Friday, February 15, 2013


This is the Guitar Jedi. I don't know his real name, but his students call him that, and so will I. He is one of the owners of AcousticHolic, my new favorite place in Korea.

Kristen and I went looking for a swing dance club in Hongdae on a Saturday evening two weeks ago. Although we found the club, it was closed, so we decided to look for anywhere else to hang out. We were walking back toward our apartment when we heard music coming from the basement of a building. It was the bar called AcousticHolic that we'd walked by every day since moving in. This bar is literally around the corner from our place; you could walk from our door to it in a minute.
AcousticHolic, exterior.
We thought, why not? Some beers and live music are never a bad choice. So, we went in, and we didn't leave again until well past midnight. It was really serendipitous that we came when we did: there was a performance going on, and we settled in quietly to listen to a mind-blowingly talented guitarist play this:
It only took us a few minutes to get hooked. We got drinks and settled in for what was sure to be an amazing night. We also texted Katelyn and demanded that she come, since she was back at the apartment, singularly unaware that there was amazing music being made just down the street. The fingerstyle guitarist, 정선호, finished his set, and he was followed by a blues guitar master and then Guitar Jedi himself. I could have listened to them play for days. As it was, I only stayed for four hours!

I think for most of the night I was just in awe of how skilled every performer was. It made no sense to me that they were playing for an audience of a little over a dozen instead of in a huge concert hall with thousands of crazy fans. But from conversing with the bartenders and some other people, I gathered that all of the performers were music teachers and musicians who simply decided to have a space to jam together almost every night of the week, financed by turning the space into a bar. It was almost like a guitar 동아리 that we stumbled into; everyone knew each other and were friends. Given that, Kristen and I stuck out like sore thumbs as the only foreigners there. I got the impression that not many non-Koreans knew about this place, but that made it all the more special.

We didn't hesitate to tell all of our Fulbright friends about it, though, and the next weekend, a dozen Americans descended upon the tiny bar, much to the bemusement of the owners and performers. I wasn't there then, but I heard that it was just as good as last time -- so our first visit wasn't a fluke -- and I resolved to go again soon.
Acoustic Holic, interior. The stage and the table we're sitting out make the shape of a guitar! So cute.
The latest visit was yesterday for February 14th, Kristen's birthday. Our apartment planned a small surprise. After a nice dinner out at an Indian restaurant, we went to AcousticHolic. However, it wasn't just us. Once again, a bunch of Fulbright friends were there to celebrate. We also managed to get ahold of Kristen's family members, who were scattered across four time zones, on Skype to join in on the fun. Kristen, who loves music, friends, and family... and surprises... had a great time, and I'm sure everyone else did, too.

I suppose I can't leave out the best part, even though it's a bit embarrassing... After midnight was a sort of open mic time. It'd piqued my interest when I first heard about it; that is, until I realized that the open mic was really just for the guitar masters to jam more and impress everyone with the quality of their fooling around. My silly pop songs and I couldn't hold a candle to them. But apparently my friends had been hyping up my so-called skills as a singer and musician while I wasn't around, and they peer pressured me to sing a song or two that night. I caved when Kristen said I had to do it for her birthday. It being Valentine's Day, I decided to sing Kina Grannis' "Valentine" with Katelyn: the song we performed together for the ETA Talent Show last summer. Without any practice or warmup, it wasn't great, but it sure was fun!

A guy who works at AcousticHolic as a bartender also performs there regularly. He's a pianist and has a very beautiful, soulful voice. I guess you could say I made him into a "target friend" ever since I first heard him sing; seriously, with his level of talent he should be famous, and I enjoy the company of talented musicians. Well, after I sang "Valentine" and John Legend's "Ordinary People", he told me we should sing together again sometime. Success!

So if you ever ask me what my favorite part about living in Seoul for a month was, I probably won't even hesitate before I start telling you all about AcousticHolic and what a great, unexpected find it was for my friends and me. I'll be back there soon!

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