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At Home At Tony’s Aussie Bar in Itaewon, Seoul

October 8, 2013

Brad Spurgeon at Tony's (Photo: Yvon Malenfant)

Brad Spurgeon at Tony’s (Photo: Yvon Malenfant)

SEOUL, South Korea – I was saying to Tony at Tony’s Aussie Bar in Itaewon last night that I had a weird feeling of both never being in his open mic and bar for more than about five minutes at a time, and yet never really feeling the break in between, as if there was a continuum to it. Maybe that is because you always know what to expect at the open mic and jam session at Tony’s: Fun, crowds, great music, wonderful hosting and an amazing sense of being welcome.

Itaewon is a very cool neighborhood in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, where an expat also feels at home in general. Fortunately that does not mean that there are no Koreans present; I mean, what would be the fun in going to Korea if you did not rub shoulders with Koreans. Itaewon is full of locals, but it is also a big hangout for foreigners and their culture: cookie shops by the dozens, fast food outlets, antique shops aplenty, the Hamilton Hotel – and the much better IP Boutique Hotel, where I stayed – expat bars like the Rocky Mountain Tavern, which I mentioned last week, but above all: Tony’s Aussie Bar.

The open mic is mostly an open jam where Tony, who plays in just about every song on his practice, electronic drum kit, manages to put up as many musicians as possible at the same time. I seem to have found a great bass player there each year I go, and each time it is a different one. Last night it was the French-speaking Marshall from the Ivory Coast who played his fretted bass so smoothly it sounded like it was a fretless.

There were some of the usual locals I have met there before like my fellow Canadian, Yvon Malenfant, who plays a mean acoustic and sings his own songs and a few covers. There was an excellent Korean singer songwriter kind of guy with a very smooth voice. And then there was the new Italian contingent, with the mad lead guitar player who put as much energy into histrionics as he did his lead and riffs.

A Multicultural, Multimusical Vibe at Tony’s Aussie Bar Open Mic

There was also a keyboard player from Italy, and that was a discovery for me as he played during my set of the three song, and I realized how sweet a keyboard backing could sound on my song “Borderline.” I had intended for the first time to not play “Mad World,” and I wanted to try my more quiet, acoustic, delicate “Crazy Lady,” but once I got up there with all the musicians, I succumbed once again to the feeling that I needed to do something that I was certain everyone could jam on.

So I did “Mad World,” and once the official jam had finished Yvon and another guy and I began playing acoustic and continuing a quiet little jam – when I did play “Crazy Lady” – and it was during this that Tony told me that he always loves it when I come each year and play “Mad World.” He gets into the drumming groove, and also loves Tears for Fears. So I realized that I had done the right thing.

And so has Tony, in creating this amazing corner of an amazing corner of Seoul – decided expat, but also, decidedly open to any kind of music in the world.


  1. Hi Brad Spurgeon,

    I am a Korean musician in Seoul looking for places to perform English music in bars and pubs, and I find the wealth of information on this post highly resourceful and appreciate your share of experience. May I ask more about the Local Bar in Haebangchon? Would you indicate for me the exact location of the bar please? I am trying to search it up, but there is surprisingly not much about this place on the net.

    • Very sorry, but my list on Korea is pretty out of date. The local no longer holds the open mic as far as I know. I’ll have to see if I can update the list, but I have not been to Korea for about two years.

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