Rock into spring

Rock into spring

by .
Groove Korea (

Seoul’s favorite expat festival set for May 16-18

The HBC May festival is the definitive expat music festival of the spring/summer, and is the largest independent artist showcase in Korea. This year’s lineup features 100 live acts in 16 independent venues, spanning from Haebangchon to neighboring Gyeongnidan in Yongsan-gu.

The festival began in 2006 as an opportunity for expat musicians in the city to perform to larger and often unobtainable crowds. It was the brainchild of two local musicians, Lance Reegan-Diehl and James Gaynor. It was around this time that Reegan-Diehl started the DEELEBOB Music Company, and he continues to be the central organizer of the festival. Every year it gets bigger and better.

Although the fest is now a staple of the local economy, it has experienced its fair share of ups and downs: a lack of performers and enthusiasm for the second winter festival in December 2006, a cordon of riot policemen lining the main street in Haebangchon to allow traffic through, and the threat from local authorities to close the festival down in 2012. If anything, the speed bumps have been a testament to the organizers’ dedication to keep the party going.

The small street where the action happens is a famous local expat hangout, and the neighborhood was popularized when MBC and SBS showcased certain restaurants and the unique culture of the area. Here, many small independent business owners sell their goods and ply their trade up until the weekend in May when tables are cleared away, space is made for musical equipment and posters are pinned to the doors.

The festival has always adapted to the demands of both musicians and venues, and the size and scope of the festival have fluctuated through the years as a result. This year’s festival sees the return of regular venues VFW, Phillies, Orange Tree, Bonny’s Pizza Pub, FIX and Camarata Music, with many new spaces getting involved in the fun. Added to the list are Hungry Dog, Good To Go, Rabbit Hole, Genie Pub, 7ATE9, Thunderhorse Tavern, Southside Parlor, Craftworks, Magpie Brewing Co., Upper Deck, Bar Carmen and cigar bar BURN, which is supporting the jazzier side of May Fest.

While many of the performers are small acoustic acts, there are now seven live band venues: Phillies Pub, Orange Tree, Camarata Music, Rabbit Hole, Thunderhorse Tavern, Southside Parlor and VFW Canteen. Here the music is loud and hard, buffered by their basement locations and soundproofing. Street-level acoustic performers will entertain the busy bars, while below ground a plethora of rock, alt-rock, funk, blues and R&B bands will keep the ambience vibrant until 1 a.m.

Reegan-Diehl and Phillies Pub owner Scott Mayoh have once again met with the local authorities to bring caution to the streets. This is still not a street party, and the festival’s organizers stress keeping the music and the party inside the bars and helping the police keep the crowds and the traffic moving.

The festival kicks off on May 16 with the music starting at 9 p.m. and lasting past midnight. Saturday the 17th is an entire day of music, from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m., across 16 venues. Sunday will see performances by singer-songwriters at Craftworks from 2 to 6 p.m., followed by the Blues Jam from Hangover at Phillies Pub from 7 to 9 p.m.

Entry to the festival is free. Revelers can support the festival by buying a T-shirt for 10,000 won on the Haebangchon main street. This year the organizers will have a festival tent stocked with T-shirts, fliers, maps and other festival items.

More info

DEELEEBOB Music - HBC Festival

Seoul, Yongsan-gu, Sinheung-ro, 47-B1

For more information, contact Lance Reegan-Diehl at (070) 7538-4716 or

For more details, including an updated schedule and list of performers, visit Follow the festival on Facebook at

The Dukes of Heartbreak / Dara O’Siochain / Whatever that Means / Triptych / The 2 Guitars / Lance Reegan-Diehl Band / Velvet Hand Grenade / Danny Valiant / Yvon Malenfant / Diamond Randy Reno / The Studs Lonigan Experience / Kimchi Cowboys / DND / Zebrafish / Bad Moon / Johnny Red / EARL / Tampas Dusk / Glass Inspired / Band Minha / Dirty 30’s / Geoff Goodman / Jesper / Maggie’s Farm / Rachel Hill Trio / Buzzard Luck / The Cavalier / Jennifer Waescher / Eli Taylor / Diamond Dogs / Slippery Ginger / Sotto Gamba / Ragged Riders / Language of Shapes / Kite Flying Robot

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