crowd. With such variation in styles between Laybricks, 57, PATiENTS, and Dead Buttons, whilst "Superheroes of Korean Rock" may have implied only one target audience was catered for, in actuality there was a delightful dose of goodness for all tastes.

Do not forget to keep up to date with all things related to Korean music over on the K-Pop Korner Facebook page, checking out the whole host of videos posted there, and getting the latest news updates.

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