Gwangju Live: Open Mics Around Town

Written by Andrew Vlasblom
Photographed by Park Tae-sang and Ben Robins

To live in Gwangju is to live in a city brimming with art. Over the past eight years that I’ve lived here, I have been constantly grateful for and impressed by a community that welcomes various forms of artistic expression and new ideas. As a musician, I am often drawn to the heart of the music scene here, which, luckily for me and other musicians and live music appreciators, is very much alive and beating. A big way we can experience and enjoy live music by local musicians is at the open mic events around the city, where everyone and every genre of music are welcome.

Edward Kim serenading listeners at Corona open mic. Photographer: Tae-sang Park

Corona Open Mic
(Corona restaurant, every other Tuesday at 9 p.m.)
Corona’s open mic, held every other Tuesday at the Mexican restaurant, Corona, in Chonnam University’s back gate area, has everything that makes live music settings charming: intimate atmosphere, ambient lighting, great drinks, a generous owner (Choong Jun), and delicious food. One major way that Corona’s open mic is unique is that, as Corona is primarily a restaurant, the atmosphere is a bit quieter and suited to slower and softer music. Yet, while patrons are more likely to give quieter tunes a listen, the atmosphere remains lively and suitable for all musicians: whether they play instrumentals, rock, hip-hop, or Middle Eastern music, the audience warmly and energetically welcomes whatever is on tap. The host and heart of Corona’s open mic, Daniel Wallace, is a humorous and approachable fellow, so if you’re interested in playing, just talk to him and he’ll fit you in – no sign-up required.
Address: 9 Hodong-ro 15-beongil, Buk-gu, Gwangju
광주 북구 호동로 15번길 9
Take bus 06 from downtown to Chonnam University’s back gate.

Daniel Wallace and John Howard singing at Taquilaz. Photographer: Tae-sang Park

Tequilaz Open Mic
(Tequilaz bar, every other Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.)
This open mic, held every other Wednesday at the Tequilaz restaurant in the heart of downtown, is a popular spot for both musicians and audiences – and with good reason: it’s a party! The Mexican bar comes alive with lighting that sets the stage for a night of fun, and the drinks, served by generous and personable bartenders, are mixed to perfection. Every style of music is welcome here, of course, and the audiences are supportive and energetic. While the official time for the open mic at Tequilaz is 9:30–12:30, they often go into the early hours of the morning as both regular and new musicians keep the tunes coming. Once again, Daniel Wallace hosts this event, so just approach him wherever he may be and he’ll fit you in, no sign-up required. As Corona and Tequilaz open mics are run on alternating weeks, you can enjoy Corona one week and Tequilaz the next.
Address: (2F) 91 Gwangsan-dong, Dong-gu, Gwangju
광주 동구 광산동 91 2층

Laureline Claeys, Ashley Johnson, and Kaitlyn Wachter dazzling the audience at Loft 28. Photographer: Ben Robins

Loft 28
(Loft 28 club/café, every Friday at 10 p.m.)
LOFT 28’s open mic, held every Friday night at LOFT 28 near Chonnam University’s back gate, is a great event to kick off the weekend. Many of this open mic’s frequenters are students from Chonnam University, and they offer a variety of musical backgrounds and genres to be appreciated. While you may know LOFT 28 as a club on Saturday nights, it is a café during the daytime, and on Friday nights the atmosphere here is both lively and relaxed – a good mix that works with most genres of music you might want to play or listen to. The food here is delicious, the beer tastes great, and the coffee (European-style) tastes even better. If you’re interested in playing at LOFT 28 open mic, just show up after 10 p.m. and talk to Craig. There is a sign-up sheet, but chances are very good that you will get a slot to play your tunes.
Address: (3F) 157-20 Yongbong-dong, Buk-gu, Gwangju
광주 북구 용봉동157-20, 3층
Take bus 06 from downtown to Chonnam University’s back gate.

Fantastic Mistake and friends performing at Dreamers Open Space inside Daein Night Market. Photographer: Tae-sang Park

Open Space Dreamers
(Daein Market, every Saturday at 8 p.m.)
Open Space Dreamers runs live music events every Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Daein Market. Run by the hospitable Tae-Sang Park and frequented by his team of “Dreamers” (regular musicians at the space), the mission here is to break down cultural barriers and open up the minds of especially young audiences. As Dreamers is run in an open market, many of the spectators here are families with children, so the music played here tends to be family-friendly. The open atmosphere is lively and engaging, and the audience changes throughout the evening due to the market environment. The experience is always refreshing. There are often events held at Dreamers, such as cultural-themed evenings, commemorative events (such as for the May 18th Uprising and Sewol disaster memorial nights), fundraisers, band concerts, and more. However, most nights are free for musicians to show up and play music in this unique night market setting. Speak to Tae-Sang for an opportunity to play. Rest assured, so long as time permits (the space closes at 10 p.m.), Tae-Sang will slot you in.
Address: 7-1 194-beongil, Jebong-ro, Dong-gu, Gwangju
광주 동구 제봉로194번길 7-1 (대인동)

Thanks to these open mic events and the hosts who run them, the opportunity to regularly play and appreciate live music in Gwangju is a beautiful reality. And because the city is not overly large, musicians have more chances to stand out and deliver something unique from other acts, while also getting to know each other on a more personal level. So, come on out to these events and support live music; whether you play, listen, socialize with good people, or all of the above, you’re sure to have a great time.

 

The Author
Hailing from Canada, Andrew Vlasblom has lived in Gwangju since August 2009. He enjoys playing the accordion and hitchhiking.

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