Jeju may be off the radar of most international touring acts, but what it lacks in mainstream draw it makes up for with a strong local music pulse all its own.
Increasing numbers of foreign English teachers and immigrants bolster the need for “foreigner-friendly” weekend entertainment. Local bars such as La Vie, Just Blues, and The Factory, with weekly live music and open mic nights, are three of the many options where local musicians can find willing ears and happy patrons.
La Vie welcomes guest musicians
▲ The Jeju-based group Solar heats up Just Blues on weekends, playing music from jazz and swing to latin and funk. Photo by Alex James
This cozy, low-key café/bar/nightclub in the Jaewon area of Shinjeju provides a lively venue for libations with friends while enjoying impromptu jam sessions courtesy of foreigners and Koreans alike. With an in-house sound system, drum kit, a couple of guitars, electric bass, and even a ukulele on hand, there’s no shortage of musical possibility at La Vie.
The owner Young-Sook, a Jeju native, along with American husband Sam and their western “guest staff”, speak English fluently with patrons. Any who are willing are welcome to pick up an instrument and strum/bang/sing out any tune they please.
In addition to the open-door jam policy, Wednesday’s are sanctioned open-mic nights. La Vie also provides a western-style menu, including handmade hamburgers, nachos, and avocado and cheese sandwiches with real cheddar.
To get to La Vie take a taxi or bus to the Milano Crown Hotel. Facing the hotel, turn right, at the end of the block turn left. Go one block, turn left again and La Vie is on the left, just past the Family Mart on the corner.
Just Blues is the place for jazz, funk and blues A quiet haunt in the sidestreets of Gu-Jeju across from Shijeong, this local favorite features live music on weekends along with occasional open mic nights. Two to three bands per week play here, including Solar, an eclectic trio of Jeju natives.
“I enjoy Just Blues because it’s a very intimate venue for jazz,” Jae-Gyu, bass player for the trio said. “Music is our passion, and it’s the passion of the owners as well.”
Solar performs Friday and Saturday nights from 9:40 to 1 a.m. In addition, Just Blues has twice-monthly open mics, providing a forum for intimate self-expression in an atmosphere that isn’t exclusively foreigners. The staff has the open mic schedules on hand.
To get to Just Blues, from Holly’s Coffee, opposite the Shijeong bus stop, go straight for one block, away from the main street. Look for a bar on the left corner of the second block called “Something.” Just Blues is located on the second floor of that building.
The Factory features DJ Jay Shijeong’s Led Zeppelin was a popular nightspot for foreigners and locals alike, but earlier this year it was renovated and reborn as The Factory. The decor has changed, but the distinctly western bar-feel along with a massive cache of music from classic rock and hip-hop to indie and electronic remains.
The Factory is managed and owned by Myeong-Ae Oh who co-managed Led Zeppelin before splitting with former managers; she kept the location, they took the name. “The name ‘Factory’ comes from the Andy Warhol studio, and the idea of a creative space where the customers can co-manage and co-create the atmosphere,” Oh said. “There are no boundaries on what can be experienced here.”
The outside of the building is adorned with larger-than-life Warhol art. The Factory is a free-style bar where patrons and staff alike are encouraged to add art to the walls, suggest new music, make requests, and even plan future events.
According to Oh, past open mics were all planned and organized by foreigners. They were also well attended.
“Walking from the door to the bar can be an event in itself,” resident DJ, Jay Ligon said. Ligon, an English teacher at Jeju National University, has been DJing for six years. He keeps the music flowing Tuesday nights and during his “New Musick Sundays,” which has its own Facebook group.
A Texas native, Ligon now calls Jeju home and considers himself the Factory’s personal DJ. “Myeong-Ae’s philosophy and taste in music is what I love about DJing here,” he said. Ligon strives to research the latest and most esoteric music he can get his hands on to share with audiences at the Factory.
“I love the feedback from people who see me on the street and say they’ve been listening to something I played at Factory” says Ligon who works only for drinks and his own love of music. His only criterion for Sunday playlists: “whatever’s not on the radio.”
The Factory will have live music events the first three Saturday in May, including local Korean punk band Dok Keo No-Een, Waikiki Weather Control, featuring Ligon, and an open mic night May 15.
To get to The Factory start at Tom n Tom’s Coffee at the City Hall bus stop. Go up the hill, take the first left. The Factory is a block ahead on the right, second floor. Look for the large Warhol prints of celebrities adorning the outside.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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