While living in the Hongdae area for more than a decade, there were few places I visited more than Channel 1969. Channel 1969 is a club and a live music bar. But I think it is a little bit closer to a live music bar as it is completely different from traditional night clubs in Korea. It doesn’t look like hip-hop clubs where the energetic young spend wild nights. Nor is it like the extravagant clubs in Gangnam or Hannam.
If I become a parent and my kids say they would spend a night at one of these latter clubs, I would probably go to bed worrying about them. But even if they camped out at Channel 1969 for days, I could go to bed with peace of mind. There are bound to be a few newbies at Channel 1969, but most of its guests are long-time regulars, who are safe and nice.
Channel 1969 is like a home to indie music lovers, both fans and musicians. Indie musicians and punk rock bands which have been staging in the Hongdae area for a long time gather here.
Since I moved outside the Hongdae area, I don’t visit Channel 1969 as often as I used to unless they host concerts. But I used to go there literally every weekend when I lived in Sangsu, a neighborhood in the Hongdae area. There were countless nights when I stayed all night at Channel 1969 with my friends, dancing funny, laughing like crazy people or even crying at live performances. But neither I nor my friends ever got out-of-control drunk as Channel 1969 always felt like home to us. Nor have I seen anyone badly drunk at Channel 1969, which is unusual based on my experience at other clubs.
I felt peaceful and innocent while having fun at Channel 1969, as well as on my way back home, like a feeling I had at my friends’ birthday parties when I was a little kid. Obviously, I don’t know everyone who loves punk music but those whom I’ve met so far are mostly nice. They are straightforward without hidden intentions.
The music playing at Channel 1969 is as varied as the age range of its customers. One of my favorite things about Channel 1969 is that I don’t have to dress up, wear make-up or high heels even if I go to the bar on a weekend. Sure, you can doll up as you want. There’s no problem with that. But you’ll probably see a German guy in shorts, sliders and a t-shirt nonchalantly get into the club with a tote bag hanging on his shoulder, like he is swinging by a small deli next to his house.
There are some folks dressed to kill, mostly artists living around the club who come over to the place frequently. It’s totally up to you what to wear. Just make sure your clothes don’t bother you when playing hard. You might flirt with someone at Channel 1969, as you might at other bars and clubs, while having fun with live music and some drinks. But it’s not the right place for you if you’re looking for a club to find love.
The music line-up at Channel 1969 is up to the DJs. All genres of music play in the club as far as they are good for dancing – experimental music, funky jazz scores once popular around the world, forgotten classic K-pop, techno music, Japanese city pop and even indie music. Such a wide musical spectrum makes it almost impossible to guess the next song to be played, which usually catches many people off guard. Loud shouts burst at the same time from the folks dancing with a drink in their hands when new music plays totally outside of their expectations.
Last month, I went to a new album release concert for Noisy Craziness at Channel 1969. They are a punk rock band based in Busan, South Korea. I got to know them from one of their music videos directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Dongwoo Lee, who produced the documentary film No Money, No Future. The music video left a strong impression on me. Luckily, Noisy Craziness held their concert at Channel 1969.
You need a ticket to get in when there is a concert scheduled at Channel 1969. No ticket is required when there’s no live performance going on. Just walk in and enjoy the music with a drink. They operate more like a performance theater than a club these days, limiting the number of guests and arranging chairs around the stage. So, you need to make a reservation ahead of your visit according to the policy on their Instagram.
Recently, I arrived there a little bit earlier and went to the pizza place right next to Channel 1969. I grabbed some beer along with pizza to tame my nervous feeling before the show started. I’ve never been to a Noisy Craziness concert before and wondered if they would be too energetic for me. Anyway, the pizza place was amazing. If my article inspires you to visit Channel 1969, which I hope, I strongly recommend that you try a slice of pizza with beer at this place. You can quickly fill your stomach in the middle of a fun night at Channel 1969 or get a slice as an appetizer for a cigarette. If you want to spend more time in the Yeonnam and Yeonhui area, you can have dinner at one of many nice restaurants in the neighborhood before the show.
Dabda, an indie rock band quite famous in Korea, opened up the concert. The drummer seemed a bit nervous but fired up. He ended up exploding with energy on the stage at the end of their performance. I also felt liberated in that moment. Dabda had an amazing performance, especially given that they were an opener for the Noisy Craziness concert. Their performance was so energetic that I worried if the main show would be overwhelmed. This wasn’t the case at all.
Noisy Craziness was well above my expectations. I cannot describe the concert via writing, photos or videos. It is always challenging to depict live shows, but this one was particularly difficult. Their music was very loud, but didn’t feel that loud due to their poetic, artistic lyrics well harmonized with their aggressive sound.
The lead vocalist was charismatic. He sang as he shouted, warned, begged and prayed looking at the eyes of the audience. The performance was dominant and truly one of a kind. I felt as if I was witnessing the origin of something new, a weird feeling I had never had from numerous concerts I’d been at before. I was humbled.
I was jumping, stomping and shaking my body during the concert, but still wanted to keep jumping while already jumping like a crazy person. The lead vocalist was the real deal. Sometimes he seemed to yell, ignoring the music, but still kept the rhythm and beat without a single mistake.
Their music and energy were so fresh that I thought Noisy Craziness was a new band. I was caught flat-footed to learn that they had released their third album already. What makes their album feel new was how they combined a variety of genres they love in harmony in the album, ranging from indie rock to post-hardcore to psychedelic.
The new album was a product of their relentless effort to keep growing and changing themselves since the release of their first album. In contrast to their energetic vocalist, other members of the band played their instruments pretty gently and nonchalantly. It was a perfect balance. Despite the outstanding presence of the vocalist, everyone seemed to play how they needed to. I was exhausted and headed home immediately after the show. I usually stay longer after concerts at Channel 1969, dancing until the sunrise, but had nothing left in the tank that night.
Quite often, Channel 1969 hosts live performances of decent indie musicians and punk rock bands rooted in the Hongdae area, especially since a lot of small theaters in the Hongdae area have shut. Even out of the small theaters still around, Channel 1969 is relatively large and has a solid fan base.
You can enjoy nice live music or dance all night. The moves you can see at Channel 1969 are pretty slick as people don’t try to show off cool moves. Channel 1969 is one of the rare clubs where people with weird moves showing their inner joy get more of the spotlight than good dancers.
Age doesn’t matter. If you’re into music, you’ll definitely love the place. But even if you’re not, it’s a way better place to just have fun with friends or on your own than those clubs playing techno music or hip hop all night. There are some places to sit and enough space to dance. Nobody cares about anyone at Channel 1969. It’s popular but not too packed. It’s not the right place to find hot fashionistas showcasing their new watches or gold necklaces.
Folks who love Channel 1969 are open minded, love freedom, have their own way of living and seem to be tough but kinder than a lot of people. So, I recommend this club if you are one of a kind. It’s casual enough to just swing by. On your lucky day, you can enjoy great live music at a cheap price.