I awoke on Saturday morning very jazzed for my first trip outside of Seoul--I was to meet my coworker, Lety, at a subway station some distance north of Suraksan, in Dobongson. From there, we would travel south to the train station at Seongbuk. Simple enough but of course, there were complications. For starters, on the elevator in my building, I met and began talking with a fellow foreigner. I hadn't met her before, so I was a little wrapped up in our conversation. I didn't take notice that I had to catch the subway north on the other side of the tracks--so I missed the first subway to Dobongson. By the time I got to Dobongson, Lety had already caught the subway and I was again on the wrong side of the tracks because, as I learned, only when it was peak travel time did they run the train on that particular side. So, at this point I was about 1/2 hour behind schedule. As I was traveling, I asked (or rather gestured to) a girl if I might use her cell phone to call Lety--she was really nice and assented. When I got to Seongbuk, I'd missed the train and couldn't find my way to an open ticket office. I must have been looking lost enough that a mother with two children called the information number to find out where I should go. After that, things rolled along easily enough and ticket in hand, I was able to chill and wait for the next train.
There were no tickets available for actual seats but I had a "standing" ticket which allowed me to position myself however comfortably in the passage way between two cars. It wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined. I had my Gregory pack with me, so I sat on that, read my book and stared out the window at the scenery, which was rapidly becoming rural. Lots of farm, far fewer tall buildings with neon signage. Fewer cars and buses. It was alternately rainy and overcast and I really hoped it would blow over by the time I got out to Gapyeong.
I arrived in Gapyeong at last...walked out in the the gray sunshine, through the station and out into Jazz city...right outside the station, a man was playing clarinet. I asked for directions, found a payphone to call Lety and began the 15 minute walk out to the festival grounds.On my way in, I heard some spectacular guitar music and kept expecting to see a full band but I rounded a corner and saw a single man wailing on his guitar, which was amplified. He was doing fancy fingerwork across a fretboard and it was a pleasure to watch.
I met Lety and Marcus outside the Lotte world tents, which were set up around the island in sporadic little cities. Lotte is truly the uppercrust Wal-Mart of Korea. They are everywhere. There were bikes available for use (even tandem bikes) free of charge BUT you had to be a Lotte member. Lety and I bought tickets and the three of us headed back into town to check out Jean-Philippe Viret at the Jazz Cube.
There's a video here, for a sample; he begins the set: www.viret.com
I really enjoyed it. Viret was playing with pianist Edouard Ferlet and it was quite experiemental sounding--lots of percussive bits.
Afterwards, we made our way back through the town, which was eerily quiet, everyone being indoors or at the concert. We stopped for dinner where I had my first bowl of steaming hot Bibimbap--vegetables, some meat and a raw egg on top of rice. The egg is meant to be mixed in upon service, along with a red pepper paste. Fortified, we made our way down to the mainstage at the Jazz Island to catch Avishai Cohen 'Aurora' (from Israel) and Chico and the Gypsies. The closing band was definitely dancing music. We rushed the stage and worked our way to the very front line to dance with Koreans shouting, "Margarita!" "Tequila!" "Ole!"
It was excellent...I'm not sure how the loony foreigners was received by the mostly Korean crowd, but I think everyone was having fun. I think we were even videotaped...