I certainly had an excuse to despair: It was already around 9:30 at night and I had arrived in my hotel room barely an hour before. What chance would there be of finding an open mic in Seoul, South Korea, when nothing showed up on the Internet for a Wednesday night? Still, I decided to shoot a message off on Facebook to an American musician friend I met at an open mic in Seoul a couple of years ago. And he happened to be online, and he happened to know that there was an open mic happening in Itaewon – my cool, laid back neighbourhood – in a bar called Rocky Mountain Tavern.
“Just ask someone where it is,” he said. “A few minutes from the station.”
As it was a few minutes from the station and so was my hotel, I decided to be clever and seek the address on the Internet and then go and find the place without asking anyone. Having walked around 10 minutes and not finding anything, I suddenly saw a couple of caucasians, one with a guitar on his back.
“Do you know where the Rocky Mountain Tavern is?” I asked.
“Ah, that’s where we’re going. You going to the open mic?”
And so we headed off in the opposite direction, the direction of my hotel. So had I not been so clever, I’d have found that the Rocky Mountain Tavern was just across the street from my hotel.
But what was even more miraculous in this series of events was that it turned out that the Rocky Mountain Tavern is a Canadian pub, owned by Canadians, and looking like a cabin in the rocky mountains and serving Canadian things like Canadian beer and even poutine.
Even better, the open mic had not yet begun. It turned out to be the first of a new open mic for the place, although they have had music and open mics or some similar thing in the past. It also turned out, very fortunately, not only to be populated by Canadians, but also by many, many Koreans, and even Brits and Americans. SO I had not travelled all that distance to find myself in a Westerners-only situation.
The open mic took place on the second floor of the bar – which feels like around the fourth floor of the building – and it was a full-band layout with drum set and several amps. In fact, one of the guys I met on the street was playing in the band that did most of the action last night, a band of Seoul expats, called “Fast Walkers.” And yes, they specialized in pretty fast music – even had a touch of the wildness of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, I thought.
There were not that many performers last night – although people were willing, and I accompanied on my guitar a couple of women singing “Stand By Me” – but the stage was very definitely open. It was not just for bands, but for anyone who wanted to play, solo or in group. I did two sets, in fact. And had a great deal of fun winning at Baby Foot – as the French call the soccer table – afterwards. But the Rocky Mountain Tavern is clearly serious about its new open mic, as I see it is on the bar’s web site calendar of events.
So check it out if you’re in Seoul – whether you plan to play or not. The bar is a riot of activity on two floors, and it even shows hockey games on the TV screens spotted about the place….