HBC Fest: Celebrating More than Just Music

The slogan of the HBC Fest has always been ‘Celebrating Music, Art, and Life’. This slogan is there to welcome everyone, not just musicians, but artists and life, to have a good time. This festival has always been a great advertisement for the lifestyle that lies afterhours for many westerners who live in Seoul; a little bit unregistered, a little bit under the influence and always a lot of fun.

Ever since the first festival the HBC fest has done what it can for performers of all castes. Music has, needless to say, dominated the performance types at every festival, that being said each festival has always had the added attraction of non-musical acts.

In this post, the third of the series, I’m going to take the focus away from the music and briefly review the diverse ‘alternative’ acts that have participated in the HBC Fest through the years. I’m going to do my best to remember them all, but those of you who know me will understand my lack of perfection and memory, so if I leave something out don’t be afraid to send me a mail with the info included! Inallandanyways, onward and upward folks!

1. Poetry

Laura Hayes reading in the Poets' Lounge at the Howlin' Weenie Fest, 2007

The HBC Fest hosted a popular and busy ‘Poets Lounge’ in Ssen Bar for around three festivals in a row. It started in February (or maybe it was March…) 2007 and ran until the Howlin’ Weenie that October (there were three festivals that year). It kind of ran like an open mike but a prearranged schedule was usually prepared. Carried out under the capable auspices of the Seoul Artists Network, there were usually around ten poets who read on an alternating basis. Unfortunately the ‘Poets Lounge’ had its last outing in October of that year due to a lack of support from the bar it was held in.

2. Art

A waste of good food: The Watermelon Man @ HBC Fest 2006 (photo courtesy of Zee)

There has never been any actual sculpture or painting at the HBC Fest (not even face painters!), but for a while there was a resident performance artist, Frank Baresi. Frank, from Australia, made a number of memorable appearances at the festival taking on a number of his personas; the most famous of these is the Watermelon Man. Frank turned up covered head to toe in red and blue paint giving a trademark call (kind of a loud version of a mix between an injured dog’s bark and seals yelp). The crowd were called onto the street where they witnessed Frank proceed to smash watermelons over his head. He carried out the same performance the next February but this time he smashed ‘home-made’ watermelons of paper-mache, flower and water; real watermelons were out of the question because they cost around 40,000 won each in winter.

Letting the juice soak in: The Watermelon Man @ HBC Fest 2006 (photo courtesy of Zee)

3. Comedy

Funny guys have always been welcome at the HBC Fest, even when they haven’t been funny… Ever since the first festival when Bernard Hughes and Brian Aylward took on the crowd in the Orange Tree, funniness has always been a welcome break in between acts. It’s hard to draw a map on all the comedy acts that have performed at the HBC Fest. I know that there have been mixed results, at one festival I tried to have a few roaming funnities to perform for five or ten minutes in between acts but the feedback I got back wasn’t positive. This may have been down to inexperience dealing with the crowd… Anyway, this October 9 will have roaming comedy back, but this time it will be in the hands of experienced comic Brian Aylward who is no stranger to large crowds. Expect short and snappy wit and finger pointing in every bar!

4. Drama

Actors Without Bard'ers @ HBC Fest, June 2010 (photo from Korea Times)

Yes, the most unlikely candidate but for me possibly one of the most surprisingly enjoyable feats to be witnessed in a while. At the last fest the newest performance type to take the stage brought a packed house in the Orange Tree. The audience lay gripped as Actors Without Bard’ers went through their adapted and condensed version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The mania on the streets was forgotten for forty-five minutes the actors kept the bar silent. This was a first for the HBC Fest, the fest that always brings something new but never anything dangerous!

5. The Kimchee Cowboys

It’s hard to talk about alternative performances at the HBC Fest without including The Kimchee Cowboys in the same breath. If you were to ask anyone what the Kimchee Cowboys were though, I would wager that no one would be able to give you a description, although I think that some of there members would do a pretty good job. The Cowboys have been playing at the festival since the start, and unfortunately this is the first festival they will not be participating in. Famed with clearing bars and filling them until the early hours, The Kimchee Cowboys, led by the poetic wisdom of Duane Vorhees and backed up by the bands leader Steve Koons on trumpet and bass, The Cowboys have included percussion, trombone, piano, and probably a whole host of other means of making noise and creating their own special atmosphere.

Check out this video of The Kimchee Cowboys at the 2006 Winter Fest in the Orange Tree:

Believe it or not, they will be missed.

I reckon these would be the best examples of where the HBC Fest has done its best to celebrate the life that most of us live for after we are done teaching, or whatever other nonsense it is we do to try to use as an excuse for keeping our heads above water. Always an outlet for expression, be sure to try and check out as many different artists at the festival for a complete experience!

The HBC Fest is proud to support, and does its best to involve, all members of the foreign community in Seoul. If you can perform on stage expect yourself to be welcome at the HBC Fest.


Please support the HBC Fest’s partners

*New Phillies*

*Jakoby’s Burgers*



*Orange Tree*

*Le’ Vert*

*Deeleebob Music*


*Pita Time*

*Groove Magazine*

*Kobawoo Supermarket*

Where to find the HBC Fest!

“Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”
– St. Oddball

(As with some previous posts, feel free to share it with others as much as you like, but remember who wrote it. Sure ye wouldn’t like it if I did it to you! Sound.)

2 thoughts on “HBC Fest: Celebrating More than Just Music

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s