August 24, 2017
My favorite event of the year here in South Korea is the New Generation of Ska Festival, typically held in mid-late August in Seoul. It features the best of Korean ska as well as bands from Japan and the United States. Starting back in 2014, the first one was held as a street festival in Sinchon near Yonsei University. It was funded by donations and merch sales.The following year it was held in a rented performance space and year-three was held at club SHARP, a club in Mangwon owned by the organizers. Although fun, the latter two years just felt like regular, albeit much longer than normal, gigs. So when it was announced that the festival would be moving back to the streets, I was ecstatic. It feels much more like a festival that way.
Having just passed my final subtest for the Illinois Test of Academic Proficiency, and finishing a major step in my grad school application process, I was in good spirits and looking to celebrate with friends I don’t see often enough, and cut loose to some good music. I planned to start drinking early and ride a nice, steady buzz through the day. The headlining band was The Suicide Machines, a ska-punk band from Detroit that was popular back in the 90’s, when America still cared about ska-punk. It was up in the air if they were going to be able to play or not. The lead singer had injured his back a week or so prior and cancelation was very possible. But, not keen to cancel their Asia tour, he was able to adequately medicate to ward off the pain without knocking himself out entirely.
I was running a bit late, in my attempts to save money I opted for taking the bus and we’d hit some traffic, but was able to catch the last half of the first band, which was Lazy Bone. I was worried that the newly reformed Rudy Guns would play first and that I would miss them. Rudy Guns had been one of the first bands I came across when researching Korean bands so I was keen to see them again. They’d been on hiatus for almost 2 years while male members of the band were doing their mandatory military service. So it was fun to finally see them play again.
Not to mention mingling with my Seoul friends was great, especially considering that’s where the vast majority of my friends are these days. So Daegu has gotten a bit lonely. At least in terms of my music scene friends. I still have friends in Daegu. But fewer and fewer that I build and create things with. There’s a certain sense of community that I feel in a music scene that I don’t get from just running into the same people downtown. I’ve never really been one for groups, or fitting in so much. I’m a weird guy. Overly enthusiastic sometimes. A bit of a spaz, especially when I’ve been drinking. And I occasionally have trouble controlling the volume of my voice when I’m feeling manic. So, I know I take some getting used to. I try to channel that nervous energy into my stage performances. But I’m getting on a bit of a self-deprecating tangent here.
Where was I going with this? Ah, yes. The trip from Seoul to Daegu isn’t typically convenient or cheap. But I make it as frequently as I can. Which, apparently doesn’t go unnoticed. During the after party I was talking to my friend Jeff of the band ...Whatever That Means, who was one of the producers of my band’s album, and Kim Goyang, the keyboardist of Skasucks and front woman for Billy Carter, said of me, “He’s always here.” Which, I chose to interpret positively. To which Jeff said, “Well, he’s a dedicated guy.” A small thing sure, but kind of an “Aw shucks” moment for me. I bring this up, however, to make this point:
Positive affirmations matter. When dealing with stress, anxiety, and/or depression little things like that stick with a person. I had spent the previous months studying my ass off for some tests that will determine my future. And even though I had passed, it’s really just another step in the process. There’s still numerous stages left before I’m where I need to be. So, all of that remained at the back of my mind. And though unrelated it’s nice to have small confirmations that efforts you make are noticed. And if it’s important to me, I have to assume it matters to other people. So it’s crucial, I think, to offer small things like that to the people in our lives. And it reminds me to get out of my own head once in a while to notice and affirm the people around me.
Once the show was done I ran into the singer of Suicide Machines. I said, “Great show.” he thanked me and apologized for it not being better. “I’m on a lot of drugs for my back. I didn’t want to cancel.”
“All the more impressive that you performed anyway. The show must go on,” I said.
“Always,” he said.
I’ll leave it with this. Chronology be damned:
During the show I happened to meet a military man who was attending the festival with his 12-year-old son. The kid was also named Kyle. I told the dad that anytime the kid wanted to crowd surf they should let me know. The dad turned to his son and said, “How about it? You want to go up?”
“Not just yet,” the kid said.
“Okay,” I said. “Just remember: If you want, people will lift you up. And if you fall, they will catch you.”
“I know,” the kid said, “I’ve been to concerts before.”
“I was being metaphorical, dammit,” I said. “I was talking about life in general.”
His father just laughed, “That’s actually a really good lesson.”