Monday April 15,2013

                As I was walking up to the area where I might play I passed the main stage. I stopped because I actually liked the sounds I was hearing. It was slow and the singer had a nice voice and there was a nice harmonic tension. I stopped and tried to find out who it was. There name was Paper Tree.   I asked if they were famous and they woman who worked at the information counter said they weren’t famous yet. I will try to find out about them, but it’s a little hard sometimes.

                I went way down beyond the other people again and found a spot but it was cold and people were reluctant to stop. I had some nice experiences. Some art students drew killer pictures of me and gave them to me and asked me to come to their drawing school to model. Another woman asked me to play for a benefit of Korean women who were forced to be sex slaves for the Japanese occupying forces. I said sure to both.

                I saw Soundbox over there and decided to join them. Soundbox is a very interesting phenomena. Maybe they are the first dedicated street band in Korea.  In Hongdae, which is one of the main entertainment areas in the large city of Seoul, there is a small playground about 50 meters by 20 meters. There is a back section that Soundbox has dominated for at least 5 years now.  This in itself is a feat because there are other bands that want that space, but soundbox by somehow manages to get it. It started out with 3 guys, a guitarist, and 2 conga players who also tap danced. Soundbox refers to the large wooden board they lay on the ground that has microphones embedded in it, hence the name. Over the years the band has grown to include a singer, Greena, an acoustic guitarist, , a drummer, a bassist, a keyboard player, and 2 drummer tap dancers. Their act includes many aspects including many different types of music like traditional Korean songs, Korean childrens songs, international hits, originals and improvisational songs mainly of the blues variety. They do a lot of improvisation where they will just tell someone to play something and the rest of the band will join in. In addition they do the tap dancing.  They also have an interactive session in which the audience members can send messages to the cell phone of the band and make comments or requests such as , “I want to propose to my girlfriend while you play a romantic song for me.” They collect tips in a few buckets but they don’t push that too much and it always seems like a joke. Since Ive known soundbox for a long time now (5 years ago Soundbox and I were aobut the only ones playing on the streets), they are very nice to me and always let me play with them. That includes giving me a microphone.  I’m not officially a member I’m a steady guest, because I don’t practice with them. They on the other hand meet everyday to practice. They are like a family. Some of them work and some of them don’t. The dancers both teach dance and drumming. The members of the band have multiple talents. For example, Cookie the drummer also does beatbox which means that he makes sounds with his mouth close to the microphone and it sounds like a complete drum set. He also does comedy involving that skill. Grenna is a very good song writer and is good talking to the audience. Oh did I mention that they draw big crowds? Maybe 300 people will stand around watching them standing 6 or 7 deep at times. Its funny how I fit in. Im not multitalented, I just play my saxophone, background lines and an ocassional solo. I don’t understand what they are saying most of the time. Only I hear “Frank…blah blah blah blah Frank” and I know they are talking about me. Sometimes I can participate with a non verbal gag or mime like the time we were doing “Kai Bai Bo” (rock scissors paper)  and instead of doing the scissors I just put out the scissors minus the index finger. That got a reaction.  Grenna has a strong desire to play the saxophone, but the problem is that she doesn’t sound good yet. The funny thing is that she doesn’t let that stop her. So it was a big problem when I sat to play with them, she wanted to play with me and trade solos with me but she sounded so bad. If it was me, I wouldn’t let people hear me play like that, but she doesn’t seem to care or notice. So though I really like playing with soundbox usually, this time it wasn’t fun because Grenna made it hard. Also the put me next to Cookie who was playing so loud that it hurt my ears.   All in all, it wasn’t a great night. Don’t know what to do about the Soundbox situation.


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