Taking on the Hongdae establishment
Anything goes at Powwow. Started by Seo Hye-jin, an artist more commonly known as SSeo, Powwow aims to take what’s good from Hongdae’s music and art scene — the creativity, the originality — and leave the rest behind. Expect live music of all genres, movie nights, standup comedy, art exhibitions and performances. Artists are also invited to create work at Powwow and display it on the Community Wall.
It’s a mix of people representing all avenues of art.
Powwow promises to initiate change. Tired not only of K-pop and the status quo in the live music scene, the same bands, competition and money that dominate Hongdae, Powwow “wants to be the lever to change the things we want changed in the community,” said Sean Patrick Maylone. “We see this as a music venue with a war against K-pop. A lot of people complain, but you have to do something to change it.”
SSeo teamed up with four partners, who form the musical backbone of the enterprise. Maylone and Alex Ameter specialize in indie bands; Ki Seok Seo brings his Korean punk underground knowledge to the table and Donny Sim dabbles in electronic music.
“The idea is we are coming together and sharing ideas as a group. Everybody is on equal footing,” explained Ameter.
Seo added: “We all have different ideas and are blending them together.”
The venue is a stage for people to experience new ideas and appreciate modern art.
Gallery owner SSeo is a painter, but dabbles in almost every artistic medium. She has replicated artistic masterpieces and created controversial projects. Most notably, her bus art exhibition caused quite a fuss in Korea’s art hierarchy. She was criticized by traditionalists for straying from “what art should be” and even threatened with academic failure.
“One thing I noticed in the Korean music and art world is that everything is very separated and its own thing. We really want to make a community space and bring things together. Hence the name Powwow,” said Maylone.
The art, created by local artists, is available for purchase. “Not only can people come and see some great bands, they can also walk around the room, which serves as an art gallery, too,” said Ameter. “This concept also gives us a lot of flexibility with the events held at the venue. We can serve as anything from music venue, art gallery, community meeting spot, to rehearsal space. We are very flexible and modular.”
Community is key. People bring their own visions, making Powwow artist- and musician-centric. “We will create a synthesis of ideas, having artists work together. We’re very determined to be as unique as possible to draw people from the streets and give them an experience,” said Maylone.
Ameter added, “We want to get a lot of people to get a taste. There will be small events to bring people together and encourage people to interact.”
Located five minutes from Itaewon and around the corner from Gyeongnidan and Haebangchon, organizers hope Powwow’s accessibility will help generate interest.
Going against the grain
It’s a pushback against the Hongdae establishment.
Seo explained that veteran Hongdae bands are squeezing out newer, younger acts. “There is so much competition for bigger bands. For small bands, it is getting hard to play in Hongdae because people don’t leave Hongdae anymore. The same bands have been playing in the same venues for five years. We are creating a type of culture for new talent to be displayed. Our main focus is creating a scene in Itaewon.
“It’s not just for foreigners, but mixing Koreans and foreigners. Also, we’ll be a strong influence on helping the Korean underground scene grow,” described Seo. “By having Korean artists and musicians interact with foreign artists, we can accomplish this and make things better. It’s going to be a challenge. I’m from Hongdae’s music scene and it will be hard to draw people away. We are up for the challenge.”
Sim agrees. “It will be a fun challenge to put on events and create a mixed atmosphere to enjoy. This is such a huge opportunity. There is so much potential here. It’s not exactly in Itaewon, so getting the word out will be a challenge. There is more of a Korean scene popping up and doing collaborations. The food is great and we love parts of Itaewon, but want to change it for the better. We are open for the community. All genres and artists are welcome.”
Online: To find out more about Powwow, go to their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/powwowseoul) or website (powwowseoul.wordpress.com). To submit ideas or for general inquires, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Directions: From Noksapyeong Station, Line 6, Exit 1, cross the street towards Itaewon. Turn left after crossing and walk along the brick wall away from Itaewon. Walk about 5 minutes; it will be on your right.